Alaska Notebook: No mercy on the mud flats

Mercy isn't nature's way

Anyone who has fished Bird Creek and turned around to see his tackle box floating knows how fast Anchorage tides move.

That's why most of us wouldn't do what Army Capt. Joseph Hugh Eros, 42, did -- try the walk from Kincaid Park to Fire Island and back at low tide, when sand and mud flats make it possible, but not guaranteed.

On Sunday afternoon, Eros and a friend were in a race with the incoming tide, one of the most extreme of the summer. Six inches a minute? You'd better have a head start and then some. Eros didn't make it.

Most of us know Cook Inlet mud stories. Some of us have felt the sucking power of Ship Creek's trap, enough to gladly surrender a wader in exchange for escape. And we know of more harrowing tales of lives lost as the tide rose on that silt and sand.

That's why many Alaskans shake their heads at Eros' decision to make the Fire Island crossing -- especially as he'd advised his brother, due to visit him, against the idea.

But I won't cast any judgment on the captain; he paid in full for the chance he took. Some of us who shake our heads also can understand why someone would try it. Inlet waters are no place for a walk, no matter how inviting that low tide and accessible the island looks. Yet it can and has been done.

Some will talk about the loss to his family, or the expense of search and rescue while there's hope, the expense of recovery when there isn't.

The former we'll leave to his family and friends. He left no children. Most of all, our condolences for the loss of a loved one, a man who appears to have loved Alaska, adventure and his country.

As to the costs, the city or state could make it illegal to walk to Fire Island. But where do we draw that line against risk?

-- Frank Gerjevic