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The Sternwheeler White Horse (later Whitehorse)

by Murray Lundberg

Roster of Yukon/Alaska Sternwheelers

Northern Ships and Shipping

    The information on the White Horse 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) and government records (GOV) at the Yukon Archives.

    The Yukon River sternwheeler White Horse in Five Finger Rapids. Photo by E. J. Hamacher, 1904.
  • Canadian Shipping Registry #107837, registered at Victoria.

  • wooden sternwheeler; 167 feet long, with 34.5 foot beam and 4.5 foot hold. Gross tonnage 986.65 tons, registered as 630.69 tons. Two decks, carvel build, straight head and square stern, with 2 bulkheads. She had accommodation for 64 people.

  • 1901, built at Whitehorse by the British Yukon Navigation Co. Machinery came from one of 3 Stikine River boats, the Hamlin, Ogilvie or McConnell (Affleck says it was from the McConnell). Crew took only 43 days to build her, finishing on May 25, 1901. Photo in the Barley Collection shows workmen on May 25, 1901, putting the finishing touches on the new steamers Dawson, Selkirk and White Horse.

  • the engine room was 34.5 feet long, housing 2 horizontal engines made in 1898 by B.C.Iron Works. Engines had 2 cylinders, 16" diameter, 72" stroke, producing 17 NHP.

  • May 29, 1901, launched at 8:00 PM; the carpenters were at work on finishing touches until the last minute. A grand stand was erected for the occasion, and she was christened with champagne by Miss Tache, daughter of the Public Works Sup’t.; Miss Tache was then presented with a solid gold watch by Captain Waldo (WHT,June 1).

  • June 1902, declared a "plague ship" and quarantined in the river downstream from Dawson (Star, June 18). Arriving at Dawson June 2, with a crew of 34 and 125 passengers, a 2nd class passenger was diagnosed as a suspected case of smallpox. The boat was quarantined for 16 days (COR722).

  • 1903 season crew: Master, I.B. Sanburn; Pilot, George Raabe; mate, R.P. Roberts; purser, H.A. Johnston; chief engineer, R.R. Crosby; second engineer, David Roberts; steward, J.F. Gill.

  • 1904 season crew: Master, I.B. Sanborn; pilot, George Shaw

  • 1906 season crew: Master, I.B. Sanburn; Pilot, George Shaver; mate, R.P. Roberts; second mate, Harvey Alexander; purser, A.H. Haynes; chief engineer, R.R. Crosby; second engineer, David Roberts; steward, George Tribe.

  • 1906, a pair of compound engines installed, at a cost of $5,454; resulted in a 14.48% fuel saving, and 7.06% time saving on trips (COR722).

  • 1907, monkey rudders added, "proving of considerable assistance in low water and when towing barges." (COR722).

  • 1909 season crew: Master, Turnbull; pilot, Shaver; mate, Alexander; second mate, Hislop; chief engineer, Larsen; second engineer, Bourne; purser, Haynes; steward, Edwards.

  • July 16 1909, hit the cliffs while going down through Five Fingers; 30 feet of starboard guard damaged, which cost $103.65 to repair (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).

  • 1910, the compound engines had been causing problems, and a set of simple engines was picked up in Vancouver; "practically new", they had been in the steamer Rothsey. The engines cost $1,600, installation $3,510.25 (COR722).

  • July 9, 1914, hit the cliffs at Five Fingers, damaging 40 feet of house and guard on the port side; took 2 days to repair, at a cost of $740.03 (COR722).

  • 1915, had 4 rooms added to her Texas deck (COR722).

  • 1916, the smoking saloon was moved aft, and the former location was made into an observation room.

  • June 19, 1916, with Casca, took the first of the successful Midnight Sun excursions to Fort Yukon (COR722).

  • 1917, Master was Captain William Turnbull.

  • 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).

  • 1917, the old steam steering gear was replaced with a hydraulic unit; the new system "does not spin the wheel like the old gear, thus giving the man at the wheel better command over his boat; and in addition is much easier on the structure of the boat." (COR722).

  • October 11, 1918; "Two Men Drowned. Thos. F. Day of Dawson and another man, whose name is supposed to be Thorensen, were drowned in the Yukon, at the mouth of Indian river, the middle of last week, by the swamping of the gasoline launch in which they were traveling.
    From eye-witnesses of the tragedy, who were passengers on board the steamer Whitehorse, we learn that the two men were returning from a hunting trip with their boat heavily laden with game. Immediately after passing the Whitehorse, at the mouth of Indian river, Thorensen, who was steering, turned the launch at right angle into the heavy swells behind the steamer, with the result that the launch filled with water and went down stern first. The men, both strong swimmers, started for shore but the distance was too great and they sank within a few yards of where they would have been in safety.
    A boat was lowered from the steamer as soon as nossible after the aecident. but did not reach the men in time to save them. The bodies were not recovered." (The Weekly Star)

  • On October 25, 1918, 87 employees of the White Pass & Yukon Route died in the sinking of the Princess Sophia, including 4 crew members of the Whitehorse: T.L. Hearing, chef; W. Lidgett, cook; W. McWaters, fireman; W. Wright.

  • 1919, the hull "was practically rebuilt, and her house brought up to the standard of the Casca, making her now one of our best pieces of property." An observation room similar to the one on the Casca was added, the Texas Deck was lengthened to make room for 6 more passenger rooms, and the galley had a bake shop added.

  • by 1922, the name had been modified to Whitehorse, as the city's name had been many years previously (see YA photo #3811).

  • 1924, extensive work done on hull, including "about 36 new frames and a considerable amount of topside planking, due to rot in the old wood". Over the winter, 10 new rooms were added to the Texas deck, and the rooms on the Saloon deck were enlarged and had the doors changed to open outside instead of into the saloon, which had panelling added; the accommodation is now "on a par with the Casca" (COR722).

  • 1926, boiler replaced with one from the Bonanza King, which had been improved by lengthening it two feet; the Whitehorse's loads were increased by 25 tons per trip, plus there was a small fuel saving (COR723).

  • registered as 673.84 tons, licenced for 140 passengers in 1927 (GOV1684).

  • 1927, Pilot was "Kid Marion", famous for his tall tales, and Alan Innes-Taylor was working as purser (see Yukon Magazine, Dec.5, 1969 for Marion's story of the "Holstein Moose").

  • 1928, with Aksala and Casca, "required wheel and rudder work nearly every trip they were in port. Heavy ore loads and low water at Hellsgate and Kirkman were largely responsible for this." (COR723).

  • 1929-1930, the only one of the original fleet still in service, but her hull was showing signs of weakness, and her engines were obsolete. During the tourist season her ore loads were cut to 50 tons to make time, but fuel consumption was excessive. During the fall, the house and boiler were lifted, and suspended while a new hull was built under them. The new hull is 171 feet long, with a 36.3 foot beam (the old one was 167 x 34 1/2). Five bulkheads were added, and her tonnage was increased to 1119.55 gross, 763.59 net, although still licenced for 140 passengers. A new (1930) set of Gillett & Eaton 2-cylinder compound condensing engines, with jet condensor and blower, were installed; they had a cylinder diameter of 14 inches on the low pressure side and 24 inches on the high pressure side, with a 72 inch stroke, producing 51.4 NHP. One steel locomotive boiler, with a loaded pressure of 175 pounds, was also installed. The Whitehorse can now steam at 12 knots, making the trip with 150 tons in the same time as with 50 tons before. (COR723; GOV1684).

  • 1930, schedule changed to meet passengers from the Canadian National Steam Ship Company's Prince Henry, which arrived at Skagway every Monday (COR723).

  • 1931, "freight house from midships forward was widened out to take in the full width of the new hull" (COR723).

  • 1934, only made 1 trip, then taken out of service due to lack of business (COR723).

  • June 4, 1935, while travelling through heavy ice on Lake Laberge, Yukon's hull was cracked; Capt. McCann beached her and wired for assistance. Whitehorse was sent out with repair materials, and was guided through the broken ice by the company's airplane (COR723)

  • 1937, rebuilt to 171 feet long, 36 foot beam, 1,120 tons.

  • 1939 season crew: Master, M. Campbell; Chief Officer, J.A. Gardner; Extra Pilot, J. Wilkinson; First Mate, C. Hogg; Second Mate, J.E. Fraser; Chief Engineer, J.J. Elliott; Second Engineer, T. Dickie; Purser, G.D. Bissell; Steward, A. Walkden (Star, May 5)

  • 1942, excellent photo of her pushing barge full of Army trucks, in Cohen,p.77.

  • known in her later years as "The Old Gray Mare." (Iris Warner)

  • 1955, made her last trip on the river.

  • August 24, 1959, offer 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.

  • An article in the Edmonton Journal of March 3, 1966, talked about plans to preserve the Klondike and demolish the Whitehorse and Casca - see "Drive On To Save Boats".

  • restoration started ca. 1968.

  • 1973, $30,000 spent on an LIP grant to fence the 2 boats and repaint the exteriors.

  • with the Casca, burned on June 21, 1974.

Yukon River sternwheeler Whitehorse