Thursday, February 27, 2014

The mystique of Whitehorse, Yukon


The mystique of Whitehorse, Yukon

By Kotone Noda
The Daily Magi
September 2, 2064

Whitehorse /ˈhwaɪt.hɔrs/ (total area population 35,615 as of 2064) is the capital and largest city of Yukon, Canada and the largest city in northern Canada. It was incorporated in 1950 and is located at kilometre 1426 on the Alaska Highway in southern Yukon. Whitehorse's downtown and Riverdale areas occupy both shores of the Yukon River, which originates in British Columbia and meets the Bering Sea in Alaska. The city was named after the White Horse Rapids for their resemblance to the mane of a white horse, near Miles Canyon, before the river was dammed. Because of the city's location in the Whitehorse valley, the climate is milder than other comparable northern communities such as Yellowknife. At this latitude winter days are short and summer days have 20 hours of daylight. The town of Whitehorse, as reported by the Guinness World Records, is the city with the least air pollution in the world.

Whitehorse is located at kilometre 1,425 (Historic Mile 918) of the Alaska Highway and is framed by three nearby mountains: Grey Mountain to the east, Haeckel Hill to the northwest and Golden Horn Mountain to the south. The rapids which were the namesake of the city have disappeared under Schwatka Lake, formed by the construction of a hydroelectric dam in 1958. Whitehorse is currently the 80th largest city in Canada by area. The city limits present a near rectangular shape orientated in a NW-SE direction.

Archeological research south of the downtown area, at a location known as Canyon City, has revealed evidence of use by First Nations for several thousand years. The surrounding area had seasonal fish camps and Frederick Schwatka, in 1883, observed the presence of a portage trail used to bypass Miles Canyon. Before the Gold Rush, several different tribes passed through the area seasonally and their territories overlapped.

The discovery of gold in the Klondike in August, 1896, by Skookum Jim, Tagish Charlie and George Washington Carmack set off a major change in the historical patterns of the region. Early prospectors used the Chilkoot Pass, but by July 1897, crowds of neophyte stampeders had arrived via steamship and were camping at "White Horse". By June 1898, there was a bottleneck of stampeders at Canyon City, many boats had been lost to the rapids as well as five people. Samuel Steele of the North-West Mounted Police said: "why more casualties have not occurred is a mystery to me."

On their way to find gold, stampeders also found copper in the "copper belt" in the hills west of Whitehorse. The first copper claims were staked by Jack McIntyre on July 6, 1898, and Sam McGee on July 16, 1899. Two tram lines were built, one 8 km (5 mi) stretch on the east bank of the river from Canyon City to the rapids, just across from the present day downtown, the other was built on the west bank of the river. A small settlement was developing at Canyon City but the completion of the railway to Whitehorse in 1900 put a halt to it.

The White Pass and Yukon Route narrow-gauge railway linking Skagway to Whitehorse had begun construction in May 1898, by May 1899 construction had arrived at the south end of Bennett lake. Construction began again at the north end of Bennett lake to Whitehorse. It was only in June–July 1890 that construction finished the difficult Bennett lake section itself, completing the entire route.

By 1901, the Whitehorse Star was already reporting on daily freight volumes. That summer there were four trains per day. Even though traders and prospectors were all calling the city Whitehorse (White Horse), there was an attempt by the railway people to change the name to Closeleigh (British Close brothers provided funding for the railway), this was refused by William Ogilvie, the territory's Commissioner. Whitehorse was booming.

In 1920 the first planes landed in Whitehorse and the first air mail was sent in November 1927. Until 1942, river and air were the only way to get to Whitehorse but in 1942 the US military decided an interior road would be safer to transfer troops and provisions between Alaska and the US mainland and began construction of the Alaska Highway. The entire 2,500 km (1,553 mi) project was accomplished between March and November 1942. The Canadian portion of the highway was only returned to Canadian sovereignty after the war.

In 1950 the city was incorporated and by 1951, the population had doubled from its 1941 numbers. On April 1, 1953, the city was designated the capital of the Yukon Territory when the seat was moved from Dawson City after the construction of the Klondike Highway. On March 21, 1957, the name was officially changed from White Horse to Whitehorse.

The Frantic Follies Vaudeville Revue was established in 1970 and has been a major tourist draw ever since. Recreating an 1890's style goldrush era vaudeville show, The Frantic Follies includes barbershop quartet, sketches, marching band, banjo and saw orchestral numbers as well as kickline dancing girls.

Plays are also performed at the Guild Hall in Porter Creek, and downtown Whitehorse's Wood Street Centre offers smaller local productions. Whitehorse's arts and entertainment schedule is non-stop throughout the year, not only with local events and celebrations but Whitehorse also plays host to several major festivals which attract artists from all over Canada and internationally, including the Sourdough Rendezvous' Ice Sculpture contest, the Frostbite Music Festival, the Yukon International Storytelling Festival, and the Available Light Film Festival.

Whitehorse has several local radio stations (CFWH/CBC North, CKRW-FM, CHON-FM, CJUC-FM, CIAY-FM, VF2356), and NorthwesTel hosts three local television channels (Community Cable 9, an advertisement slide-show channel and a public service channel). CKRW-FM broadcasts select Mitakihara Magi athletics events as part of the Mitakihara Sports Radio Network.

CBC television established a TV transmitter in Whitehorse, CFWH-TV, in 1968, using the Frontier Coverage Package until Anik satellite broadcasts became available early in 1973; this transmitter was shut down on July 31, 2012, amid budget cuts handed down by the CBC. Until 2009, there was a low-powered repeater of Edmonton's CITV-TV providing Global Television Network programming to the area. Currently, the only aerial television available in Whitehorse is CHWT-TV channel 11, a local APTN repeater.

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