Over the next week, Compass will be featuring men and women who operate in the Pacific Northwest. From Lt. Adriana Knies, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter pilot, and Chief Petty Officer Joel Sayers, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, to Petty Officer 1st Class Nathan Burns, a boatswain’s mate and surfman, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Rashad Gipson, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crewman and aviation maintenance technician. Each will be highlighted, along with their shipmates, in the upcoming season of The Weather Channel’s new series Coast Guard Cape Disappointment Pacific Northwest .
Written by Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley.
It could be said that when nature is at its worst, the Coast Guard is at its best, and it could be argued that nowhere in the United States is this exemplified more than in the Pacific Northwest.
The Pacific Northwest, miles of rocky coastlines mixed with breathtaking beaches, is a prime location for those who make their living on the seas, or for those looking to escape the rigors of everyday life.
With locations like Puget Sound and the Columbia River, the Pacific Northwest is also a vital gateway for the nation’s access to products from around the world. From importing cars and other finished goods, to exporting lumber, steel and even grain, the Pacific Northwest is vital to the nation’s international economics. A long history of mariners using the Columbia River, and the unique dangers created when the river and the ocean meet, has resulted in a large number of vessels that have meet a tragic end there. The area where the rivers and the ocean meet has become known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”
The Coast Guard has a long history operating in the Pacific Northwest, with surfmen standing the watch, ready to respond and ensure the safety of mariners plying the treacherous waters of the Pacific. Constantly battling against nature, the men and women of the Coast Guard in the Pacific Northwest constantly strive to keep the “Graveyard of the Pacific” from claiming another life.
With the unique nature of the coast, the weather and the seas found here, the Pacific Northwest is the home of the Coast Guard’s Advanced Helicopter Rescue School and the National Motor Lifeboat School. These schools help prepare Coast Guard crews to navigate and work in some of the harshest conditions that can be found when responding to an emergency situation. Whether rescuing a hiker from a coastal cliff, or navigating breaking surf and waves to rescue a boater, these advanced schools push Coast Guard crews in honing their skills in any potential situation they could face.
Due to the vast and adverse nature of the Pacific Northwest, it should come as no surprise that The Weather Channel decided to extend their nationally known Coast Guard focused series to cover units located there.
“The operations highlighted here seem to be a balance between the urban feel of Florida and the wilderness that is Alaska. The Pacific Northwest is a nice balance between the two shows,” said Michael Wunderle, one of the show’s cameramen and the show’s director of photography. “In Florida, it was always one or the other, where Alaska was always just about the helicopters.”
“The motor life boats are going to be what sets this show apart,” said Wunderle. “Going out on the lifeboats for the first time was terrifying! In Florida we maybe saw six-foot seas, here with the boats, it can be frightening and almost impossible to work in the breaking seas. That has been an eye-opening experience.”
For almost a year now, camera crews have lived with and recorded the men and women who are stationed at the ready to respond when called upon to ensure the safety of the Pacific Northwest.
“We have been here for almost a year now,” said Wunderle. “I hope the work that the Coast Guard men and women do comes across (to the viewers). Watching a coxswain pilot the boat in the surf is impressive, and watching the pilots fly along coastal cliffs is equally impressive. I hope people take away the impressive work that is done to help the people up here.”