Historic Cutter Storis may make permanent move to Juneau

Plans call for ship to anchor new maritime museum

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Storis was already a museum piece last winter when it spent 54 days pounding through the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska on its last patrol.

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Now it will become an actual museum piece, the heart of a maritime museum on Juneau's waterfront.

"There is such an unbelievable outpouring of emotion from crew and people in the Coast Guard to save this ship," Juneau's Joe Geldhof said.

Geldhof and several other fans of the ship and Alaska's maritime history formed a nonprofit group to save the ship from the scrap yard. Now, the storied Storis' fate won't involve being melted down to make razor blades, he said.

Geldhof said he expects it will cost about $750,000 to bring the Storis to Juneau, and he's already working on ideas for raising the money.

With 64 years on duty, the Storis was the oldest vessel in the service and was known as the "Queen of the Fleet," according to its last skipper, Capt. Jim McCauley.

Because it was a commissioned in the U.S. Coast Guard, it took action by Alaska's members of Congress, including Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, to win the approval of the transfer to the USCG Storis Museum and Maritime Education Center.

"You have to have authorization to transfer a commissioned vessel," he said. "Fortunately Congressman Young and Sen. Stevens thought it was a worthy project."

In a press release Stevens noted that the Storis has been in Alaska since 1948 and now will be here permanently.

The Storis was commissioned in 1942 and immediately saw action in the dangerous seas around Greenland. The ship's mission there was to prevent Nazi Germany from establishing weather stations on Greenland that would help it in the Battle of the Atlantic and the air war over Europe.

After the war, the Storis' ice-resistant hull enabled it to be one of a fleet of U.S. ships that made history by transiting the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean.

Geldhof said he envisions the Storis coming to Juneau's revamped cruise ship dock now under consideration, sitting between the floating dock and the pier.

"It'll nestle right in there," he said. "It'll be a good place for the Storis to be moored."

The ship was in service as recently as earlier this year and is thought to need little major work, but Geldhof said it would likely need a substantial amount of work to convert it into a floating museum.

He'd like to get some of the maritime items from the Alaska State Museum on loan to tell the story of Alaska's history at a more appropriate location.

Some changes he'd like to make with the Storis include replacing a modern 20 mm cannon with a 3-inch cannon of an earlier vintage. He'd also like to accompany it with a period float aircraft, such as the kind Storis used to patrol Greenland during the war, and a more modern helicopter.

Geldhof said he expected it would take until 2009 before the location would be ready and the Storis could be brought to Juneau.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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