Beaver about 1870
|Career (Colony of Vancouver Island
Colony of British Columbia
|Builder:||Wigram & Green, Blackwall Yard, London|
|Laid down:||London, England|
|Launched:||9 May 1835|
|Fate:||Wrecked in 1888 in Burrard Inlet, Vancouver|
|Length:||101 ft 9 in (31.01 m)|
|Beam:||33 ft (10 m)|
|Draft:||8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)|
|Armament:||4 brass cannons|
Beaver was the first steamship to operate in the Pacific Northwest of North America. She made remote parts of the west coast of Canada accessible for maritime fur trading and was chartered by the Royal Navy for surveying the coastline of British Columbia.
Construction and delivery
Beaver was built in Blackwall, England of British oak, elm, greenheart and teak, and was copper fastened and sheathed. Her length was 101 feet (31 m), and the beam over her paddle boxes was 33 feet (10 m). She was launched at Blackwall Yard on 9 May 1835 and left London on 29 August under the command of Captain David Home, and with the company's barque, Columbia, built at the same time and commanded by Captain Darby. Beaver was outfitted as a brig for the passage out, paddles unshipped, and came out via Cape Horn under sail alone. After calling at Juan Fernandez and Honolulu, she arrived off the Columbia River on 18 March 1836 and anchored off Fort Vancouver on 10 April. Here the paddles were shipped and boilers and engines connected.
Service in Canada
Beaver was used to service trading posts maintained by the Hudson's Bay Company between the Columbia River and Russian America (Alaska) and played an important role in helping maintain British control in British Columbia during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858-59. In 1862 she was chartered by the Royal Navy to survey and chart the coast of the Colony of British Columbia. She also provided assistance to the Royal Navy at Bute Inlet during the Chilcotin War.
Initially she had a rectangular boiler, generating steam pressure at under 3 psi, and was fed by seawater. Boulton and Watt engines are not pressure engines, rather they are vacuum engines. [Salt water feed was common in the early days and could be done with low pressure and frequent boiler blowdowns to prevent salt scale build up on the plates]. The salt water played havoc with the boilers as the salinity rusted the wall thickness of the boiler which would rot out. Beaver had to have a new boiler every seven years or so and went through multiple installations over her career. Over time the boiler pressure was upped, and the large 42 inch cylinders were replaced with 36 inch diameter ones.
Beaver played roles in the establishment of coal mines at Fort Rupert, and later in 1853, Nanaimo. Beaver helped the Hudson's Bay Company establish Fort Victoria as a post in 1843. She would also ferry dignitaries like the Governor back and forth between the two colonies of New Caledonia.
In her later life Beaver burned coal and would hire young Natives of the Squamish nation to work the holds as coal passers. She was finally sold by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1874.
She was purchased by a consortium that became the British Columbia Towing and Transportation Company in 1874 and was used as a towboat until 25 July 1888 when, due to an inebriated crew, she went aground on rocks at Prospect Point in Vancouver's Stanley Park. The wreck finally sank in July 1892 from the wake of the passing steamer Yosemite, and only after enterprising locals had stripped much of the wreck for souvenirs. The Vancouver Maritime Museum houses a collection of Beaver remnants including the boiler and two drive shafts for the paddle wheels, one raised in the 1960s and the other returned from a collection in Tacoma along with the boiler. The site of the sinking has been commemorated with a plaque. Divers surveyed the wreck in the 1960s and in the 1990s (Underwater Archaeological Society of BC), but it had mostly disintegrated due to rot and currents.
- William Henry McNeill
- Steamboats of the Columbia River
- List of steamboats on the Columbia River
- List of ships in British Columbia
- S.S. Beaver - 3D Computerized Model by Andrew Wilkie
- "Beaver at the Vancouver Maritime Museum website". Retrieved 2008-01-09.
- Horner, John B. (1921). Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature. The J.K. Gill Co.: Portland
- Pethick, Derek, The SS Beaver, 1974