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The British Yukon Navigation Company

by Murray Lundberg


    The information that follows was first posted in 2016 as a cut-and-paste from a 700-page Alaska-Yukon ship database that I compiled between about 1994 and 2003, and is being modified and expanded as time permits. Steamboat Companies in Alaska and the Yukon Territory lists the other companies, some of which are mentioned below, usually when BYN purchased boats from them. Except where otherwise credited, the information is from the White Pass & Yukon Route records held at the Yukon Archives. In particular, COR 722 has WP&YR River Division (BYN) Annual Reports, with costs, repairs, etc. of all their boats.

    Several of the boats have their own pages, which are linked to from the first mention of the boat in this list. I have also posted a list of BYN employees from the British Yukon Navigation Company Personnel Records, 1903-48, COR 749 at the Yukon Archives.


  • the British Yukon Navigation Company was created over the winter of 1900-1901 as a subsidiary of the White Pass & Yukon Route, to co-ordinate steamer service, which was chaotic and causing huge problems for the railroad due to the inconsistency of prices and service. The White Pass had already started buying steamers in July 1900, with the Lightning, J. P. Light and Tyrrell bought from the British America Corporation. The Superintendent of the new company was Henry Darling.

  • on March 28, 1901, the British Yukon Navigation Company was registered at Victoria, with capital of $100,000.

  • on April 1, 1901, took control of the 17 steamers owned by the Canadian Development Company; the Yukon River steamers Anglian, Bailey, Canadian, Columbian, Joseph Clossett, Mary F. Graff, Sybil, Victorian, Yukoner, and Zealandian; the lake steamers Australian, Gleaner, Scotia and Tasmanian; and the Stikine River steamers Hamlin, McConnell and Ogilvie.

  • in 1901, built the Dawson, Selkirk and White Horse at Whitehorse.

  • in 1901, bought the Mary F. Graff from the Seattle-Yukon Transportation Company, the Yukoner from the Trading & Exploring Company, and the Gleaner and Scotia from the John Irving Navigation Company.

  • 1901 passenger rates: Vancouver or Seattle to Dawson, $105 first class, $80 second class; Dawson to Vancouver, $120 and $91; Skagway to Dawson, $80 and $64; Skagway to Atlin $25 first class.

  • in 1902, bought the Bonanza King from The Yukon Flyer Line, and the Joseph Clossett, possibly from W. G. Rant.

  • in 1902, operated 15 steamers: Bailey, Bonanza King, Canadian, Columbian, Dawson, Gleaner, Joseph Clossett, Mary F. Graff, Scotia, Selkirk, Sybil, Victorian, White Horse, Yukoner and Zealandian. The Dawson, Selkirk and White Horse were built over the previous winter, and had refrigerators with a capacity of 20 tons on each boat; this allowed the White Pass to offer refrigerator service all the way from Seattle to Dawson.

  • in 1903, bought the Clifford Sifton from the Dominion Steamboat Line Company Ltd.

  • on September 11, 1903, Thistle, La France and Clifford Sifton purchased from John Tilmour Hay of Dawson. Although none of the three have sufficient tonnage to work all season, they are expected to be good for early and late trips, as well as side-stream work. Thistle was put into BYN service September 21.

  • in 1903, operated 17 steamers: Bailey, Canadian, Clifford Sifton, Columbian, Dawson, Gleaner, Joseph Clossett, La France, Mary F. Graff, Scotia, Selkirk, Sybil, Thistle, Victorian, White Horse, Yukoner, and Zealandian.

  • in 1903, 46 small open scows built for $21,000 total; 17 sold at a profit. The others could be knocked down in Dawson, shipped back to Whitehorse and reassembled for $200 each. However, they were easy to wreck, and a lot of freight was lost through their use.

  • in 1904, operated 14 steamers: Australian, Bonanza King, Canadian, Clifford Sifton, Columbian, Dawson, Gleaner, La France, Scotia, Selkirk, Thistle, Victorian, White Horse, and Zealandian.

  • in the winter of 1904-1905, bought the Casca, possibly from Otto Bremner of Ontario.

  • in 1905-1906, operated 11 steamers: Bonanza King, Canadian, Casca, Columbian, Dawson, Gleaner, Scotia, Selkirk, Thistle, Victorian and White Horse.

  • in 1907, operated 9 steamers: Bonanza King, Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Scotia, Selkirk, Victorian and White Horse.

  • in 1908, built 2 launches (names not known): 1 was built in the spring for "general utility purposes", the other in the fall (costing $1200), was sent to Dawson for 1909 Mail service work.

  • in 1908-1909, operated 8 steamers: Bonanza King, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Scotia, Selkirk, Victorian and White Horse.

  • in 1909, added 200 feet of ways at Whitehorse.

  • in 1910, operated 8 steamers: Bonanza King, Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Scotia, Selkirk and White Horse.

  • in 1911, operated 8 steamers: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Prospector, Scotia, Selkirk and White Horse.

  • in 1912, operated 7 steamers: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Scotia, Selkirk and White Horse.

  • Herb Wheeler was President from 1913 until at least 1934.

  • over the winter of 1912-1913, Nasutlin was built at Whitehorse and Lower Laberge.

  • in 1913-1916, operated 8 steamers: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Nasutlin, Scotia, Selkirk and White Horse.

  • in 1916, handicapped all season by a shortage of labour, and then a strike, during which they hired Indians, and Russians at Dawson, to cover.

  • in 1917, Tarahne was designed and built by BYN construction foreman A. E. Henderson, with materials hauled over the ice from Carcross to Atlin.

  • in 1917, operated 10 steamers: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Nasutlin, Scotia, Selkirk, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1917, due to war conditions, available workers "are mostly rejects who won't fit in anywhere else". Indians "do very well while they work, but their working period does not generally last longer than one pay day."

  • in 1917, the first of the successful Midnight Sun excursions to Fort Yukon was run.

  • in 1917, a steam capstan was installed on the No. 1 ways at Whitehorse. It used to take a whole day to haul a boat with the old capstan, powered by a team of horses; with the new system it takes 2 hours.

  • in 1918, operated 10 steamers: Casca, Dawson, Hazel B., Nasutlin, Scotia, Selkirk, Tarahne, Thistle, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1919, operated 8 steamers: Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Hazel B., Nasutlin, Selkirk, Tarahne and Tutshi.

  • in 1920, operated 9 steamers: Canadian, Casca, Hazel B., Kestrel, Nasutlin, Selkirk, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1921, Midnight Sun excursions cancelled due to a shortage of boats.

  • in 1921-1922, operated 9 steamers: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Hazel B., Nasutlin, Neecheah (formerly the Kestrel), Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in the spring of 1922, Keno was designed and built at Whitehorse by BYN construction foreman A. E. Henderson.

  • in 1923, operated 10 steamers: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Gleaner, Hazel B., Keno, Nasutlin, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1924, Marsh Lake Dam completed, resulting in much higher water for the opening of navigation; in early June, the Whitehorse gauge used to read from 11-22 inches, in 1924 it was 33 inches, and 40 inches in 1925.

  • in 1924-1925, operated 10 boats: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Hazel B., Keno, Loon, Nasutlin, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1926, operated 9 boats: Canadian, Casca, Dawson, Hazel B., Keno, Loon, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1927-1928, operated 8 boats: Aksala, Casca, Hazel B., Keno, Loon, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1928, to open a path through the ice on Lake Lebarge earlier in the season, "we covered a track on LeBarge this spring from the North end of the Island to Goddard Point with lamp-black and old crank-case oil. Previous experiment had demonstrated that the attraction of the sun rays by the black hastened the rotting of the ice. This year's work was very successful and we intend to continue the work each spring." It took WHITE HORSE from early morning on May 24th until 5:00 PM on the 25th to push through 5 miles of ice, then only 2 hours to go through the next 15 miles on which the lamp-black was spread.

  • in 1929, operated 11 boats: Aksala, Brant, Casca, Hazel B., Keno, Klondike, Loon, Nasutlin, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1930, operated 11 boats: Aksala, Casca, Hazel B., Keno, Klondike, Loon, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1931, operated 8 boats: Aksala, Casca, Hazel B., Keno, Loon, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1932, operated 8 boats: Casca, Hazel B., Keno, Loon, Sibilla, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • in 1933-1934, operated 10 boats: Brant, Casca, Hazel B., Keno, Klondike, Loon, Sibilla, Tarahne, Tutshi, and White Horse.

  • on June 12, 1936, Klondike was sunk below Hootalinqua when the captain misjudged a corner and hit the bank.

  • in 1936-1937, Klondike II was built at Whitehorse at a total cost of $105,000; she went into operation in June 1937.

  • in 1945, the US Army requested that the White Pass & Yukon Route begin a scheduled bus service on the newly-completed Alaska Highway. Using 4 of the buses formerly run by the army, with the addition of 4 new Dodge-chassised "Pony Cruiser" buses built by Hicks, the BYN division began twice-weekly service on October 1st that year.

  • See a British Yukon Navigation Company Trip Pass issued in August 1946 for a complimentary trip to Dawson.

  • in 1948, Yukon Rose was purchased

  • with boats unable to keep up with ore shipments, a road was built to Mayo in 1950, and on to Dawson in 1955. The Klondike was turned into a tourist boat in 1953-1954 by White Pass and Canadian Pacific Airlines, at a cost of $100,000. She had capacity crowds in 1954 and 1955, but costs were too high, and she was put on the ways in the fall of 1955. For more about that period, see our S.S. Klondike Luxury Cruises page.

  • on December 6, 1955, BYN steamer service was ended with a letter to its employees: "Cost of placing the S.S. 'Klondike' in suitable operating condition for the 1956 season together with its running expenses will not permit a reasonable fare to offer the public and, therefore, we have no alternative but to abandon the service." (Northern Heritage News, Nov/Dec.1985).

  • on August 24, 1959, an offer was made by White Pass to give the Casca, Keno, Klondike and Whitehorse to the Federal government, on an as-is, where-is basis. The company had been planning to tear apart the ways and remove the ship-handling equipment, but that was to be delayed until the summer of 1961.

  • in 1966, Klondike was towed through town to her present location near the Robert Campbell Bridge; YA has a series of photos in the Sigurd Hansen collection, PHO 345, 87/1.

  • on June 20, 1974, Casca and Whitehorse were destroyed in a fire.

  • restoration of Klondike was completed on July 1, 1981, restored to her 1937 appearance.







Northern Ships and Shipping