Sunday, April 21, 2002

Dog found on
drifting oil tanker

A Coast Guard crew lowers
food to the dog after spotting
it running around on deck

By Diana Leone

If all goes as planned, the dog abandoned on an Indonesian tanker ship since April 2 could be safely aboard a Hawaii-based fishing vessel late this afternoon.

Forgea, a 2-year-old mixed-breed female, was spotted on the deck of the Insiko 1907 at 4:15 p.m. yesterday, said Coast Guard Lt. Desarae Atnip.

The drifting ship was located about 260 miles east of Johnston Island by the crew of a Coast Guard C-130 search and rescue plane.

"They said it (the dog) was running back and forth across the bridge wing of the ship, then went down below," Atnip said.

A fishing fleet that is in the area will attempt to rescue the dog today, said Hawaiian Humane Society spokeswoman Linda Haller.

Haller did not want to reveal the boat's name yesterday or say whether the Humane Society will pay it for the rescue. Those details should be available today, she said.

The Coast Guard contacted the Humane Society yesterday after the dog was seen.

When the C-130 crew saw the dog, they spontaneously collected the pizza and granola bars they had on board, put them in an empty sonar buoy and successfully lowered it to the deck, Atnip said. They were not able to stay long enough to see if Forgea went for it.

The crew also saw standing water on the deck, Atnip said, which must have been crucial to Forgea's survival.

On April 2 the cruise ship Norwegian Star rescued 11 crewmen from the tanker Insiko 1907 about 330 miles south of Molokai after it had been crippled by an engine room fire that killed one crew member. The Insiko 1907 had been adrift and without power for 20 days before it was spotted. Forgea and the body of the crewman were left on board. A Norwegian Star spokesman said they were not aware of the dog until it was too late.

The Humane Society spent about $50,000 on an unsuccessful attempt to locate and rescue Forgea April 5-7. Haller said almost enough donations have been received to cover that cost.

Hopes rose again April 9 when the fishing vessel Victoria City spotted an object on its radar screen south of Kauai.

Atnip said the plane was searching for the ship around Johnston Atoll to make sure it would not collide with any of its islands, creating a possible pollution hazard.

It would take a day or two to analyze data to determine whether the Coast Guard would have to intervene to protect the island from harm, the Coast Guard said.

Johnston, about 825 miles southwest of Honolulu, was the home of a U.S. chemical weapons disposal facility for 10 years before operations ended in November 2000, and the island was turned into a wildlife preserve.

Forgea's owner, Capt. Chung Chin Po, has returned to his home in Taiwan.

"Once we get the dog back," Haller said, "we'll make sure her medical needs are met."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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