July 28 is the Anniversary of the Greatest Coast Guard Rescue in History

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July 28 is the anniversary of the Coast Guard Overland Expedition of 1898 and the subject of a new book, "Rescue at the Top of the World." In this rescue, three sailors traveled over 1,500 miles across the Arctic ice by dogsled to save 300 men from certain death from exposure and starvation.

Washington DC, 1897 –President McKinley was frantic. He just received word that the entire American whaling fleet was trapped in pack ice near the Arctic Circle. This disaster represented a national crisis of epic proportions.

McKinley summed L.J. Gage, Secretary of the Treasury. Gage’s department contained the Revenue Cutter Service, later called the US Coast Guard, which was responsible for patrolling the 25,000 square miles of the newly acquired Alaskan Territory. Together, they created a fantastic plan where the Cutter Service would land three sailors 1,500 miles to the south and attempt to drive a herd of reindeer to the stranded men. Their journey, estimated to take up to six months, was the only conceivable way to bring food to the icebound men.

Unaware that a rescue team was being formed, the shipwrecked men escaped their vessels, now crushed by ice, and slowly made their way to a tiny whaling station at Point Barrow, Alaska. But the station lacked the food and facilities to feed the men and they slowly began to suffer from malnutrition and frostbite before finally falling into general lawlessness.

True to the plan, three sailors, Lt. David Jarvis, Lt. Ellsowrth Bertholf and Ship's Doctor S.J. Call, landed 1,500 miles to the south to begin their northward trek only to fell prey to frigid temperatures and marauding animals. Just as the rescue party was near total expiration, they encountered two missionaries and eight Eskimo teenagers that volunteered to help drive reindeer the remaining distance to the Arctic Circle. After four months of impossible conditions including collapsing ice and devastating blizzards, the rescue party finally arrived to find the remaining men who they kept alive until the Coast Guard broke through the ice to reach the group on July 28, 1898.

This event was generally lost to history until a researcher, Shawn Shallow, found the daily journals of the rescuers which were submitted to congress. These century old diaries were then combined with other period documents to meticulously recreate the event in a recently released book, Rescue at the Top of the World. Because it's accurately dramatized for today's adventure readers, it’s receiving critical acclaim from reviewers and adventurers alike. To order the book, go to any book retailer including Books-A-Million, Barnes and Nobles, or contact the publisher directly, Paradise Cay. In another week, the Coast Guard will celebrate it’s own birthday, August 4, 1790. What better way to commemorate the event than to review their greatest rescue.

A press kit with book and photos is available by calling 205-682-8400.

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Shawn Shallow
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