Posted by: wadahp | March 9, 2011


Water Highways


In 1933, Captain Peabody of the Puget Sound Navigation Company (PSN) purchased the burned-out remains of the Oakland, California-based ferry Peralta. Once the ship arrived at the Lake Washington Shipyards, construction quickly began to transform the ship into the new showpiece for the PSN.  The construction utilized new specialized techniques, such as the electro-welding process, breaking new ground in ship construction. Named the Kalakala, the ship featured a curvaceous form with a silver color, emphasizing the popular streamlining design principle of Art Deco.  Boasting a luxurious interior, the Kalakala featured a comfortable observation room and walls decorated with paintings by Seattle artist S. A. Cookson.  The luxury ferry also featured state-of-the-art safety features such as the first ever automatic fire control sprinklers installed on a ferry.  One of the largest ferryboats constructed at the time, the 276-foot Kalakala could carry up to 2,000 passengers and 110 cars. She continued in service as ferry, even through the transition to state ownership and management, until October 1967, when the American Freezership Company purchased her for use as a mobile crab-processing vessel in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.[1] Despite the Kalakala’s luxury and technological innovations, incessant vibration from the ferry’s oversized engine led to nicknames such as “Galloping Gertie,” “Kelunkala,” and “Klanka-a-lot.”


[1] (Russell 2002, 100)



  1. I love the Kalakala. Its story alone should have made it a show piece of Washington preservation but so far it has only been heartache. Keep spreading the story.

  2. It “could carry up to 20,000 passengers”? That must be a typo, should that be 2,000 passengers? I don’t think there’s a ship afloat that can carry 20,000 people.

    • Thanks, Scott – we get these blog items from our consultants working on the Maritime Heritage Survey project….but I’m sure you’re correct, so I’ve made the correction! Appreciate it!

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