Saturday, May 23, 2015


I am in the process of making an inventory of my late Dad's marine negative collection. Dad (Harry McDonald) was a well known "historian" here on the Puget Sound until his passing in the mid-80's. I will be listing the collection, along with several dozen 35mm original slides, on eBay. Watch this space!

I inherited a massive problem of cataloging his collection, hampered by two obstacles; his hand writing, and lack of documentation.

By and by I encountered a negative envelope cryptically marked "UFO May 1967 Alaska." As my Dad was not one who played "games" I dropped the negative into my scanner. Low and behold this image appeared. And there on the side, "UFO."

The more I got to studying it, it soon became clear from the rigging, that it was some sort of life saving device.

Turning to Google, within moments I discovered this "UFO" was, indeed, an Oil Platform Rescue Pod, a.k.a. capsule.

Furthermore, I found a fellow who had purchased a number of surplus pods, creating an unusual motel with them!

Rescue Pods or Capsules should not be confused with Free Fall Life Boats.   

Free Fall life boats are outfitted with a motor, allowing them movement, as  introduced to the "public" by Tom Hanks - Captain Phillips - on the Maersk Alabama.

The Rescue Pod was not powered; simply an escape mechanism from a platform emergency.

Now the photo my Dad took made sense. He was working for Foss, involved in towing drill jackets from Kaiser Steel Richmond California to newly developed oil finds in Cook Inlet. And this rescue pod was on a Foss barge, to be delivered to one of several drilling rigs being installed on the Middle Ground Shoal of Cook Inlet in 1964/1967.

Middle Ground Shoal Oil Field is in the Anchorage Basin, about 52 miles west-southwest of Anchorage, and located centrally in Cook Inlet.

Cook Inlet is probably one of the most difficult marine areas in the world in which to look for and develop oil reserves. Conditions, such as 25-35-ft tides, 6-8-knot tidal currents, strong winds, and pack ice make all phases of the operation extremely hazardous and tax the ingenuity of the men involved.

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