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James Whalen tug raised from Kaministiquia River

The historic James Whalen tug has been lifted from the bottom of the Kaministiquia River, though not without a notable mishap.

THUNDER BAY – Months after it sank at its berth along the Kaministiquia River, the historic James Whalen tugboat has been raised, though not without a notable mishap along the way.

Crews began lifting the 117-year-old boat using a heavy lift barge, cranes, pumps, and other specialized equipment on Thursday morning.

At one point in the raising of the tug Thursday, a cable attached near the front of the boat snapped, causing it to fall back into the river.

The incident caused only a momentary setback, said Halvorsen.

“There was a little bit of a setback this morning with the first approach at this, but then they quickly pivoted.”

Around 4 p.m., crews successfully raised the boat after another attempt, leaving it sitting upright as workers began setting up pumps.

The plan is to tow the vessel upriver to the Paterson Dock, near the James Street Swing Bridge, on Friday – though the city cautioned that may depend on an assessment of the boat’s condition.

The boat has sat largely submerged on the river bottom since sinking on May 1.

After being raised to the surface using cranes and cables, crews used high-capacity pumps to remove water from the vessel.

The city awarded that job to LH North for $793,000. The company also contracted with Thunder Bay Tug and local outfit Big Lake Dive, which provided five divers to assist in the operation.

The need for specialized staff and equipment was one factor accounting for the delay in the boat’s recovery, said Cory Halvorsen, the city’s manager of parks and open spaces.

“We obviously wanted to get to this point sooner, it did take some time,” he said. “But as you can see, the amount of work and the complexity of it wasn’t conducive to just selecting someone and proceeding in a matter of weeks.”

The city has said the Whalen is expected to remain at Paterson Dock for one to two years as municipal leaders consider its future.

The Lakehead Transportation Museum has expressed interest in acquiring the vessel to house at its site near Pool 6.

With files from Leigh Nunan, TBT News.


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