The Mystery of the “A” Boats
Play • 44 min



On Valentine’s Day 1983, two new, beautiful sister ships, the Americus and the Altair sank in the Bering Sea in calm water while on their way to the king crab grounds near the Pribilof Islands. Fourteen men lost their lives in the worst disaster in the history of U.S. commercial fishing. A massive investigation ensued to determine what happened to the boats and what could be done to make commercial fishing safer.











Those lost:
The Americus:
George Nations
Brent Boles
Larry Littlefield
Rich Awes
Victor Bass
Jeff Nations
Paul Northcutt

The Altair:
Ronald Beirnes
Jeff Martin
Lark Breckenridge
Troy Gudbranson
Randy Harvey
Brad Melvin
Tony Vienhage

Much of my newsletter is based on the book Lost At Sea by Patrick Dillon. I’ve read this book three times, and I highly recommend it. Dillon extensively researched the losses of the Americus and Altair. He talked to fishermen, families of those lost, investigators, marine architects, and many other experts and observers. He tells a heart-felt and fact-filled story, not only about the “A” boats but about the commercial fishing industry and the politics of commercial fishing in the early 1980s. There’s so much more in his book than I’ve told you here, and if you’re like me, you won’t be able to put it down once you start reading it.

Twenty Years After A-Boat Disasters, Scars Remain in Community. Available at:

United States Coast Guard Marine Casualty Report. Available at:


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Robin Barefield is the author of four Alaska wilderness mystery novels, Big Game, Murder Over Kodiak, The Fisherman’s Daughter, and Karluk Bones. Sign up to subscribe to her free, monthly newsletter on true murder and mystery in Alaska.


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