The sternwheeler S.S. Klondike is managed by Parks Canada and now sits on the banks of the Yukon River. This steamship is the iconic logo for the city of Whitehorse. It tells visitors the history of transportation on the Yukon River, from 1929 to 1955. The S.S. Klondike welcomes guests to return to the romantic days of the riverboats. Learn about the boat's design, what it carried, and how passengers and crew spent their days aboard the vessel. Locate the geocache or try the game of quoits. After your visit to the riverboat, round out the adventure with one of the many additional attractions along the Whitehorse waterfront. The S.S. Klondike National Historic site is open from May long weekend to Labor Day. (Photo ©Parks Canada/F. Mueller)
Navigating a sternwheeler down a fast winding river required great skill and teamwork. Negotiating tight bends and avoiding sandbars required complex maneuvers. The steering of the vessel needed to be coordinated with the adjustments to speed and direction of the engines in order to effectively control the current-caused effects. The pilot in the wheelhouse could control the steering directly using the tiller but had to rely on the engineer in the engine room to control the engines. Communication between the wheelhouse and the engine room was essential. In the early days, Yukon riverboats relied on a system of bells which, the pilot could indicate their desired direction by using a large bell known as the “Gong”. The commands were; one ring for ahead and two for astern or reverse. Speed was communicated by using a smaller bell known as the “Jingle”. The Klondike was also equipped with a telegraph which allowed two-way communication. The pilot would move a lever on the wheelhouse telegraph to indicate desired engine speed and direction. The lever was attached by a system of cables and pulleys and would move a pointer on the engine room telegraph. The engineer was then able to “reply” by moving a lever on the engine room telegraph which, would move a pointer on the wheelhouse telegraph. The pilot would then know that the order had been received. Over the years, ship’s telegraphs were installed on all BYN riverboats making the bell systems redundant.
Photo Credit: Paul Gowdie
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