Woody Morrison: Freddy's Battery - P.O.W. Report

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Woody Morrison: Freddy's Battery

Dr. Woody Morrison makes regular posts on the Tlingit and Haida Peoples of Alaska Facebook page, you are encouraged to follow them [here]

by Woody Ḵáawan Sangáa

In the summer of 1967 I worked in Ketchikan, Alaska as an electronic technician for Don Cunning. I think I made something like $4.00 an hour but I wasn’t thinking about getting rich, that was the going wage (no over-time). Sometimes I’d get a call around 11 pm or 2 am to meet a Ship coming into Port with electronic problems. Don and I were there to meet the ship.

One weekend Don called and told me there was a call to go to a seine boat moored at Thomas Basin Harbor- a problem with a radar. He said the name of the boat and for the moment it escapes me, but the owner was Ron Porter. Anyway, the Seine Fleet was in port for the weekend and Thomas Basin was filled with boats.

Don told me where the boat was moored so I took the VW bus (I didn’t have a driver’s license... yet), drove to Thomas Basin and headed immediately down to the boat. Fortunately, it was right against the float so I didn’t have to clambor across a bunch of boats.

I went into the Wheelhouse, checked out the unit - the Ship’s Heading Marker seemed to be off (wasn’t pointing directly ahead). Also, the picture on the radar screen was not very clear so, I shut it down to STANDBY and went topside to where the radar antenna was located.

Directly across the float from us were moored other seine boats. As I was removing the cover from the radar antenna I saw, on the boat moored immediately on the other side of the float from us, a man lift a large 12 volt Caterpillar battery out from the engine room and set it on deck (weigh about 100lbs. - nearly all lead) It might have been Granny Hulse, I’m not certain.

But, he stepped out on deck, picked up that Cat Battery and set it on the bulwarks of the boat. He then stepped over onto the float and carried that heavy battery towards the stern of the boat where he set it on the float’s guard timber. At the same time, Freddy Hulse paddled a 12 or 16 ft. aluminum skiff around the boat’s stern, to the float where the battery was sitting.

I first met Freddy when he was about he was 17 years old, Dad hired him as one of his crew on his boat TOTSY. He was a big, tall guy, well over 6 foot tall: a great basketball player.

Freddy pulled the skiff alongside the float but did not bother to tie it to the float. The other man picked up the battery by its handles, intending to hand it to Freddy. Freddy motioned for him to set it back down and, he then picked it up intending to set in in the skiff. However, since he did not tie the skiff to the float, when he picked up the battery the skiff was pushed away from the float. There was nowhere else to go but down. That is where they went.

The battery dropped into the ocean and, still holding tightly to it, that battery pulled Freddy down with it. Both Freddy and the battery disappeared beneath the harbor surface. The other man stood there peering down into the water. I stood where I was and, we waited. It seemed like Freddy was gone for a long time then he popped up above the surface gasping for air.

The guy asked, "What the hell happened? How come you were down there so long?" Freddy still gasping for air, said, "I didn’t want to let go and lose it. When it hit bottom, it occurred to me that I couldn’t swim back up with it."

This is the end of my story (gyaahláang).

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