UW News

July 23, 2009

A rescue at sea, thanks to the UW’s Thomas G. Thompson

Robert Hamby was in a deserted part of the ocean, far from any shipping lanes and his boat was sinking.

Lucky for him the University of Washington’s research vessel Thomas G. Thompson was in transit from Samoa to Seattle and rescued him. Captain Phil Smith and the crew of the Thompson were alerted about the problem via a global marine distress system that determined the Thompson was the ship closest to the stricken vessel.

Hamby, 63, of Hawaii was alone on the vessel. With ocean swells of 10 feet, when the Thompson’s rescue boat maneuvered close enough Hamby jumped into the water to simplify getting from one boat to the other. He was pulled aboard the rescue boat and taken to the Thompson. The Thompson continued its transit to Seattle and when the ship passed close to Hilo, Hawaii, Hamby’s family sent a chartered fishing boat to bring him home.

The 37-foot sailboat presumably sank. Before Hamby abandoned ship, he did as he was advised by the Honolulu Coast Guard and opened seawater cooling valves in the engine room and all below deck hatches to ensure the vessel sank and didn’t create a hazard for other vessels.