Tofino Chapter 7 notes

The Sealing Years - Notes on Sources


Peter Murray’s The Vagabond Fleet – A Chronicle of the North Pacific Sealing Schooner Trade was particularly helpful in this chapter, also Cairn Crockford’s Master’s Thesis Nuu-Chah-Nulth Labour Relations in the Pelagic Sealing Industry 1868-1911, and Don MacGillivray’s Captain Alex MacLean: Jack London’s Sea Wolf. These sources provided many statistics and details about the fur seal hunt, the ships, and the prices paid to hunters and for skins, and the details of compensation.

Walter Dawley’s papers in the BC Archives (MS 1076) contain a wealth of first hand information about the fur seal trade, including many letters from sealing captains. Surviving ledgers of his accounts detail the pay for aboriginal hunters and their purchases in his stores, naming many individual hunters. Letters cited in this chapter from Fred Thornberg, William Munsie, and from various sealing captains all come from Dawley’s papers.

For more on the aboriginal fur seal hunt, see J.K.B.Ford’s Marine Mammals of British Columbia. He cites a recent study by Iain McKechnie and Rebecca J. Wigen, whose findings overturn Philip Drucker’s assertion in Northern and Central Nootkan Tribes (p.46) that aboriginals did not hunt fur seal until Europeans arrived. See Ford also for details of fur seals’ size and migration patterns.

For William Banfield’s comments on fur seal meat and the trade in sealskins, see Daily Victoria Gazette, August 1858.

Two million seals on the Pribiloff islands, Murray, Vagabond Fleet, p. 32.

Statistic for 1882, 100,000 seals killed to obtain only 15,000, from Patrick Lane, “The Great Pacific Seal Hunt,” Raincoast Chronicles #4, 1974.

All quotations from Father Brabant are taken from his diary, in which he often commented on the fur seal trade.

Kyuquot harpooners and their negotiations, see Murray, Vagabond Fleet, p.28.

Fred Thornberg’s account of the Active appears in his memoirs.

For the account of aboriginal hunters being marooned in the Aleutians see Lane, “The Great Pacific Seal Hunt.”

Jack London’s The Sea Wolf provides vivid detail of sailing in North Pacific waters in a small schooner, a colourful description of a rookery, much personal drama, but little about killing seals.

Details of the MacLeans’ adventures, see MacGillivray, Captain Alex MacLean: Jack London’s Sea Wolf. See also Peter Sanger, “Of Fact and Fiddle Strings,” Antigonish Review #161, Spring 2010.

“lived chiefly on the flesh...,” see MacGillivray, Captain Alex MacLean.

88% of seal hunters being Nuu-chah-nulth, see Crockford’s thesis.

Surviving population of seals following 1910, see Murray, Vagabond Fleet, p. 234.

Other sources to note in this chapter: Horsfield, Voices From the Sound; Archie Wills, “In the Days of Sealing,” Daily Colonist, June 28, 1970.



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