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Historic Saskatoon Shipwreck Resurfaces in Documentary Film
Imagine this: it’s spring in 1908 and a luxurious 130-foot steamship laden with socialites, landed gentry, and merrymakers heads confidently downriver on a pleasure cruise. The boat, a sternwheeler typical of the day, is far from ordinary.
Her captain and owner spared no expense when outfitting her and it shows: oak and brass interior, fine crystal, and endless champagne. Sounds like something from a Mark Twain novel set on the Mississippi River, doesn’t it? But the events that followed were far from fiction…and far from the Mississippi. In fact, this was the stage of the greatest nautical disaster in Canadian prairie history.
Many are surprised to know that this scene played out in early day Saskatoon, just two years after the city was incorporated. The S.S. City of Medicine Hat lost control, crashed into the newly constructed Traffic Bridge, and sank right in downtown Saskatoon. In an instant the vision of Captain Horatio Hamilton Ross was torn asunder…literally.
The aftermath of Ross’s ill-fated attempt to pilot his beloved ship through Saskatoon is the focus of a new feature-length documentary film, The Last Steamship: The Search for the S.S. City of Medicine Hat. Saskatchewan filmmakers Leanne Schinkel, Nils Sorensen, and Corby Evenson will premiere this feature-length documentary at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon on September 3, 2010, at 7:00 PM.
The story of the wreck isn’t well known. In fact, it may have fallen completely out of memory had it not been for the discovery of the ship’s anchor in 2007 during a training exercise by Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services divers. The recovery of the anchor rekindled interest in the S.S. City of Medicine Hat and sparked the curiosity of local shipwreck enthusiasts, historians, and archeologists alike. One hundred years after the wreck, an intensive underwater excavation was launched with the intention of recovering more artifacts from the ship.
The Last Steamship’s prairie setting, colourful characters, and uniquely Saskatchewan spirit make it an entertaining shipwreck yarn for the whole family. Accordingly, the film’s premiere is a part of Saskatoon’s celebration of its river, culture, and history during the PotashCorp Fireworks Festival. How did the S.S. City of Medicine Hat crash? What happened to Captain Ross after he lost his ship? What relics were found during the excavation? You’ll have to watch the film to find out!
The premiere of The Last Steamship: The Search for the S.S. City of Medicine Hat is presented by SaskEnergy and will be held at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon on September 3, 2010, at 7:00 PM. Seating is limited. Visit www.laststeamship.com for tickets and more information.