As The World Turned on September 7, 1982, the citizens of Craig, Alaska, were in for a shock, a surprise, an outrage — a tragedy. As the afternoon snuck toward evening, the F/V Investor, with multiple people on board, burst into flames on the distant horizon. The Mayday call came into the Coast Guard at 4:20 p.m. The world of so many — fishermen, friends, neighbors and loved ones — would never be the same.
The reality of that day did not come into focus all at once. It was hours before Trooper Bob Anderson was able to investigate. And more hours yet before the grim reality hit. There were bodies on board the Investor. A woman. A man. A child. A young fisherman.
A World Away
A world away, people were waking up to other realities. Ronald Reagan was President. Eastern Europe was in a cold-war freeze. The world was wracked by the desperate and the mundane.
Globally, the oil embargo of years previous was still putting a hurt on the world economy, with inflation a daily watchword. In Alaska, the salmon fishery was starting to feel the effects of a ban on canned salmon. It was a serious blow to the fishery, sending prices plunging amidst a panic caused by at least one fatality. A man in Belgium, a world away from Alaska, had died after consuming tainted fish. Tainted fish that was canned in Ketchikan, only miles from Craig.
Ripe for Conspiracy
When rumors of drug deals on the Investor started to spread through Craig and Prince of Wales Island, they had a ready medium. The depressed fishing industry provided the perfect ground upon which to spin tales of cocaine deals gone sour. If you can’t sell fish, the theories went, why not sell drugs? And, indeed, it was not like the fishermen onboard the Investor were choirboys. Reliable sources tell us that some of them had, in fact, done a line or two on occasion. That’s not as close to a cause for a mafia-style hit as one might think.
And the world had its attention elsewhere. There was plenty of tragedy to absorb. Among them, this item from the New York Times, September 7, 1982.
Meanwhile, the global economy was trying to recover from what, in some quarters, looked like a looming meltdown. Addressing the International financial crisis was a priority for some. Ronald Reagan had a new peace plan for the Middle East. Israel was cautiously optimistic. Yasir Arafat, meanwhile, was given a 21-gun salute at a rival meeting of Arab states. It was, in a stark way, the same as it ever was. The world was lurching from crisis to crisis.
In Craig, there were more pressing matters to attend. As midnight approached, Trooper Bob Anderson removed four body bags at the Craig dock. The first of the Investor murder victims were headed home.
Thoughts prompted by the Investor murders. The original manuscript, started in 1992 and based on court records from the Alaska State Archive, served as the basis for “What Happened in Craig.”
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2021). All rights reserved.