|Undated photo of the Thelma C
The Thelma C was designed by famed marine architect Bill Garden and built in 1965 at Commercial Marine in Seattle for fisherman Ken Christoffersen. Ken lost his original boat in the tsunami in Valdez following the Great Alaskan Earthquake of March 27, 1964, but he took advantage of a Federal low interest disaster relief loan program to build the Thelma C, named after his wife, to get back on the water. As we understand it here at the museum, Ken fished the boat for decades, mostly out of Valdez, but also in Chignik and occasionally out of Kodiak. One of the aims of the project is to get a more detailed history of the boat, hopefully from Ken’s family and people who fished on the boat. Ken himself passed away in 2005.
|Proposed location of Thelma C Interpretive Exhibit
The project involves restoring the boat to its 1965 rigging and wheelhouse configuration, and installing it as a permanent interpretive exhibit near Oscar’s Dock in Kodiak’s St. Paul Harbor. When the project is complete visitors will be able to view the deck from one side of the boat and into the hull through Plexiglasss panels on the other side. A series of all-weather interpretive panels will explain what it’s like to live and work aboard a salmon fishing boat, how the salmon fishery is vital to the people of Kodiak Island, and the effects of the 1964 earthquake on the Kodiak’s waterfront and fishing industry. A cell phone accessible multi-media exhibit will feature oral histories, images and text to augment those stories. A roof will keep rain and snow off the boat, but the exhibit will otherwise be an open air exhibit.The boat was moved in November to Kodiak College, which has graciously granted workspace to accomplish the boat work. At the moment, the boat is sheathed in white shrink wrap plastic, but in the next few weeks we’ll be constructing a temporary work space over the boat. In February, shipwright Brian Johnson and master woodworker Don Corwin will begin leading a team of volunteers and students in reconstructing the boat. If all goes well, the boat should be completely refurbished by June of 2012 and ready to be moved to the exhibit site in the harbor sometime after that.
|The Thelma C moving from storage, November, 2010
We’ll be looking for volunteers to help with the work shelter in early January, and the boat rebuilding in February, so please get in touch with us if you’d like to participate.