No products in the cart.
He was sleep deprived and almost out of ammunition, alone in the Alaskan wilderness. Well, not really alone.
For several nights in a row, the man had fought off stubborn advances by a grizzly bear that had attacked him a few days earlier in a mining camp about 40 miles outside of Nome.
There was no way to call for help over the phone. But then help found him.
On the way to a mission on Friday, the crew of a Coast Guard helicopter saw the man waving both hands in the air, a widely recognized distress signal, the helicopter pilot said. SOS and “Help me” were scrawled on the tin roof of a hut. The door of the hut had been torn off.
The crew took the man to Nome to be treated for bruises on the upper body and a non-life-threatening leg injury, according to the coast guard. So ended a week-long ordeal that could be the sequel to “The Revenant”, in which Leonardo DiCaprio was torn to pieces by a computer-generated grizzly bear.
“At some point a bear dragged him to the river,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jared Carbajal, one of the Coast Guard helicopter pilots, said in an interview on Wednesday. “He had a gun. He said the bear came back every night and hadn’t slept in a few days. “
The Coast Guard failed to identify the man rescuers said was in his late 50s or early 60s and had been in the cabin on the small mining claim since July 12. It was not clear how the man had reached the remote camp, which has no cell phone connection and is in a river basin.
Commander Carbajal said the Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter changed course about a mile to avoid some clouds when something caught his co-pilot’s attention.
“He said, ‘Hey, there’s a guy down there waving to us,'” said Commander Carbajal. “I said, ‘Does he wave with one hand or with two hands?'”
The answer: two hands.
“I said well, it’s usually a sign of distress,” the pilot recalled when telling the three other crew members of the helicopter.
Lt. jg AJ Hammac, the 35-year-old co-pilot, said in an interview on Wednesday that he saw the man stumble out of his hut. It was a strange sight for him. Lieutenant Hammac is based on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and is spending two weeks in Alaska for the Coast Guard.
“We don’t really run into people in the middle of nowhere,” said Lieutenant Hammac. “He was struggling somehow. When we passed, he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag. “
Lieutenant Hammac said the man’s leg had been taped.
“He definitely looked like he’d been out there for a while,” he said.
Rick Green, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said in an email on Wednesday that grizzly bears are widespread in the area the man was rescued from, especially this time of year. The department had no additional information about the attack or said whether they were investigating the encounter.
According to a 2019 Alaskan health agency report, 68 people in the state were hospitalized for injuries sustained in 66 bear attacks between 2000 and 2017. Ten people died as a result of bear attacks during this period.
Petty Officer First Class Ali Blackburn, an Alaska Coast Guard spokeswoman, said in an interview Wednesday that it was unusual for a person to have multiple encounters with the same bear. She said the man’s situation got worse and worse.
“He only had two rounds left,” she said of his ammunition. “I could imagine that you were a little crazy after not sleeping in so long.”
The encounter served as a reminder to the Coast Guard of the importance of having a distress signal or a satellite phone or text message device.
Commander Carbajal, 37, a Coast Guard pilot since 2009, said he had never been stopped by anyone who needed rescuing. It took about 15 minutes for the rescuers to flow the man to Nome, where he insisted on going to a waiting ambulance himself.
“You could tell he was running out of adrenaline, I think, and he was beginning to realize what had happened,” he said. “He didn’t want to go into the stretcher.”
The Coast Guard helicopter had flown from Kotzebue to Nome, where the next day the crew was tasked with a team of scientists to search the coast for dead whales, walruses and seals.
“If we had been over there in the next river valley,” said Commander Carbajal, “we would have totally missed him.”