Square Sails on the Chilkoot Trail: The Vernacular Watercraft of the Klondike Gold Rush
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This thesis examines the vernacular watercraft of the Klondike Gold Rush (1897-1900). Thousands of gold seekers from around the world reached the Klondike gold fields by traversing the Chilkoot and White Pass Trails, then building over 8,000 wooden vessels, used to navigate Canada’s Upper Yukon River. Only a few remains of the gold rush flotilla have been found, and the vessels have thus far received little attention. Historical, archaeological, and photographic evidence have been used to identify the types of vessels built, their design and construction influences, and features that will help to identify and interpret future finds. The gold rush vessels are viewed as expressions of behavioral variants that illustrate the adaptation process of gold seekers en route to the mining frontier. Data have been collected from gold seeker narratives, government documents, archaeological reports, and archival photographs. This thesis contributes to a more in-depth understanding of the gold rush vernacular watercraft, and demonstrates that the gold seekers chose to build and use vessels that were suited to the natural and economic environments along the Chilkoot Trail.