ASME-Landmark:Fairbanks Exploration Company Gold Dredge No. 8


Ladder dredges came to Alaska in the early 1920s, after the U.S. Smelting, Refining, and Mining Company (USSR&M) brought water to the area via the 90-mile Davidson Ditch. Using water to warm the ground, the ground was thawed at an average 9 inches a day. The gravel was scooped up in buckets, carried up the ladder, and deposited at the top of the dredge for sorting. The gold was trapped on the riffles of the gold tables.

Dredge Number 8, manufactured in 1927-28 by Bethlehem Steel Company, Ship Building Division, is one of the last mammoth gold dredges in the Fairbanks Mining District. The dredge vessel has a steel hull, 99 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 10.5 feet deep. Fully loaded, its 7.75 foot draft displaces 1,065 tons, including the ballast of steel machinery and on-board equipment.

The dredge itself was operated by the Fairbanks Exploration Company (part of USSR&M) and powered by electricity from the large coal-fired generating plant in Fairbanks. The dredge crew worked in three shifts a day for about eight months each year, until the dredge pond froze solid in the fall.

Over its 32 years of operation—from early 1928 until operations ended in 1959—it boasted a reputed 95 percent efficiency. During that time, it cut a 4.5-mile track from which miners produced more than 7.5 million ounces of gold. Today it remains a typical example of the machines that mechanized Alaskan placer mining, providing more than a third of the production for the state. See ASME website for more information