Thunder Bay·Audio

Alexander Henry icebreaker sets sail for Thunder Bay

The Alexander Henry has left its recent port in Kingston, Ont., and is making the trek north, says the head of the society that's worked to bring it to Thunder Bay.

Vessel expected to be in the Lakehead by June 28, says transportation museum society president

The Alexander Henry is being towed back to Thunder Bay, according to the head of the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society. (Supplied by Bill Bird)

The Alexander Henry, the decommissioned icebreaker that's set to call the Lakehead home again, has left its recent port in Kingston, Ont., and is making the trek north, says the head of the society that's worked to bring it to Thunder Bay.

Charlie Brown, the head of the Lakehead Transportation Museum Society, told CBC News he was surprised to get a call from a tow operator saying he could get the ship moving as early as Monday.

"If we had delayed, he was going to be tied up and we wouldn't have had the opportunity until maybe September," Brown said. "So we had to make a quick decision and we didn't want to miss out on any more of our year of revenue and bringing it in for the public."
The Alexander Henry was built by the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company. (Supplied by Bill Bird)

"We took ownership late Friday afternoon and from there we've just put everything in motion," he added.

The icebreaker, which was built by the Port Arthur Shipbuilding Company was commissioned in 1959. It worked the Great Lakes until the mid-1980s, when the current vessel, the Samuel Risley, came into service.

For years, the Alexander Henry was on display at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston. When that facility lost its 40-year-old space, which included a dry dock that contained the icebreaker, museum officials floated the idea to sink the ship to the bottom of Lake Ontario as a dive tourism attraction.
The icebreaker worked the Great Lakes for decades until the mid-1980s when it was replaced by the Samuel Risley. (Supplied by Bill Bird)

Brown and his organization, which is working to preserve the Lakehead's transportation history, subsequently got involved in bringing the breaker back north. Thunder Bay city council has committed up to $125,000 for transportation costs.

The museum society will own the Alexander Henry, Brown said, adding that the current plan is to dock the ship at the Kam River Heritage Park with plans to eventually move the vessel to the old Pool 6 site on the waterfront.

Bringing it directly to the waterfront would be a spectacular visual, Brown said.

"If we have to bring it into the Kam River site, we're going to have to go around Mission Island and up the river," he said. "It'll be much more spectacular with a flotilla coming right into the harbour itself, past the [Sleeping] Giant."

The icebreaker is expected to enter the Welland Canal early Tuesday morning and arrive in Thunder Bay on June 28, Brown said, adding that it should be open to the public by August.

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