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The Amazing Leica CRF 900 Y Rangefinder!

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  • The Amazing Leica CRF 900 Y Rangefinder!

    I’m an Alaskan who lives about 40 miles north of Anchorage in the Matanuska Valley. I had a brush with the Grim Reaper this past November, and I related it on another internet forum. The very witty Incorrigble 1 is also a participant there, and since part of my remarkable story has to do with optics, he invited me to register here and post my story. Some of you might like it:

    On this past 14 November, I decided to go ice fishing on Big Lake, Alaska, about 30 miles north of my home. When I got to North Big Lake Recreation Site, where a summer boat launch provides a nice ramp to drive out on the ice, I found 6”-8” of fresh snow, and there were fresh automotive tracks in that snow. I couldn’t see the ice to determine its thickness, but figured that where he can go, I can go. The tracks led straight across the bay to a house. From there I followed the shore to a channel, then across the channel to the south side of Hoyt Island. I know people have ice fished there before. But then I realized that I’d forgotten my shovel, and I didn’t want to set my tent up in so much snow, so I went back home for a shovel. I ended up putting the plow on and throwing the shovel in the back before returning. Upon my return I find even fresher tracks headed over toward Long Island and the main part of the lake. “Where he can go, I can go.”

    I follow the tracks past Long Island and between the North Shore and past Shepherd’s Island where the auto tracks went to a house. From there an ATV left tracks. I’m feeling bold. I’ve made it this far, right? And I really want to fish my favorite spot on the west side of Burnt Point. So I follow the ATV tracks to Burnt Point.

    Right as I get near the dock of a home on the point the front of my truck breaks through. Water washes over the hood immediately. My first thought was, “I wonder how deep it is here?” I found out fast. Within just a few seconds, the truck was submerged.

    It angled downward from the front where the heavy diesel engine and 8.5’ plow weighed it down, and the panic set in. I immediately tried to open the door, but of course, it wouldn’t open. I don’t remember when I took and held the deep breath, but I obviously did. I ripped the latch off from the rear camper window, slid it open, and tried to get my fat ass through it as the water rushed in. Of course, that wasn’t going to work, and I was on the bottom before a vision of my lifeless body stuck in the window came to me. “Huntster, you’re going to get stuck in this window and that’s where the divers will find you.” So I backed into the fully flooded cab again and went back to the door latch.

    For some reason, simply rolling down the door window never occurred to me.

    After not being able to find the door handle, I needed more air. I tried to put my nose and lips against the ceiling of the cab and “sip” to see if there was air. There wasn’t. I got water. I went back to the door, and still couldn’t find the handle. I may have ripped it off when I first tried to open the door. After feeling for that door handle for what seemed like an eternity and not finding it, the resignation that I was going to drown began to set in. It was more of a surprise at that point more than fear. I never thought I’d drown, and that thought of surprise was about to be my last thought.

    And then the door opened. I don’t remember finding the handle and pulling it. Maybe I had unlatched it on my first desperate attempt and the pressure finally equalized. I estimate I was down there for up to a minute. It sure felt like a long time. From the bathymetric charts and my recollections, I estimated that the truck went down in 25’ of water, but later it was confirmed that the truck went down in 44’ of water.

    Upon leaving the cab I looked up. Despite being pitch black down there (probably from the fresh snow on the ice) I could see a gloomy light from what I assumed was the hole that the truck made. I swam up toward it. It seemed like a long, long way.

    When I broke the surface, my first thought was, “I’m not going to die!” I swam over to the edge of the hole to find that the water splashed up by the truck on the sides of the hole had washed the snow back, and it was just wet ice. I couldn’t even hold on to get a rest from treading water. But there were several items that were in the back of the truck that didn’t sink, and among them was the propane tank I use to power my heater. I grabbed it and it served as a great life ring. And at the back of the hole the water hadn’t washed the snow away. I figure that was because the truck’s momentum splashed the water forwards and to the sides, but not the rear. I was able to get my left arm on the snowy ice, and with my right arm holding the propane tank, kicked my legs up to the point where I could get my right foot on the ice and work it up to where most of my right leg was on ice. It took time, but I finally got out.

    Fortunately, a woman who was a caregiver for an elderly man saw the truck go in from his home about ¼ to ½ mile away. She phoned the Big Lake Fire Dept. and a man she knew who lived nearby. He walked out and guided me back to the elderly man’s house. I stripped down (my skin was as red as a lobster) and wrapped up in towels until the EMTs arrived. The first body temp the EMTs got was 90.5 degrees. Since I had been in the water and walking in the cold for nearly 20 minutes before they took that temperature, and had warmed up for about 10 minutes before they arrived, and based upon how quickly my temp came back up, I figure my body temp went as low as 88 degrees. I’ve since been told that few fully recover from a body temperature as low as 86 degrees. The tips of my fingers were numb, then tingling for months. It wasn’t until March or so that I fully recovered.

    Since nobody would rent me a small crane to hoist the truck back up again, I hired a contractor who claimed to be the only guy who could recover the truck, and he was recommended by two others. He said that he would have to wait until January so that the ice would be at least two feet thick before a recovery could be staged. My plans at that point was to snowbird to California for the months of January and February and spend time with my 84 year old mom while I still can, so I left the job in his hands with the assurance that he’d push the truck into my garage while I was gone.

    When I got back to Alaska in March, the truck was still under the ice. Like before I’d left, I kept the area plowed for the recovery. It wasn’t until 02 April that the contractor actually tried the recovery. After taking two days to chainsaw a hole big enough to extract the truck, a diver went down…………..and then came right back up, saying that the truck was sunk in the mud on the bottom too deeply to pull up with the 10,000 winch and boom on the front of their 1953 Army 2.5 ton truck. I sent the diver back down with instructions to recover the long guns behind the seat and a day bag on the floor of the passenger side which had lots of expensive gear in it. He came back up with the keys from the ignition……….and that was all. He said he couldn’t get the seat back pulled forward, and couldn’t fit in the cab to get the day bag.

    So I was, essentially, SOL……

    Later, a diver who worked for the Anchorage Fire Department Dive Team said she’d go down to get my gear, but she was also quite busy. It wasn’t until August 7th that she went down. She came up with the three long guns and the day bag. Unfortunately, there is still a pair of Zeiss Jena East German NVA EDF 7x40 binoculars in the cab, two stainless steel revolvers (a Ruger SP-101 and Smith & Wesson Model 317), an Olympus Stylus 1050 SW waterproof digital camera, a Garmin Etrex Legend GPS, and a McMurdo Fast Find PLB.

    One of the long guns was a Browning Stainless Stalker Alaskan Special in 338 WinMag which had a Burris Scout scope mounted on it. The scope was almost full of water. I removed the optical end and drained as much water out as would come. I then put the scope in a zip lock bag with a silica pack designed for gun safes. After a couple of weeks, the scope still had water in the objective end, so I packaged it up and sent it to Burris with a letter explaining my event. Burris offers a lifetime warranty backing materials and workmanship, so I also asked them that if the warranty didn’t cover it, how much repair would cost. Within two weeks they sent me a new scope! No charge, no questions asked! This was the second Burris Scout scope I’d sent back to them over the years. The first lost its zero and couldn’t be readjusted, likely due to banging around by me. Then, too, Burris just send me a new one, no questions asked!

    One item that came up from the bottom of the lake in the day bag was a Leica CRF 900 Y rangefinder. When I got it home, I looked through the monocular, and it was cloudy. I opened the battery compartment to find the compartment and battery dry! It had been nearly 9 months! So I put the unit in a zip lock bag with silica. It stayed there for a couple of weeks. I pulled it out and looked through the monocular to find a clear image! I put it back in the bag for a couple more weeks, then pulled it out, inserted the battery, and tried it. It didn’t work. At first I thought it was toast, but then thought that perhaps the battery had just run down. It was, after all, the original battery. I ran down to the store, got a battery, installed it, and the unit worked perfectly! After 9 months underwater at 44’ of pressure!

    I was extremely impressed!

    There may be another attempt made to retrieve the truck, and at least another attempt to find the revolvers and Zeiss Jena binoculars in the cab of the truck. If I retrieve the binocs, I’ll come back to post my findings…………

  • #2
    I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for contributing. I hope to see more from you on the forum.
    My Binoculars
    Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision
    Canon 10x30 IS
    Canon 18x50 IS
    Vortex Viper HD 8x42
    Celestron Regal M2 22-67x100ED Spotting Scope
    Zhumell 10x42 Short Barrel
    Nikon Premier SE 8x32