The Skagway ferry terminal is out of commission until further notice.
The terminal’s floating dock, which allows cars to board Alaska Marine Highway Ferries, mysteriously sunk early Thursday morning in the seaside town, much to the surprise of the highway service.
Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for Alaska’s transportation department, said two marine engineers and a diver were on scene yesterday to examine the dock and find out why it sank.
“Right now, we have no idea why this could have happened,” Woodrow said.
“This was a surprise to our department, so we’re up there now trying to get to the root of the problem,” he said.
The dock is made up of 24 concrete air-filled compartments, which can be inspected both inside and out, Woodrow said. All of the compartments were inspected within the last two years, he said, with no indication of any damage.
“We’re looking into alternate means for continuing service to Skagway, but right now it is cancelled until further notice,” he said.
Anyone scheduled to sail out of Skagway should call the Alaska Highway Marine System at 1-800-642-0066 for information about alternate routes.
Woodrow said the highway department is looking at the possibility of using another dock in the Skagway port. The Skagway harbour has a number of docks besides the ferry terminal used by cruise ships and other vessels, but Woodrow was doubtful those would work because they aren’t designed for loading cars.
Cruise ships will start arriving in Skagway within the next week, but Woodrow said that service won’t be affected.
Right now the ferries are operating on their winter schedule, which sees three to four vessels per week running between Skagway, Haines and Juneau. But that will ramp up in the coming weeks once the summer season hits, with six to seven ships per week.
Woodrow said the department is confident it will have a solution in place before that happens.
The downed dock left at least one Yukoner stuck in Juneau wondering what to do.
Tlingit performing artist Sharon Shorty, also known as Gramma Susie, was in the Alaskan capital for a performance yesterday night. She got a call yesterday from her husband telling her about the dock sinking.
“I called the 1-800 number and the woman on the line told me that all traffic is closed out of Skagway. I asked what the options were, and she said it’s still an option to go to Haines and then drive from Haines,” Shorty said.
She has to be back from Juneau on Monday for another gig at the Yukon Arts Centre on Tuesday, but she hadn’t counted on having to drive from Haines.
“I can’t imagine them rebuilding it in four days, so I’m assuming that driving is what’s going to happen,” she said.
The closure is also causing headaches for the Whitehorse invitational soccer tournament taking place in the city this weekend.
Organizer Geoff Woodhouse said he’s been in touch with a team that’s coming over from Juneau, and they, too, will have to drive over the Haines Pass today.
“They’ll be sitting in a car all day and then have to get out and immediately start playing,” he said.
The organizers have shuffled the schedule to give the Juneau team a little more time to stretch their legs after the long drive, Woodhouse said.
Contact Jesse Winter at