By the end of her life, the T’Lagunna had helped ferry 1.5 million vehicles and 4 million people a year across the Fraser River.
She was the source of employment for 59 people before being decommissioned and last week, she was raised from the bottom of Howe Sound.
“The condition of it was quite impressive,” said Clark Longmuir, general manager of Amix Marine Salvage Ltd.
Contracted by the underwriters of the vessel’s owner, Longmuir and a team of salvagers set out to resurrect the 200-tonne vessel from her watery grave. They looked up her history, found her design plans and brought a massive barge equipped with the West Coast’s largest on-water crane, to Darrell Bay — near Shannon Falls.
Transport Canada had placed a remove order on the vessel because it was deemed a navigation hazard, Longmuir said. The sunken ferry was located near the Darrell Bay ferry terminal, from where items were shipped back and forth across Howe Sound to Woodfibre. She lay on an angle with one end close to the sea’s surface and the other 120 feet below water. This presented challenges, Longmuir said.
“It was difficult for the divers because they couldn’t stay down that long,” he said.
Faced with murky silt on the ocean’s floor and no sunlight penetrating to that depth, divers examined the vessel and created lift points for the 600 tonne crane to attach to.
Once the ferry was secured, the salvage company levelled the boat before bringing it to the surface. It was bit nerve-racking, Longmuir admits.
“We weren’t 100 per cent sure of the steel,” he said, noting there’s always a possibility the vessel could fall apart as its hoisted up.
By Sunday (Dec. 11), the giant crane had winched the old ferry above water. The next day it was on the barge and ready to be hauled off to be dismantled and its steel recycled.
How the vessel sunk remains a bit of a mystery to Longmuir. He said he was unsure of the story, but thinks it occurred in 2009. The T’Lagunna was the first Albion ferry in service on the Fraser River, according to the West Coast Ferries Forum. Starting in 1957, the Ministry of Transportation provided free passenger and vehicle sailings across the Fraser River using the Albion ferries.
In 1985, the T’Lagunna was replaced by the Kulleet and used as a backup vessel until 1986, the forum stated. The service was shut down in 2009 upon completion of the Golden Ears Bridge.