Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Akiyama
A little more than a 100 miles northwest of Vancouver, British Columbia, sits the small, old mill town of Powell River. Surrounded by majestic, snow-capped mountains, lush, green forests and clear rivers, Powell River remains home to a population of just over 13,000 people. Among the population lives Ken White, a Canadian citizen who has dedicated more than 40 years to helping mariners in distress.
Witnessing a search and rescue operation as a child, White became inspired by SAR at an early age. Since then he has dedicated much of his personal time and money to helping the Coast Guard locate overdue mariners. Currently, White monitors a wide range of emergency frequencies, often listening for vessels in distress. On several cases, he was the first to learn of the distress and quickly passed the information on through to the Rescue Coordination Center in Victoria, British Columbia, and Alameda, California.
When White learns of an overdue boater, he will stand the watch for hours on end, scanning the various emergency radio frequencies in attempts to make contact with those who are overdue. On one such case, White learned of a sailing vessel making way from Hawaii to Canada that was more than 20 days overdue. White assisted the Coast Guard and dedicated more than 45 hours to the case by broadcasting to mariners voyaging along the overdue vessel’s possible route.
On Feb. 9, 2019, the Coast Guard awarded White the Coast Guard Public Service Commendation for his endless dedication to helping the maritime community. The Coast Guard Public Service Commendation recognizes personal and beneficial contributions to the Coast Guard’s responsibilities. Recipients are recognized for their courage or initiative in advancing one or more Coast Guard missions and beneficial contributions in one mission area.
This award is only a fraction of the service White has brought to helping mariners in distress. Those who have come to know White on a personal level know that helping others is a true passion.
“Ken is a tremendous volunteer and a valued friend to the SAR community,” said Capt. Brian Glander, the Coast Guard 11th District chief of incident management. “His communication suite of high frequency radios have helped the maritime community by calling out to overdue or lost vessels not always grabbed by the Coast Guard.”