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NR331 Searching the Cold Waters with Side Scan Sonar

“I seemed to vow to myself that some day I would go to the region of ice and snow and go on and on till I came to one of the poles of the earth, the end of the axis upon which this great ball turns” – Ernest Shackleton

The Alaska Department of Public Safety has two primary divisions: The Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. Both divisions are responsible for all fresh waters within the boundaries of the State of Alaska and all saltwater within the Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Alaska Wildlife Troopers ( primary mission is to protect Alaska’s Natural Resources through the enforcement of wildlife statutes and regulations. Wildlife troopers in Alaska enforce all laws. In addition to the missions of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, officers respond to search and rescues, investigate major crimes, including homicides, and enforce traffic laws. Many AWT locations are rural, and the wildlife trooper is often the only law enforcement officer at these posts.

The Alaska State Troopers ( mission is to preserve the peace, enforce the law, prevent and detect crime, and protect life and property. This Division is comprised of posts assigned to four geographic detachments that provide patrol, enforcement, and search and rescue to all areas of the state and a central headquarters. The Alaska State Troopers are statutorily required to lead search and rescue (SAR) efforts within the state of Alaska. Troopers conduct over four hundred and fifty SAR operations each year. The SAR coordinator is on standby 24/7 throughout the year to assist troopers in the field in finding and locating lost and injured individuals. Some of the assets available for SAR operations include aircraft, vessels, ground search teams, and canines.

In late fall of 2022 The Department of Public Safety HQ in Anchorage, Alaska purchased a dual frequency side scan sonar system from JW Fishers Mfg. to add to their search and rescue departments across the two primary divisions. The team came to the facility right outside of Boston, MA for a two-day training on the system. A Side Scan Sonar is a common tool used by agencies across the globe. The equipment can deployed from a small vessel and operated by one person if needed. The towfish is towed behind a vessel at low speeds in an effort to paint a picture of the bottom of the water being searched. The main reason a sonar system is advantageous to search teams is that it allows teams to search large areas quickly without putting divers’ lives at risk. Once a target is identified divers can be deployed to detect and confirm what the sonar identifies. JW Fishers has been producing underwater search equipment for over 55 years and proud to be a part of the 100’s of department across the globe. The main systems offered are the single frequency 600 kHz system and the new 450/900 kHz system utilizing CHIRP technology.

JW Fishers Mfg. thanks the men and women of ALL departments across the globe that put their lives in danger daily for the benefit of the people they serve.

(800) 822-4744


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