The mention in the news that this is the 100th anniversary of the dramatic loss of the Princess Sophia, in the Lynn Canal, when she was four hours out of Skagway, Alaska, en route to Vancouver in October 1918, brought to mind some of Sooke’s connections to Skagway.
It was the Vanderbilt Reef, in the middle of seven-mile wide Lynn Canal, that caused the tragedy of losing 350 lives – passengers and crew waiting for rescue that never came.
Fortunately, many of our more recent connections to Skagway brought happy memories. Our photo today shows the group of 14 Sooke folk that camped at Skagway in August 1997 as they set out to climb the Chilkoot Pass, the historic Klondike route the gold seekers took to reach Dawson City in the Yukon a century earlier.
Complete with heavy backpacks, the photo shows Jim Peers, Sherry Corby, Colin Corby, Liz Johnson, Ineke Van Hasselt, Shawn Adams, Michael Piddington, Margaret Baxter, myself, Joe Titus, Joan Titus, Margaret Frend, Phil Steele and Diane Johnson. Our support group meeting us at Lake Bennett were Ron and Lorna Barry, Pat and Fred Rudd and Albie Johnson.
The five-day hike was a challenge for some of us, but it was an experience we will never forget. Some of us had taken along bubbly to celebrate reaching the top, but our packs were so heavy, every pound mattered, and we decided to down the bubbly the second night.
The day we reached the Yukon border and the summit and saw the Canadian flag waving in the howling wind by the sheltering cabin was a milestone to remember, but there were still two struggling days to go.
Three years later, in 2000, another Sooke group, which included Janet Evans, Lynn Rutherford, Laurie Szadkowski, Darcy McClimon, Terrie Moore, Bonnie Sprinkling, Debbie Clarkston and Trudy Pearson also headed for Skagway. They successfully climbed the Chilkoot Pass as well, but we heard they enjoyed their bubbly in a limo.
Sooke’s connections to Skagway are even more diverse. Bill Wilson was a crewman on the CPR’s Princess Kathleen, in the early 1950s, on her run between Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Ketchikan and Skagway. Another Sookite, Bob Hudson, sailed for two years on the Canadian National Steamships’ Prince George, on an 11-day trip which took the ship to Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.