They Were Veteran Crabbers. Then, Gone Like 'Dust in the Wind'

'Outside' dives into the mysterious disappearance of the fishing boat Destination
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2018 2:00 PM CDT
They Were Veteran Crabbers. Then, Gone Like 'Dust in the Wind'
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/naturediver)

In between Alaska and Russia, in the middle of the Bering Sea, lie the Pribilof Islands, which the fishing vessel Destination was navigating around in the early morning of Feb. 11, 2017. At some point, however, the boat vanished, along with its crabbing crew of six—a mystery Stephanie May Joyce tries to piece together for Outside. Joyce explains that although the Bering Sea has long been known as a perilous place—nearly 75 fishermen died traversing it during the 1990s—the crew of the Destination, including Capt. Jeff Hathaway, were veterans who knew the routes there like the backs of their own hands. Clues that something was amiss on the Destination first came via its automated tracking system, which indicated it slowed down (a process called "jogging") multiple times that morning, then made an abrupt hard turn to the right at 6:12am before spinning in a circle, then heading out to sea.

Then the vessel stopped transmitting. Another crab boat went on the hunt and found a disturbing sight hours later: a fuel slick on the water and the smell of diesel, with no sign of the crew. Joyce outlines how the disappearance came as a shock to the fishing community: Since the reality-TV show Deadliest Catch started airing in 2005, new safety regulations had been put in place, and not a single crabber's death had been logged for 10 years. Joyce notes, though, that Hathaway turned down a Coast Guard inspection of his boat before they set sail, that the Destination had had its share of mechanical issues over the years, and that evidence from the wreck site shows it was weighted down with crab pots more than it should've been. One of the biggest mysteries to this day: why a mayday signal was never sent. "There's no closure, no body, no grave," the brother of one of the crew members tells Joyce. "They're just gone, dust in the wind." More here, including backstories of the crew. (Read more Longform stories.)

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