By Melinda Munson
June 23 started with a bang, or more accurately a rumble. The 6:30 a.m. rockslide on Railroad Dock occurred within close proximity of the Discovery Princess.
No one was injured and according to Jacqueline Taylor-Rose, marketing manager for White Pass & Yukon Route, the ship received “slight cosmetic damage.”
The slide happened south of the current mitigation area. Steward Stephens, port manager for Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, said that while rockslides “could happen anywhere,” the location of the incident “was a surprise.”
Stu and Amy Eddings, passengers from California, were on the starboard side of the Discovery when the rocks hit.
“We were heading down into the elevator,” Stu said. “All of a sudden, the ship shuttered. But we knew the ship was already tied up at the dock. So we didn’t know if we’d been hit by another ship.”
Eddings said when he looked down off a balcony, he saw the landslide just 30 feet to the right of a small group of people. From the 15th level, Eddings noted chipped windows and pieces of broken rock.
“It could have been catastrophic. It could have been a mess,” Eddings surmised, if the slide had happened just a little later in the day with a busier dock.
Passengers from the Discovery were tendered to the Small Boat Harbor, 190 people at a time. The cruise had an estimated 3,500 people on board. The Quantum of the Sea, scheduled to dock on Railroad at 9 a.m., turned back after the slide. It marked the first day that Skagway could berth a maximum of three ships, one less than normal – a blow to the town’s economy after the three-year pandemic.
“It put a strain on everyone,” said Tyler Rose, Executive Director of Human Resources and Planning for White Pass & Yukon Route.
Rose said that within 24 hours, the company flew in a geo-engineer. Scaling work began soon after, including hydro scaling with the help of helicopters, and finally protective measures.
Railroad Dock opened back up to two ships on July 5. The aft ship will continue to tender to the Small Boat Harbor.
The rockslide shook the mountainside, and the confidence of some community members.
“It’s a complicated and constantly moving target. Until the situation is entirely understood and mitigated, entering the area is a personal risk,” said Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata.