From Arctic to Alki: USCG commander @ West Seattle Kiwanis

(USCG Rear Admiral Gary Blore with Kiwanis Club of West Seattle president West Niver)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

If we started this story by saying that the U.S. Coast Guard District 13 commander, Rear Adm. Gary Blore, was in West Seattle today, that wouldn’t be remarkable, considering he lives here – on the grounds of the Alki Point Lighthouse.

But his appearance during the Kiwanis Club of West Seattle‘s luncheon meeting was noteworthy. Instead of focusing on the lighthouse, as expected, he said it was most important for people to know more about the Arctic, what’s changing there, and how it’s affecting not just the USCG, but the rest of the country.

He discussed the shrinking of the Arctic ice cap without ever using the phrase “global warming” or “climate change.”

Indeed, he took pains to say the USCG has no position on why the Arctic ice is not what it used to be: “It’s clearly not a short-term phenomenon, whether it happens every five centuries, whether it’s due to the moon, whether it’s space aliens …”

The changes are important for the Coast Guard because ships traveling from Asia to Europe can make the trip in 9 fewer days when the Arctic passages are open. The Arctic passage is possible a few weeks a year right now, but within a few years, Rear Adm. Blore expects, that will be more like months, and he expects a sudden and major shift in traffic away from the Panama Canal. When ice gives way to water, he said, that brings it into USCG jurisdiction.

The U.S., he explained, is “an Arctic nation” because of Alaska, which is in the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard district he commands. And of all the Arctic nations, the U.S. has by far the smallest icebreaker fleet, according to the commander – three, all based in Seattle (the Polar Sea (USCG photo above) and Polar Star, and the Healy). Even just to add one would cost a billion dollars and take 10 years, he said. But it’s a situation that deserves close examination, he said: “As an Arctic nation, I would suggest to you, the U.S. needs to consider whether it wants to be in the game.”

What game? For one, because of the energy reserves in the Arctic – he mentioned 30 billion barrels of oil and 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – the region draws increasing international interest, and even sees border disputes because the U.S. has not ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty – dating back to the Reagan Administration. Not being part of the treaty puts the U.S. at a negotiating disadvantage, he said.

Another reason to care: “Historically, Alaska has always been staged out of Seattle – the Alaska gold rush, the Alaska Pipeline – so there’s a local interest. If you’re going to build up infrastructure in Alaska, it’s going to affect Seattle.”

After his Arctic lesson, Rear Adm. Blore fielded a few local questions, including, “Why are those little gun boats chasing the ferries all the time?” He says it’s almost always a case of practicing vessel-escorting maneuvers – “It is rarely because there is some information about that ferry.”

And about the Alki Point Lighthouse: He lives in the house on the left, his chief of staff on the right. The homes were all built in 1913, but they’re solid, he said: “We had that (storm) this morning, there I am, sitting in a house built in 1913 … but I think we shake less than houses built in 2000.”

As for whether the lighthouse itself is the source of any ongoing concerns, the commander mentioned that the Coast Guard still “needs to remediate the mercury and lead contamination,” mercury from the old Fresnel lens, lead from old paint.

ALSO AT THE KIWANIS LUNCHEON: Last Saturday’s annual Pancake Breakfast was described as “phenomenal”; final numbers are still being crunched. They were particularly pleased to have been featured on TV; KIRO (channel 7) is a Toys for Tots partner, and with a T4T collection and U.S. Marine Corps representatives on hand that morning, it brought out a channel 7 crew. … Among the events the Kiwanians are looking forward to is one that you’ll probably want to mark on your calendar – the free community concert by the Seattle Symphony, also an annual tradition, coming up January 12th at South Seattle Community College. …. The Kiwanis Club is open to new members; its meetings are weekly in the banquet room at Be’s Restaurant in The Junction, three breakfast meetings and one lunch meeting each month – more info at

4 Replies to "From Arctic to Alki: USCG commander @ West Seattle Kiwanis"

  • Peggy Van Aller December 8, 2010 (9:17 pm)

    OMG, Rear Admiral Blore is the officer that lives there!?! The Coast Guard is such a small world.

    I was born and raised in West Seattle (Chief Sealth alumni), met & married my Coastie there (who was stationed on the POLAR SEA, shown above, from ’88-91). Our 2nd duty station was Corpus Christi, TX, where I was asked to be the Coast Guard Ombudsman to the CGC Key Biscayne and Group/Air Station Corpus Christi (at the same time; rarely done). The then Commander Blore was my contact person (or as he liked to put it, “what am I your secretary?” lol, a highly paid one I might add! lol).

    The other small world thing is that one of my dearest friend’s son and his bride live in the apts just behind the Alki Lighthouse.

  • noLongerUsingTheStreets December 8, 2010 (10:25 pm)

    One can only scratch their head that an accomplished individual such as Adm Blore cannot simply state the obvious, scientifically-support fact that the climate change he has personally observed is largely caused by greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. We live in such polarized and partisan times that silly oblique verbiage has to be included in everything to please some fringe neanderthals.
    OK, so now bring on the provincials–it’ll be an earful no doubt.

  • Dizzle December 10, 2010 (1:31 pm)

    Well, he probably can’t “state the obvious” since the Arctic is out of his jurisdiction. His area of responsibility ends at the Washington/Canadian Border (contrary to what the article above states). The Arctic falls under District 17, in Alaska.

    • WSB December 10, 2010 (2:52 pm)

      Thanks! Certainly the “Seattle staging for Alaska” is the context from which he was speaking, then – TR

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