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Tanana Chief sternwheeler office and gift shop successfully recovered from Chena River

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 5:46 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -A victim of springtime breakup, the Tanana Chief Sternwheeler’s floating gift shop and office has been partially submerged since the river ice melted. Scott Johnson, diver with the Test the Waters Public Safety Team, described how this came to be.

“Basically the boat froze to the bottom, in the mud, in the ice. And as the river came up it didn’t break free. And it flooded it which put it in this condition,” said Johnson.

Partially submerged Tanana Chief gift shop.
Partially submerged Tanana Chief gift shop.(Ryan Osborne)

Divers surveyed the damage and helped develop a plan to bring the vessel back to the surface.

“We were diving on it. Measuring some holes to patch, and then we’re gonna patch. And then they’re gonna try and pull it out with a couple D6 and D7 dozers,” said Johnson.

A small fleet of heavy construction vehicles ranging from dozers to cranes were attached to vessel, and successfully pulled the Tanana Chief craft from the riverbed this afternoon. However, more work will be required to fully restore the ship.

The fleet prepares to pull the Tanana Chief support craft from the Chena.
The fleet prepares to pull the Tanana Chief support craft from the Chena.(Ryan Osborne)

“They’re gonna try and pump all the water out,” said Johnson.

Once all the water is extracted, this iconic vehicle will once again float the Chena River.

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