This week's Artwork Wednesday features Jim Robb's S.S. Klondike, currently on display with the Jim Robb's Yukon exhibition. As a guardian of Yukon culture and history, it may come as no surprise that Jim depicts the S.S. Klondike amongst his many historic sites. Done in his iconic style, Jim chooses to depict the S.S. Klondike steaming down the Yukon River. Steam powered sternwheelers were common in river and lake systems in Canada, and were heavily relied upon in the Yukon. The S.S. Klondike is designated as a National Historic Site of Canada to commemorate the role these sternwheelers played in the history of the Yukon.
The S.S. Klondike was built in Whitehorse, in 1929 by the British Yukon Navigation Company, a subsidiary of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway. Servicing communities along the Yukon River, the Klondike was designed to accommodate the Mayo silver mining district shipping upriver to Whitehorse where ore would be transferred to the White Pass & Yukon Route railway to Skagway, Alaska. With a cargo capacity 50 percent greater than other boats on the river at the time, she was the first sternwheeler on the Yukon River large enough to handle a cargo in excess of 272 tonnes (300 tons). In 1936 when the vessel sank on a section of the Yukon River known as the Thirty Mile, the British Yukon Navigation Company immediately built the S.S. Klondike II, a virtual carbon copy of her predecessor, which continued to work the Whitehorse - Dawson City circuit.
Image source Parks Canada, map showing the route the S.S. Klondike regularly traveled down the Yukon River to Dawson City.
With the decline in silver prices and development of the Alaska Highway, the S.S. Klondike II completed her last Whitehorse and Mayo trip in 1950 but continued on the Whitehorse – Dawson run until 1952 until the Mayo Road was extended to Dawson. The British Yukon Navigation Company made an attempt to continue to run the S.S. Klondike as a cruise ship and though the trips were popular, the high costs of operation were not sustainable. In August 1955 the S.S. Klondike II, the last sternwheeler working on the Yukon River, came to rest in Whitehorse and was donated to the government of Canada by the White Pass & Yukon Route railway. In 1966 she was moved from the Whitehorse Shipyards to her present location where, restored to her original appearance, she now sits in permanent retirement overlooking the Yukon River. She was formally designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1967.
The S.S. Klondike is a listed site for the Jim Robb's Yukon Hunt! Check out some of our participants posing with the boat below, and find out how you can win a signed print by the artist himself, here.