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The Yukon River Sternwheeler Schwatka

by Murray Lundberg


Northern Ships and Shipping


The information on the Schwatka that follows is simply a cut-and-paste from my database, compiled from a wide variety of sources, primarily the White Pass & Yukon Route corporate records (COR 722) at the Yukon Archives and newspapers including the Dawson Daily News (DDN)
  • U.S.Reg.#116812, registered at St. Michael.
  • wooden sternwheeler; 146.0 feet long, with 30.0 foot beam and 5.0 foot hold. Gross tonnage 484.11, registered as 291.76 tons. One deck, stem head and square stern. The freight deck was 9.0 feet high, the passenger deck 7.0 feet. Drew 4 feet of water empty. There were 14 rooms for crew, 26 for passengers, with 73 berths; the dining room seated 37.
  • the engine room was 36.0 feet long, housing a pair of horizontal high-pressure steam engines built by Willamette Iron & Steel; the cylinders had 16 inch diameter and 72 inch stroke, developing 17 NHP. The boilers were also built by Willamette Iron & Steel; 16.0 feet long and 4.5 feet in diameter, they each had 64 heating tubes and operated at 175 pounds pressure (Gaudin).
  • 1898, built at Port Blakely, Washington by Hall Brothers, for Canadian Pacific; intended for the Klondike trade, she was never worked by the CPR (Affleck).
  • named for Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka, whose photo hung in the boat's observation room.
  • June 21 1898, cleared Customs at Port Townsend, enroute to Wrangell, but apparently the voyage was cancelled (Affleck).
  • 1902, sold to U.S. owners (MacBride). Affleck says the sale was in 1905, to Northern Navigation.
  • 1905-06, YA map H-2321 shows her wintering position in Sunnydale Slough at Dawson.
  • 1906, owned by C.W. Thebo.
  • May 1906, "the boat will remain on the Fairbanks-St. Michael run after the first run to Fairbanks from Dawson. Mr.Thebo has contacted to deliver 2,000 tons of freight at Fairbanks this year. Two barges will be handled by the Schwatka... One barge is here, and another will be assembled at St. Michael. It will be ready for the second trip, and will carry 350 tons. ...The new barge will be 135 feet long, 32 feet beam, seven feet depth of hold, draw six inches when light, and will cost $8,000. The Schwatka is one of the trimmest boats on the lower river. She is equipped with electric lights and baths and other conveniences." (DDN,May 16).
  • 1907, bought from Thebo by the Northern Commercial Co. She has been very busy, and is considered to be "one of the best boats of her size on the Yukon." (DDN, March 20, Star, April 19)
  • 1912 crew: Master, J.S. McCann
  • July 3, 1912, at Rampart, heading for Dawson (DDN, July 4)
  • July 11, 1912, ad in Dawson Daily News
  • April 1914, bought by the American Yukon Navigation Company.
  • 1914, used on the Dawson-Fairbanks run.
  • spring 1915, her hull was in very bad condition, and was rebuilt at Whitehorse before being put into service (COR722).
  • 1915-1917, operated on the St.Michael-Tanana run, 901 miles of upstream work (COR722).
  • spring 1916, damaged by the spring ice at Dawson; repaired.
  • 1916-1917, wintered on the Northern Light & Power ways at Dawson (COR722).
  • 1917 season crew: purser, B. F. Boyker; chief cook, W. Ryan; plus 4 waiters.
  • 1917, overhauled, including rewiring and installation of a sprinkler system; the entire job cost approximately $4,000 (COR722)
  • fall 1917, abandoned on the ways at BYN's Dawson Shipyards, now known as the "Sternwheeler Graveyard".
  • 1943, an assessment by J. Gaudin showed some copper steam pipe to be the only remaining salvageable item.