AK AK - Steve Keel, 61, missing from hunting trip, from TN - Aug 27, 2022

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MelInTN

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Has his wife taken down all of her posts about finding him or is my FB glitching?
She has one from 8hrs ago and one from almost an hour ago. The rest of them are gone from public view. I don't want to speculate on why, but very possibly to keep it from being redundant and only adding the newest, most relevant information.
 

WingsOverTX

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Has his wife taken down all of her posts about finding him or is my FB glitching?
She has removed or made private all but two posts. One is a share that the Dover Ops/SAR Team (my description) was expected to arrive by 4 pm CT today & begin searching after setting up camp.

Wishing that Dover, TN team all the best!
 

RickshawFan

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I get really unhappy when people say SAR isn't doing all they can to search..... They didn't do X, they didn't do Y, they didn't do Z...... Most of the time, I find, the complainer has no idea of the vastness of the wilderness. It is very good at hiding bodies!
 

WingsOverTX

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I get really unhappy when people say SAR isn't doing all they can to search..... They didn't do X, they didn't do Y, they didn't do Z...... Most of the time, I find, the complainer has no idea of the vastness of the wilderness. It is very good at hiding bodies!
Indeed. SAR normally works in very challenging environments. It's amazing how much success they do have!

Very few people experience wilderness first hand so have no frame of reference. They think you just get a search dog or whatever and.....problem solved. But every SAR situation is unique & many are dangerous.

This one is particularly dangerous. All the very fortunate people who go hunting in tundra need to have their affairs in order before leaving home.

One thing that stikes me is there is no talk here of help by those who know the dangers of this terrain the best - the native Inuits.

I wish the Dover team all the best but they, too, are risking their lives.

Most SAR are volunteers. Kudos to them all!
 

charminglane

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I get freaked out when SAR is up for duty.
I know they are highly skilled and trained. I know they choose what they do because they care about their fellow humans and animals.
And I know they probably like to solve mysteries, just like us.
Until they are home safe themselves, whatever the resolution to whomever they are looking for, I am continually nervous.
 

Gardenista

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She has one from 8hrs ago and one from almost an hour ago. The rest of them are gone from public view. I don't want to speculate on why, but very possibly to keep it from being redundant and only adding the newest, most relevant information.

This makes complete sense. I've been watching hunting on the tundra videos off and on all day and I panicked when I saw her FB.
 

RickshawFan

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One thing that stikes me is there is no talk here of help by those who know the dangers of this terrain the best - the native Inuits.
Snipped for focus

My sense is that the local SAR team is substantially Native American. There must be a history of pretty robust SAR in this area because of the oil pipeline. Now that construction is done, perhaps they don't need a huge force, but there for sure must be accidents out there! I would bet, though, that the biggest problems are with snowmobilers. Without snow, the terrain is intimidating. With snow, the harsher aspects will be concealed.

Later: there are evidently SAR teams in this area from several sources, including government and volunteers.
 
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RickshawFan

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North Slope SAR might not even do ground searches at all. I'm thinking it's too dangerous for the volunteers? But the local borough has these:

SAR currently operates four (4) aircraft: two (2) rotary wing aircraft and two (2) fixed wing aircraft. All are capable of day, night, visual and instrument meteorological conditions. All are utilized for both SAR and medevac missions. SAR works in partnership with the NSB Fire Department Medical Division to provide patient care during medevacs.


Gosh, if local SAR doesn't do ground searches, it must be SUPER risky to be on the ground or perhaps a fools' errand.
 

RickshawFan

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Government FB account.... for North Slope Borough SAR

Comment from the person who was considering bringing her search dogs, but declined because of the dangerous terrain. She is responding to several posters who are unhappy with the search and feel they are being snubbed. I think she gives a good idea of the dangerous context for a search of this kind.

Alice Cooper
I have spoken directly with the North Slope Search ans Rescue. Helicopters tried to land multiple times to deploy extra ground searchers only to have the helicopters start to SINK in the tundra when attempting to land. This is why the ground search was as limited as it was. Walking is dangerous on the tundra which is why Argos and Buggies are used (prohibited in that area) or most of us wait to walk the tundra until it freezes. Please be kind to the local law enforcement and search and rescue. Thousands of dollars have been spent in fuel and man hours both from borough, private citizens and the Coast Guard. No one is discounting a human life. Unless you ha e experienced the dangers in alaska terrain, don't be so quick to judge yhe effort of the professional opinion of those who know. Be kind. Alaskan's are good people. Deadhorse has 25 (give or take, citizens) and is literally the end of the road. In the Arctic Circle. 12 hour drive (in good conditions) from the nearest resources. Please hold your judgement. Come visit. Come help. But don't judge from your armchair.
 

Black Diamond

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That's my analysis. I'm sure others can & will analyze differently. Instead of searching far & wide, they need to concentrate multiple efforts looking at fine details very near the camp.
This is the best input I have read on all 8 pages of posts so far. It would be wise to focus intensely on the area within a mile of camp toward where the meat was cached. With a ground search. In all likelihood his clothing was Camo or earthtones, so aerial searches could miss him even in plain sight. He could have curled up in a bush, next to a rock ledge, or in a dip for shelter. Could have had a heart attack and fell somewhere not visible from the air. Many possibilities of what could have happened, but most likely whatever happened started close to camp or otherwise he would have made it back from his short walk.
 

LauraAnne

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Government FB account.... for North Slope Borough SAR

Comment from the person who was considering bringing her search dogs, but declined because of the dangerous terrain. She is responding to several posters who are unhappy with the search and feel they are being snubbed. I think she gives a good idea of the dangerous context for a search of this kind.

Alice Cooper
I have spoken directly with the North Slope Search ans Rescue. Helicopters tried to land multiple times to deploy extra ground searchers only to have the helicopters start to SINK in the tundra when attempting to land. This is why the ground search was as limited as it was. Walking is dangerous on the tundra which is why Argos and Buggies are used (prohibited in that area) or most of us wait to walk the tundra until it freezes. Please be kind to the local law enforcement and search and rescue. Thousands of dollars have been spent in fuel and man hours both from borough, private citizens and the Coast Guard. No one is discounting a human life. Unless you ha e experienced the dangers in alaska terrain, don't be so quick to judge yhe effort of the professional opinion of those who know. Be kind. Alaskan's are good people. Deadhorse has 25 (give or take, citizens) and is literally the end of the road. In the Arctic Circle. 12 hour drive (in good conditions) from the nearest resources. Please hold your judgement. Come visit. Come help. But don't judge from your armchair.
This begs the question. If this area is too spongy/boggy/quicksand for experienced SAR volunteers to venture into, why do recreational hunters camp there? I don't understand this story. Much of Alaska is GORGEOUS, and this area is not, (IMHO) and also it's too boggy to be safe for SAR folks, why would anyone go there for recreation, especially from as far afield as Tennessee?
 

Black Diamond

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This begs the question. If this area is too spongy/boggy/quicksand for experienced SAR volunteers to venture into, why do recreational hunters camp there? I don't understand this story. Much of Alaska is GORGEOUS, and this area is not, (IMHO) and also it's too boggy to be safe for SAR folks, why would anyone go there for recreation, especially from as far afield as Tennessee?
Apparently the caribou hunting is good since both guys were successful harvesting caribou. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and my guess would be that both of these guys thought that the tundra is exquisite while they were hunting there.
 

Gardenista

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This begs the question. If this area is too spongy/boggy/quicksand for experienced SAR volunteers to venture into, why do recreational hunters camp there? I don't understand this story. Much of Alaska is GORGEOUS, and this area is not, (IMHO) and also it's too boggy to be safe for SAR folks, why would anyone go there for recreation, especially from as far afield as Tennessee?

From what I watched today, it's not always boggy. One hunt was at about this same time in 2021 and they had no problem walking. They loved camping on the tundra-said it felt like a mattress. The weather changes quickly, though.
 

LauraAnne

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Apparently the caribou hunting is good since both guys were successful harvesting caribou. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and my guess would be that both of these guys thought that the tundra is exquisite while they were hunting there.
I am 100% in favor of people taking their own risks, and being allowed to do so, if informed.

The vibe I'm getting from SAR, and local law enforcement, is that this area is too dangerous to search on foot if a recreational hunter goes missing. I'm hoping both these men knew that risk when they decided to undergo this adventure, and if so, then it's all good.

It seems very unlikely he'll be recovered alive, which is so sad. He appears to be a really beloved and interesting man.
 

WingsOverTX

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9-7-22 - UPDATING THE CONTINUING SEARCH FOR A MISSING TENNESSEE HUNTER IN ALASKA
Steve Keel — a 61-year-old from Stewart County — has now been missing for twelve days in far northern Alaska.
Crews have done grid searches on ground and from the air.
I spoke today with Harry Grim — a frequent hunter in the area around Deadhorse, Alaska.
He actually ran into Keel’s hunting partner after Keel disappeared.
Grim knows the area well and he believes the most likely scenario is that Keel simply got lost when he left the campground.
Grim sent me these photos of the tundra — the flat, scruffy geography — in that area.

He says once you walk out into this type of Alaska wilderness it is very easy to become disoriented and lose your sense of direction.
It all looks the same with rolling hills.
Grim feels it is possible, but unlikely Keel was the victim of an animal attack.
He also thinks it’s unlikely he got stuck in a mud bog or fell in a ravine.
More likely Keel wandered far away and was forced to hunker down after dark and try to stay warm.
With each passing day it is more difficult to believe Keel has not succumbed to the elements.
He had no supplies when he walked away from the camp to go collect his caribou meat.
He never made it.
But, Keel is an experienced outdoorsman.
His family has not given up hope.
This last photo is of the four search and rescue friends from Stewart County who have now arrived in Alaska to continue the search.
We all hope they find him.
THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.
FB_IMG_1662602036171.jpgFB_IMG_1662602030918.jpgFB_IMG_1662602026303.jpg
 
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WingsOverTX

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RickshawFan

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This begs the question. If this area is too spongy/boggy/quicksand for experienced SAR volunteers to venture into, why do recreational hunters camp there? I don't understand this story. Much of Alaska is GORGEOUS, and this area is not, (IMHO) and also it's too boggy to be safe for SAR folks, why would anyone go there for recreation, especially from as far afield as Tennessee?
Maybe the best spots were taken already by clients of outfitters.
I'm thinking they must have been free-lancing and didn't have the benefit of local knowledge. This is suggested to me by the fact they had a vehicle, which the must have driven up from Fairbanks.
Perhaps, they even chose an exceptionally hazardous area. There has to be a reason why they set up camp only 2 miles from their car. Why? And, it seems the hunting partner could pretty much "commute" to the vehicle: he slept there overnight, and went back to the camp the next day. Very odd to me. For safety reasons alone, the extra 2 miles from the field to the van would have been worth it. And I'd be wanting real food and a cushy sleep spot in the van. And maybe my solar camp shower.
TN woods don't have at all the type of backcountry as AK. I would guess folks used to TN didn't anticipate the difficulties of being in the wilds of the West, let alone AK. (IMO this is the problem with TN thinking a ground search in AK would be par for the course, whereas it's an exception because of the risks.)
I have hiked in the TN backcountry: very tame compared to almost anywhere else I have been in the US, especially out West, but also east coast wilderness. It's just woods, and it's temperate for many months of the year. So, if you were good at the terrain in TN, it would be easy to overestimate your skill. Especially if you saw photos of the Arctic and thought it looked empty. Great: no woods!

It also seems to me strange that the simple expediency of a smoky fire didn't seem to happen, in this instance. It could have guided one hunter to the other.

****
FWIW if the two were relying on a compass on a smartphone, and the smartphone ran out of battery....
 

RickshawFan

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9-7-22 - UPDATING THE CONTINUING SEARCH FOR A MISSING TENNESSEE HUNTER IN ALASKA
Steve Keel — a 61-year-old from Stewart County — has now been missing for twelve days in far northern Alaska.
Crews have done grid searches on ground and from the air.
I spoke today with Harry Grim — a frequent hunter in the area around Deadhorse, Alaska.
He actually ran into Keel’s hunting partner after Keel disappeared.
Grim knows the area well and he believes the most likely scenario is that Keel simply got lost when he left the campground.
Grim sent me these photos of the tundra — the flat, scruffy geography — in that area.

He says once you walk out into this type of Alaska wilderness it is very easy to become disoriented and lose your sense of direction.
It all looks the same with rolling hills.
Grim feels it is possible, but unlikely Keel was the victim of an animal attack.
He also thinks it’s unlikely he got stuck in a mud bog or fell in a ravine.
More likely Keel wandered far away and was forced to hunker down after dark and try to stay warm.
With each passing day it is more difficult to believe Keel has not succumbed to the elements.
He had no supplies when he walked away from the camp to go collect his caribou meat.
He never made it.
But, Keel is an experienced outdoorsman.
His family has not given up hope.
This last photo is of the four search and rescue friends from Stewart County who have now arrived in Alaska to continue the search.
We all hope they find him.
THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.
View attachment 364950View attachment 364951View attachment 364952
Those trees are going to be in boggy areas, correct? The slaughtered caribou must have been hung from trees? The two hunters might have lucked on easy access to the trees, but if you didn't come exactly the same way, you might find yourself in boggy mess?

Harry Grim's potential story-line is mine, too. I would say SK got damp—from fog or wet terrain—it was windy, and he had no pack with 10 essentials, warm clothes, sleeping bag, tarp to protect you from wet ground, etc., and he succumbed to hypothermia. Likely quite quickly. I doubt he made it to dark; all this could have happened in next to no time in broad daylight.

I think it's unlikely SK is an "experienced outdoorsman" in AK terms. It would take living there for some time.

I realize I'm sounding like a wet blanket, and anticipating there is little likelihood of finding SK (let alone alive), but I take my lead from local SAR. If they have calculated for a low chance of success, so be it.
 
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