Remarks by Telephone to Colonel Thomas Carroll of the Alaskan Whale Rescue Team

 

October 18, 1988

 

The President. Colonel Carroll?

 

Col. Carroll. Yes, sir?

 

The President. This is Ronald Reagan.

 

Col. Carroll. It's a pleasure, sir.

 

The President. Well, I'm calling first of all -- I just have to tell you how much I'm impressed by all that you are doing up there in this effort on the whales and tell you that down here a great many of us are very concerned about that rescue operation and freeing those three mammals. And I've called, well, for one thing, to see if I could get an onsite report from you on the rescue effort and how it looks.

 

Col. Carroll. Very good, sir. I'd just like to lead off by saying that there's a tremendous amount of people who put a lot of effort who appreciate the fact that you've taken the time from your schedule to call. And we'll make sure that everybody knows that that did happen. I know they'll be extremely pleased.

 

The President. Well, that isn't so important, but we place a great importance on what you're doing up there. It's a --  --

 

Col. Carroll. I can give you a little bit of an update. Right now, of course, the environment is extremely harsh, and the hover barge that we are going to take over there to actually break the path through the ice has been sitting for quite some time -- over 2 years. And so, the major effort here by VECO, the company that actually owns the barge, has been to ensure that it's totally safe and free of any maintenance problems that might occur. And that's been somewhat of the holdup, because that kind of relates to the safety of the air crew that will actually be towing the barge over to the community of Barrow.

 

The President. Yes, I know. And that is an Alaska National Guard operation, isn't it?

 

Col. Carroll. That's correct. The helicopter is a CH - 54 skycrane, of course, one of a dying breed. And without the helicopter, this particular operation would be impossible. But really the operation is a conglomeration of private sector industry, ARCO, Standard Oil, VECO, and of course then the National Guard is in here. And we're pulling it together. And then additionally, there's a tremendous number of people in the communities of Barrow that -- from a Greenpeace organization to National Marine Fisheries -- that are really giving a hand. It's extremely moving when you see the interest that's been generated not only here but across the Nation.

 

The President. Well, I was going to say, yes, that it is. Television keeps us apprised, virtually on a daily basis, of the plight of the whales, and photographing them and all. But through this, we've become aware of how much all of you are doing up there, and I just want to tell you that everybody down here -- their hearts are with you and we just -- our prayers are also with you. And anything that we can say or do to help you along with the success of the operation, we'd be pleased to do it.

 

Col. Carroll. Sir, I think that this phone call, believe it or not, related to the crews that are out there right now in the below-freezing weather, will make a substantial difference in their morale. This is the kind of thing that kind of makes it all worthwhile. And of course, the end product of hopefully saving those whales is going to really be the peak.

 

The President. Well, you can tell them all that we're very proud of all of you and what you're doing up there. And I'll let you get on with your rescue mission now. But just know that a great many people are praying for all of you.

 

Col. Carroll. We appreciate it, sir. I'd like to just close the conversation with one thing: There's a couple of people that were really instrumental in the early stages of helping us out. And one is Senator Stevens, and the other was Governor Steve Cowper. And I'm not just saying that for any reason other than to just -- without them in the beginning helping all of the organizations -- the Greenpeace, the National Guard, and everybody else -- I don't think we'd be here today. And of course, your interest is extremely helpful.

 

The President. Well, I appreciate that, and I have a high regard for the two gentlemen you just mentioned, the Governor and the Senator, and I'll relay to them what you've said.

 

Col. Carroll. Thank you very much, sir.

 

The President. All right. Okay goodbye: good luck!

 

Col. Carroll. Very good, sir. Thank you.

 

The President. All right. Bye.

 

Note: The President spoke at 3:03 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. Col. Carroll of the Alaska National Guard was at the Atlantic Richfield Company base camp in Prudhoe Bay, AK. The rescue team was attempting to free three gray whales trapped in the ice off Point Barrow.