Duck tours are tours that take place on purpose-built amphibious tour buses or military surplus DUKWs and LARC-Vs. Duck tours are primarily offered as tourist attractions in harbor, river and lake cities.
The first "duck tour" company was started in 1946 by Mel Flath and Bob Unger in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. Flath's company has changed ownership since, but it is still in operation under the name Original Wisconsin Ducks. His family continues to operate a duck company called the Dells Army Ducks in the Wisconsin Dells Area.
DUKWs operated by Boston Duck Tours have been used at least five times since 2004 for "rolling rallies" to celebrate sports championships by New England-based local pro sports teams. The Boston Celtics celebrated their 2008 championship, the New England Patriots celebrated their championships (including February 2017) and the Boston Red Sox celebrated their 2004, 2007, and 2013 World Series victories with a parade of 17 DUKWs carrying members of the team over land and across the Charles River. The Boston Bruins also celebrated their 2011 Stanley Cup title with a duck boat parade.
Windsor Duck Tours operates a new build version of on a DUKW type Amphibious Passenger Vessel (APV) called a Seahorse which looks like the old Wartime DUKW but has many new safety features. There are plans for new tours using the Seahorse APVs both at the Falkirk Wheel and in Glasgow.
Viking Splash Tours in Dublin operate 6 Dukws in Dublin City using a Viking theme as a basis for the tour encouraging passengers to wear Viking helmets and 'raid' the city by roaring at 'the Celts'.
Almost all have since been repainted and given modern diesel engines, and some have enclosed tops, making them more resemble conventional buses. Others are warm-weather only, open-air vehicles, with an optional canopy. Most require a bus-type Public Service Vehicle license and a passenger-use boat license.
In Australia at the Rainforestation Nature Park at Kuranda in Queensland a fleet of DUKWs are used to take visitors through a typical rain forest environment. The DUKWs travel along a tight twisty track through the forest before entering a small lake where their amphibious capabilities are demonstrated.
San Francisco's 'Bay Quackers' operated from 2004 until 2011, splashing into San Francisco Bay near AT&T Park in modified DUKWs. They were targeted in a lawsuit by 'Ride the Ducks' for use of the quacker kazoos in a sound mark infringement case, however the lawsuit was later dropped.
There was also a Duck offering rides at Instow in Devon. It was built on Jersey in 1998 and operated as a ferry taking passengers to Elizabeth Castle until 2006. The operator in Jersey had three – the other two have gone to Krakow and Berlin.
London's "London Duck Tours limited" owned 13 vessels prior to 2017, of which some saw action in D-day. They were operating DUKWs in the UK but closed on 18 September 2017.
On June 23, 2002, the Lady Duck, a custom-built vehicle converted from a Ford F-350 pickup truck, sank while on a cruise on the Ottawa River in Ontario, Canada. Six passengers, the driver, and the tour guide escaped, but four passengers were trapped under the sunken vehicle's canopy and drowned. A review found problems with regulating such vehicles and defects in the makeshift design and the emergency procedures.
On July 7, 2010, a regulated and modern Ride the Ducks amphibious bus (based on the original design), was disabled by an engine fire and later run over by a barge on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The operator of the tug pushing the barge was on his personal cell phone. Before the accident the Ride The Ducks captain made numerous calls to the tug to get the tug to change course. Those calls were heard and rebroadcast by other vessels, but there was no response from the operator of the tug. Thirty-three passengers and two crew members were quickly recovered, but two passengers, a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl, both part of a tour group from Hungary, were killed. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the tugboat mate's (responsible for driving the tug at the time) inattention to his duties. The tugboat mate was sentenced to 366 days in federal prison.
On May 8, 2015, a Ride the Ducks boat struck and killed a woman crossing the street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's Chinatown section. Witnesses at the scene say that the woman was distracted by her handheld tablet device and walked into the street against the red light and was struck while in the boat's front center blind spot. The incident is still being investigated.
On September 24, 2015, a Ride the Ducks vehicle in Seattle, Washington crashed into a charter bus on the Aurora Bridge, killing five passengers on the bus, critically injuring eight, and seriously injuring eight more. Punitive damages were disallowed from the resulting civil suit. The city and state settled their lawsuits surrounding the safety of the bridge for $4.4 million.
On April 30, 2016, in Boston, Massachusetts, a Boston Duck Tours vehicle struck a motor scooter as both vehicles were turning right onto Beacon Street adjacent to the Boston Common. The 29-year-old woman operating the motor scooter was killed, and her male passenger was injured. A post-accident visibility study found that the motor scooter was not visible over the bow of the amphibious vehicle when the two vehicles were very close, but was visible in two convex blind spot mirrors mounted to the bow.
On July 19, 2018, near Branson, Missouri, 17 people died and as many as 11 were injured after a duck boat capsized during a severe thunderstorm. 29 passengers and two crew members were on the boat.
In 2010 a bearing collapsed on a DUKW belonging to The Yellow Duckmarine which resulted in four passengers, including an 80-year-old person, being taken to hospital with injuries.
On 11 October 2011 a motorcyclist was critically injured after a Seattle 'Ride The Ducks' vehicle hit and dragged him at a red light. Ride The Ducks has been involved in two other collisions in recent years, in December 2010 and June 2011, when different Duck drivers rear-ended passenger vehicles at Third Avenue and Pike Street and at Aurora Avenue North and Denny Way. No one was injured, but both Duck drivers told officers they didn’t see the cars because of the height of their own vehicles, according to the collision reports.
On 30 March 2013 a duck boat of The Yellow Duckmarine in Liverpool sank in the city's Salthouse Dock during a tour. All passengers were safely transferred to a pontoon before the vehicle began to sink. In June 2013 another duck boat, operated by the same company, sank in the Albert Dock as it came to the end of a tour of Liverpool. Passengers were forced to jump into the water as the vehicle rapidly took on water. Some were rescued by vessels while others swam to the side of the dock. Out of the 31 people on board, 27 were treated in hospital for minor injuries. The incident resulted in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency withdrawing all safety certificates for the craft owned by Pearlwild and their entering administration. Pearlwild are also under investigation by the North West Traffic Commissioner over the operation of the Duckmarines during 2012.
On 29 September 2013 a duck boat on the River Thames in London caught fire. Thirty people were rescued, a number of them after having jumped into the River Thames to escape the fire. An investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch determined that the fire had been caused by ignition of additional buoyancy foam added to the DUKW following the Liverpool incident, due to obstruction of airflow within the mechanical compartments and friction between the foam and moving parts.
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- "City, state settle lawsuits over Seattle duck boat crash for $4.4 million". komonews.com. Sinclair Broadcast Group. 2018-06-27. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
- NTSB (24 September 2015). "Amphibious Passenger Vehicle DUCK 6 Lane Crossover Collision with Motorcoach" (PDF). p. 33. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
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- John Siddle (2012-05-09). "Motorcyclist hit by Ride-the-Ducks vehicle files lawsuit". Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 2014-09-04. Retrieved 2014-08-28.
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- John Siddle (2013-03-30). "VIDEO/PICS: Iconic 'Yellow Duckmarine' sinks in Liverpool's Albert Dock". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
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- Steve Graves. "Another Yellow Duckmarine tour bus sinks in the Albert Dock". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2013-06-16.
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- "Thames vessel tourists jump into river to escape fire". BBC News. 29 September 2013.
- Accident investigation report 32/2014. Marine Accident Investigation Branch. 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2015.
- Boston Duck Tours, LP v. Super Duck Tours, LLC, 531 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2008).
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