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Yukon River Sternwheelers:
the Australian

by Murray Lundberg
Northern Ships and Shipping

    The information on the Australian 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 Bennett Sun (BS), Whitehorse Star (Star), Skaguay Daily Alaskan (SDA) and Atlin Claim (Claim).
  • Canadian Shipping Registry #107525

  • iron sternwheeler; 115.0 feet long, with 24.8 foot beam and 4.0 foot hold. Gross tonnage was 422.43, registered as 308.43 tons. Three decks, iron framework and iron-plate build, square stern. Licenced for 200 passengers; had accommodation for 30.

  • the engine room was 25 feet long, housing 2 horizontal high-pressure steam engines built in 1898 by the Pittsburgh Engine Company of Pennsylvania; they had 2 cylinders, with 10 inch diameter and 48 inch stroke, developing 6.6 NHP. Affleck says the engines were by James Reese & Sons of Pittsburgh, with 54 inch stroke.

  • 1899, built at Victoria for the Canadian Development Co.; brought over the White Pass and reassembled at Lake Bennett Photo of her nearly completed at Bennett, in Cohen, p.45.

  • June 4, 1899: "Lake Bennett is slowly rising and word is that the steamer Gleaner, Captain John Irving's boat, would try and get into the water and start for a trip to Atlin today. That is if the weather was favorable, which gives every indication of modifying. The water in Lake Bennett lacked eight inches of being high enough to permit launching the steamers. Should the weather turn warm and should the rise of eight inches of water he reached by tomorrow, Capt. Bailey and the Canadian Development Company will make an attempt to launch their respective boats, namely, the Bailey and Australian. The water at Cariboo Crossing is reported so low that it can be waded, and no steamer could possibly pass there at present. A rise of several feet will be required to make this crossing navigable." (Skagway Daily Alaskan)

  • June 16, 1899: "Harry Morton paid a high compliment to the Canadian Development company's fleet with which Maitland Kersey is prominently identified. Their boats were the best, he said, and the crews and pilots on them were far ahead of anything else on the river. The boats were furnished with the Turner steam steering gear, patented in Vancouver and which have proved to be the very thing needed for navigation in shallow treacherous waters." (The Province)

  • July 6, 1899, with the Gleaner and Clifford Sifton, standing by at the WP&YR spike-driving ceremony at Bennett. The Australian and Gleaner had brought 200 Klondikers to Bennett; loaded with $500,000 in gold, they were headed outside.

  • September 1899, running from Bennett to Canyon City "every other day" (SDA,Sept.9).

  • operated on Bennett-Miles Canyon run until 1900.

  • June 1900, running from Bennett to Caribou Crossing (Atlin Claim, June 30)

  • June 28, 1900, Captain Wallace Langley left Atlin, where he had been in command of the SCOTIA, to take over command of the Australian, "the finest on the line."

  • July 29 1900, carried WP&YR VIPs to the spike-driving ceremony at Carcross.

  • April 1 1901, all 17 CDCo. steamers were bought by the British Yukon Navigation Company; this included 3 Stikine River boats, 4 lake boats, and 10 Yukon River steamers.

  • 1901, on Carcross-Atlin run.

  • 1902 and 1903, not launched.

  • operated in 1904 (COR722).

  • October 1905, put on the BYN ways, 3-4 miles below Carcross.

  • 1907, 1910, not launched

  • 1915-1916, still on the ways at Carcross (COR722).

  • 1916-1917, main BYN ways moved to their present location near the railroad at Carcross; the others became known as the Australian ways.

  • 1928-1934, still on the ways.

  • 1938, removed from Shipping register (Affleck).

  • 1942, rebuilt by the Public Roads Administration as barge #1450 for use on the Alaska Highway/Canol projects.

  • ca.1970, sunk just below the Carcross bridge; local stories vary as to whether it was scuttled as a breakwater or sunk when pumps failed. Hull is very well preserved, and Easton recommends it as a recreational dive site

Yukon sternwheeler 'Australian' at dock on Nares Lake

The Australian docked along Nares Lake.

Yukon sternwheeler 'Australian'

The Australian at Carcross.

Yukon sternwheeler 'Australian'

The Australian at Canyon City.

Yukon sternwheeler 'Australian' at Canyon City - stereo card

The Australian at Canyon City.

The former Yukon sternwheeler 'Australian' being used as a barge in 1942

The former Australian, now Public Roads Administration barge 1450, at Tagish on September 23, 1942.

Steamboat 'Australian' at the bottom of the Nares River at Carcross, Yukon

The intact hull of the Australian can still be seen clearly from the railway bridge on calm days at low water.

References & Further Reading:

  • Edward L. Affleck, Affleck's List of Sternwheelers Plying the Yukon Waterways (Vancouver, BC: Affleck, September 1995)
  • Edward L. Affleck, Affleck's List of Sternwheelers Plying the Yukon Waterways (Vancouver, BC: Affleck, September 1995)
  • Stan Cohen, Yukon River Steamboats: A Pictorial History (Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories, June 1982)
  • Art Downs, Paddlewheels on the Frontier: The Story of B.C.-Yukon Sternwheel Steamers - Volume Two (Surrey, BC: Foremost, 1971)
  • Arthur E. Knutson, Sternwheels on the Yukon (Snohomish, WA: Snohomish, 1979)
  • Robin E. Sheret, Smoke Ash and Steam: Steam Engines on the West Coast of North America (Victoria, BC: Western Isles Cruise & Dive, 1997)

    ©2014-2021 Murray Lundberg: Use for other than research purposes must be approved by the author.