The Yukon Territory riverboats CASCA & WHITEHORSE sit on dry land at the shipyard of their birth in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory in September 1972.
The 180-foot wooden sternwheeler CASCA (the third with that name) was built in 1936-37 for the British Yukon Navigation Company with parts of her pre-fabricated at Vancouver BC and then shipped to Whitehorse for assembly. She had a 36.5-foot beam, & a gross tonnage of 1,033 tons. She was licensed for 180 passengers & fondly described as the “plushest ship on the upper river.”
The older wooden sternwheeler WHITEHORSE was built in 1901 at Whitehorse and was originally “WHITE HORSE.” She was 167 feet with a 34.5-foot beam. Her gross tonnage was 986 tons with two decks. Taking only 43 days to build, the ship was launched on May 29, 1901.
In her 54 years service on the river, she endured accidents, modifications and even a new 171-foot hull in 1930.
Demand for the sternwheelers, in general, had diminished in the 1950’s & the CASCA was withdrawn from service in 1952, the WHITEHORSE in 1955. They were drydocked at the Whitehorse shipyard as seen in the photo.
In 1960, the ships were sold to the Government of Canada but little was done with the ships until 1973 when efforts were begun to renovate & restore the ships as historical or museum pieces.
As work continued on the ships, on June 20, 1974, smoke was seen billowing from the CASCA. In short order, both the CASCA & WHITEHORSE became engulfed in a raging fire that rapidly consumed both ships. Firefighters arrived & valiantly fought the fire but the aged, dry wood & fresh paint made the effort pointless. The fire became so hot it forced firefighters & onlookers to withdraw & the ships were consumed by the fire. Afterwards, only twisted metal remained.
With the loss of the ships, only two sternwheelers remain on display in the Yukon from an era that was rife with them. The sternwheeler KLONDIKE is a museum ship at Whitehorse & the KENO at Dawson City.