Yukon River Sternwheeler Selkirk
by Murray Lundberg
Roster of Yukon/Alaska Sternwheelers
Northern Ships and Shipping
Please note that, at present, this is merely an accumulation of data, part of a 700-page database of material on all Yukon-Alaska steamboats compiled by Murray Lundberg. Additions, corrections or comments are always welcome - just drop Murray a note.
- Sternwheeler; Canadian Shipping Registry #107835, registered at Victoria in 1901.
- wooden sternwheeler; 167 feet long, with 34 foot beam and 4.5 foot hold. Gross tonnage 777.24, registered as 489.67 tons. Two decks, carvel build, straight head and square stern, with 2 bulkheads. Licenced for 75 first class passengers and 100 second class, with accommodation for 18.
- The engine room was 32.7 feet long, housing a pair of horizontal, high-pressure, 2-cylinder steam engines built in 1898 by Albion Iron Works of Victoria; the cylinders were 16 inch diameter, 72 inch stroke, developing 17 NHP. The engines came from one of 3 Stikine River boats, the Hamlin, Ogilvie or McConnell (Affleck states that all of the machinery was from the Ogilvie).
- 1901, built at Whitehorse by the British Yukon Navigation Co.. Photo in the Barley Collection shows workmen on May 25 1901, putting the finishing touches on the new steamers Dawson, Selkirk and White Horse.
- operated on the upper river run; held the speed record, Dawson to Whitehorse in 2 days, 17 hours.
- 1902, houses extended on Selkirk and Dawson, "converting them from freight boats into first class passenger boats, at a cost of $5400 each ..." (COR722)
- June 8, 1902, had a narrow escape when the woodwork around the stack was found to be on fire while crossing Lake Laberge at night (Star,June 18)
- 1903 crew: Master, G.H. McMaster; pilot, George L. Burrows; mate, D. Martin; purser, W.J. Norfolk; chief engineer, Alec Bertram; second engineer, R. Denniston; steward, I. McIleen (Star,June 6).
- 1904, hurricane deck extended, with 11 rooms added. Bracing was also added to strengthen the house and stiffen the hull. Cost of work was $5,013.61 (COR722).
- 1905, made a record 19 round trips from Whitehorse to Dawson and back (COR723, 1930).
- 1906 crew: Master, G.H. McMaster; pilot, George L. Burrows; mate, T.J. Jackson; second mate, L.C. Cowper; purser, W.R. Hillary; chief engineer, Alec Bertram; second engineer, D. Denniston; steward, G.E. McCrait (Star,June 6)
- 1907, monkey rudders added, "proving of considerable assistance in low water and when towing barges." (COR722).
- 1909 season crew: Master, G.H. McMaster; pilot, George L. Burrows; mate, Montgomery; second mate, Henderson; chief engineer, Bertram; second engineer, Kelly; purser, McCorkle; steward, McCrait.
- June 23 1909, picked up a rock at Johnston's Island in the Thirty Mile; the rock wedged into the hull planks, and a coffer dam was built around it to keep the water out. In this condition she finished the trip to Dawson and returned to Whitehorse, where the rock was removed and permanent repairs made, at a cost of $506.22 (COR722).
- 1909, had new steam-heated tea, coffee and water urns installed, at $215 each, to handle the large spring and fall crowds, and to lessen the danger of fire (COR722).
- 1909, had a room added forward of the Captain's room on the Texas. The Captain was moved into it, and his room made into 2, for the Second Engineer and Pilot; the Pilot's former room was made into passenger room C, and the Second Engineer's was turned over to the waiters, whose former room was then made into a large passenger room, number 2. Cost $137.82 (COR722).
- 1910, under the command of Captain McMasters.
- 1910, galley and messroom moved from the Texas deck to the freight deck, and the space used for 4 more staterooms, able to be used as 2 suites of 2 rooms each. Cost of the work was $706.85. The smoking lounge was also lengthened by 6 feet and widened by 3 feet, at a cost of $349.05 (COR722).
- September 1, 1910, grounded on Minto Bar; she was stuck for nearly 20 hours, until CASCA pulled her off. "In pulling her off the Casca pulled out the ring bolt fastened on the Selkirk stern quarter, carrying with it 6 top frames and planks." Back in Whitehorse, repairs took 24 hours and cost $188.40 (COR722).
- September 24, 1910, boat and barge were blown against a bank at Tyrrell Bend in the Thirty Mile; "in trying to get a line ashore the Second Mate, Ernest Blythe, was drowned." Read an article about the drowning here. The wheel hit the bank a couple of times, disabling the boat; drifting past Hootalinqua at about 1:30 AM, Captain McMasters aroused the operator by blowing the whistle, and with a gas launch they were able to get Selkirk tied up about 5 miles further down. The cost of repairs was $238.03 (COR722).
- October 7, 1910: "The White Pass company dispatched two of its most trusty and experienced river men, Frank Dumontier and Charley Coughlan, down the river in a launch Wednesday to renew the search for the body of Second Mate Ernest Blythe who was drowned from the steamer Selkirk on September 24th. Ordinarily a body rises from ten to fourteen days after sinking and there is a hope the search may be successful. The officials of the company have ordered that no pains or expense be spared to recover the body." His body, however, seems to have never been found.
- 1917, due to liquor prohibition laws, the bars were removed and the space converted to staterooms on the Casca, Dawson, Selkirk and White Horse. The same boats also had false ceilings installed in the rooms on the Texas deck to make them cooler in the summer (COR722).
- On October 25, 1918, 87 employees of the White Pass & Yukon Route died in the sinking of the Princess Sophia, including 10 crew members of the Selkirk: H. Davies, purser; J. Hatcher, waiter; A.W. Kendall, deckhand; R. Matheson, waiter; Tony Mabin, cook; R. McTavish, fireman; H. Strain, deckhand; George Tribe, steward; E.G. Wheeldon, deckhand; A.W. Walker, cook.
- October 5, 1920, wrecked a half-mile above the mouth of the Stewart River; she struck a rock and was beached in 4 feet of water. "A coffer dam 75 feet long and 6 feet wide was constructed around the break and wrecking pumps put to work, but before boat could be raised, cold weather set in and we were forced to take assisting boats away ... Her damage is so severe that it would cost more to repair her than she is worth to us..." (COR722)
- October 8, 1920: "The steamer Selkirk, on her last trip down river, struck a rock near Stewart, and had to be beached, sinking in about four feet of water, which leaves her cargo deck above water. Salvage pumps are being rushed thither to get her atloat." The Thistle left Whitehorse with the equipment on Wednesday evening. (The Weekly Star)
- April 15, 1922: "Stewart City. Since the first of the present month Watchman Angus McLeod and one other man have been engaged in salvaging parts of the steamer Selkirk's machinery and fittings. As most of this was completely frozen in, the work
of recovery necessarily has been slow, involving the constant use of pick and shovel.
The entire engineeroom has been picked practically clear of ice, exposing dynamos, engines, pumps and such, and rendering their removal comparatively
easy. All gear on the upper decks, carpets, rugs, linoleums, furniture and the like, have been assembled and will be hauled ashore very shortly.
Up to the present from lower or freight deck, the following articles of equipment have been recovered, after very difficult and laborious effort on the part
of the men engaged, and slung out on the ice with block and tackle, ready for hauling to a
place of safety: Three lifeboats pumps, including wrecking pump and fittings; life rafts,
spars, galley range, capstan and donkey engine, cable spools and miscellaneous piping and equipment as it came to hand from under the ice. There still remain to be disconnected and removed the vessels engines and dynamos, shafting, engine-room fittings and other items, together with doors and windows from the upper part decks. They do not design to remove the boiler at present, owing to the difficulty of handling and poor facilities, but will probably content themselves with attaching buoys so that the boiler's position may be
located after the ice goes out this spring.
Mr. Mcleod is apparently satisfied with the work accomplished thus far and is hopeful that the early part of April will witness the successful conelusion of a very onerous task." (The Weekly Star)
Ref: "YA" is the Yukon Archives; COR722 and COR723 are White Pass & Yukon Route corporate record files held there and the GOV are government records.
"Star" is the Whitehorse Star newspaper.
"DDN" is the Dawson Daily News newspaper.
Selkirk, ca. 1901-1904. Yukon Archives, W. C. Peter collection.
Selkirk and White Horse frozen in at Dawson. Yukon Archives #2251.
Selkirk on the Yukon River, 1910s. University of Washington, Special Collections.