Between ‘Disordered Shores’

Hudson Strait represented the passage along the HBC’s ocean arc with perhaps the greatest potential for difficulty, even distress. Disaster, however, was not common. Of some 694 HBC vessels that entered the strait between 1670 and 1920, as few as six were lost before fully entering Hudson Bay.[1] All of these wrecks apparently resulted from encounters with ice. Encounters with hostile vessels were even rarer. Warfare, which made sea-lanes closer to England hazardous for sailors on merchant vessels, resulted in only three incidents in Hudson Strait.[2] Shortages of drinkable water could become worrisome if the ocean crossing had been lengthy. Pools of melt water were common on pans and fields of ice along the length of the strait, however. Thus, time spent waiting for closed ice to clear could be productively spent refilling water casks.[3] Weather within the strait was not necessarily worse than elsewhere, although when complicated by unfavourable ice conditions, it could exacerbate the level of danger crewmembers faced.

The portion of the voyage within Hudson Strait was one in which variability over time – in terms of conditions, seafarers’ experiences, and methods of recording observations – is readily apparent when viewed from the present. Yet, patterns are as evident here as on other segments of the journey. If some voyages were harrowing, the majority were not. Where delay was possible, there might be none, but such variability was expected.[4] Just as with other passages, whether what was ‘usual’ in the strait appeared more or less distinctive to seafarers depended on prior experience.

This page details features of the passage through Hudson Strait to illustrate ways in which working a HBC transatlantic voyage differed from working aboard other ships traversing the North Atlantic. It highlights encounters with nature that were particular to the Strait. According to the testimony of individuals who traveled its extent, people aboard HBC ships variously responded to its natural features: as procurers of commodities, consumers of resources, and producers of place.

The most obvious features of interest to sailors of Hudson Strait were its geography and topography.[5] Hudson Strait was about twelve leagues (approximately 67 kilometres, or 41 miles) wide at its mouth. Resolution Island marked the northern limit of this entrance. The Button’s Islands grouping – “four principles in number, and divers small ones” – off Cape Chidleigh/Chidley, marked the southern extent.[6]

HBC ships entered Hudson Strait off Resolution Island because the current flowed west along the length of the strait’s north shore, while the current along the southern shore flowed east. The strait was about 805 kilometres or 500 miles long. Its breadth averaged about 161 kilometres or 100 miles. If Ungava Bay were included, its greatest crosswise expanse was perhaps 402 kilometres or 250 miles. Its narrowest navigable spans occurred at either end, the western outlet to Hudson Bay – between Nottingham Island and Cape Wostemholme, including the Digges Islands – being about equal in width to that of the outlet into the Labrador Sea.

Hudson Strait was also deep. Soundings taken at a variety of points over the years indicated depths ranging from 150 to 340 fathoms, or 274 to 622 metres, in a wide channel that ran from the eastern entrance, through the middle of the strait, for its entire length. At the western end, the channel passed between Nottingham Island and the Digges Islands grouping off Cape Wolstenholme/Walsingham, continuing between Mansfield/Mansel and Cary Swan’s Nest/Coats Islands.[7] HBC ships kept to this channel. Rocks, shoals, numerous islets, several larger islands, and many inlets marked both shores of the strait. Captain William Coats was of the opinion that there were “doubtles … many fine harbours [sic],” but into the twentieth century, these remained unexplored by anyone except people native to the region.[8] Ships seldom had any reason to approach land prior to reaching their destination in Hudson Bay and navigators paid heed to accounts of tidal streams said to course “violently” along the coastline, particularly at the eastern end.[9] Approximately three miles out from the islands off either shore, however, the channel was reportedly “wonderfully free from shoals and rocks, or any other obstacles that would tend to make the navigation of a narrow channel more than ordinarily dangerous.”[10]

Seen from a ship, even in summer the “high bold land” lining Hudson Strait appeared anything but verdant, with “black-looking rocks … almost everywhere in evidence.”[11] On entering the strait, William Edward Parry observed:

The greater part of this land was now clear of snow, which, however, still filled many of the valleys, and, together with the fog that hung over it, rendered the scene before us indescribably dreary and disagreeable. It requires a few days to be passed amidst scenes of this nature, to erase, in certain degree, the impressions left by more animated landscapes; and not till then, perhaps, does the eye become familiarized, and the mind reconciled to prospects of utter barrenness and desolation such as these rugged shores present.[12]

The rugged topography featured “bare rocky hills” in “great disorder” and of a height that commanded attention.[13] The southern of three principal ranges of Baffinland mountains extended parallel to and along the north shore of Hudson Strait. Various estimates put the hills at either end of the range at from 1,000 to 2,000 feet, while the cliff faces of those along the shore rose in places to “720 feet above the sea.”[14] Since within the Strait compasses were often useless, the hills served sailors as useful reference points. Robert Bell, who had journeyed through the Strait on nine occasions, described the shoreline as “so high that even at night you can see the outlines of the hills against the sky.”[15]

Notations in HBC logbooks indicate that navigators measured their ship’s progress along the channel by landmarks, for the most part islands standing far enough out from shore to be distinguished. After Resolution, HBC ships’ pilots would watch for the Lower Savage Islands. These were “a distinct group of three main and several small” low-lying islands that seemed “desolate and chaotic” in appearance, and “separated from Baffin Island by four miles of turbulent water.”[16]

The next group appears to have been routinely designated the Middle Savage Islands on sailing charts, though seafarers knew them by a variety of names. Until about 1905, the assumption was that these were three in number, but in that year, Albert Peter Low determined there were six. HBC sailors referred to one of these as Saddleback Island – presumably the most distinctive of the group. Parry asserted that the name derived from its shape, but it might have been a reference to Saddleback Seals – an earlier name for Harp Seals, which still inhabit the area. Some references to the Middle Savage Islands designate the entire group the Saddleback Islands. Some also assert that these were the ‘Isles of God’s Mercies’ named by Henry Hudson and amongst which he found shelter in 1608. Other sources, however, identify a singular Isle of God’s Mercies. Still others place this among the Upper Savage Islands that were approximately twenty-three leagues further again to the west.[17]

Descriptions of the Upper Savage Islands also display variation. Generally, sources describe them as lying just before, or to the east, of Big Island and at the mouth of North Bay, an inlet that Coats designated Icy Bay. Sources are not always clear as to whether one or several islands fell under the rubric Upper Savage Island, or whether Big Island was included as one of any group so designated.  According to Thomas M’Keevor, at least one island in the location, presumably one by which pilots might verify their whereabouts, was approximately “two miles in circumference” and consisted “merely of a vast lofty perpendicular rock, rising like a cone, in an easy ascent from the sea.”[18] Together, seen from the sea, the islands off Icy Cape/Cape Weymouth on the eastern entrance to North Bay appeared to be a promontory of the north shore that marked a narrowing of Hudson Strait. North Bluff on Big Island – which Coats knew as Savage Point – signalled the narrow’s northern extremity. According to Coats the strait was about seventeen leagues (94 kilometres, or 57 miles) across from North Bluff to Prince Henry’s Foreland, “a high mountain,” which signalled the narrow’s southern extremity on the opposite shore of the strait. From his description, it would appear this foreland is that which later cartographers designated Cape Weggs.[19]

Having determined they had reached the narrows, HBC pilots would head across Hudson Strait to follow landmarks on the southern shore, while still keeping well out from the land “to avoid dangerous currents,” rockbound hazards, and an extent of ice known as “Charles’s patch,” which tended to collect in the vicinity of Charles Island.[20] The ships would mark progress successively past Charles Island, Cape Wolstenholme, and the Digges Island group. The latter islands appeared “not very large.”[21] Cape Wostenholme, however, “rose steeply from deep water” forming “a great rocky promontory” nearly 1,000 feet in height, or 304 metres.[22] The south shore about Wolstenholme was as rugged as the north, but Isaac Cowie remarked a difference:

while every depression between barren black hills on the north side was filled with snow or ice, the brown, apparently heath-clad hills of Labrador presented a much warmer and more homelike aspect, much resembling the last land we had seen across the Atlantic – the Island of Hoy.[23]

HBC ships rounded Wolstenholme and Digges, to pass between them and Nottingham Island towards what early sailors took to be an extension of Southampton Island, but that later whalers proved were two separate landforms. These were eventually designated Bell Island and Coats’s Island.[24] Bell Island, “composed of granite and limestone” was described by one observer as the “most desolate-looking country … ever seen.”[25] Coats Island, principally limestone, except for the “bold headland” of the northern end of Cape Pembroke, appeared to be a “low barren plain of country, nothing distinguishable thereon.”[26] As the island came into view on the starboard side of a HBC vessel, Mansel Island, “about 20 leagues long, low flat, but rises towards the north end,” would recede from view off the other.[27] It too was limestone, “not so high and rugged as the mainland,” and together with Coats, the last land seen on leaving the Strait and entering Hudson Bay.[28]

Aside from land masses, seafarers journeying through Hudson Strait reported seeing a variety of life forms – largely excluding live “bush or braque,” but including very active people, peculiar optical phenomena and weather conditions, ice formations, and tidal currents.[29] These spectacles were somewhat predictable, in that seafarers watched for them and presumed them incident to the area, though they expected actual encounters to be governed by chance.

From aboard ship, the shores of the strait appeared virtually devoid of vegetation. Forays ashore on Upper Savage Island during Parry’s expeditions yielded a report only of grasses, dwarf willow, and moss actually growing. Parry did report driftwood, however, as did Bell. The wood, in the form of small spruce trees, was seen “stranded at high-water mark” all along the north shore of the strait.[30] Given the absence of any trees on either coast – except at the bottom of Ungava Bay – Bell surmised that the driftwood had been brought by the current around Cape Farewell from “some of the rivers of northern Siberia.”[31]

Birds, apparently, were commonly seen, although in accounts of HBC voyages familiar varieties were seldom remarked upon unless the targets of sport. Coats, for example, reported that at Cape Charles “we took plenty of young ducks, and saw numbers of fowl about them, as is likewise at Mansfield.”[32] Expeditions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century interested in expanding ornithological knowledge focused on gathering individual specimens indicative of the range of species in an extremely wide geographic space – loosely defined as ‘Arctic,’ but including Hudson Bay and Strait – not on conducting population studies. Few mentions were made of birds associated specifically with Hudson Strait; what mentions there were, sometimes relied only on anecdotal evidence and most were terse. Bell, for example, commented that, “The black guillemot was common, and the least auk rare on the coast.”[33] As seafarers were transients in the area, they were hardly the best indicators of the overall presence of migratory animals with different patterns of arrival or departure. Later studies suggest that varieties of loons, geese, ducks, swans, terns, and smaller birds would have been present in considerable numbers, although seafarers might not have known them by names any more precise.[34] Tracing references to birds suggests that while much that was Northern appeared certain to endure, after 400 years of observation and exploitation, there was an awareness that some species of wildlife might not. References to Trumpeter swans and the history of Coats Island supply an example.

The early name for Coats Island was Cary Swans Nest. This name, apparently bestowed by Thomas James circa 1633 and carried forward by Coats, is likely a reference to the Cary family – makers of marine survey equipment in London – one of whose heraldic symbols was a swan raising its wings.[35] The name suggests that, along with geese, partridges, and ducks, in the past Tundra/Whistling swans and Trumpeter swans had enlivened the island. Although the latter, larger variety no longer occurs in the area, formerly the breeding range of the Trumpeter swan extended across northern North America. In the late eighteenth century, sailor and HBC factor, Samuel Hearne, observed that “when flying across the wind or against it, they make but slow progress, and are then a noble shot,” and counselled the London Committee to encourage a systematic harvesting.[36] The birds were hunted as food by fur trade personnel and, subsequently, the Company included Trumpeter swans in its trade, shipping anywhere from 2,500 to 5,075 skins, with feathers on, per year. The down and quills served the fashion industry as trim for women’s clothing. The skins, in high demand throughout the ‘print revolution,’ served as protective blanketing for paper in letterpress and copperplate printing machines. By the early twentieth century, the Trumpeter swan had vanished from the Hudson Bay region and from North America so thoroughly that ornithologists considered it an endangered species.[37]

Among other forms of wildlife, marine mammals invariably figure in seafarer descriptions of Hudson Strait. Bell listed, as inhabiting the north side:

walrus, narwal, and the polar bear, the Greenland whale, the bottle-nose, the fin-back, and the little white whale, besides two or three other cetaceans. The seals on this coast include the bearded or square flipper, the Greenland or harp, the foetid or ring seal, and the harbour seal, and other species are said to be taken occasionally.[38]

Not all seafarers saw a specimen of each species on every voyage, or even a specimen of one. Captain David Herd of the HBC attested before the Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1857 that in twenty-two years of passing through the strait he had seen “very few” seals, was of the opinion that whales were not common, that people were mistaking porpoises for whales, and that in any case those were more frequent elsewhere.[39] He did not refer to walrus. Seafarers, whether passengers, crew, or officers, appear to have routinely hunted, or at least shot, what animals they did encounter – for food, profit, and entertainment. Restrictions on shooting may have applied variously: Cowie reported seeing “several seals and a walrus,” in 1867, but averred “being Sunday they were not molested by the gunners.”[40] In 1905, Low reported that on his expedition near Charles Island “a great many walrus were observed.” In what proved “very exciting sport,” his party killed seven for dog food and two polar bears as well.[41] Whether because the bears were numerous, were drawn to ships out of curiosity, or because seafarers thought them exotic, references to polar bear sightings appear relatively frequently in journals – sometimes with sketches or photographs. They were perhaps the consummate Northern prize.[42]

HBC sailors fished along the route to Hudson Bay, but put no special effort into identifying individual species or including estimates of existing stocks in their logbooks.[43] Questions put to Captain Herd by the Select Committee on the Hudson Bay Company of 1858, and later reports of Select Committees published in 1885 and 1907, indicate that the whereabouts of Cod in particular, but other fish stocks and whales as well, was of interest to the government of Canada when it appeared the resources of Rupert’s Land would prove enriching.[44] Keepers of HBC logbooks more carefully recorded sightings of ‘fishing’ vessels. They noted where these were met, at what time, and the nature of any interaction. Some meetings were limited to long distance communication by way of signalling, others included exchanges of information via face-to-face visits. That some of the fishers encountered were whalers can be inferred by the location in which they had reportedly worked – from Davis Strait to Hudson Bay – and comments such as “killd no fish & bound for Amsterdam [sic],” or “bound to Shields with thirteen fish” – amounts consistent with whaling ventures.[45]

Aside from whalers and people aboard other vessels in their convoy, seafarers aboard HBC vessels also met with Inuit along the northern shore of Hudson Strait. The notations in HBC ships’ logs supply only brief summaries of the location of a meeting, hours of interaction, and details of trade – principally amounts of whalebone received.[46] Surviving documents indicate the London Committee had included instructions to captains to trade “Whalebone or any other Commodity” as early as 1738.[47] By this date, it is clear that these were not chance encounters, but standard practice, remaining so throughout the period examined. Trade rendezvous usually took place near Middle and Upper Savage Islands, though the vagaries of circumstance might preclude a meeting. Like icebergs and polar bears, viewing people native to the region was a much-anticipated event for non-HBC personnel. If an encounter occurred, they wrote detailed descriptions in their journals. Inuit physique and the ‘otherness’ of their clothing, language, and assumed norms of behaviour excited the most curiosity and comment.[48]

Comments on curious optical phenomena observed in the North were also common and show these were both convenient aids to navigation and frustrating impediments. One convenience was the persistence of daylight from June throughout the shipping season. Although the strait was not so far north that ‘midnight sun’ was observable, daylight seemed perpetual during July and it was possible to go below deck with “very little of candle.”[49] By August, there were only a few hours of darkness in a twenty-four hour period: the sun rising “at half-past two or three in the morning” and not setting “until ten o’clock at night in summer.”[50] While the Aurora Borealis of the Northwest were reputed to be “very bright,” descriptions of displays are relatively rare.[51] Seafarers from Northern Scotland perhaps found them “much the same” as at home, so did not feel compelled to either note, or make extended comment on their occurrence.[52] William Wales reported to the Royal Society, the sponsor of his voyage to Churchill in 1768, that:

The aurora-borealis, which has been represented as very extraordinary in those parts, bears in my opinion, no comparison to what I have seen in the north parts of England. It is always of the same form here, and consists of a narrow, steady stream of a pale straw-coloured light, which rises out of the horizon, about E.S.E. and extends itself through the zenith, and vanishes near the horizon, about W.N.W. It has very seldom any motion at all; and when it has, it is only a small tremulous one at the two borders.[53]

An equally plausible explanation for lack of comment, however, is that no display was witnessed: although the lights could occur at any time of year, they were most frequently reported by people stationed on land during March and September and least often in June and December.[54]

Another atmospheric phenomenon of “curious appearance,” the use of which Coats judged “too evident to animadvert theron [sic],” consisted of gleams or streaks of light and dark that discoloured the sky on the horizon.[55] Termed ‘blinks’ by later navigators, these were interpreted according to colour as reliable indications of whether ice, land, or sea lay in the offing and in what direction. A bright white to yellowish blink indicated thick ice – snow covered ice imparting the most brilliant affect. A hazier yellowish tinge indicated ice or snow covered land, though, as the effect was relative, ice and land blinks might prove difficult to distinguish. A “black vapour” either alone or interspersed in a lighter blink indicated water. Very new, thin ice imparted a less dramatic, greyish blink.[56] Although the cause was similar, seafarers held blinks to be distinct from mirages – the latter term not applied to cold air phenomenon until the late nineteenth century. Mirages, by whatever name, occasionally supplied another peculiar, if informative ‘map’ to read in the sky. For instance, a ship – perhaps a consort several hundred miles distant – might be seen floating upside down well above the horizon, giving an indication of its whereabouts.[57] Mirages could also prove baffling however. Wales reported an instance where land was plainly visible from the quarterdeck, “as it were, lifted up in the haze, in the same manner as the ice had always done.” Yet the sailor stationed as lookout on the masthead saw no shoreline anywhere. Wales was at a loss for an explanation. He did determine that the horizon – used for sighting with the Hadley’s quadrant – might appear optically raised “2o or 3o at a distance of 8 or 10 miles” higher than where it actually stood.[58] Added to this, he reported that a “red haziness” extended around the horizon:

to a considerable height, rendering the stars very dim; but at the same time large, something like the nucleus of a comet. I have been disappointed by one or other of these, two or three times before; but this is the most vexatious, as we are now among many islands, headlands, &c. whose longitudes are entirely unknown, and on which account an observation would have been singularly useful.[59]

Ultimately, Wales found that the “refractive power of the air in these parts” meant observations made on land with an astronomical quadrant differed from those made at sea with a Hadley’s quadrant by a “prodigious” amount. Thus, ‘scientific’ knowledge about sailors’ exact whereabouts on any given journey remained uncertain and difficult to reconcile exactly with accounts of similar voyages from other years.[60]

Weather conditions also made determining a ship’s location difficult. The most common complaint was made most colourfully by Thomas James, who wrote of “stinking fog.”[61] Because no other seafarer left a comment suggesting odour, the reference appears solely to denote frustration. Foggy conditions in the Strait occurred as often as once every two days. Fog was dangerous. In 1819, shrouded in fog, the Prince of Wales, with Franklin’s expedition and Red River Settlers aboard, struck the rocks off Resolution Island and required constant pumping to make York Factory.[62] In 1899, Captain Gray on the Erik reported “the most trying voyage I have ever had.” While in “thick fog,” he met “excessive quantities of ice.” The ship “ran into a large iceberg which carried away her jib-boom, bowsprit and port cat-head.”[63] Perhaps the most surreal sighting in a fog was recounted by Bell: while thickly enveloped aboard the Ocean Nymph, he watched as a large flock of ptarmigan materialized out of the haze and “lit in the rigging,” presumably to wait it out.[64] Seafarers also reported rain, high winds, and snow. Frost was sometimes reported at night, with “a little skim of ice” surrounding a vessel in the morning.[65] Temperatures were often cold enough that ships’ surfaces coated over with ice. Andrew Robertson Gordon, after voyages in 1884 and 1885 aboard the Neptune and Alert respectively, determined that the mean surface temperature of the water in Hudson Strait, “as obtained from observations taken when the ship was at sea,” was 32.9° Fahrenheit or 0° Celsius.[66] While Bell observed that the weather could be fine – sometimes “too fine” because no wind – he also noted that “on sunny days … on the sea there was a constant feeling of cold or rawness and discomfort, on account of the presence of so much ice.”[67]

Along with weather, the occurrence of ice in Hudson Strait was the event most consistently commented upon in logbooks and journals. Naval historian Oliver Warner has observed that although “some text-books will blandly tell you [the strait] should be navigable from the middle of July to October,” logbook notations indicate that, “In fact, all through the decades, captains complained that ice was where they had never met with it before, and that navigation was more difficult than ever.”[68] Ice was the primary determinant of the tenor of the voyage. The amount and kind of ice directly related to the length of time it took to complete the passage, the safety, and the comfort level of the passengers and crew. In 1749, Coats made the passage in a mere four days. HBC vessels entering the strait after the middle of July more commonly spent two to four weeks threading through ice over some “800 to 1,000 miles” before exiting into Hudson Bay.[69] Captain Herd testified to journeys that took as many as six weeks, during which he saw no water sufficient “to turn a boat round.”[70] The log of Captain Benjamin Bell in the Emerald, 1816, records a westward passage through the strait of fifty-one days duration.[71]

As far as seafarers to Hudson Bay could determine, the Strait itself did not generate enough ice over the winter to freeze over entirely. They understood the ice found in the strait entered from either end. Herd averred that, because of these flows from the east and west, the Straits being entirely clear of ice would be an exception to the general rule. The heavy pack ice and icebergs from the eastern entrance might travel a fair distance into the Strait, but, caught in the ‘capricious’ currents and the overfall, these would eventually turn, spend some time “whirling around” in Ungava Bay, and then flow out again.[72] If a captain waited until mid July, this particular impediment would clear – hence Coats’ injunction to wait before entering, and to enter along the north shore.[73] Most ice encountered in the Strait came from the west. After investigating the navigability of the region in 1885, Gordon affirmed what earlier seafarers had contended: each summer massive amounts of ice cleared from Foxe/Fox Channel – including icebergs calved off glaciers and heavy field ice from the channel itself. Prevailing currents carried this ice, along with a smaller amount of “ordinary field ice” that had formed over the winter in Hudson and James Bays, through Hudson Strait to the Labrador Sea, at the rate of “upwards of 10 miles a day.”[74] By the time ice from Fox Channel entered the strait, the floes were relatively small. Gordon estimated their thickness to be about twenty to thirty feet. He described the ice from Hudson Bay as too light to pose a serious threat, but considered the heavy ice potentially dangerous, noting it tended to collect near, and block passages between, many of the islands at the western end of the Strait. Indeed, Captain Herd testified that in one year, beset by ice at the western end, he had been unable to exit the Strait until 25 August.[75]

Despite Gordon’s misgivings, HBC sailors do not appear to have thought the western ice was as dangerous as the ice encountered at the eastern entrance to the strait. First, they judged its consistency to be different. HBC mariner Thomas McCliesh, for example, believed it to be ‘fresh water ice,’ unlike the hard ice of the outer ocean. In his estimation, it was “most snow on the top, and the ice below honeycombed.”[76] Second, by the time ships reached the western extent of the strait, the ice was progressively breaking down with each day of the warmer summer season – by the action of both sun and rain. It therefore posed little danger to experienced sailors in properly outfitted vessels. After studying the records of the American whalers, and based on his own experience aboard HBC vessels, Bell attested that, ice notwithstanding, “In navigating the strait during the season between these dates [22 June–10 October], with a steamship, they never had any difficulty, nor was there any difficulty with the Ocean Nymph, which was a poor ship for sailing.”[77]

Once into Hudson Strait, it was not unusual for seafarers to see ice extending “as far as the eye could reach,” to be delayed by it, have their ships bumped by it, or even heaved up out of it, but neither was it ordinary to suffer fatal damage.[78] Nor is there any report of ice completely blocking passage of the strait for an entire shipping season. The current, together with the tide – the height and power of which Coats and others long afterwards remarked upon – was strong enough to keep the ice in motion, and ships as well. There was moreover, anticipation of “open water ahead.”[79]

Hudson Strait perhaps did not deserve to be “much-advertised-as-being-dreadful,” but, even if it were true that a “common sailor who could not take an astronomical observation could sail through the straits with perfect safety,” it appears that negotiating the passage successfully required patience, vigilance, and skills best learned through firsthand exposure.[80] The HBC retained sailors for terms that were decades long. For example the previously mentioned Jonathan Fowler Senior served from 1751–1761, his brother John Fowler from 1749–1769, and Jonathan Fowler Junior from 1756–1782. Similarly, Henry Hanwell Senior served the Company from 1766–1817, his son from 1806–1833, and David Herd from 1835–1878. Their promotion through the ranks and length of service was not unusual. William Coats served from 1726 to 1752. Although he lost two ships in ice, the Company rewarded him for observations made as a marine surveyor. Henry Bishop, captain on Cowie’s 1867 voyage, sailed to Hudson Bay for over forty years, having “never lost a package of merchandise.”[81] The long careers of such ‘common’ seamen suggest that the Company valued acuity acquired through direct experience.[82]

The passage through Hudson Strait distinguished HBC voyages to Hudson Bay from other transatlantic voyages traversing the North Atlantic. Over time, HBC sailors collectively accumulated a significant amount of experience in voyaging through the Strait. While maps of the present do not always preserve the experience-based knowledge of mariners about this portion of the HBC ocean arc, documents generated by seafarers of the past clearly confirm sailors’ contributions. It is evident that individual mastery gained by way of working aboard HBC vessels, in addition to ensuring ongoing production of value added, allowed an ongoing communication of knowledge. The mariners’ acts of naming and recording impressions of locations contributed to their own and to others’ understandings – including those of cartographers and statesmen positioned at a great remove – and thereby to constructions of pla

[1] Ian K. Steele, The English Atlantic 1675–1740: An Exploration of Communication and Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 88, notes the strait “claimed only one ship in half a century before 1749.” Michael F. Dove, “Voyages to Rupert’s Land: The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Maritime Component, 1670–1770,” in Selected Papers of Rupert’s Land Colloquium 2002, compiled by David G. Malaher (Winnipeg: Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, 2002), 7, states that from 1670 to 1770 “12 [ships] fell victim to the particular hazards of the Bay or Strait.” I find only four that may have sunk in the strait itself: the James of 1682; the Happy Return of 1686; Owner’s Love of 1697; and the Hudson’s Bay [IV] of 1736. E.E. Rich, The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company 1670–1870, vol. I (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1958), 104, 105, 19091, 350, puts Captain Maximilian Keech of the Royal Navy in command of the James, with a special permit from Prince Rupert allowing him to fly the King’s Jack in the Bay and intercept the interloping Expectation. Keech sailed in July from Tynemouth by the North Sea and the Orkneys. The James was subsequently lost, exactly where is not clear, but a reasonable assumption would be in ice, either off Cape Farewell, or at the entrance to Hudson Strait. Rich explains that the Perpetuana Merchant “bulged with large peace [sic] of ice” and sank with forty-five minutes thirty leagues inside the Strait early in July; see also Alan Cooke and Clive Holland, The Exploration of Northern Canada, 500 to 1920: A Chronology (Toronto: Arctic History Press, 1978), on the wreck of Owner’s Love. K.G. Davies, ed., with A.M. Johnson, Letters from Hudson Bay, 1703–40 (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1965), 211, 212, 220, 230n., 301n., describe the Hudson’s Bay [IV]. For these and the following vessels see Appendix A, and Appendix B, this thesis: the Graham was lost in ice near Mansel Island in 1849; the Kitty was lost 1859; the Prince Arthurwas wrecked on Mansel in 1864.



[2] See Edward H. Borins, “Claude de Bermen de La Martinière,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, online ed. [DCB] <; (accessed 25 Sep. 2007), and Appendix B, this thesis, for the Perpetuana Merchant, captured ‘without resistence’ in or near the strait by Claude de Bermen de La Martinière, sailing home to Quebec. See E.E. Rich, History, vol. I, and Appendix B, this thesis, for the HMS Hampshire, which encountered French ships in the ice of the Strait, attacked the Profond, presumed it would sink, and pursued the Pélican into Hudson Bay. See also Chapter Eight, this thesis, 201 n.87, on the taking of the interloping Expectation in 1683, which captain Nehemiah Walker justified as an act of war.

[3] See, for example, HBCA, C.1/1021, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1751, 20; J. Williams, “The Last Voyage of the Stork,” The Beaver 19, no. 2 (September 1939): 45; and A.R. Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’ 1911,” part I, The Beaver 63, no. 1 (summer 1983): 22.

[4] J. Ledingham, “Nascopie in Hudson Bay,” The Beaver 5, no. 1 (December 1924): 9, notes of sailing through the Strait, that when it came to ice conditions, “In my fifteen years’ experience of Hudson’s Bay work, I have never seen two years alike.”

[5] John Oldmixon, “The History of Hudson’s-Bay, Containing an Account of its Discovery and Settlement, the Progress of it, and the present State; of the Indians, Trade, and everything else relating to it: Being the last chapter of volume I of The British Empire in America, by John Oldmixon (London, 1708),” in Documents relating to the early history of Hudson Bay, ed.  J. B. Tyrrell (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1931), 375, observed of the name Hudson Strait “We know ‘tis pretended, that a Dane made the Discovery of this Streight, and that he call’d it Christiana, from the King of Denmark [sic].”

[6] William Coats, The Geography of Hudson’s Bay: being the remarks of Captain W. Coats, in many voyages to that locality, between the years 1727 and 1751, ed. John Barrow (London: Hakluyt Society, 1852), 13, 16. See also A.H. Markham, “Hudson’s Bay and Hudson’s Strait as a Navigable Channel,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, new monthly ser., 10, no. 9 (September 1888): 552. Ledingham, “Nascopie in Hudson Bay,” 9, who was chief engineer of the Nascopie, numbers the Button Islands at “some twenty-two,” and states “[t]o try to get through the Grey Straits between the Buttons and Cape Chidley when it is packed with ice is simply courting disaster, as the tides are very strong and may carry the ships too close to the rocks to be comfortable.” George Binney, “Hudson Bay in 1928,” The Geographical Journal 74, no. 1 (July 1929): 2, notes that by 1928, HBC ships arrived from Montreal rather than England. These sometimes entered the Strait by way of Grey Strait, but never if the ice was “formidable.” He notes as well that “under no circumstances whatsoever should a vessel attempt the passage into Hudson Strait between Resolution Island and Baffin Island; in this strait (the Gabriel Strait) the current and tides are exceptionally strong.”

[7] See William Llewelyn Davies, “Mansell, Sir  Robert,” Dictionary of Welsh Biography, Welsh Biography Online <; (accessed 3 December 2008). The island appears to have been named, by mariner Sir Thomas Button, for fellow mariner Sir Robert Mansel, appointed vice-admiral of England in 1618; see also James Oldham, “Murray, William, first earl of Mansfield,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessed 3 December 2008). The HBC London Committee changed the name to honour William Murray, fourth son of the 5th Viscount Stormont who became Earl of Mansfield in 1776, after a series of accomplishments, including delivering an “eloquent” speech in 1737 to the House of Commons in support of a merchants’ petition to stop Spanish assaults on their ships, and an appointment as chief justice of the King’s Bench in 1756 where he contributed to the development of English commercial law. Maps carry the name Mansel into the present, though locally the island is known as Pujjunaq. See Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World (New York: Harper Perennial, 2005), 76, 128, 138, the name Walsingham would be a reference to Francis Walsingham, a member the royal council of Elizabeth I. Aggressively anti-Spanish, he championed England’s potential as an expansive maritime power, encouraging seaborne exploration and colonization. Arthur S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870–71, Being a History of Rupert’s Land (The Hudson’s Bay Company Territory) and of the North-West Territory (Including the Pacific Slope) (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1939), 27, explains Wolstenholme refers to Sir John Wolstenholme of the Muscovy Company, financers of Hudson in 1610.

[8] Coats, Geography, 13, 30; see also E. Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson’s Bay in His Majesty’s Ship Rosamond, containing some account of the north eastern coast of America and of the tribes inhabiting that remote region (J. Mawman, 1817), 40–41, 48, 68; and LAC, Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk Fonds, Microfilm A.27, Selkirk Papers, vol. I, Miles Macdonell, letter to Lord Selkirk, York Factory, 1 Oct 1811, Microfilm (Canadian Library Association Ottawa, 1950), 46–47; William P. Anderson, “The Hudson Bay Expedition of 1884,” Science 5, no. 110 (13 March 1885): 214; Robert Bell, “A Survey in Baffinland, with a Short Description of the Country,” The Geographical Journal 18, no. 1 (July 1901): 29–30; and William Barr, “The Eighteenth Century Trade between Ships of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Hudson Strait Inuit,” Arctic 47, no 3 (September 1994): 236, describe the direction of current flow; Nicolas Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 1694–1714: Jérémie’s account of Hudson Strait and Bay: Translated from the French of 1720, ed. Robert Douglas and James Nevin Wallace (Ottawa: Thorburn & Abbott, 1926), 15, a French seafarer and commander, who once travelled aboard a HBC ship, Jérémie described the strait as “a hundred and twenty leagues long, and sixteen or eighteen wide”; Robert Bell, quoted in, Ernest J. Chambers, ed., evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland: A Glimpse of the Enormous Resources of Part of the Unexplored Regions of the Dominion, Evidence heard before a Select Committee of the Senate of Canada during the Parliamentary Session of 1906–7, and the Report based thereon (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1907), 118, testified “Roughly speaking, Hudson strait is 500 statute miles in length and between Nottingham island and Cape Wolstenholme is probably 30 or 40 miles across”; see also Markham, “Hudson’s Bay and Hudson’s Strait,” 550; Binney, “Hudson Bay in 1928,” 4; John A. Cormie, “The Hudson Bay Route,” Geographical Review 4, no. 1 (July 1917): 32, puts the length at 450 miles and the width from 50 to 200 miles. A.H. de Trémaudan, The Hudson Bay Road (14981915) (Toronto: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1915), 50–52, supplies a succinct description of the strait; see also Donat Pharand, The Northwest Passage: Arctic Straits (Dordrech: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984), 18.

[9] Coats, Geography, 13, 16, 30; see also Albert P. Low, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 112; F.C. Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey of the Hudson Bay Route,” The Geographical Journal 87, no. 2. (February 1936), 127, 133, 134, 136; Anderson, “Hudson-Bay Expedition,” 213–15; and William Wales, “Journal of a Voyage, made by order of the Royal Society, to Churchill River, on the North-west Coast of Hudson’s Bay; of Thirteen Months Residence in that Country; and of the Voyage Back to England; in the Years 1768 and 1769,” Philosophical Transactions (1683–1775), 60. (1770): 107, who notes “The northern shore of these Straits, as it is usually called, is one continued chain of small islands; which form almost an infinite number of little bays, and inlets … The rocks which form the shores, are very high; and in most places almost perpendicular … The water is very deep close to the shore, in most places 60 or 70, and in several 120 fathoms, and upwards.” Bell, “Survey in Baffinland,” 34, 39–40 explored some of the inlets in 1897 and found the strait “well supplied with good harbours.” He also remarked “Near the shore the difficulties incident to the great rise and fall of the water are increased by the velocity and uncertainty generated by the high tides.”

[10] Markham, “Hudson’s Bay and Hudson’s Strait,” 550.

[11] Coats, Geography, 30; Bell, “Survey in Baffinland,” 32. See Charles Gimpel, “Ports of Call,” photograph, The Beaver 39, no. 1 (summer 1959): 41, for a shipboard view of shoreline of Hudson Strait near Sugluk.

[12] William Edward Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage for the Discovery of a North-West Passage From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Performed in the Years 1821–22–23, In His Majesty’s Ships Fury and Hecla … (New York: E. Duyckinck, G. Long, Collins & Co., Collins & Hannay, W.B. Gilley, and Henry I. Megarey, 1824), 4, 6. See also Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 15; Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 49–50; and David Herd, quoted in Great Britain, Parliament, House of Commons, Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company, Report from the Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence, appendix and index (London: HMSO, 1858), 256, 258, for similar remarks on the “unfavourable” appearance of the country.

[13] Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey,” 136.

[14] Bell, “Survey in Baffinland,” 29; also Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey,” 136; Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 118; and Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 107.

[15] Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 119. See, for comments on the behaviour of compasses, Anderson, “Hudson-Bay Expedition,” 214; and William Ashe, interview [3 November 1885], “The Hudson Strait. Some of the Difficulties in the Way of Regular Navigation,” The New York Times (4 November 1885), 1; A.R. Gordon, “Report of the Hudson’s Bay Expedition, under the command of Lieut. A.R. Gordon, R.N., 1884,” Canadian Government Sessional Papers 18, no. 6 (Ottawa: 1885): 9–10; also Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 113.

[16] Goulding Smith, “Canadian Hydrographical Survey,” 136. See also Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 53, also 54, 31. He notes that, aside from the islands, the next land to the westward of Lower Savage was “called Terra Nivea; owing to it having some mountains, about thirty miles from the sea, entirely covered with snow.” Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 13.

[17] See, “Expedition to Hudson Bay and Northward,” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society 37, no. 7 (1905): 409. Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 11; see also Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 54, 55, 119, who supplies an illustration; Robert Hood, To the Arctic by Canoe, 1819–1821: The Journal and Paintings of Robert Hood, midshipman with Franklin, ed. C. Stuart Houston (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), 13 n.15. R. Glover, “La Pérouse on Hudson Bay,” The Beaver 30, no. 4 (March 1951): 45, reports a “Lasblack Island” that may be Saddleback Island; see also Ian Chadwick, “Henry Hudson’s Fourth Voyage 1610: The Northwest Passage,” (accessed 25 February 2008); “Lost And Found in Hudson Bay; Shipwrecked on a Barren Reef, Sir Wm. Mackenzie’s Expedition Has Rediscovered Islands,” New York Times, magazine section (14 March 1915): SM14, indicates confusion arises because the location of Hudson’s isle was ‘forgotten’ after 1662 when it no longer appeared on maps. Robert Flaherty, who ‘found’ the islands in 1814, placed them in Hudson Bay, off the East Main. Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey,” 133, 134, says of the Middle Savage Islands, “At the western end of this group is Henry Hudson’s ‘Isle of God’s Mercie [sic],’ described by Hudson and Pricket in ‘Purchas His Pilgrims.’ From these quaint references we had no difficulty in identifying the place. The average mariner would consider it a most unmerciful place.” See also Coats, Geography, 16; Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 111.


[18] Thomas M’Keevor, A Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, during the Summer of 1812: Containing a particular account of the icebergs and other phenomena which present themselves in those regions: also, a description of the Esquimeaux and North American Indians, their manners, customs, dress, language, &c. &c. &c. (London : Printed for Sir Richard Phillips and Co., 1819), 28, designates as Upper Savage Island what might be High Bluff Island; see Bell, map, “Survey in Baffinland,” 46, who shows two ‘North Bays,’ the one on Baffin Island’s south shore, the other on nearby Big Island. Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 111.  Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 117–18, remarks two landmark hills, two leagues to the west of Saddleback, known as ‘Virgin Paps.’ Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 14, and 14 n., appears to include Big Island in the Upper Savage group. He credits Baffin with naming the islands in 1615.

[19] Coats, Geography, 16, also 31. See also Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 16; Bell, map, “Survey in Baffinland,” 46, also 26, puts North Bluff at Ashe Inlet, Big Island, “which stands boldly out from the mainland.” Isaac Cowie, The Company of Adventurers: A Narrative of Seven Years in the Service of the Hudson’s Bay Company during 1867–1874, On the Great Buffalo Plains with Historical and Biographical notes and comment (Toronto: William Briggs, 1913), 90, adds to confusion about which landmarks defined position, remarking on being between the North Bluff and Prince of Wales Land – perhaps Cape Prince of Wales. See also Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey,” 132; Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 119, refers to “Point Look-Out” – perhaps the bluff.

[20] Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 14; see also “The New Route from England to Eastern Asia, and the Hudson Bay Route,” Science 10, no. 231 (July 1887), 15, 17. Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 90; Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 119, testified, “There is one island, Charles island, with one hundred miles or more to the north of it in which to choose your course. You need not go near that island. A stranger by keeping clear of what he sees would not be in any danger of striking rocks.” A.P. Low, “Geographical Work of the Geological Survey of Canada, 19001905,” The Geographical Journal 28, no. 3 (September 1906): 279, found some of the hazards marked on charts, such as Griper Shoal, to be “non-existent.”

[21] Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 118.

[22] Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 91; and Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey,” 139.

[23] Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 91. See also James Wallace, “An Abstract of a Book, viz. An Account of the Islands of Orkney. By James Wallace, M.D. and Fellow of the Royal Society. To Which is Added, an Essay concerning the Thule of the Ancients, 80. London,” Philosophical Transactions (16831775), 22 (1700–1701): 543–44, whose description of the landscape of Orkney is similar to descriptions of the Strait. See, photo, F.C. Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey of the Hudson Bay Route,” The Geographical Journal 87, no. 2 (February 1936), 139 [U13], for a view of the coast of Hudson Strait near Cape Wolstenholme.

[24] Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 18, designated it “Assumption cape,” adding “I do not give any particulars about it, as no one ever goes near enough to learn anything about its characteristics.”

[25] “The Voyage of the ‘Neptune’ in Northern Canadian Waters,” The Geographical Journal 26, no. 3 (September 1905), 319.

[26] S.J. Stewart, “Coats Island,” The Beaver 15, no. 3 (December 1935): 40, observes “Cape Pembroke is a bold headland with perpendicular cliffs about five hundred feet high … The land immediately behind the cliffs is anything from nine hundred to twelve hundred feet in height and is an excellent landmark seen many miles out to sea”; Coats, Geography, 31.

[27] Coats, Geography, 31.

[28] Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 118.

[29] Coats, Geography, 31.

[30] Bell, “Survey in Baffinland,” 30. See also Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 98; Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 15; William Campbell Steere, “Bryophyta of Arctic America. II,” American Midland Naturalist 21, no. 2 (March 1939), 355–56.

[31] Ibid. See also Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 102; and Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 36.

[32] Coats, Geography, 31.

[33] Bell, “Survey in Baffinland,” 40–41. See “Notes from the National Museum of Canada,” Science, n.s., 72, no. 1854 (11 July 1930): 40–41; also Steere, “Bryophyta of Arctic America,” 355–67; and Augustus Petermann, “Notes on the Distribution of Animals Available as Food in the Arctic Regions,” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 22 (1852): 119. Stewart, “Coats Island,” spent a year living on the island in 1918, and reported seeing “Tinkers (little auks) … in their thousands.”

[34] See, Reynold Bray, “Notes on the Birds of Southampton Island, Baffin Island and Melville Peninsula,” ed. T.H. Manning, The Auk 60, no. 4 (October 1943): 504–36; and Jonathan Dwight, “The Status of ‘Larus thayeri, Thayer’s Gull’,” The Auk 34, no. 4 (October 1917): 413–14. Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 41, mentions Boatswains/Tropic Birds flying overhead “day and night,” noting they were numerous in the tropics and some had “long feathers, like spikes, projecting from their tails.”

[35] See Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, “Anciennes cartes géographiques,” Thomas James, map, 1633, Trouvailles, Exploration de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (accessed 13 March 2009). Coats, Geography, 28, at one point writes “Carieswansnest.” Cartographers have represented the island variously. John Hogson, “Rivers and Lakes West and South of Hudson’s and James’s Bay to Lake Superior and Lake Winnipeg (1791),” plate 15, in Richard I. Ruggles, A Country So Interesting: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Two Centuries of Mapping 16701870 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991), 139, shows only a cape, designated “Cary Swans Ness,” [sic] off a larger, unnamed land mass – Southampton Island. See: Thomas Robson, “Cary,” British Herald or Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, From the Earliest to the Present Time … Collected and Arranged in Three Volumes, vol. I (Sunderland UK: Turner & Marwood, 1830); and Joan Corder, “A swan Argent wings endorsed beaked and legged Sable. Carey,” and “A swan Argent wings indorsed. “Carey, Earl of Monmouth, of Stowmarket, Woodbridge, Halesworth,” A Dictionary of Suffolk Crests: Heraldic Crests of Suffolk Families (Woolbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 1998), 143.  See, “Heraldic Dictionary,” University of Notre Dame, Digital Projects (accessed 26 February 2008), for an image similar to a ‘Swan’ rising, with “wings elevated & addorsed.” The heraldic symbol, though more swan-like than not, is customarily referred to as a “pelican-in-her-piety.” “Scientific & Medical Catalogue,” West Sea Company (accessed 21 March 2008), lists Cary family members, of London, as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century makers of marine surveying instruments – from spy glasses to thermometers.

[36] Samuel Hearne, A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson’s Bay to the Northern Ocean 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 By Samuel Hearne, ed. Richard Glover (1958; reprint Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1972), 280.

[37] See Stewart, “Coats Island,” 39. Alexander Wilson, Charles Lucian Bonaparte, Robert Jameson, George Ord, William Maxwell Hetherington, American Ornithology: Or the Natural History of the Birds, The American Orthinology, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: Constable & Co., 1831), 345, notes “This is the most common swan in the interior of the fur countries … It is to the trumpeter the bulk of the swan skins imported by the Hudson’s Bay Company belong”; see also “Swans,” Littell’s Living Age 180, no 2324 (Januuary 1889): 104. P. L. Simmonds, “Swan-skin,”A Dictionary of Trade Products, Commercial, Manufacturing, and Technical Terms: With a Definition of the Moneys, Weights, and Measures, of All Countries, reduced to the British Standard (London: G. Routledge & Co., 1858), 368, estimates 2,500 skins shipped by the Company per year. Lyn Harrington, “Triumph of the Trumpeter,” The Beaver 35, no. 3 (winter 1955): 18, reports 5,072 skins at the annual HBC auction in 1828. See, for an example of ornithological evaluation, B. H. Swales and P. A. Taverner, “Recent Ornithological Developments in Southeastern Michigan,” The Auk 24, no. 2 (April 1907): 135, 139, on “extinction” of the swan as a feature of change – meaning ‘progress.’ Bray, “Notes on the Birds of Southampton Island,” 509, notes “Among the natives from Repulse Bay to Cockburn Land, Southampton Island is renowned for its swans and geese.”; “Bird Fact Sheets: Trumpeter Swan,” Hinterland Who’s Who (accessed 27 February 2008), notes, however, that “in 1933 there were only 77 Trumpeters breeding in Canada and 50 breeding in the United States.”

[38] Bell, “Survey in Baffinland,” 40–41.

[39] Herd, quoted in Report from the Select Committee (1858), 255. See Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 53, who reports seals “leaping about in all directions”; Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part I, 22, reports frequent “parties of seals” and the “occasional walrus”; W. Gillies Ross, “Distribution, Migration, and depletion of Bowhead Whales in Hudson Bay, 1860 to 1915,” Arctic and Alpine Research 6, no. 1 (winter 1974): 87, states “Whalers … rarely sighted whales in Hudson Strait.”

[40] Cowie, Company of Adventures, 89. Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 131, reports shooting at a whale merely to see its response. Williams, “Last Voyage of the Stork,” 45, reports that while crewmen filled water casks, “two polar bears were killed by the officers.”

[41] “Expedition to Hudson Bay and Northward,” Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, 409. Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 17, reported numerous walrus at “a big island which we call Phelipeaux,” apparently the French name for Mansfield/Mansel Island. Stewart, “Coats Island,” 39, reported plentiful walrus on Coats Island, along with caribou. He described it as “a wonderful place for bears,” and alleged killing seven the instant he arrived.

[42] See for example, J. Birbeck Nevins, A narrative of two voyages to Hudson’s Bay: with traditions of the North American Indians (London: Printed for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1847), 7; M’Keevor, Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, 23–25, describes the killing of a bear and capture of two cubs, supplies a sketch, and retells another hunt story; Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 12829; Letitia Hargrave, The Letters of Letitia Hargrave, ed. Margaret Arnett MacLeod (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1947), 67; and HBCA, E.12/5-7, “My Notebook,” Isobel  G[raham] Finlayson Journal, 1840, 39, remarks on the difference between a bear and a zoo animal seen previously. See also D.W. Moodie and Barry Kaye, “Taming and Domesticating the Native Animals of Rupert’s Land,” The Beaver 56, no. 3 (winter 1976): 14, who include a photo of “Buddy,” a cub aboard the Nascopie; also Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part I, 22; cover, “Nan-Nook, King of the North, The Beaver 3, no. 6 (March 1923); and LAC, item no. PA-183251, “Polar Bear Shot by Robert Bell, 1882,” photograph, Robert Bell.

[43] See, for example, HBCA, C.1/1022, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1752, 1 August; C.1/1023, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1753, 25 June; C.1/1024, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1754, [July] 9; C.1/417, Ship’s Log, King George, 1806, 10 July; also Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 4; and Hargrave, Letters, 50, for references to fishing from the ship.

[44] See Select Committee on the Hudson’s Bay Company, Report from the Select Committee, (1858), 257, 258; Gordon, in “Report of the Hudson’s Bay Expedition,” 13, 14; and Chambers, ed., Canada’s Fertile Northland, 1–4, who asserts there are valuable resources to be exploited, Low, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 14–15, and Wakeham, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 130, describe fishery potential; see also A.R.M Lower, “By River to Albany,” The Beaver 24, no. 1 (June 1944): 16–19, on government interest in resources, 1914. Philip Goldring, “Inuit Economic Responses to Euro-American Contacts: Southeast Baffin Island, 1824–1940,” Historical Papers/Communications Historiques (1986), 148, notes that “commercial fisheries began off Baffin Island in 1920.”

[45] HBCA C.1/1029, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1759, 22 July; C.1/417 and C.1/418, Ship’s Log, King George, 1806, 10 July; also Anderson, “The Hudson-Bay Expedition,” 215; and Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 90–91. See also W. Gillies Ross, Table 3, “The Annual Catch of Greenland (Bowhead) Whales in Waters North of Canada 17191915: A Preliminary Compilation,” Arctic 32, no. 2 (June 1979): 100–6. Ross, “Distribution, Migration, and Depletion of Bowhead Whales,” 87, reports twenty-two whalers in the strait between 1860 and 1900.

[46] Ross, “Distribution, Migration, and Depletion of Bowhead Whales,” 87, notes that forty-seven HBC logbooks “record trade along the north shore of Hudson Strait from 1810 to 1870.” Barr, “Eighteenth Century Trade,” 239, comments on the briefness of the descriptions of meetings.

[47] HBCA , A.6/6. fo. 24d, Official General Outward Correspondence, 1737–1741.

[48] Hargrave, Letters, xxxvi, 65; F.F. Payne, Eskimo of Hudson Strait (Toronto: Canadian Institute, 1889), 1; Parry, Journal of a Second Voyage, 11–13; M’Keevor, Voyage to Hudson Bay, 29–43; Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 55–68, 70–117, 125; HBCA, E.12/5-7, Finlayson, “Notebook,” 42, 51, 58, supplies a sketch; Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 16–17; Glover, “La Pérouse on Hudson Bay,” 45; Bell, “Survey in Baffinland,” 42, indicates population numbers were of interest by 1897 – estimating there were 170 people on Baffin Island’s south shore. See, Barr, “Eighteenth Century Trade,” 236–46, for a detailed discussion of the trade and encounters; and HBCA C.1/1021 Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1751, p. 19; C.1/1022, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1752, 10 July, p. 23; C.1/1029, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1759, 27 July, for specific examples. Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 90, expressed disappointment at not meeting the “Esquimaux,” the crew had led him to expect.

[49] W. Parker Snow, “Voyage in Search of Sir John Franklin,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 2, no. 11 (April 1851): 589. Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 23, notes “Perhaps it is deserving notice, that, since our departure from Orkney, we never had a night so dark as not to be able to read and write”; see also Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part I, 23.

[50] Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 119. See also Wallace, “Abstract of a Book,” 544, who notes of the Orkneys that, “the Country lies about 59 degrees, and 2 minutes Northern Lat. … so that the longest day is above 18 hours. At Midnight it is so clear for a great part of June, that one may read a letter at his Chamber Window.”

[51] See Joseph Dymond and William Wales, “Observations on the State of the Air, Winds, Weather, &c. Made at Prince of Wales’s Fort, on the North-West Coast of Hudson’s Bay, in the Years 1768 and 1769, by Joseph Dymond and William Wales,” Philosophical Transactions (1683–1775) 60 (1770): 138; M’Keevor, Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, 72; Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 27–28, 37, 136–38, appears to have travelled during an active year. He reported a faint display in the Atlantic off Orkney, a “most brilliant display” further west, and within the strait, one display bright enough to be seen through fog. He then noted that “our nights constantly illuminated by the most vivid and brilliant coruscations” from that point on; see also Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part I, 23.

[52] Christopher Middleton, “The Effects of Cold; Together with Observations of the Longitude, Latitude, and Declination of the Magnetic Needle, at Prince of Wales’s Fort, upon Churchill-River in Hudson’s Bay, North America; By Captain Christopher Middleton, F.R.S. Commander of His Majesty’s Ship Furnace, 1741–2,” Philosophical Transactions (1683–1775) 42 (1742–1743): 162.

[53] Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 130.

[54] Bennie Bengston, “Aurora Borealis,” The Beaver 26, no. 2 (September 1946): 12.

[55] M’Keevor, Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, 5n.; Coats, Geography, 21.

[56] Parry, Journal of a second Voyage, xiv; M’Keevor, Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, 5n.; Wakeham, Report of the Expedition to Hudson Bay, 5–6; Graham Danton, The Theory and Practice of Seamanship 11th ed. (New York: Routledge, 1996), 112.

[57] M’Keevor, Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, 5n.; Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 91; H.L. Sawatzky and W.H. Lehn, “The Arctic Mirage and the Early North Atlantic,” Science, n.s., 192, no. 4246 (25 June 1976): 1303.

[58] Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 115–16.

[59] Ibid., 113–14; see also Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part I, 22, for similar observations on the problems of mirages and haze.

[60] Wales, “Journal of a Voyage,” 131.

[61] James, Strange and Dangerous Voyage, 14:8.

[62] John Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse: Hudson’s Bay Company Transport, 1670–1821,” Ph.D. diss. (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1978), 18. Cooke and Holland, Exploration, 142.

[63] Oliver Warner, “Voyaging to York Factory,” The Beaver 37, no. 3 (winter 1957): 23.

[64] Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 119.

[65] Ibid., Bell, “Baffinland,” 39; Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 88. R.M. Ballantyne, Hudson’s Bay, or, Every-day life in the wilds of North America during six years’ residence in the territories of the honourable Hudson’s Bay Company (Edinburgh : W. Blackwood, 1848), 16, 17–18; Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 127.

[66] Gordon, in “Report of the Hudson’s Bay Expedition,” 12, testified, “the highest mean of a day’s observations was 33.3, and the lowest 32.6.”

[67] Bell, “Baffinland,” 39.

[68] Warner, “Voyaging to York Factory,” 19, also 21.

[69] Herd, quoted in Report from the Select Committee (1858), 257. See also Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 89 also 87, 97, who reports that the Ocean Nymph also completed the passage in four days; Steele, English Atlantic, 87, notes Coats’ quick passage; H.M.S. Cotter, “Some Famous Hudson’s Bay Captains and Ships,” The Beaver 1, no. 7 (April 1921): 3; Ross, “Distribution, Migration, and Depletion of Bowhead Whales,” 87; Ballantyne, Hudson’s Bay, 13–15; Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 19; HBCA, E.12/5-7, Finlayson, “Notebook,” 39. A.J.W. Catchpole and Marcia-Anne Faurer, “Ships’ Log-Books, Sea Ice and the Cold Summer of 1816 in Hudson Bay and Its Approaches,” Arctic 38, no. 2 (June 1986): 125, find ice to be the “major determinant” of “factors determining annual variations in the duration of westward passages through Hudson Strait.”

[70] Herd, quoted in Report from the Select Committee (1858), 257. See also Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 15.

[71] Catchpole and Faurer, “Ships’ Log-Books,” 125.

[72] “New Route from England to Eastern Asia,” Science 10, no. 231 (July 1887): 15; Bell, “Baffinland,” 40. Joseph Robson [1752] quoted in Charles N. Bell, “Navigation of Hudson Bay and Straits,” MHS Transactions, 1st ser., no. 7 (Read 10 May 1883); Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 118–19. Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part I, 22, held a dissenting view, asserting that “the strait becomes frozen over at the end of October,” but that it was relatively “thin stuff.” Herd, quoted in Report from the Select Committee (1858), 258; Low, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 112, agrees.

[73] Coats, Geography, 19. See also Environment Canada, “Hudson Strait And Ungava Bay,” Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, Foxe Basin and James Bay, Environment Canada Sea Ice Overview (accessed 4 March 2008).

[74] Gordon, in “Report of the Hudson’s Bay Expedition,” 8; Cormie, “The Hudson Bay Route,” 32; see also Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 17, who reports the channel was known as “Assumption bay.”

[75] Gordon, in “Report of the Hudson’s Bay Expedition,” 8; “New Route from England to Eastern Asia,” 15, 17. See also Lendingham. “Nascopie in Hudson Bay,” 9. Herd, quoted in Report from the Select Committee (1858), 257–58, was apparently referring to the voyage of 1854.

[76] McCliesh, letter, Letters from Hudson Bay, 127; also Low, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 112; For extended arguments on the composition of ice and suppositions as to its formation see Middleton, in Coats, Geography, 137–39; and M’Keevor, Voyage to Hudson’s Bay, 5–25.

[77] Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 117: Low, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 112, contends “the ice that was in there after the middle of July until November almost would not harm an ordinary vessel.” See Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 130, who expresses surprise at the Admiralty for not better outfitting, or strengthening its ships.

[78] Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 119; HBCA, E.12/5-7, Finlayson, “Notebook,” 39; Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 89. Cooke and Holland, Exploration, 527, 215, report ‘bad’ ice conditions – causing delays, including wintering – in 1778, 1818, 181920, 1827, 1832, 183334 (one of Captain Bell’s crew died of scurvy while wintering), 1838, 188485, and 188586. They note as well that in 1859, the Kitty was wrecked on the homeward voyage “at the entrance to Hudson Strait … The chief mate, William Armstrong, and four sailors, reached the Labrador coast by boat, but the captain and ten men in a longboat were never seen again. The ship’s entire cargo was lost.” J.W. Nichols, “Shipwreck in the Hudson Straits,” The Beaver 25, no. 4 (March 1946): 17–19, describes a rough voyage in the strait, and another wreck in 1915. See, LAC, item no. PA-038220, “SS Diana lifted out of the ice off Big Island, Hudson Strait, 1897,” photograph, A.P. Low.

[79] Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 89. See Chappell, Narrative of a Voyage to Hudson Bay, 126. Coats, Geography, 13, observed “The tide rises nearly 30 feet on an ordinary spring tide all along the strait, but gradually decreases as you go westward”; Bell, “Baffinland,” 39, described the tides “being fully 30 feet at Big Island, and considerably more at the head of Ungava Bay; but at the [western?] entrance of Hudson Bay they become, all at once, very moderate”; Goulding Smith, “The Canadian Hydrographical Survey,” 135, observed the tide towards the eastern end of the strait rose “35 ½ feet in spring,” and ran at “upward of 5 knots.”

[80] C. Bell, “Navigation of Hudson Bay and Straits”; R. Bell, evidence, Canada’s Fertile Northland, 119.

[81] Cotter, “Some Famous Hudson’s Bay Captains and Ships,” 2. See Glyndwr Williams, “Coats, William,” DCB.

[82] See, HBCA, “Fowler, Jonathan Sr. (fl. 1751–1761)”, “Fowler, John”,  “Fowler, Jonathan Jr. (fl. 1756–1782)”,  “Hanwell, Henry Sr. (b. ca. 1750–d. 1826) (fl. 1766–1817)”, “Hanwell, Henry Jr. (d. ca. 1833) (fl. 1806–1833)”, and “Herd, David (b. ca. 1814–d. 1878) (fl. 1835–1878),” Biographical Sheets; Appendix A, this thesis; and Warner, “Voyaging to York Factory,” 20–22, notes that the HBC Secretary had written of David Herd “He has made 32 successful voyages to Hudsons Bay [sic], in 26 of which he was in command of ships. During that long period he has had no casualty worth speaking of, nor was there ever a claim made on the underwriters for losses sustained by vessel or cargo. His success has perhaps been unexampled in any service.”


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