May 13 UPDATE:
The sunken barge found in Lutak Inlet just off the main Haines dock area is likely one that sank in a storm in 1976 during a dredging operation. A former dredge contractor now living in Juneau tells the Chilkat Valley News that if it is indeed his barge, anything found aboard it is up for grabs. "They can have it. I’m retired. I don’t even want to think about it,” Tom Paddock Jr. said.
You might think someone around Haines would remember the sinking of a 180-foot-long, 30-foot-wide steel-hulled vessel of some kind near the main dock on Lutak Inlet just north of the Southeast Alaska town. But so far, the ship 200 feet offshore is a mystery to Haines Borough officials, reports the Chilkat Valley News.
[Hydrographer Ben] Hocker said the sonar technology revealed the majority of the vessel’s exposed surface is smooth and flat, leading him to believe the boat is overturned. If it were right-side up, the imaging would likely show some sort of superstructure or hold, he said.
The smooth surface also suggests the hull is made of steel, as wooden hulls tend to deteriorate and appear potholed and uneven on imaging software.
Because the imaging doesn’t reveal any material spilled out alongside the vessel, Hocker said the ship likely sank empty or full of cargo that floated away. “I wouldn’t be sitting back here if it was full of gold, let’s just put it that way,” he said.
Hocker couldn’t estimate how long the boat has been on the seafloor but said its partial burial in the sediment indicates it didn’t likely sink in the last several years.