AJ Goddard Shipwreck
The AJ Goddard shipwreck has historic, scientific and social history values that are significant to Yukon and Canada.
The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 was a major event in the Yukon, and acted as a catalyst for the creation of the territory. Thousands of people headed for the Klondike in hopes of striking it rich. River transportation was central to the development of both the transportation industry, the development of the mining industry and the settlement of the territory. This industry continued to serve the communities along the rivers until modern roads were constructed in the mid 1950s and sternwheeler traffic ended.
When news of the Klondike Gold Rush broke in 1897, AJ Goddard, an engine designer and owner of the Pacific Iron Works in Seattle, purchased two small prefabricated sternwheeler hulls in San Francisco and had his Seattle firm build their machinery before they were shipped to Skagway, freighted over the pass and re-assembled on the shores of Lake Bennett.
Captain Goddard and his wife, Clara, began their 1898 season by transporting miners, supplies and scows from Lake Bennett to the head of the Whitehorse Rapids. The AJ Goddard became the third vessel to descend Miles Canyon and Whitehorse Rapids and was the first steamer from Whitehorse to arrive in Dawson City on June 21, 1898. Clara Goddard also worked as a pilot and business partner and is perhaps the only woman to have regularly piloted steam boats in Yukon. The AJ Goddard illustrates the lives of adventurous men and women who worked on Yukon¿s rivers at the turn of the 20th century.
The Goddard was sold to the Canadian Development Company in the fall of 1899 and continued to work the waters downstream from Whitehorse. On October 12, 1901, the steamer foundered off Goddard¿s Point on Lake Laberge during a storm. Three of the crew drowned and are buried at the Lower Laberge North West Mounted Police post. The exact location of the wreck remained a mystery until she was discovered in 2008.
When the first dives were made on the wreck in 2009, the vessel was found to be completely undisturbed and intact except for her wheelhouse and smoke stack. The hull, boiler, paddlewheel, engines, hogposts and hog chains are undamaged and in place, and the contents of the ship are located either on deck, or scattered on the lake bottom in the immediate vicinity of the vessel. Evidence of the desperate fight to keep her afloat during the storm can still be seen. Axes lying on the foredeck left by the crew cutting away the tow barge, and unburned wood in a firebox of the boiler speak to the futile attempt to power up the boat as she sank.
This site is the most significant discovery in nautical archaeology in Yukon. The A.J. Goddard is the sole known example of the 'pocket steamers' brought over the passes during the Klondike Gold Rush and contains the most complete collection of components from any vessels existing from this period. The ship is scientifically important for its unique design characteristics and its diminutive size and provides an unprecedented opportunity to study an undisturbed collection of river transportation artefacts from the early 20th century. It provides an important link in the variety of underwater archaeological and historic sites in North America representing a significant type of steam vessel used on inland waters. No similar vessels of this type survive in North America.