The sternwheeler S.S. Klondike, managed by Parks Canada, sits now on the banks of the Yukon River. This steamship is an icon for the city of Whitehorse and tells visitors the history of transportation on the Yukon River, from 1929 to 1955. The S.S. Klondike welcomes guests to return to the romantic days of the riverboats. Learn about the boat's design, what it carried, and how passengers and crew spent their days aboard the vessel. Locate the geocache or try the game of quoits. After your visit to the riverboat, round out the adventure with one of the many attractions along the Whitehorse waterfront. The S.S. Klondike National Historic site is open from May long weekend to Labor Day. (Photo ©Parks Canada/F. Mueller)
Navigating a sternwheeler down a fast winding river required great skill – and teamwork. Negotiating tight bends and avoiding sandbars required complex maneuvers in which the steering of the vessel needed to be coordinated with adjustments to the speed and direction of the engines in order to effectively control the effects of the current. The pilot in the wheelhouse could control the steering directly using the tiller, but had to rely on the engineer in the engine room to control the engines. Communication between the wheelhouse and the engine room was essential. In the early days Yukon riverboats relied on a system of bells by which the pilot could indicate the desired direction using a large bell, the “Gong” – one ring for ahead; two for astern or reverse – and speed using a smaller bell known as the “Jingle”. While the Klondike had a bell system it was also equipped with a telegraph which allowed two way communication. The pilot in the wheelhouse would move a lever on the wheelhouse telegraph to indicate desired engine speed and direction. The lever, attached by a system of cables and pulleys, would move a pointer on the engine room telegraph. The engineer was then able to “reply” by moving a lever on the engine room telegraph which in turn would move a pointer on the wheelhouse telegraph, letting the pilot know that the order had been received. Over the years ship’s telegraphs were installed on all BYN riverboats making the bell systems redundant.
Photo Credit: Paul Gowdie
The S.S. Klondike is open Mid-May to Mid-September
Enquire at the Visitor Information Center for program times