Yukon sourdoughs are generally credited with “The
Discovery” in 1896 that launched the great
Klondike Gold Rush! It all happened one sunny afternoon
in August while George Carmack, Dawson Charlie
and Skookum Jim were walking along Rabbit Creek,
renamed Bonanza Creek. Another version of the discovery
has Mrs. Carmack making the find while doing George’s
Miner working an 1890s
handmade sluice box during the Great Klondike
Miners of those days endured much to “moile under the midnight sun”.
Tools and equipment were rudimentary, much of it fashioned from local timber.
There were no goods from “the outside” so miners packed their own.
Once out in the goldfields, the choice was to work
on open cut or the more popular method - go underground… in
Sinking a shaft through the overburden
to the pay gravels, the miners would
dig, or drift, along the paystreaks, but first they had to thaw the permafrost,
laborious task accomplished with wood fires.
Once the pay gravels were lifted out of the shafts
with hand operated hoists, they would be stockpiled
until spring when melting snows would provide
sluicing. As better equipment arrived with improved
transport into the territory, mining methods changed. In 1902 the use
of steam thawing largely replaced thawing directly with wood fires. Steam
from surface boilers to steam points which were driven with wooden mallets
working face. The depletion of high grade reserves roughly coincided
completion of the White Pass Railway from Skagway to Whitehorse and subsequent
machinery into the mining
districts. Little underground mining occurred after
1904 and the independent miner
virtually disappeared from the major creeks in
1905 with the arrival of the first bucket-line
dredge. Dredging the stream valley floors
and "hydraulicking" the
bench deposits would be the principal means of
mining and the mainstay
of the Yukon economy for many years to come.