Witness to a ship’s demise

A fire-ravaged fish processing ship twisted on its anchor chain for nearly two days, pushed by the tides and wind.

It took on water and listed precariously as toxic smoke drifted away from downtown Everett.

On Oct. 22, 1982, water poured into the vessel at increasing volume. It started to roll slowly.

The stern went down, and for a final few seconds the bow poised like a smoking whale.

Suddenly, the stricken Al-Ind-Esk-A Sea was gone. It was 10:14 a.m. by the newsroom clock at The Herald.

In minutes, the 336-foot ship settled to a watery grave more than 200 feet below the surface of Port Gardner.

The Al-Ind-Esk-A Sea sank 25 years ago last week. At The Herald, reporters and editors punched out the obituary for the stricken vessel on deadline while viewing its demise from the newsroom’s windows.

The vessel was built in 1945, launched as a coastal cruise ship. Over the years it was owned by the Army and Navy. It once was a private yacht complete with swimming pool.

In 1979, the ship was sold to TransAlaska Fisheries Corp., a subsidiary of a Seattle-based corporation set up by Congress to compensate Alaskan Native Americans for loss of their land.

The ship became a fish processor capable of carrying 5 million pounds of packaged seafood in refrigerated holds.

In October 1982, the Al-Ind-Esk-A Sea was anchored and undergoing repairs in Port Gardner a half-mile or so off the Port of Everett’s Pier 1.

A welder’s torch apparently ignited a fire that quickly got out of control. The crew evacuated and fire officials feared that ammonia used in refrigeration would explode.

The ship couldn’t be saved.

The Coast Guard jury-rigged empty plastic bleach containers and Styrofoam to contain pollution in case of an oil spill, but some 10,000 gallons of diesel aboard either burned or went down with the ship.

Lloyd’s of London paid a $14 million insurance claim to the ship’s owners.

The location of the sunken ship today is marked by a yellow buoy as a warning against anchorage in the vicinity, Port of Everett officials said.

Recreational divers sometimes visit the Al-Ind-Esk-A Sea, but it is one of the deepest and most difficult dives in the Puget Sound area.

— Jim Haley, Herald staff

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