Our Alaskan adventure was filled with daily surprises, and one that excited me the most was our visit to the Chatanika Gold Dredge. Located east of Fairbanks on the way to Poker Flats, Gold Dredge #3 (as it was originally called) sits abandoned on a small lake just off the Steese Highway across from the Chatanika Lodge.
You’re probably looking at the picture above and wondering “what a heap of junk.” Indeed, this dredge was destroyed by a fire in August 2013. The story goes that two guys were playing with the levers when a pulley sparked causing the whole ship to catch on fire. You can read more about it here and here, as well as see pictures of it burning.
Dr. Jackson and the first batch of climate modeling students toured the dredge in 2012, before the fire. They boarded and explored it. You’re probably wondering how this dredged look before it was destroyed. It was beautiful.
Here’s a 360 degree panorama shot.
This picture illustrates how it works.
Here are some pictures of the levers that raised and lowered the massive chainsaw-like bucketline.
The bow gantry and bucketline, robbed of its magnesium-steel bucket-teeth.
Urban exploring is one of my favorite hobbies. It’s the thrilling combination of legal risk, personal danger, and a sense of traveling back in time that appeals to me. It sometimes gets me into trouble, and sometimes it leads to interesting outcomes.
For example, as an REU student at OWU during the summer of 2012, I persuaded some fellow REU students to explore the abandoned OWU Student Observatory with me.
We ended up getting caught in the act by the police and a K-9 unit. Rather than getting dismissed from the REU program, my advisor laughed and invited me to transfer to OWU. How could I refuse?
So when I saw the Chatanika Dredge, I knew I had to board it. Dr. Jackson was not one to hold me back, despite it being extremely unsafe. After boarding, the wind and the creaking and groaning of old rusting steel made me extra cautious, at times wishing I had a hard hat (or my red glacier mountaineering helmet). The deck was a mess, and it was difficult to move about. I did snag a few pictures of the inside.
After exploring the inside, I took a look up at the bow gantry (see earlier diagram), which had a narrow ladder running up it. Dr. Jackson probably saw the direction of my gaze, and challenged me to see how high I could get. Normally I face resistance in these matters, but not with Dr. Jackson. Excited, I carefully climbed up to the tippy-top, and snagged a few more pictures.
The urban exploring code of conduct is to never damage, vandalize, litter, break (to enter) or otherwise disturb anything in the building or structure you explore. Only trespassing is allowed. It’s a shame this magnificent and historic dredge fell victim to explorers who didn’t abide the code.