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

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    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...

    Attached Files

    Just a guess, but looking at the wake coming out from under the bow, I would say they are backing as hard as they can. I think those heavy timbers are more finders than they are spars, to fend them off rocks. But what do I know?


      I can't be 100% sure, but I think Jim probably hit the nail on the head about those being wooden fenders to protect her from banging her brains too badly.

      I tried to find a bit more on the subject, so I ran to my library. I found the same photo reproduced in both Graham Wilson's book, "Paddlewheelers of Alaska and the Yukon'' published by Wolf Creek Books, Whitehorse, YukonTerritory in 1999 and "Yukon River Steamboats; A Pictorial History" by Stan Cohen, published by Pictorial Histories Publishing Co. of Missoula, Montana, sixth printing 2005. Nothing was mentioned about the mysterious fenders, but the photo is of the Str. CLIFFORD SIFTON and was taken on July 24, 1900. As stated by others, she's in Miles Canyon which is between Whitehorse, and Carcross, YT.

      The amazing thing is that these rapids would have been traveled by steamboats traveling to and from the boom town of Bennett, British Columbia.