The Big Miracle, a helicopter rescue story

The year is 1988. So far the world has had an interesting year, the Soviets are in Afghanistan, the US just denied support to supply the Contras in Central America, SAS engages IRA targets killing three. A Boeing 727 runs into a side of a mountain killing everyone, The US also confirms the F-117. But in Alaska there’s a rescue operation taking place.

Roy Ahmaogak a local native to the village of Barrow Alaska was on a hunt when he stumbled up three grey whales stuck in an ice pack. Roy attempted to cut hole in the ice to help free the wales and send them back to the ocean but failed. After failing Roy returned back to Barrow to inform the town of the situation. The village came together to pump water to keep ice from forming to keep the wales alive, the word spread quickly to the North Slope Borough where the several biologist came to the rescue, realizing how dangerous this situation was they contacted several people for help. Everyone came to the rescue, Oil companies, Federal and state officials, with assists from a Senator and the Defense Department and the Soviet Union.

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The Alaska National Guard dispatched a CH-54B Skycrane named “Isabell” to support the rescue. The plan was to use the CH-54B to drop a 5,000lbs and pull hover barges to the whales. From the point of operation the mission for Isabella would take 20+ hours to fly the barge to Barrow. In total it took 40 hours. Isabell arrived to the scene and began operating, picking up the hammer it would try to clear a way for the whales to escape back to the waters.

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Due to how thick the ice was Isabella could not create a route to the ocean. When the helicopter failed to break the ice the US requested help from the Soviet Union to bring in an ice breaker. Before the Soviet icebreak could get to the whales, Kanik the youngest of the three whales passed away. The other two whales were able swim to the ocean after the ice breaker cleared a path. Isabell remained in service with the Alaska National Guard until 2011 when she retired from service. In all the rescue cost more then one million dollars and thousands of man hours to save the whales. Isabell remains at Bryant Army Air Field as a memorial piece and can be seen.

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This is a beautiful story here, glad to hear this today.

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Been wanting to do this for a while, its been extremely tough finding photos on Isabell and helicopter operations on Operation Breakthrough

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