Bison, Kayaks, and Natural Gas Platforms: Unusual cargo taken in stride by Alaska's transportation companies.

AuthorOrr, Vanessa

Transportation companies in Alaska are used to facing all sorts of challenges, from tricky weather and remote locations to short delivery windows--but no matter the obstacle or the cargo, they take great pride in getting things where they need to go.

Case in point: a few years ago, Matson found itself moving a more traditional form of transportation. An Alutiiq kayak, estimated to be built in or before 1869, was discovered in storage at Harvard's Peabody Museum. The museum agreed to loan the forty-pound, split-prow kayak (created with humpback whale sinew, hair, wool yarn, wood, plant fiber cordage, and spruce root) to the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak for a period of ten years--the only problem was getting it there.

It took several years for the kayak, which needed to first be restored, to make the 5.000-mile trip. The Matson Foundation provided a $5,000 grant toward the vessel's preservation and then offered an in-kind donation of free shipping. Transported across the United States on a truck in an 18-foot custom crate, it then traveled on a Matson ship from Tacoma to Kodiak before arriving at the Alutiiq Museum.

And this is not the first "antique" that has made its way through Alaska. Lynden Air Cargo once transported a ninety-two-year-old Tin Lizzie--a vintage Model T that was discovered nestled in the back of a warehouse in Nome. Its owners wanted it transported to Anchorage, which required the services of a Lynden Air Cargo Hercules aircraft.

Crowley's Marine Solutions Team faced a more modern-day challenge when it was hired as the prime contractor to ship and install a natural gas production platform and underwater pipeline for Furie Operating Alaska. Known as the Kitchen Lights project, the two-year undertaking--which employed more than 500 workers and up to twenty support vessels during the process--faced a plethora of engineering and transportation challenges.

"This was not your everyday type of project," says Crowley Vice President Johan Sperling. "It was a large project with many components, and it required a company that was familiar with Cook Inlet, where the tide rises so much that it creates treacherous currents. For anyone not familiar with the area, it would have been almost impossible."

Tides in Cook Inlet can rise and fall by up to 35 feet every six hours, and changing currents make it even more hazardous to those working in the area.

"I think the most surprising part to me was how long it took to get people who had never...

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