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McBarge, the abandoned floating McDonald’s, has a new destination: deep sea museum

Goran Blazeski

It is not our first time reporting on the boat from Expo ’86 that housed a floating McDonald’s. Last time we wrote about the abandoned 187-foot-long boat, we announced that Howard Meakin, who bought the famous McBarge in 2010 and moved it out of the inaccessible Burrard Inlet, had plans to restore it.

Lovers of the McBarge (officially named the Friendship 500) will be glad to hear that progress is definitely being made. The attraction of Expo ’86 in Vancouver, anchored empty since 1991 and rendered derelict, is no longer covered in rust, graffiti, and dirt. Its future could be as a deep-sea museum and conservation center.

Howard Meakin, the new owner of the boat, and Phil Nuytten,  inventor and president of the Historical Diving Society of Canada, are the ones responsible for the restoration and repurposing of the McBarge.

Deep Sea Discover Centre Rendering.  Author: Lu Liu

Deep Sea Discover Centre Rendering.  Author: Lu Liu

The duo and their team, which includes architect David Eaton and designer Nigel Walker, spent more than a year working on the project, and recently stated that their “vision is to create a major BC attraction showcasing the history, technology, stories, and experiences offered by the Pacific Ocean.” 

McBarge, once the pride of British Columbia.  Author: Lu Liu

McBarge, once the pride of British Columbia.  Author: Lu Liu

Meakin and Nuytten confirmed that the museum will be located in Vancouver but decided to keep the ultimate location a secret. Their plan was to announce the details at an event that was supposed to take place on October 21, in Maple Ridge, but sadly, it had to be postponed due to bad weather.

Shark Cage Rendering.  Author: Lu Liu

Shark Cage Rendering.  Author: Lu Liu

“Vancouver’s rugged weather meant 50 mm of rain, high winds and the coldest day of the year so far aligned with our date. As an event held in part outdoors, this storm created critical issues around tents, the jet boat safari, protection of displays and other logistics we could not surmount,” it was announced on their website.

Past Interior of McBarge.  Author: Lu Liu

Past Interior of McBarge.  Author: Lu Liu

They added that the event will be held at another time and thanked everyone for supporting their efforts to preserve the McBarge and to educate and promote conservation of the deep ocean.

McBarge in the days between Expo and deep-sea museum.  Author: Lu Liu

McBarge in the days between Expo and deep-sea museum.  Author: Lu Liu

We apparently need to wait a while longer to learn about the details of the project, but what we did find out so far is that, due to some hard work, McBarge is now nearly 100 tons lighter and sits about six inches higher in the water.

McBarge.  Author: Lu Liu

McBarge.  Author: Lu Liu

When it opens, the 15, 400-square-foot museum will be the first of its kind in Canada. As announced, visitors will be able to enjoy a “4-D” theatre, various educational exhibits, Nuytten’s impressive collection of underwater equipment, many artifacts, shipwrecks, and even a shark cage.

Interior as of now.  Author: Lu Liu

Interior as of now.  Author: Lu Liu

However, a considerable sum of money is needed to make this happen, so Meakin and Nuytten started a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to raise at least some of the money needed to complete their project. They also hope that the city of Vancouver will designate the Friendship 500 as a historic floating vessel, which would make it a lot easier for them to apply for the much-needed government grants, sponsorships, and other funding sources.

Current Interior.  Author: Lu Liu

Current Interior.  Author: Lu Liu

The McBarge was built in 1986 for an estimated cost of around $26 million in today’s currency and was one of the few examples of a floating McDonald’s restaurant. Robert Allan Ltd. designed it for the World’s Fair Expo in 1986, which was held in Vancouver, to showcase technology of the future. Although it was originally supposed to stay in operation after the end of Expo 86 in October, it never reopened.

Read another story from us: For 250 years, people have spotted the Flying Dutchman, the phantom ship doomed to sail the Seven Seas forever

The 1986 World’s Fair Expo was the last time this beauty welcomed legal visitors, but if everything goes the way Meakin and Nuytten have planned, this will change. Until that day, we wish them clear skies, fair winds, and calm waters.