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S.S. Klondike National Historic Site

Spring Launch

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The Story

“ ... I got a rare shot of launching the Klondike in the Spring, from where the ships had been stored for the winter. They had been jacked up for the winter, and the first job was to get them jacked-down, onto sliders, which took the ship into the river, sideways. The man with the whistle was Alex MacKintosh, the Yard Boss, and every time he blew it, the yard-men would turn their jacks one turn until the ship was settled on the sliders, and then it was allowed to slip into the river... ”

Excerpt from a letter to Ian Ashdown signed by his uncle Charles Bennett, dated March 10, 1994.

Did You Know?

The “sliders” referred to were wooden sleeves, called “butterboards”. These were fitted overtop of the “skidways” – 12”-14” square timbers that ran from the riverbank up the shore. There were two complete sets of “skidways” in the Whitehorse shipyard.

During spring launch and fall haul out operations the skidways were lubricated with a mixture of tallow and grease. Often the launch would take place in the evening as the heat of the day would melt the tallow.

In fall haul out operations four cables – each consisting of five or six strands of ¾” steel cable – were wrapped around the hull: one near the bow, one near the stern and one each through the forward and aft freight doors. The cables were attached to steam powered capstans that pulled the boats up the ways.

During winter storage a plank would be removed from the hull to allow air circulation.


This footage was generously made available to Parks Canada by Ian Ashdown. The original 8mm film footage was shot in 1941 by Ian's uncle Charles H. Bennett, whose father-in-law, John Scotland, was Chief Engineer aboard the S.S. Klondike between 1929 and 1944.