Artifacts from historical shipwreck found in South Sask. River

November 15, 2012 - 2:20pm
Artifacts from the SS City of Medicine Hat found in the South Saskatchewan River. Bre McAdam/News Talk Radio
Artifacts from the SS City of Medicine Hat found in the South Saskatchewan River. Bre McAdam/News Talk Radio

Parts of a steamship that sank more than a century ago in Saskatoon's South Saskatchewan River have surfaced after archeologists discovered more than a thousand artifacts in August.

They're believed to be remains of the SS City of Medicine Hat, which crashed into a pier of the Victoria Bridge in 1908. Many call it an important historical event in Saskatchewan.

"It was the last time a steamship ever tried to navigate the South Saskatchewan River in the Saskatoon area," said archeologist Butch Amundson during a news conference Thursday.

The captain, crew and passengers survived, as did the bridge, but much of the ship sank and was eventually buried.

Amundson described how drilling crews dug four holes eight meters deep, passing through five meters of the landfill Rotary Park is built upon.

"The stuff wouldn't go through a screen so Yvonne and I actually just got down on our knees and ran our hands through the stinky muck and found the artifacts that way, approximately a thousand artifacts were discovered that way," Amundson said.

They include tableware, ceramics, metal parts, buttons and a laced-up leather boot.

Then three meters below river sand, Stantec archeologists found a substantial wooden structure, which was broken up by the auger.

Amundson said they believe all of it belongs to the SS City of Medicine Hat for several reasons. The artifacts were discovered in the exact location of the shipwreck and many of them are age-appropriate in that they were made in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Firefighters also discovered one of the ship's anchors in the same location in 2006.

Amundson will submit the artifacts to the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, which can then decide whether to display them at the Western Development Museum or Meewasin Valley Authority.

"We're very interested in this, and what we commit to do is the educational portion of whatever happens," said Susan Lamb, CEO of Meewasin Valley Authority.

Meanwhile, Amundson believes there are more artifacts at the site, which he said provide a glimpse into the lives of those on board.

"The great thing about a shipwreck is it's an incidental or accidental time capsule. It's really a golden opportunity to study what happened at a moment in time, rather than looking at a deposit that might have been built up over decades or even centuries."

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