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Kansas City's steamboat museum is gonna need a bigger space to add more sunken vessels

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Drilling for the Malta
Courtesy of David Hawley
Confirming the site of the steamboat Malta required drilling down to the suspected location and bringing up samples of the boat's wood and cargo.

In its search for a facility large enough to hold future additions to its collection, the Arabia Steamboat Museum may have to leave Kansas City.

David Hawley has been hunting sunken Missouri steamboats since 1988 when he, along with his father, brother and two friends, went looking for and found the Steamboat Arabia — 45 feet underground in a field where the Mighty Mo once flowed.

That led to The Arabia Steamboat Museum in the City Market in Kansas City, Missouri, and sent Hawley on a continuing quest to find five other steamboats from the hundreds that sank in the river. His goal is to have one boat from each decade of the Missouri River's steamboat era and place them all in one National Steamboat Museum.

And Hawley has found some. The Malta is resting under a cornfield near the town named for it, Malta Bend, and the Radnor remains under the Missouri's waters near Boonville.

But with the Arabia Museum "bursting at the seams," until a new space is found that can accommodate all future boats, the Malta, the Radnor, their cargo and the stories they tell of America's westward expansion remain buried.

  • David Hawley, owner, The Arabia Steamboat Museum
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