Museum Looks to Sink Historic Icebreaker

Image courtesy Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes

By MarEx 2016-07-15 21:32:23

The Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes, located in Kingston, Ontario, faces a significant challenge: its home of four decades has been sold by the government to a private owner, and the museum cannot afford the new rent. It has one month remaining to relocate – and to dispose of its largest asset, the historic icebreaker Alexander Henry. 

The Henry was built in 1959 and served for 25 years on the Great Lakes; until now, she has been available for tours from May to October at the museum's dock. The museum has made arrangements with the city for a temporary berth, but it is looking for a permanent solution to slip fees: board chairman Chris West told Canada's CBC that the museum may decide to raise funds for stripping down and sinking the Henry as an artificial reef.

"Over the next few months, we do have to figure out whether we're going to sink the Alexander Henry and do what's called a reef conversion, to convert the ship into an artificial diving attraction," he said. "In which case, the Alexander Henry would have a new life underwater as the museum's primary underwater artifact, and that would tie in nicely with our emphasis on shipwrecks in the Kingston region."

He added that the museum had sought any interested parties who might like to take over the Henry, but had been unable to find a suitable partner. 

In an announcement detailing its plans, the museum said that the cost of making the Henry environmentally safe for sinking posed an "existential threat" to the organization's continued operation. If it cannot find a solution for her transfer or her disposal, its "plan C" backup plan is to close down. 

If it does make the transition, the museum seeks to move into a small storefront space and to convert many of its displays into an online, "virtual" format. It is closed while moving its large collection out of its former space.