Frustrated by furious winds, mountainous seas and a mere five-hour window of December daylight, rescuers searched Thursday for six people lost in the Bering Sea after the helicopter that had plucked them from the crippled freighter Selendang Ayu crashed in the darkness.
Who goes out to rescue people under such conditions? The Coast Guard with its unofficial motto "You have to go out, you don't have to come back."
The history of that motto dates from the United States Life Saving Service and to the men who launched small boats to row out to attempt rescues and is set out here:
"A ship was stranded off Cape Hatteras on the Diamond Shoals and one of the life saving crew reported the fact that this ship had run ashore on the dangerous shoals. The old skipper gave the command to man the lifeboat and one of the men shouted out that we might make it out to the wreck but we would never make it back. The old skipper looked around and said, 'The Blue Book says we've got to go out and it doesn't say a damn thing about having to come back.'"
A salute to the Coasties and a sailor's prayer for those who are still missing at sea.
Update: The freighter is, not surprisingly, spilling its bunker oil. Freighter update
Update #2: More here.