Phonograph records recovered from Gold Rush wreck

By Randy Boswell - Postmedia News

Conservation specialists have rediscovered the soundtrack of a deadly shipwreck from the Klondike Gold Rush, identifying three records found with a vintage phonograph alongside the sunken sternwheeler A.J. Goddard, which went down in a storm more than a century ago on Yukon's fabled Lake Laberge.

The exquisitely-preserved wreck of the Goddard — discovered in 2009 by a Yukon government-led team of Canadian and American archeologists — has been hailed as a "time capsule" from the era in which tens of thousands of fortune-seekers from across North America rushed to the remote, northwest corner of Canada following the discovery of gold nuggets in streams near present-day Dawson City.

The phonograph used aboard the Goddard — a steam-powered vessel that transported miners to the goldfields up the Yukon River — was considered the most exciting of artifacts found at the wreck site.

Though damaged from spending more than a century at the bottom of Lake Laberge — a widening of the river and the setting for Klondike poet Robert Service's ghoulish 1907 masterwork The Cremation of Sam McGee — the records were carefully retrieved from the chilly depths and sent to Ottawa for analysis and preservation by experts with the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI), a federal agency that studies and protects the country's most coveted historical relics.

"The recovered artifacts reveal intimate details of life on a small, functional Yukon sternwheeler," Yukon's tourism and culture minister, Elaine Taylor, said recently in announcing the institute's findings.

"To have the opportunity to learn about the music those on the Goddard would have enjoyed gives us a window into Yukon's past and one small piece of the culture of the day."

The CCI's lead researcher on the project, senior conservator Tara Grant, told Postmedia News that part of the thrill of studying the items was the fact that "almost no one has seen a record come out of an archeological site.

They were probably playing it when the ship went down."

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