It disappeared into the South Saskatchewan River a century ago, but now, archaeologists have discovered what is most likely the wreck of the SS City of Medicine Hat.
Buoyed by high spring flows on June 7, 1908, the City of Medicine Hat lost its rudder on submerged telegraph wires. Unable to steer, the ship drifted toward the Traffic Bridge, crashed into Pier One and then sank. The incident was called the “greatest nautical disaster in prairie history.”
“It’s a remarkable find,” says Community Services Department, General Manager Randy Grauer. “This exciting discovery will add to the cultural and educational well-being of Saskatoon. Again, it’s another plus for the great quality of life we all share in our community.”
The discovery was made during the last week of August work for the load testing of Pier One of the Traffic Bridge progressed. Over 1,000 pieces including wood, ceramic, metal parts, tableware and clothing were brought up by a drilling crew.
Saskatoon-based archaeologist Butch Amundson later determined the recovered items are most likely artifacts from the wreck of SS City of Medicine Hat.
“We discovered the material at a depth of eight metres in the sandy layer of river-bottom – well below the landfill Rotary Park is built upon,” Amundson says. “The artifacts appeared to be Edwardian-era and not garbage from the mid-twentieth century that someone had just tossed into the river.”
Amundson says there are no other good explanations for how the artifacts got there -- especially after the discovery of one of the ship’s anchors by firefighters in 2006 and more wreck debris in 2008. “I had a pretty good hunch the hull of the City of Medicine Hat was underneath the bridge,” Amundson says. “We just didn’t have any real evidence until now.”
The discovery of approximately 1,000 artifacts necessitates their conservation. An Administration report will be submitted to the Planning and Operations Committee to consider funding from the City Heritage Reserve to support the conservation of the items.
For more information, visit http://www.saskatoon.ca.