PHOTO BY ANDREW CREMATA

At approximately 3 a.m. on Sept. 5, a rockslide occurred at the north end of the Railroad Dock, breaking a piece of the railing off and spilling rubble across the dock itself.

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad closed the dock for the remainder of the day, with two of the expected cruise ships being re-routed. The Ruby Princess docked on the Ore Dock and the Nieuw Amsterdam docked at the Broadway Dock as scheduled.

A press release sent out from White Pass that morning said a geotechnical engineer would be arriving later in the day to assess the situation further.

The Borough Assembly has a landslide discussion scheduled for its upcoming Sept. 7 meeting.

The topic of landslides/rockslides at the Railroad Dock was on the agenda for the assembly prior to the Sept. 5 event. A rockslide had occurred at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, causing minor damage to a railing and knocking a hole in the side of a covered waiting area. The cruise ships in harbor on Aug. 26 were shifted to the Ore and Broadway docks. No one was injured in either slide.

In an interview preceding the Sept. 5 rockfall, Skagway resident Andrew Cremata had expressed concerns that a large piece of land above the dock could potentially come down.

Cremata said he’d hiked up above the railroad dock in the summer to get a first-person perspective on it. What he found worried him, enough so where he contacted several assembly members to alert them of a potential issue.
He called the Aug. 26 rockslide a “grain of sand, compared to the beach that’s on top of the mountain.”

“It’s not just that large piece of mountain that could come off, it’s going to be the large piece of mountain and everything beneath it, which are trees, rocks, gravel, mud, everything,” Cremata said.

PHOTO BY DAN FOX

“To me, it’s the city’s responsibility to look at it, because it’s on city property,” he added.

Rocks falling can be damaging on their own, however given proximity that the mountains around Skagway have to water, other hazards could potentially arise from a large-scale landslide or rockslide. Notably, enough heavy material falling directly into the water could trigger a tsunami. Such an event is not unprecedented in Southeast Alaska – in 1958, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake triggered a rockslide in Lituya Bay. The breakaway parts of mountain struck the water and triggered a mega-tsunami with a wave over 1,700 feet tall.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.