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Where Am I?

[Ray Wadsworth's own words] Early in the spring of 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez went on the rocks in Prince William Sound, Alaska. As usual, this time of year I was in the middle of the herring season, and happened to be in Sitka at the time of the oil spill. The spill created some problems for us spotter pilots and fishing boats. First off, Prince William Sound became off limits for fishing, so we had to bypass that area and go on to lower Cook Inlet (Kamshak Bay), which was soon closed also because the oil had made its way to that area too. The fleet of boats that make the herring circuit were soon on their way to the Bering Sea for the Togiak fishery. My boat, the Liahona, was part of the movement, but, we had begun a tradition to rotate people off the boat while making the long trip, so they could go home and spend time with their families. It was Lars Isaac's turn to go home, so I agreed to fly in to where the boat was, load him in my airplane and take him to a commercial airport in Kodiak. The Liahona was in the area of Paule Bay, located on the Alaska Peninsula west of Kodiak. I was headed that way, flying at about 10,000 feet, and I observed that the closer I got, the worse the weather seemed to get. I called the boat on the radio, and they said they were anchored in the bay and were waiting for me to land. When I ask for the weather report from them, there was a pause, and then a description of the weather that was just a little clouded by the great desire of Lars to get home to his wife and kids... “its a little foggy but not too bad” he said. Well, I could see I would have to descend thought the clouds to get to sea level, then work my way into the bay. I quickly set my LORAN points over the ocean outside the bay, which I assumed would get me under the clouds, and then I would steer the airplane into the bay, find the boat, land the plane. My approach to the water outside the bay worked good. I descended through about 5000 feet of pea soup, and at about 100 feet, I saw the waves under me. I could see about 100 feet in all directions, so I took a stab at pointing the airplane into the bay and continued in that general direction. Now just for your information, Paule Bay is a wide open bay with a 2000 foot rock wall on the south entrance and a more sloping 2000 foot mountain on the North side. Although the entrance is a couple miles wide, it is important to enter in the entrance. As I assumed I would be out of the fog any second, and, as I thought I was pointed into the bay I noticed it seemed to be getting darker and darker, and then to my surprise, looking down out my window, I saw black crude oil and waves breaking on rocks under me... Rocks? The darkness was the shadow of flying under a cliff in front of me! I banked hard to the right for all I was worth... I had missed the entrance and was too far to the south, and I had come face to face with the 2000 foot cliff. Its hard to express the horror of not knowing where you are, and all the while, you are going 130 miles per hour some where in the fog. My LORAN worked good, but I had to take the longitude and latitude readings, study the map, and pinpoint my position while not wanting to look away from the foggy scenery out my window, down to the map on my lap. I was lost, I couldn't land because the ocean waves were too big, so I took a chance, flew straight ahead and wrote down the longitude and latitude of my position, and pinpointed my position on the map. Once I knew where I was, I was able to take a heading into the bay. In life, it is impossible to know where to go... what heading to take, if you don't know were you are. as we start a new year, 2015, lets figure out where we are! Lets pinpoint our position based on eternal principles, then chart a course for where we wish to go. Remember, there is tremendous safety in a gospel position. I flew up into the bay, and the fog became more spotty and I located the Liahona. I landed, loaded Lars and his bags into the airplane, charted a course out of the bay and flew up through the fog and broke out on top. It was a beautiful sunny day up there! Life was good again!

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