Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The M/V Kehloken, Then and Now

This photograph of the UW Husky crew in front of the old Lake Washington Shipyard, today's Carillon Point, was taken in 1977. So, while the image is newer than most displayed in this column, there is history there. The ferry in the background is the M.V. Kehloken, a 239 foot Alameda, CA built, all wood diesel electric that rolled off the ways in 1927 and was brought north to Puget Sound in 1937. She began work on the Suquamish-Indianola-Seattle run, but after a few years took over the Seattle-Winslow route. During WWII, her saddest task was transporting Bainbridge Island residents of Japanese-ancestry who were sent to interment camps. She was retired in 1972 and sold, her new owners towed her to Houghton tie up in 1975 at the site of the former Lake Washington Shipyards and planned to turn her into a clubhouse/restaurant. In 1979 she and much of the dock she was moored to caught fire and she burned to the waterline.

In 1983 her remains were cleaned up and towed off the south end of Whidbey Island where she was scuttled in 80 feet of water. The old M.V. Kehloken then began the final stage of her long life as an artificial reef, a popular angling and dive site today. After 29 years on the bottom she has accumulated considerable growth, which make her home to an abundance of varied marine life, an oasis on an otherwise barren, sandy bottom.

 The M. V. Kehloken during her Puget Sound years, c.1940s. 

The site of today's Carillon Point served as the Seattle Seahawks practice and training facility in the late 1970's. The M. V. Kehloken was included in the 1978 team photo.

The M. V. Kehloken and adjacent piers burned in 1979.

I have been away from the Puget Sound diving scene for a few years, but since this piece first ran on Kirklandviews.com, I mentioned this story to my super-diver friend Shannon Peterson and she got in touch with local underwater cinematographer Ryan Amberfield of Perfect Drummer Filmworks, Perfectdrummer.com. The stills below are from their just-released HD underwater film of the M.V. Kehloken as she is today, an artificial reef. Make sure to check the film out here: Kehloken Film


BK Diving said...

Thanks for posting this. I dove at the site with Ryan and having the history really makes it a great experience.

Matt McCauley said...

Thank you guys for the use of the UW images, I really appreciate the help!

I want to get out there this year and check it out myself. I first dived it as a 10th grader in 1980, the year after I was certified, and then it was just a semi-submerged, burned hulk at the old Lake Washington Shipyards site. We recovered the bronze conical cap that covered one of the prop hubs, but that is now long gone, sadly. I was really glad they finally put her to good use, I can't believe it has been so long!

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Anonymous said...

I was in high school while the Kehloken was anchored by the Seahawks training camp. We used to trespass on it all the time. It was our defacto club house during the 1977-1978 years. We probably had a hand in it burning down, as we ran power from the dock through an old fuse box with removable fuses, underwater in a single strand of water proof cable to the engine room of the ferry. There we ran it through some standard house fuses which served as switches so that we could turn the lights on and off. We would remove the dock fuses when we left, so that no one else could benefit from our effort. We cleaned up the engine room and hung out there for a while, but eventually other kids and the police found out. A couple of cops tried to catch us on there once, but were unable to since we had hiding places picked out.

Eventually we gave it up as others defiled the place and we got involved with cars and/or girls. Eventually it caught on fire, possibly from someone less careful jumping the fuses, or for other reasons. We'd been uninvolved with it for a while by that time.

I'm glad it lives on as a dive destination, as we had a lot of good times on that ferry.