Archeologists have found new clues about the music early Klondike stampeders were listening to during the Yukon Gold Rush, thanks to recordings found aboard a 110-year-old shipwreck.

The three records and a gramophone were discovered last summer in the A.J. Goddard, a sternwheeler that sank in Lake Laberge, north of Whitehorse, in October 1901.

"It's the coolest find on the Goddard, absolutely," Lindsey Thomas, a Texas-based archeology graduate student who has been heading up research on the ship, told CBC News.

"To find a record player — it really gives insight to how they were operating throughout their daily lives, and it taught me the importance of music during the period."

Minstrel songs popular

Thomas said the three recordings, including Rendezvous Waltz and a rare 1896 minstrel recording of Ma Onliest One, were previously unknown to Gold Rush-era music experts.


The bow of the sternwheeler A.J. Goddard, found this summer at the bottom of Lake Laberge, shows the windlass used to raise and lower the steamboat's anchors. ((Donnie Reid/Institute of Nautical Archeology))

"These are three new songs that we now know people were listening to during the Gold Rush, and they were playing it," she said. "Ma Onliest One was the disc that was attached to the gramophone."

Thomas said minstrel songs were popular at the time because they were "easy for the miners and for the people up there to perform."

"It became popular in the 1820s, but they were able to put on shows and pass the time amongst themselves as they were stuck in cabins over the winter," she said.

3 crew members drowned

The A.J. Goddard transported miners and supplies along the Yukon River until Oct. 22, 1901, when it vanished in Lake Laberge during a storm. Three crew members drowned in the storm, while two survived.

A team of archeologists that included Thomas, the U.S. Institute of Nautical Archaeology and the Yukon Transportation Museum announced in 2009 that they had found the sternwheeler, mostly intact, at the bottom of Lake Laberge.

Researchers also found many of the ship's contents preserved in the shipwreck, including crew members' clothes and tools, the records and the gramophone.

"Even though these are really quite early records, they were mass-produced, essentially, and they were commercial. So, of course, we will look at getting copies," said Val Monahan, a conservator with the Yukon government's Tourism and Culture Department.

National Geographic News dubbed the A.J. Goddard as its top archeological find of 2009. The Yukon government has designated the shipwreck a historic site.