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Strange "spider legs" on sternwheeler Clifford Sifton in Miles canyon

 
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Old 04-07-2017, 03:45 AM
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
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Default Strange "spider legs" on sternwheeler Clifford Sifton in Miles canyon

Sternwheelers had some interesting techniques to cope with very shallow or very swift rivers. Known examples are winching themselves upstream through swift rapids by mans of the capstan, or "grasshoppering" over sandbars by hoistings themselves up using tall spars.

But on the famous picture of the Clifford Sifton shooting Miles Canyon downstream on the Yukon (a trip steamboats could only execute once, since they never could return upstream), there seems to be a strange arrangement of three spars looking like articulated legs at the bow.

I have never seen anything alike before (except the mechanical spider in Wild Wild West). Does anybody know the function of the device?
A variant of the grasshopper to lift the bow if needed? But why are there men seeming to operate it on the picture while shooting downstream? A robust kind of sounding device? Some kinds of bumpers to brake the boat before ground contact? Or was the boat slowly crawling on these legs downstream to avoid shooting with the current? I have no idea...

Moritz
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