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The Distometer and Bug

September 18, 2014

I have learned lots on this expedition, and loved every minute of it.  Two toys that will definitely go on my Pinterest Christmas list are a Disto-meter, that enabled us to take lots of very accurate measurements very quickly.  Although I am not likely to give up my dayglo green seamstress tape for tight measurements anytime soon, boy o’ boy did this measuring device make work go a lot quicker.

The second toy on my list will be a Drone.  The drone we had with us is a Phantom DJI.  It used a GoPro camera to film.  Using the “Bug” as I nicknamed it, because of the sound it makes flying, we were able to quickly and very accurately document the 140 ft Schwatka from the air.  Sean Adams flew the Bug every day and thus collected lots of data that can be reviewed later for details we may have missed.

Of course both of these instruments only work above water — so we just have to go on more expeditions where we can use them.


The Capstan details for Dr. Robyn

September 13, 2014

Dr. Robyn did not get to come with us on this expedition but she really wanted to document the saddle or seat of the capstan aboard the Schwatka.  A capstan is a fairly simple mechanism used to hoist things.  Although the capstan aboard the Schwatka is now gone there are clues as to where it stood on the forward deck.  So today while the rest of the team, John and Sean, crawled around under the boiler deck, I measured and sketched the capstan saddle or seat.  So here Dr. Robyn are pictures and sketches just for you.

A Look Around Dawson City

September 12, 2014

We got back earlier today and so I was able to take a walk around Dawson and have a look at this wonderful little town.  The only paved road is the Dempster Hwy, also known as Front Street, that leads to the ferry landing.  The rest of the streets are not paved.  Where there are sidewalks they are wooden and raised up off the ground.

The houses are often raised off the ground as well built up on piers.  It was explained to me that there are no basements because of the permafrost that extends down over a meter. Some of the buildings are very old and some are new but built in the style of the 1890s.

So the tour starts at where we are staying at the Whitehouse, on the north side of town just above the ferry landing. Here is a selection of buildings I saw on my walk and finally the view from Front Street looking down river.


On Our Way to Dawson

September 10, 2014

It was a little over 6 hours to get to Dawson City. We are now at 64.0600° N, 139.4108° W. We collected our gear from the Greyhound Bus Depot and got on underway. On our way we could really see the change of color and changes in the Yukon River.

We stopped at Braeburn’s along the way and got the world’s largest cinnamon bun. It was awesomely good.

As we wove our way down the Yukon River we stopped along the way to take in the majesty of the river. There is a place in the river called ‘5 Fingers’ where the dangers of the river once again challenged the sternwheelers on their way down river. Finally we made it to Dawson City and immediately had to go and take a look at the paddlewheel remains we came to see. After climbing in and around the Schwatka for over and hour we headed back to the cabins where we are staying.

Now it’s time to get to work.


Did you know?

In doing research preparing to go on the expedition I found lots of websites with really interesting information. The National Park Service website on the Klondike Gold Rush has lots of great historical information. It was on this particular site that I found the trivia questions, Did You Know? NPS; Legends of the Klondike Gold Rush

Did You Know? Most of those who went on the Klondike Gold Rush found no gold at all! By the time the gold seekers reached the gold fields of Dawson City, Yukon Territory, most of the good stakes had already been claimed.


Whitehorse; On our way up into the Yukon

September 8, 2014

Today we flew to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  Check it out, we are now at 60.7167° N, 135.0500° W over 10 degrees further north than Vancouver, British Columbia. Fall is already here.  I captured some pictures of the golden trees ranging across the mountain sides.

This was about as far as paddlewheel vessels could come up the Yukon River from the mouth at St. Michael, Alaska.  It blows me away to think that this river runs north and then west from its source.  Check out how rivers run considering the Great Divide in the Rocky Mountains that are all part of the Cordillera Mount Belt that runs the entire length of North America along the western part of the continent.

Also got a look at the canyon that paddle wheelers had to navigate to get up and down the Yukon River from Dawson City to Whitehorse.  It’s narrow and looks extremely dangerous when you consider the size the Klondike.

Tomorrow we are off by car to Dawson City, 7 hours north of Whitehorse.


2014 Yukon River Steamboat Survey Education Outreach

September 7, 2014

Going to the Yukon takes a bit.  So I stopped in Vancouver to familiarize myself with the art and cultural of the First Nation people I will have the opportunity to meet on this expedition.  The Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia is a great place to start (  Shown below are many of the carvings made by the people of British Columbia long before Europeans and Russians arrived on the coast.  Like all peoples they have their own Creation Stories and their own unique styles of art that have rich and vibrant meaning. The first set of pictures below is the Creation Story carving by Bill Reid, a famous Haida artist.  Haida children brought sand from their village beach to cradle the carving which sits inside a WWII coastal gun emplacement.  Reid pulled all of these elements into his work blending historic with modern as he wove the story of his people, the Raven, and the Clam into his wooden sculpture. After that are a number of carvings that reflect the different bands of First Nation people ranging up and down the Northwest coast. Finally, the intricate basketry of the Northwest people is remarkable. There was so much to see.  The museum has its entire collection available to see.  There are cases with specifically chosen examples of work, and drawers with comparative pieces.   Today, I’m off to the marketplace of Vancouver where the many cultures come together sharing their love of foods and fun.


PAST Innovation Lab is committed to transforming education in America and Canada. Our work includes professional development for teachers, school redesign and, to a great extent, research. Dr. Sheli Smith, Dir. of Programs at PAST, has actively participated in field research and immersion programs in diverse settings, most recently as part of a team exploring wrecks in the Gulf of Mexico with the BOEME. As part of PAST’s outreach to educators and students, Dr. Sheli (as students and colleagues know her) shares daily online updates during her expeditions, giving teachers rich and unique resources to develop challenging STEM curricula for students.

The opportunity to join the INA’s Canadian Team in the Yukon for the Yukon Gold Rush Steamboat Expedition was a natural alliance for PAST. Dr. Sheli is thrilled with the opportunity to share the work the Dawson City team will conduct with the PAST community of educators, students and colleagues.

“Through this expedition we can show a holistic approach to better understanding the ships the team studies, from both an historical and modern approach. And through PAST, we can share that with classroom teachers who will engage students from kindergarten to college,” said Dr. Sheli.

The 2014 Yukon River Steamboat Survey will bring virtual exploration of compelling science to students across the continent, linking learning to life and expanding the classroom beyond the traditional four walls. Dr. Sheli will blog about the expedition, the team and the amazing discoveries they uncover. Teachers are encouraged to incorporate blog postings into their classroom curriculum, and everyone is invited to Explore The World With Dr. Sheli!


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