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An uncertain future for the Coast Guard Cutter Storis

Bidding ends Thursday

Posted: June 23, 2013 - 12:02am
This undated photo shows the USCGC Storis breaking ice. (U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District, Photograph Collection; ASL-P313-03-05 | THE ALASKA STATE LIBRARY HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS)
This undated photo shows the USCGC Storis breaking ice. (U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District, Photograph Collection; ASL-P313-03-05 | THE ALASKA STATE LIBRARY HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS)

The USCG Cutter Storis met what many considered its demise when the historic ship was placed on the auction block on the General Services Administration website last week.

Many of those who once sailed aboard the ship, which served in World War II and made a historic voyage when it traversed the Northwest Passage, are now responding with mixed apathy and hope.

Even lawmakers that supported keeping the Storis afloat, if only as a maritime museum here in its home port, are now faced with the same question: What are they to do?

In short: there may still be a chance.

“I strongly supported efforts to preserve this vessel as a maritime museum to honor that history and all the men and women who serve in the Coast Guard,” U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said. “It’s unfortunate this historic ship is now on the auction block, but the reality of maintaining a vintage vessel such as this is very challenging. Personally, I hope no one bids and we can try once again to bring the Storis back home to Alaska.”

Begich introduced two pieces of legislation that conveyed the Storis to those who supported a museum in its honor.

After two years of championing for the restoration of the Storis, and even further pushes during the most recent legislative session, the cutter was turned over to the GSA, which will now carry out the disposal process.

“The core need for having something that resonates with residents and tourist in terms of capturing and sharing Alaska’s maritime history — that’s still a legitimate need,” said Joe Geldhof, secretary for the Storis Museum in Juneau. “You’ve got to be flexible in the modern world.”

If no one places a bid on the Storis, currently listed at $60,000 with a reserve, the boat may still have a home in Toledo, Ohio, where the possibility of a maritime museum for decommissioned Coast Guard vessels still exists.

The Storis museum here is more of an homage to the Storis and helped secure its listing on the Registry of National Historic Places last year. It’s nothing like what the team of veterans and supporters had hoped for with a real maritime museum.

In 1942 the Storis was commissioned and was tasked with preventing German soldiers from establishing weather stations on Greenland. The Storis’ ice-resistant hull enabled it to traverse the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean, and many fear that hull will be melted and used for razor blades.

“This news blind-sided me, as one of her former crewmembers who had high hopes of seeing her used as a maritime museum in Juneau,” said Ken Fisher, who served aboard the Storis in 1957 and 1958. “I’d rather have the USCG Storis in Toledo than my Gillette razor.”

In an interview last week, Geldhof said there were only two options left; both seemed unlikely as “the die is cast.” According to Geldhof, their only hopes are to get the politicians involved, or place the bid themselves.

“We’re looking for white knights and patrons,” Geldhof said.

The bidding ends on Thursday.

As of press time, no bids had been placed.

Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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