The Strange Fate of the Clara Nevada
The tale of the gold ship Clara Nevada, which sailed from Skagway to its fate on Feb. 5, 1898, was played out over two weekends this month on the tiny National Park Service stage by a talented group of Haines actors.
Writer Daniel Henry collaborated with historian Pamela Himsworth Randles on a script that attempts to answer questions about why the ship hit Eldred Rock and blew up without any trace of its precious cargo ever being found.
The story is framed by a ghostly mariner, played by Terry Lynn, who is a bit long-winded, but gets the audience ready for the story of greedy Captain Charles H. Lewis, played by John Hedrick, and his attempt to steal the gold with mate George Foster Beck, played by Luke Hedrick, an excellent young actor who has taken his drama skills to Harvard.
While the explosion scene could use some more stage effects, the action leading up to it is realistic. The second half of the play deals with the intriguing aftermath, in which there are reports of the captain in the Lower 48, a war between editors over the incident in Seattle, and a mysterious appearance of the vessel and its missing crew to lighthouse keepers.
The play is meant to be presented in the future at Eldred Rock for visitors. Its impact will be felt strongest on that original stage, but this is a show worth taking on the road. - JB
Top, the cast and crew of Clara Nevada; above seafarer Paddy McDonald (Terry Lynn) welcomes aboard a Skagway dancehall girl; and right, Captain Lewis (John Hedrick) grabs George Foster Beck (Luke Hedrick) as they plot to steal the gold.
Photos by Hollie Joy Brown