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Regional Interests

Coos Bay fisherman safe after rescue by university research vessel

Frank Akers, the 70-year-old captain of the Lanola, lost the ship while fishing for albacore tuna on Aug. 28."“I got hit by a wave... it made a crushing blow like I’ve never heard before. I think there was a log in it.”
Frank Akers, the 70-year-old captain of the Lanola, lost the ship while fishing for albacore tuna on Aug. 28."“I got hit by a wave... it made a crushing blow like I’ve never heard before. I think there was a log in it.”

A commercial fisherman is alive and well after being rescued by an Oregon State University research vessel carrying University of Oregon students.

Frank Akers of Coos Bay was trawling for tuna around 10 p.m. on Aug. 28 in a spot off the Oregon Coast near Newport where deep, nutrient-rich waters well up on the continental shelf.

Akers said the ocean was rough that night, with 15-foot swells and 25-knot gusts.

“I got hit by a wave that was just, it made a crushing blow like I’ve never heard before,” he said. “I think there was a log in it.”

Within a few minutes, the 50-foot Lanola was underwater, lights still burning. Akers said he was barefoot and in sweatpants when he climbed in a life raft.

“That’s when I was scared the most,” said Akers. “Because I’ve had one friend who was four days in the raft before they found him.”

Nearby, students and researchers from the University of Oregon Institute of Marine Biology were working on the research vessel Oceanus, which is owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by Oregon State University. They had been cataloging invertebrate samples when the captain received Akers’ distress call. The researchers took their equipment out of the water and the crew found Akers’ raft and used a grappling hook to reach it and bring Akers aboard.

The Oceanus crew “acted quickly and saved the man ... from almost certain death,” Craig Young, director of Institute of Marine Biology, told the University of Oregon. “Because of our change in sampling sites, we were, fortuitously, in the right place at the right time.

“There were huge waves. I watched as many waves came over the Oceanus and knocked down some of the sailors,” Young said. “The conditions were extremely difficult, about as bad as any I’d ever tried to work in.”

The OIMB team is creating an online book, “Oregon Shelf Invertebrates,” a guide to sponges, sea anemones, crustaceans and other sea life in the deeper waters off Oregon.

Most of the contributions are written by undergraduate marine biology majors as an ongoing, intergenerational class project. It serves not only marine biology students but also fisheries managers, federal and state agencies, conservationists, fishermen, scientists and interested members of the public.

Correction: The headline in earlier version of this story misstated some details of Frank Akers’ rescue. He was rescued by the crew of the Oceanus research vessel

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting