Finding the A.J. Goddard: New film explores Gold Rush shipwreck

Filmmaker Jesse Davidge says his documentary on the long-lost shipwreck in Lake Laberge is for people 'who think there's nothing left in the world to go after.'

Documentary tells how the A.J. Goddard was discovered, a century after it disappeared

The Klondike steamship A.J. Goddard, in 1898. It sank in Lake Laberge in 1901. (Candy Waugamann Collection, KLGO)

Filmmaker Jesse Davidge said he was inspired to make a documentary about the A.J. Goddard shipwreck because of a nagging feeling he always had growing up — that "there wasn't anything left to discover in the world."

The story of the Gold Rush-era steamboat, found at the bottom of Lake Laberge in 2008, showed him that wasn't true. 

"People who weren't in the professional world, but still were able to help discover this boat really inspired me to want to tell the story to younger people," he said.

Yukon resident Doug Davidge, president of the Yukon Transportation Museum, had sought to find the wreck of A.J. Goddard for many years. His hard work led the team to the site, and he was the first to confirm the wreck’s identity. Fittingly, he was also the first to reach the site, and his hand, shown here, was the first to touch the Goddard since its disappearance in 1901. (Don Reid/Institute of Nautical Archeology)

The ship went down during a winter storm in 1901 but its exact location was unknown until some divers, including Davidge's uncle, Doug Davidge of the Yukon Transportation Museum, "stumbled on it".

"That started the whole process of researching the vessel, and also surveying the vessel on the bottom of Lake Laberge," Doug Davidge said.

"People from all across North America became interested in it as this little time capsule of artifacts and a way of life, actually."

The wreck, still at the bottom of Lake Laberge, has been designated a Yukon historic site. Divers regularly visit it, with the requisite government permit.

The new film explores the Gold Rush history of the vessel, as well as its discovery by Doug Davidge and others. 

Jesse Davidge said he incorporated historical research with high definition underwater footage of the wreck, and some animated elements, to tell the story.

"I didn't want to make something that you could watch and get tired of," he said, "I try and keep it interesting."

The film debuted in Whitehorse earlier this week. Davidge is also planning to screen it at festivals in the coming months.

With files from Sandi Coleman


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