Constructions of Hudson Bay

The following description highlights the ways in which mariners contributed to understandings of Hudson Bay as place; determined the physical placement of trade establishments within its space; and shaped the course of landward activity. If HBC vessels were vehicles of communication, then sailors were the active agents of communication between ship and shore: where sailors went within the Bay socio-economic changes followed.

Mansel Island marked their entrance to the “Great Open Sea,” visually as vast as the ‘high seas’ of the North Atlantic.[1] As an extension of those other seas, this was contested space. Whether or not seafarers were aware of any significance that ranged beyond affecting personal communication, in assigning a name to this or any other course of the ocean sea they were engaging in larger arguments over ownership reflective of collisions between a spate of contending aspirations over time. The name(s) by which seafarers knew the body of water that signalled the western terminus of HBC voyages was not a natural, neutral fact.[2] Depending on the year, cultural affiliation, and political position, sailors might know it as “la mer du Nord”, “Button’s Bay”, “mer de Hudson”, “Hudson’s Bay”, “la baie d’Hudson”, “Hudsonian Sea”, the “great American sea”, or “the Mediterranean of Canada.”[3] Seafarers with family ties to the region might also have known it by names along the lines of “Whapmagoostu”, “Igluligaarjuk,” or “kitchigamy,” in accord with local, Aboriginal custom and dialect.[4]

By whatever name passengers knew the last leg of the outward voyage that began off Mansel Island about 885 kilometres, or 550 miles, from a landward destination that was in turn “some three thousand miles [4,828 kilometres] to the nor-west of England,” doubtless they hoped it would be as smoothly and quickly accomplished as that described by Isaac Cowie.[5] Apparently, his passage of four days across Hudson Bay in 1867 was:

favored by gentle breezes, a smooth summer sea, and bright balmy weather to its end. The nights, too, were exquisitely lovely, the full moon blending her radiance with the silvery crests of the wavelets playing around, and blending her sheen with the phosphorescent, whirling wake left by the ship as an evanescent trace of her path across the deep.[6]

Authorities of travel to Hudson Bay such as Robert Bell, who had voyaged there with the Canadian Geological Survey in 1869, 1884–1885, and 1897, presented Cowie’s experience as the norm, contending:

storms in the Bay are very rare and by no means formidable, … icebergs are never seen, and that fogs, the most dreaded enemy with which a sailor has to contend, are of rare occurrence and of but short duration. The climate of the shores of Hudson’s Bay, during the summer months, is mild and genial.[7]

HBC sailors with broader experience, or less luck, likely recognized the possibility of a harsher reality. Bell’s contemporary, John Rae, for example, had learned about conditions on the Bay through serving as ship’s surgeon on the Prince of Wales [I] from 1834–1835, spending ten years at Moose Factory, and sailing in vessels such as the North Pole and Magnet, used on his coastal survey of 1846. Rae criticized Bell’s assessment, suggesting the Bay had “inherent problems” – including ice and fog.[8] After two decades of sailing and surveying, eighteenth-century captain William Coats had observed that the northern portion generally cleared of ice by late July due to “a draining current always to the southward.” He had cautioned, however, “winds sometimes produce a contrary effect.”[9] HBC records indicate crossings were likely to take at least a week or ten days if climate and hydrography combined to present any difficulties. Company mariner and governor James Knight reported that in 1714 it took about a month to find a way across, “for the easterly winds had set all the ice on the west main.”[10]

Hudson Bay was vast. At different times it was estimated to be anywhere from 321,869 to 1,222,610 square kilometres or 200,000 to 759,695 square miles. Winds, therefore, had a lot of open water over which to blow. The bay was also relatively shallow. Bell ascribed an average depth of seventy fathoms. Albert P. Low, after his survey of 1904–1905, concluded, “the depth of water varies from fifty to two hundred fathoms,” across the northern portion of the bay, outward from the western shore, and a later study reported a maximum depth of 256 meters, or 141 fathoms.[11] HBC ships’ logbooks show that the values of soundings taken to determine depth dropped progressively from twenty-five fathoms to five or six fathoms as ships drew closer to the shore. The depth of a body of water determines wave action: the speed of waves increases as seas become shallower, waves are also more closely spaced and they increase in height. Bay crossings therefore had the potential to be “troublesome.”[12]

Logbooks show that weather systems over the basin could change rapidly. Conditions might move from hazy with no ice, to “squally weather,” with “much ice” and “thick fog” within hours.[13] Equally quickly, squalls could become “Prodigious Hard” gales, bringing about “great swells” amidst thunder and lightening, so that vessels “shipped much water.”[14] Coats asserted that a North West wind would generate waves ranging from twelve to twenty feet in height, depending on location within the bay. Apprentice sailor Williams, aboard the Stork in 1908, emphasized, “What a dirty expanse of water it is in a gale!”[15]

Passenger Thomas M’Keevor attested to how harrowing crossing Hudson Bay could be. After three days of rain, sleet, and continuous squalls, the wind “blew a tremendous gale” and the Robert Taylor made land before expected: “In a few minutes all was hurry and confusion; the captain flew himself from one part of the deck to the other with the greatest alertness, to assist by his own exertions, when fear, or hurry, prevented the sailors from doing their duty.” Adding to M’Keevor’s alarm – one fuelled by “dread of being driven on a lee-shore,” and the sound of “howling wind among the rigging, the awful sound of the pumps” – were the cries of Selkirk Settler Mrs. M’Clain, who had gone into labour. M’Keevor reported “dreadful shouting” above deck, “every one in the greatest consternation and terror,” when “it appeared we had got in among shoals, and that we had now not more than four fathom water.”[16] The ship shortly made ten fathoms in which to cast anchor, the anchors held, and Mrs. M’Clain’s daughter was born without serious accident. M’Keevor’s relief is palpable in his account.

Other reports make it clear that at the very least, rough weather could disrupt HBC schedules. In 1682, John Nixon, governor at Albany River, wrote to alert the London Committee that chartered vessels with captains unfamiliar with severe conditions in the bay “prolonge their time in comeing to us, so that it being so late in the year, we have no tyme to transporte the goods, to the factories.”[17] He also expressed concern that the vessels were of too deep a draught to safely navigate the waters.

Neither Nixon’s concerns not M’Keevor’s fears were unwarranted. Disaster was not unknown – either by sinking, or by grounding and being “staved with beating upon the sands and filled full of water.”[18] Sailors sometimes drowned. Such was the fate of Zachary Gillam and nine hands aboard the Prince Rupert [I], lost in a storm in 1682.[19] Similarly, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville’s Pélican, and his prize the Hudson’s Bay [I] fared badly in a storm after a seaward battle in 1697. Some 290 men had already gone down with the HMS Hampshire in a “fflaw of Wind [sic],” when the Hudson’s Bay [I] was driven ashore and grounded. The Pélican followed and twenty-three more sailors drowned, though Iberville and a few of his crew survived.[20] Later and larger vessels were not immune. The SS Cearense succumbed to a storm in 1913.[21]

At Mansel Island, HBC ships broke convoy in order to sail to separate seaports located at the mouths of major “radial rivers” that emptied into greater Hudson Bay – including the ‘Bottom of the Bay,’ otherwise known as James Bay.[22] The fact that normally each HBC vessel travelled alone once into Hudson Bay augmented the danger of meeting with hazards and the importance of practicing caution.

The peculiar behaviour of compasses near Mansel Island illustrates how helpful familiarity with conditions specific to the bay could be. Different compasses gave different readings. Experienced sailors knew to distribute at least four compasses about the ship and that, if all pointed in different directions, an alteration of the course might bring them into alignment. If it did not, and visibility was poor, prudent pilots called a halt to all movement until they “could see land, and know by it how to steer.”[23]

Prudence was important, because without a consort nearby no ready rescue would be forthcoming. The distances between bayside ports and from London meant that the time it took to communicate the advent of arrival, or express concern over non-arrival, could range from days along the Northern Seaboard, to months and even years for news conveyed transatlantically.

Early HBC voyages outward from London took up to twelve weeks to complete. By the 1750s, HBC ships normally made their anchoring grounds in Hudson Bay in about eight weeks. In terms of expectation of duration for transoceanic voyages, even with the advent of steam, this time span remained the norm to 1920.[24]

In 1857, Captain David Herd remarked that on arriving at termini in Hudson Bay he was “very glad to get there.”[25] Presumably, most seafarers looked hopefully for land and an opportunity to disembark at one of the HBC establishments ashore. A salient point about HBC operations in Rupert’s Land is that the posts and factories stationed along the Northern Seaboard also marked ports, with harbours and roads – though of a different sort than those of London or Stromness.

The landward component of HBC business in the Bay was, at best, only one of three components that made up the communication relation between North America and England: the other two being the inshore organization at ‘home,’ and the HBC system of maritime transport. Arguably, maritime transport was the essential component: the means of affecting transoceanic relations between distant locations.

The needs of mariners and their vessels were determining factors in the arrangement of trade. They determined where communication would take place. As a matter of course, this decided what commodities were traded. If the North Atlantic route had led to a sea link with the Orient, conceivably the HBC would have transported items other than “knives, hatchets, awls and guns.”[26]

The use of sea borne transport also established the trade cycle. The time of year that goods arrived, in late July or August, and known locally as ‘ship time,’ marked the beginning of each trade year in Rupert’s Land.[27] The fiscal year, beginning on 1 June, terminating 31 May, and termed an ‘outfit,’ was likewise set according to the date ships were outfitted for the outward voyage.

Further, who would effect communication between the London Committee and the various people who arrived bayside, and those already ashore – as well as how individuals would effect such communication – was largely settled at the time the master of the voyage took charge of a vessel, completed the ship’s roster, and assigned berths.

Finally, the size of ocean going ships, specifically their draught, determined which landforms in the shallow bay seafarers could approach.[28] The actions of current, ebbs, and tides at river mouths cut channels that allowed ocean going ships the only reasonably navigable landward ingress.

There were a limited number of locations along the Northern Seaboard where ships could anchor safely to communicate with the shore and off- and on-load trade goods, people, and information. Seafarers – initially ships’ carpenters and crews –constructed landward facilities at these sites, to serve as shelters, defence positions, and to facilitate trade. Later, the HBC transported craftsmen and labourers to maintain those trading posts that proved most lucrative.

Histories of the various posts along the coast underscore the point that the names given these destinations signal contests that determined the course of their abstract construction as places – the names and types of  accommodation on land shifting, depending on who enjoyed occupation. These changes, though initially brought about by “frigates and fighting seamen,” who sometimes “forgot the flag that floated over,” were throughout regulated at the level of the state – albeit belatedly – in accord with diplomatic negotiation.[29]

To the twentieth century, on the West Main of Hudson Bay there were three widely spaced anchorages: Churchill Harbour, Port Nelson, and Severn River. The last was a secondary destination in that ships from London did not sail directly to the river, but anchored elsewhere first. Sloops stationed in the Bay transported goods to Severn that had been off-loaded from ships anchored at distant ports, or from those that paused in the roads off the river’s mouth while voyaging to the Bottom of the Bay. Although beginning in the latter half of the nineteenth century the HBC also serviced seaports such as Wager Bay and Chesterfield Inlet with some regularity, for the most part coastal vessels made those deliveries. Beginning in 1911, the SS Pelican, an ocean-going steamer, visited harbours previously considered remote. Vessels such as the Beothic and SS Nascopie maintained the practice. These vessels extended a North American coastal circuit, however, ranging from the St. Lawrence, to Newfoundland, and along the Labrador coast – they did not arrive directly from England.[30]

For ships sent directly from London, the northernmost destination was in a harbour at the mouth of a river designated the Churchill by the HBC but that, depending on cultural affiliation, people of the area might call “Manato-e-sepe” meaning ‘a sea-like river,’ or Misinipiy, meaning ‘a great stretch of water.’[31] The entrance to the harbour was from a third to a half of a mile wide and from seven to ten fathoms deep, with steep, rocky sides through which a “most violent” ebb and tide flowed.[32] The harbour itself was about five miles across. For three miles along its length, there was “water for any ship.”[33] Farther up, however, the river was “full of sholds [sic],” and a fall of water effectively terminated navigation “to any other than very small boats and canoes.”[34] The Company sent Captain James Young and crew aboard the Hopewell to build a post on the harbour’s shore in 1689. Henry Kelsey – sailor, former ship’s boy, and future governor – was among the group. Only weeks after completion, the building burned to the ground.[35] In 1717, Knight – former shipwright, and London Committee member, but current captain and factor – along with the complement of the hoy Success, helped to establish a more permanent occupation beside the harbour at the river’s mouth. Prior to his death circa 1719 as a shipwrecked mariner of nearly eighty years of age on Marble Island, Knight had informed the HBC London Committee that the fire of 1689 had been deliberate, alleging Young’s crew had “sett it a fire to Run away by the light of it [sic].”[36] Although Churchill had the best deep water port in the bay, by Knight’s assessment, ashore was “a Miserable Poor place of it”: treeless rock surrounded by muskeg and infested with mosquitoes.[37] Nevertheless, he completed a post, with a wharf, wintering facilities for coastal sloops and whaling boats, as well as quarters suitable for a sloop master and sailors assigned to the post. The HBC had previously designated the site Churchill River and Churchill Factory, but the 1719 establishment became Prince of Wales’ Fort in official parlance.[38]

In 1730, the London Committee accepted a plan for a stone fortification at Churchill drawn up by one of their captains, Christopher Middleton, and later modified by another, George Spurrell. Two other HBC mariners, described as somewhat controversial in Western Canadian historiography, became chief factors of Prince of Wales’. The one was Moses Norton. After an apprenticeship on HBC Atlantic crossings between his home at Churchill and the port of London, Norton had served as slooper and whaler at the fort.[39] The other was Samuel Hearne, servant in the Royal Navy at eleven years old, he also became a slooper at Churchill, and participated in the whale fishery as mate aboard the brigantine Charlotte. He was also one of Norton’s successors and his daughter Mary’s apparent suitor. In 1782, “without firing a shot,” Hearne surrendered, to Jean-François Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse, the massive stone fort that Richard Norton, Moses’ father – likewise a seafarer – had begun building fifty years earlier.[40] Although the HBC regained possession in 1783, the fort was in poor condition and the post at Churchill went into prolonged stasis as a centre of business. The “dilapidated hamlet” was eclipsed by York Factory, “the most respectable place in the Territory,” at Port Nelson.[41]

In contrast to Churchill’s establishment ashore, the harbour remained respectably active overall, although its greatest achievement as the Port of Churchill falls outside the temporal bounds of this thesis. For the sixty-five years between 1717 and 1782, some seventy HBC ships had sailed directly to Churchill from London, twenty-two of which then went on to Port Nelson. An additional four ships arrived from London after first having anchored at Port Nelson. For the twenty-nine years from 1783 to 1812, fully twenty-nine transatlantic ships arrived, all but seven continuing on to Port Nelson. Thus, the intensity of the harbour’s use remained relatively stable to that point in time. The change in 1813 that carried through to 1875 was dramatic. For sixty-two years, the harbour did not receive any of the HBC’s transatlantic ships, only coastal vessels.[42] Perhaps not coincidently, 1813–1875 was a period of heightened communication between distant centres in England, Canada and the Pacific slope, and Red River Settlement/ Assiniboia/Winnipeg. Unlike York, Churchill River did not have a convenient link to the burgeoning community at ‘The Forks’ of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers via inland waterway. Certainly, by 1876, when the HBC was free of responsibility for governing, or of affecting a transition out of that capacity in the North West of Canada, Company ships again accessed Churchill harbour. Afterward, the pattern of the ships’ voyaging varied more frequently however. From 1876 to 1881, there were direct arrivals and departures annually from and to London. In 1882 and 1883 the London ships stopped at Port Nelson first, and in 1884 and 1885 they went on to Nelson from Churchill. The Cam Owen of 1886 was detailed to do the same, but was wrecked off Churchill harbour. For the years 1887 to 1891, the London ships bound for Churchill again stopped first at Port Nelson. From 1892, the HBC serviced Churchill by way of steamer, as part of an extended coastal circuit supplied out of Montreal.[43]

A collapse of transoceanic activity in Churchill harbour threatened as early as 1881. In promoting the Canadian Pacific Railway, the central Canadian government invoked the policy of ‘Disallowance,’ refusing to support any of Premier John Norquay’s proposed railways in Manitoba, let alone a Northern terminus for shipping Western Canadian grain through Hudson Bay. Subsequent objections and delays on the part of the federal government to 1891 saw the dissolution of the Winnipeg and Hudson’s Bay Railway and Steamship Company, which had considered Churchill as a terminus. A twelve-year collapse of Churchill was assured by 1912, when obstructions set up by the federal government were lifted, but central Canadian experts and politicians had arrived at the controversial decision to bypass developing an international port at Churchill and instead backed construction at Port Nelson – albeit ineffectually. When that decision was overturned, beginning 1929, Churchill harbour’s fortunes revived ‘almost overnight.’[44]

Port Nelson was situated approximately 225 kilometres, or 139 miles south of Churchill, in the dual estuary of the Nelson and Hayes Rivers. Thomas Button, in command of two ships sent by the North West Company and the Prince of Wales in 1612, had named the seaward area after the master of the Resolution, who had died there while wintering. In 1619, Captain Jens Munck of the Enhiörningen named the area’s territory ashore New Denmark, and in 1631, Captain Luke Foxe of the Charles named it New Wales. Subsequently the HBC applied the term Port Nelson to both the roads off the rivers and the low-lying, narrow peninsula between the two river mouths. The area has a convoluted history of possession. Rivalries between freebooting seafarers of shifting alliances complicated the European imperialist rivalry between the maritime powers, England and France.[45]

In 1670 and 1682, the HBC attempted to establish a major post to service the area of Port Nelson, both times unsuccessfully. The first bid lasted only as long as it took the governor-in-waiting and erstwhile navigator, Charles Bayly, to nail “the Kings Armes in Brasse on a Small Tree [sic],” and Pierre-Esprit Radisson, detailed as chief trader, to determine that no one bearing any furs was likely to appear. The crew of the Wivenhoe and Company passengers then left for the Bottom of the Bay to winter with their consort, the Prince Rupert – Captain Robert Newland, his chief mate James Titherley, and another member of the crew having died, possibly from scurvy.[46]

Details of the second attempt, including the timeline and exact location of events in the area, are unclear due to conflicting accounts in rival testimonies. Apparently, one or the other of the two rivers was known locally as Kakiakioway by 1682.[47] That year, the HBC tasked Zachary Gillam and the ship’s complement aboard the Prince Rupert [I], with re-establishing a post ashore at Port Nelson. Surreptitiously, Gillam’s son Captain Benjamin Gillam and crew also arrived – on the Bachelor’s Delight from Boston – intent on setting up a competing trading concern in the same locale. To complicate matters further, past HBC associate Radisson, along with Jean Baptiste Chouart Des Groseilliers, who was Radisson’s nephew and the son of his former partner in trade, arrived as well. Together with the crews of the St. Pierre and Ste. Anne [I], they represented an equally ambitious concern out of New France. A fourth group had set out from Dartmouth in the Expectation with similar intent. Their captain was Richard Lucas, who had been mate of the HBC charter vessel, Prudent Mary, when it was lost two years earlier. He had three other disaffected HBC personnel aboard, including a former London Committee member, Thomas Phipps, whose cousin of the same name was in charge of the warehouse at Moose. The sortie did not arrive in Hudson Bay that year however, having aborted the voyage almost before it began.[48]

At Port Nelson, after a series of encounters involving intrigue, firearms, and fatalities, the French contingent prevailed. They captured the New England and HBC ships, crew members, and assets on land. They laid claim to the Kakiakioway district for the Compagnie de la Baie du Nord, and occupied the Bostonian establishment, which they renamed Fort Bourbon. The wealth and prestige gained through enterprise that the seafaring interlopers had sought did not materialize in either New or Old France, however. Radisson, Des Groseilliers et al lost out to the higher level “politico-religious intrigues of late seventeenth-century Europe,” and the HBC charter held.[49] Radisson, taking the mercenary course, sailed under an English flag, and, without opposition from the party he had left holding the fort, restored Port Nelson/Fort Bourbon to the HBC in 1684. John Abraham, captain of the George out to Port Nelson from London and commissioned governor, saw York Factory constructed on the site. Henceforth Kakiakioway became synonymous with the Hayes River.[50]

York changed hands again in 1694, when Iberville, “first and foremost a sailor,” in command of a man-of-war and a frigate, recaptured it for the French.[51] It became English in 1696 with the help of the men-of-war Bonaventure and Seaford lent by the Royal Navy, only to fall to Iberville with three men-of-war and an armed ship the following year in the “great sea battle,” alluded to previously.[52] The establishment on land remained Fort Bourbon until the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, when again distant diplomacy saw the HBC recover their monopoly status. While Bourbon officially reverted to York in 1714, people of the area continued to use the place name Kihciwaskahihan, meaning ‘the great house.’[53]

By the time of transfer, according to Coats, mariners usually accessed the fort by sailing to the “Port Nelson Shoalds [sic],” after which,

in crossing a spit which shoots from them, with a S.S.E. course, you come into seven fatham and hard ground, and so into fifteen fatham soft; and so continue that course from fifteen fatham soft, untill you gradually sholding into seven fatham hard, there you come to anchor and wate the tide, to go over the flatt to Hay’s River [sic].[54]

Arriving ships dropped anchors at Five Fathom Hole, “a bason three quarters of a mile in diameter [sic],” which lay on the other side of the ‘flatt.’[55] Although eventually HBC personnel routinely travelled from London to York, which by 1810 was the principal centre and busiest entrepot of the Northern Department, safe arrival had not always been a forgone conclusion. The factory itself was hardly visible from Five Fathom Hole much less from further out to sea, nor was the river’s mouth readily apparent from sea. Pilots found the destination by virtue of familiarity with the voyage, through recognizing the pattern of regularly taken soundings “day or night,” and, to a very limited extent, by observing the topography of the shoreline.[56] In contrast to the northeastern shore of the bay and those along Hudson Strait, the western shore was part of an extensive lowlands. The West Main, seen from the distance that sailing clear of shoals required, presented only a “narrow and faint line” on a “thin horizon,” and at that only in fine conditions.[57] Finding York was not an easy task. In 1714, after many years’ forced absence from the York roads, Knight, aboard the Union under the command of Captain Richard Harle, wrote of the difficulties at sea that attended reasserting possession. Although they had a fair wind on entering the bay, ice soon presented an obstacle that sent the ship well off course:

[We] could make no manner of way through it: it was of that thickness and large ice and so jammed upon one another that although we had a fair wind and as much as could blow well it never so much as moved the ice, it lying so heaped together to the shore so we were forced again out and stood to the northward, thinking to get between that and the north shore. But after we had stood to the northward of Churchill River we were forced back again all along the ice till we did get as far to the southward as New Severn and found no entrance there. We came back again to try what we could do by the outset of the river, then the wind came at SE, blew so hard forced us into the ice, and it was such heavy ice and so vastly thick and heaved together that we all thought we should have gone to the bottom before we could enter the ship so far as to get out of the great swell, and so we did continue in the ice till the day before we did get in. Our ship would not steer which made it much more difficult than it would have been.[58]

The following year, the Hudson’s Bay [III] under Captain Joseph Davis, who had made the voyage to posts at the Bottom of the Bay successfully for years and was more fortunate with respect to ice, nevertheless came within fifteen miles of York, only to sail back and forth without Davis finding any sign of the port. After three weeks, he gave up and returned home. In 1719, having gone ashore at Churchill to proclaim HBC sovereignty there, Davis’ replacement, Captain Richard Ward, sailed for York, but the Hudson Bay [III] was cast away after straying too close to the shoreline at Cape Tatnum. As late as 1899 Captain Alexander Gray of the SS Erik registered an objection with the Company regarding the danger in “navigating his ship through the long shallows of Port Nelson with no lights or headlands to guide … only on a clear day the thin fringe of the lowlands showing above the horizon.”[59]

Ships that succeeded in locating Five Fathom Hole still faced problems. The ‘flat’ before the anchorage was a large silt bar – the shoal which so alarmed M’Keevor. The Hole, only sometimes marked by a signal buoy, lay some seven or eight miles out from the associated post of York Factory.[60] The waterborne journey for passengers and goods did not end at the anchoring point. After the firing of ships’ guns, “many hours” would elapse before a sloop from York could reach the ship.[61] The sloop, with perhaps another in company and longboats fitted with sails besides, would then ferry passengers and cargo up to the wharf.[62] The drowning of French sailors whose longboat capsized in 1782 demonstrated the potential hazards of this last stretch – the river mouth, after all, was open to the effects of the sea. La Pérouse, in command of the fleet which had already divested the HBC of Prince of Wales’ Fort that year, reported “‘a very heavy gale’ off York that caused him “the greatest anxiety for my ships … If it had lasted some hours longer, the frigate of the Sieur de la Jaille would have been lost and 300 men drowned.”[63] Although Nelson River was better suited to receive ships, the HBC counted the defects of the Hayes River mouth as an asset: as Coats observed, “‘tis more secure, and better for the Company, guarded by those flatts and shallows against the attempts of an enemy by sea, the only way to come in at this settlement.”[64]

Southeast from York about 250 miles there was anchorage at the mouth of the Severn River, or Washahoe Sebe.[65] As early as 1675, Bayly had traded from aboard ship in the location, and claimed to have established a post there. In 1679 Captain Nehemiah Walker of the borrowed ship, HMS John and Alexander, and Captain James Tatnum of the Colleton had instructions and materials for building at the site, as did Captain Thomas Draper of the Albermarle the following year. The London Committee only considered the post fully established as of 1685 when it received a report from George Geyer – also tasked with building and appointed to be its chief – that it was already “well settled” on his arrival in 1684.[66] Named New Severn and Churchill Fort, the location of Severn had much to commend it. Coats described the coast as “covered with wood everywhere and a pritty clean shore without ten or 12 fathom [sic].” As well, the bar across the river mouth was not as broad as that of the Hayes. Nevertheless, after recovering the post from the French in 1714 the HBC divided Severn’s trade between York and Albany at the Bottom of the Bay, in part because inside the bar the river was “said to be shoald.”[67] When the HBC at length rebuilt at Severn in 1759, shallow draft coastal vessels rather than transatlantic ships served the post, a practice that continued past 1920.[68]

The Bottom of the Bay, which Coats characterized as an arm of Hudson Bay, approximately fifty-four leagues wide east to west, was southward from Severn. HBC ships on outward voyages entered the bay off a cape known as Henriettta Maria on the West Main. James Bay was shallower again than Hudson Bay, with numerous islands, and even when clear of ice had rocks and shoals — uncharted into the twentieth century.[69] As Coats warned, these “would hook you in, if you are not cautious, in a fog, or dark night.” It was important, therefore, to keep to known passages of certain depths, though accomplishing this was awkward – there being “not much room for a ship with only sails to turn her in places when there was a headwind.”[70] To keep to safer water, Coats advised mariners to take repeated soundings, as “lead is your principle guide.”[71] The lead consisted of a hemp line with a lead weight of about three kilograms, or seven pounds, that had tallow packed into its cupped lower surface. This, sailors dropped to the seabed to sample the ‘ground’ beneath the water “every half-hour day and night.”[72] Interpreting fragments embedded in the fat of the raised lead helped to confirm location. According to Coats, the ground in specific parts of the bay ranged from soft, to broken, to hard. The colour also varied – from “wheyish” [pale], “blacker and blacker,” to “deep galle” [yellow]. He counselled watching the colour of water as well: when a course of “black” water “quickly” turned “wheaish” [sic: likely wheyish] it was less than fifteen fathoms deep.[73]

Though knowing the specific waterways of James Bay was critical, Coat’s account indicates that here, as elsewhere on the outward voyage, gaining a working knowledge of landmarks was important. In The British Empire in America (1708), English historian John Oldmixon opined, “the names of landmarks were decided by “the first Adventurers” who “gave the Names of some Great Men in England, or some that employ’d them” [italics in source].[74] As at Port Nelson and along the Northern Seaboard, however, in the Bottom of the Bay mariners often named sites in commemoration of their seafaring fellows. A bluff of wood on the West Main that stood out from a surrounding “low fenny unbounded marsh,” for example, they called Point Mourning, “from buriing [sic] one of Captain James men there,” and the island, Floatar’s Wash, “from a man of that name having been drowned there.”[75] Though distinctive woods on the otherwise “low but clean, even surroundings” of the western shore might sometimes prove useful markers, overall, seen from a ship, the coastline made little “appeal to the eye … and twelve miles from shore it becomes invisible.”[76] Pilots of James Bay therefore combined soundings with estimates of their ship’s relative distance from capes and islands to judge the proper moment to alter a vessel’s course. Sailors distinguished the islands according to the number clustered in a group, their sizes and heights – relative to each other and to the hull of a ship – and the type and placement of topographical features, making note of cliffs, vegetation, and nearby rocks.[77]

There were a number of destinations in James Bay for which cargo might be bound, including posts at Albany River, Moose River and Nemiskau, or Rupert River. There were as well posts along the eastern coast of the bay, and up into eastern Hudson Bay, such as Eastmain, Fort George, and Whale River. Accessing anchorage at most of these was impossible for transoceanic ships, because of a long and “inconceivably” shallow approach to the shoreline, particularly at the Bottom of the Bay.[78] Added to this, the extent of navigable water in the bay could vary with ice conditions, wind, and tide. Assuming that by the time ships had arrived the ice had cleared from the shore, exactly where land began was “seldom well defined” along the gradient that saw seabed turn to coastal plain.[79] Tide and ebb alone made a difference of at least two to six miles in the placement of the shoreline, and this changed from day to day because the tide could come in at twice its normal height, or half, depending on wind direction. Thus, “A strong wind from the sea may push the shore line inland a half mile or more from the position it occupied during a period of calm weather, while a breeze from the land may hold the flood tide far to seaward of its average position.”[80] Immediately off river mouths to a distance of three miles the water might be only five to seven feet deep. Whether attempting to arrive at a trade post or leave, even by canoe, travel was only possible “for about two hours either side of high water.”[81] During the ebb, seafarers therefore faced the “impossibility of either going ashore or embarking again without wading, sometimes long distances.”[82] They did not normally undertake that exercise, as the bottom was soft clay and the posts lay further up their respective rivers – in the case of Albany and Moose, hidden from view by a “maze of islands.”[83]

If the destination was Albany, masters anxious to off-load quickly and begin their return voyage anchored in five fathoms of water at Albany Road. This was an open anchorage about twenty-five miles out from the “North Sound Head” at the mouth of the Chichewan – after 1683 named by the HBC Albany River.[84] Similarly, Moose Road, five fathoms deep, was situated about twelve miles off the Moosonee, or Moose River. Despite shoals in this location, it was possible for a vessel of ten foot draught to wait for the tide and enter the ‘middle channel’ of the river, but, by the latter half of the eighteenth century, it appears that transport in and out to the post was handled by coastal sloops. As at Albany Road, ships that anchored in the “wild road” off Moose River were vulnerable to gales especially in the fall. By 1680, anchoring instead at Charlton Island had become standard practice for ships with cargos destined to any of the posts at the Bottom of the Bay.[85]

To 1920, there was anchorage in a sound on the east coast of Charlton Island with ten fathoms of water. Ships came in from the north and west between Tetherly/Tederlys/ Trodely Island and Struttons/Stretons Island.[86] That the approach required care was a lesson Lucas learned on the outward bound Prudent Mary in 1680. Captain Nehemiah Walker again demonstrated the difficulty by grounding the inward bound Diligence the next year. Then in 1683, Lucas’ Expectation, captured as an interloper and taken as a prize by Walker, was added to the list of losses at the location.[87] Although in 1679, the Company attempted to enhance the anchorage at Charlton with a permanently manned depot suitable for warehousing goods, it was of little utility during the French occupation and afterwards proved too isolated from food sources to maintain a wintering party. Subsequently, the facility served only seasonally, although by the 1900s a caretaker lived on the island year round to maintain buildings and to pilot incoming vessels to a temporary pier installed as a landing. The pier was small, “a somewhat flimsy affair,” that was “held fast by anchors on the off side and to stakes and anchors buried in the sand on shore.”[88] After unloading, local sloopers towed ships into the sound off Charlton, where they anchored, to wait on a favourable wind. The sloopers and caretaker then dismantled the pier so that ice carried with the “swift current” along the shore of the sound would not demolish it during the off season.[89]

As at York, at Charlton sloops and longboats ferried passengers and cargo to the wharves of their respective posts – a process that could take days to accomplish. Oldmixon, having never made the journey to Hudson Bay, imagined arrival in the Bottom of the Bay in idyllic terms as a relatively pleasurable experience. He described Charlton Island as:

a light white Sand, cover’d over with a white Moss, full of Trees, Juniper and Spruce, tho not very large. This Isle affords a beautiful Prospect to such as make it in the Spring, after a long Voyage of 3 or 4 Months, in the most dangerous Seas in the World, … To see one Day the Shoar on the West Main bare, the Mountains cover’d with Snow, and Nature looking like a Carcass frozen to Death; and the next to behold Charlton Island spread with Trees, and the Branches making as it were a green Tuft of the whole, is a Surprize, that must give the greatest Pleasure after the Fatigues of an intollerable Winter Voyage [sic].[90]

Canadian historian Arthur M. Lower, who ventured to James Bay in 1914, made observations that suggest “bulldog” flies and other insects may have tempered the enthusiasm of new arrivals, commenting “I thought I had seen mosquitoes pretty bad in the muskegs to the south, but I discovered that all my notions about them were elementary. I can recommend James Bay as the terrestrial paradise of the mosquito.”[91] Certainly, Captain David Herd had qualified his remark, quoted at the opening of this chapter, about feeling relieved on arrival – while he allowed he was “always glad to get there,” Herd added that “the appearance of the country is so unfavourable” that he did not leave the ship and was quite “glad to get away again.”[92]

Geographer John Alwin argued in 1978 that, when it came to trading in Hudson Bay, the physical environment had a “dominant effect … on the human geography of the HBC,” and further that “There is a striking continuity with, rather than modification of, natural patterns.”[93] Almost three centuries earlier, in 1682, bayside governor John Nixon had put forward a similar argument, explaining to the London Committee “the navigation into this place is diverce from others, so that it must be observed and the harbours observed and the country and the natives observed [sic],” if trade was to be conducted effectively.[94] Couched in both sets of observations is an acknowledgement that management of ocean going technology was central to commanding space – taking advantage of natural courses, and circumventing whatever impediments they might pose. From 1508 to 1920, mariners in Hudson Bay proved resourceful and determined – both in the sense of being subject to limits set by natural and material circumstance and in the sense of being motivated to navigate them successfully. Most of the sailors who contributed to historical process figure as anonymous actors in historiography, though historical records and enduring place names attest to their existence and activity. One intriguing example of sailors’ determination to register their presence in Hudson Bay is found in Sloop’s Cove, Port Churchill. Rocks along the lichen covered granite shore bear more than twenty names chiselled by HBC seafarers between 1740 and 1780. The most readily recognizable is probably that of Samuel Hearne, carved while he served as slooper. The others supply “a cross-section of maritime Churchill”: sailors, mates, captains, harpooners, shipwrights, and carpenters.[95] Hudson Bay, to the Bottom of the Bay, was in many respects a seafarers’ ‘country.’ Although it was a water-washed space, from 1508 to 1920 mariners left marks in HBC history that were indelible enough to remain traceable in the historical record: sailors built landward posts, on sites that they chose, and they serviced those posts. Their work saw values added to Company ledgers on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition, as active observers, who named, charted, and laid claim to courses and features traversed, they laid the foundations for contributions by successive generations of maritime workers.

[1] Thomas Willing Balch, “The Hudsonian Sea is a Great Open Sea,” The American Journal of International Law7, no. 3 (July 1913): 546.


[2] See, for example, R. Douglas and J. N. Wallace, “Introduction,” in Twenty years of York Factory, 1694–1714: Jérémie’s account of Hudson Strait and Bay (Trans. from the French edition of 1720, with notes and introduction; Ottawa: Thorburn and Abbott, 1926), 6, on the duplicitous use of the name ‘Port Nelson,’ in 1749. Thomas F. Thornton, “Anthropological Studies of Native American Place Naming,” American Indian Quarterly 21, no. 2 (spring 1997): 209, notes “As linguistic artefacts and distinct semantic domains in the lexicons of all the world’s languages, place names tell us something not only about the structure and content of the physical environment itself but also how people perceive, conceptualize, classify and utilize their environment”; and Rob Shields, “Spatial Stress and Resistance: Social Meanings of Spatialization,” Space and Social Theory: Interpreting Modernity and Postmodernity, ed. George Benko and Ulf Strohmayer (Malden MA.: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), 186–94, 201, argues “All spatial zones and the debates surrounding them as; ‘territorial waters’; the notion of ‘open sea’ … and offshore fishing grounds are all socio-political constructions and reified in socio-cognitive mappings of the world. Again these serve to exemplify the extent to which we live within the territorializing and boundary-drawing impulse of the imaginary geography” [italics in source] of states. He observes, “It is difficult to be complacent about names. Hudson’s Bay denotes a body of water but also the expropriation of the natural resources” and the commercialization of space.

[3] Reuben Gold Thwaites, ed., The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610–1791, vol. 18, Hurons and Québec (Cleveland: Burrows Brothers, 1898), 228; Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 10; Balch, “Hudsonian Sea,” 546–47, 552; Robert Bell, “On the Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay, with Remarks on Recent Surveys and Investigations,” Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Record of Geography, new monthly ser., 3, no. 10 (October 1881): 578; 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): 549; A.H. de Trémaudan, The Hudson Bay Road (14981915) (Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1915), x, 61; W. Lefroy, ed, Canada: An Illustrated Weekly Journal for All Interested in the Dominion, Canadian Pacific Railway, Department of Colonization and Development (Toronto: Canada Newspaper Co., 1924), 43. See also E.E. Rich, ed., with A.M. Johnson, Copy-book of letters outward &c: begins 29th May, 1680, ends 5 July, 1687 (Toronto: Champlain Society for the Hudson’s Bay Record Company, 1948), xiv, xv, who notes that on many charts drawn prior to 1680, “the name of Hudson was associated only with those waters or parts of them which lay south of Cape Jones and Henrietta Maria. … Only gradually and far from consistently did the Company establish definitely the use of the name implicit in their Charter.” The sea off the West Main, north of Henrietta Maria, was often termed “Button Bay” in Company correspondence; see also 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 … (London, 1708),” in Documents relating to the early history of Hudson Bay, ed.  J. B. Tyrrell (Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1931), 375, 378, on the naming of Button’s Bay.

[4] “Cree Communities of Quebec: Whapmagoostui,” (accessed 11 March 2008), meaning “place of the beluga,” designated Great Whale River by the HBC. “Nunavut Communities,” 2007 Western Premier’s Conference (accessed 11 March 2008), Igluligaarjuk is Chesterfield Inlet, “place with few houses.” Gérard Beaudet, “Sea,” Cree-English, English Cree Dictionary: Nehiyawe Mina Akayasimo-Akayasimo Mina Nehiyawe-Ayamiwini-Masinahigan (Winnipeg: Wurez Publishing, 1995), 426. I have not found references to Cree, Dene, and Inuit names that would encompass the entire body of water. Victor Lytwyn, Muskekowuck Athinuwick: Original People of the Great Swampy Land (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2002), makes it clear that there would have been other groups with names for the region, including those designated in English as Lowland Cree, Northern Ojibway, Eastmain Cree, Upland Cree, and Iroquois; Keith Basso, quoted in Thornton, “Anthropological Studies,” 209, comments, “The anthropological study of Indian place-names systems has fallen on hard times … a casualty of scholarly indifference, ethnographic neglect, and the apparent assumption that place name research has little bearing on topics of general interest and theoretical value.” Monica E. Mulrennan and Colin H. Scott, “Mare Nullius: Indigenous Rights in Saltwater Environments,” Development and Change 31, no. 3 (June 2000): 681, note of the Cree and Inuit Peoples of James and Hudson Bays, that “Assumptions of land-sea continuity underlie these peoples’ cultural constructions of coastal and marine environments,” which suggests names associated with locations onshore extended into the water. The larger marine area might, therefore, have been known by many site-specific names. André Légaré, “Nunavut: The Construction of a Regional Collective Identity in the Canadian Arctic,” Wicazo Sa Review 17, no. 2, Sovereignty and Governance 2 (autumn 2002): 73, comments “Research on nomadic societies has demonstrated that the extent of a group’s cultural space is clearly produced by the termination of place names relating to one’s group and the beginning of those of another” and that “Names indicate ownership by a person or group. More importantly, they establish power and territorial claim.”

[5] Robert 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), 3. A.P. Low, quoted in J.A.J. McKenna, The Hudson Bay Route: A Compilation of Facts with Conclusions (Ottawa: Department of the Interior, 1908), 15, puts the distance from the western end of the strait to Churchill at 500 miles. John Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse: Hudson’s Bay Company Transport, 1670–1821,” Ph.D. diss. (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba, 1978), 13, notes “The distance of the one-way crossing of the North Atlantic varied with the route and bayside post, but was approximately 3,800 miles from London to York Fort.”

[6] 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), 93–92. See also HBCA, C.1/1023, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1753, for another relatively quick crossing to Albany; C.1/417, Ship’s Log, King George, 1806; and C.1/1024, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1754, fo. 38, ca.23 Aug., Captain John Fowler, crossing to Churchill, reported, “this 24 hours have had the sea almost as smooth as a river.”

[7] Robert Bell, cited in Markham, “Hudson’s Bay and Hudson’s Strait,” 550. Ian K. Steele, The English Atlantic 16751740: An Exploration of Communication and Community (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 88, agrees, describing the Hudson Bay passage as “not particularly difficult.”

[8] Alwin, “Mode, Patten and Pulse,” 48; see also Ross Mitchell, “Dr. John Rae,” Manitoba Pageant 4, no. 1 (September 1958); R.L. Richards, “Rae, John,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, online ed. [DCB] <; (accessed 2004–2008); C. Stuart Houston, “John Rae (1813–1893),” Arctic 4, no. 1 (March 1987): 78; “Appendix A,” and “Appendix B,” this thesis, year 1846, source list no. 647; and John Rae, quoted in Markham, “Hudson’s Bay and Hudson’s Strait,” 565, who observed, “He (Dr. Rae) knew no one [Robert Bell] on whom he could place less reliance on these subjects.” See Chapter Two, this thesis, 35 n.12. See also W.A. Waiser, “Bell, Robert,” DCB. Bell lived 1841–1917, Rae lived 1813–1893. I use the term contemporary as in “contemporary,” OED, “1. a. Belonging to the same time, age, or period; living, existing, or occurring together in time.” Bell made his comments in 1881. Rae objected to their use as proofs by Markham in 1888.

[9] 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), 18. See also Charles N. Bell, “Navigation of Hudson Bay and Straits,” MHS Transactions, 1st ser., no. 7 (read 10 May 1883); A.D. Bajkov, “The Ice Conditions of Hudson’s Bay,” The Beaver 20, no. 4 (March 1941), 15–19; and Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 19.

[10] James Knight, letter, York Fort 19 Sept 1714, Letters from Hudson Bay, 1703–40, ed. K.G. Davies, with A.M. Johnson (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1965), 34–35, suggests the 1814 crossing took from after the 8 August (at which time they were reportedly thirty leagues from their destination), to about 19 September. 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 1985): 126, argue that the summer of 1816 was the worst year for ice in Hudson Bay. In that year, Captain Benjamin Bell of the Emerald entered Hudson Bay on 6 September and reached Moose on 20 September. See also, for example, HBCA, C.1/1026, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1756, delayed by ice, the crossing took almost two weeks; C.1/1027, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1757, took 7 days; C.1/1028, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1758, about ten days; C.1/411, and C.1/412 Ship’s Log, King George, 1802, two weeks. Cowie, Company of Adventurers, 97, notes that an “average passage” across the Bay was eleven days. See J. Ledingham, “Nascopie in Hudson Bay,” photograph, The Beaver 5, no. 1 (December 1924): 10, showing men working the motor schooner Fort York through ice at the south end of Hudson Bay, ca. 1920.

[11] A.P. Low, quoted in McKenna, Hudson Bay Route, 15. de Trémaudan, Hudson Bay Road, 61, gives an area of 355,000 square miles; H.B. Hachey, “Canadian interest in arctic oceanography,” Arctic 2, no. 1 (May 1949): 33, gives 200,000 square miles; Balch, “Hudsonian Sea,” 547, citing the figures of Dr. Hugh Robert Mill of the Royal Geographical Society of England, gives 1,222,610 square kilometres; Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 19, gives 300,000 square miles; and Markham, “Hudson’s Bay and Hudson’s Strait,” 549, gives 500,000 square miles.


[12] HBCA, C.1/1021 Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1751; C.1/1027, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1757. G.E.R. Deacon, “Physics of the ocean,” British Journal of Applied Physics 12, no. 7 (1961), 329–30; and Jim Antrim, “Wave Action – How and Why Waves Behave As They Do,” 1981 <http://www.antrimdesign. com/articles/waves.html> (accessed 14 Mar. 2008).

[13] HBCA, C.1/1021 Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1751, 20 July; Gertrude Laing, trans. “Du Tremblier’s Account,” in R. Glover, “La Pérouse on Hudson Bay,” The Beaver 30, no. 4 (March 1951): 46, and n.7, in 1782 aboard the Engageante du Tremblier wrote, “We have had a very unhappy day. Two of our cables broken, two of our anchors lost, our tiller has been broken at the mortaise. Having lost hope, we let go our anchor, and dropped it to the bottom.”

[14] HBCA, C.1/1026, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1756, 15–16 and 26 August; C.1/1027, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1757, 4 August; C.1/1028, Ship’s Log, Seahorse, 1758, 5–6 September; B.42/a/36, Churchill River Journal, 17501751, 20 August 1750; B.42/a/42, Churchill River Journal, 1753–1754, 13 September 1753; B.42/a/44, Churchill River Journal, 17541755, 20 August 1754.

[15] J. Williams, “The Last Voyage of the Stork.” The Beaver 19, no. 2 (September 1939): 45. Coats, Geography, 27.

[16] 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), 49. See W.J. Healy, Women of Red River: Being a book written from the recollections of women surviving from the Red River Era (Winnipeg: Women’s Canadian Club, 1923), 2, who identifies “Mrs. McLean,” as having given birth according to Owen Keveny’s letter to Lord Selkirk. D.N. Sprague and R.P. Frye, “Table 1: Genealogy of Red River Households, 18181870,” and “Table 4: Geographical Location and Children of Manitoba Families, 1870,” in The Genealogy of the First Metis Nation: The Development and Dispersal of the Red River Settlement, 1820–1900 (Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1983), ID 3275, lists a possible identity for the infant: Mary Mclean, born 1812, married Robert Mcbeath, had as many as five children, and died 1863.

[17] E.E. Rich, Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company 1679–1684, First Part, 1679–82 (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1945), 242; Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 4849.

[18] Anthony Beale, letter, “from Albany Fort, 1 Aug. 1712,” Letters from Hudson Bay, 21, see also n.1, the captain, Richard Ward, was experienced in sailing Hudson Bay but lost the Pery when she grounded at Albany in 1712. Seven years later, he lost the Hudson’s Bay [III] off Cape Tatnum on the way to York Factory from Churchill. Coats, Geography, 38, warns of the danger of straying too close to Tatnum on coastal voyages.

[19] Alan Cameron, “Ships of Three Centuries,” The Beaver 50, no. 1 (summer, 1970): 11; Rich with Johnson, Copy-book of letters outward &c, xxx, 36465, states “All but five of the crew escaped in the boats, but the Captain was one of those who perished”; G. Andrews Moriety, “Gillam Zachariah,” DCB.

[20] Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 2830; John Prest, “The Great Sea Fight of 1697,” The Beaver 4, no. 8 (May 1924): 28687; Alice M. Johnson, “Fletcher, John,” DCB; Robert Coutts, On the Edge of a Frozen Sea: Prince of Wales’ Fort, York Factory and the Fur Trade of Western Hudson Bay (Ottawa: Department of Canadian Heritage, Parks Canada, 1997), 14. Grant MacEwan, The Battle of the Bay (Saskatoon: Western Producer Book Service, 1975), 23, 27, puts the total lives lost at “at least 313.”

[21] Canadian Senate, Special Committee on Navigability and Fishery Resources of Hudson Bay and Strait, Report (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1920), 73; David Malaher, “Port Nelson and the Hudson Bay Railway,” Manitoba History no. 8 (Autumn 1984) (accessed 12 Februrary 2007); see also Appendix A, and Appendix B, this thesis, year 1913, source list no. 1078. HBCA, Ships Records Finding Aid, notes of the Fort York that “Near Severn she was deliberately run aground to protect ‘life and property’ during hurricane force winds, and declared a total wreck,” presumably ca.1923.

[22] Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 1, 40. HBCA, E.12/5-7, “My Notebook,” Isobel G. Finlayson Journal, 1840, 66. See also, “A Map of Hudson Bay and Straits,” map, The Beaver 37, no. 3 (winter 1957): 67.

[23] 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), 30; see also Williams, “Last Voyage of the Stork,” 45. de Trémaudan, Hudson Bay Road, 49, indicates that as late as 1915, the inaccuracy of compasses was still a problem, observing “science will soon find a way to explain and combat the trouble; it seems nothing more than an ordinary problem of mathematics to solve.”

[24] Michael F. Dove, “Voyages to Rupert’s Land: The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Maritime Component, 16701770,” in Selected Papers of Rupert’s Land Colloquium 2002, compiled by David G. Malaher (Winnipeg: Centre for Rupert’s Land Studies, 2002), 7. Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 13, notes “Even marine coastal communication between the Company’s Hudson Bay posts was long distance by United Kingdom standards, with the 700 mile coastal passage from Moose Factory to York Fort 200 miles longer than a voyage from London to Edinburgh.” Hudson’s Bay Company, “Nonsuch,” Our History: Transportation and Technology (accessed 27 March 2008), indicates the voyage of the Nonsuch lasted 118 days.

[25] 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, see also 258, examined 8 June 1857.

[26] Coutts, On the Edge of a Frozen Sea, 10. Oldmixon, “History of Hudson’s Bay,” 380, lists “Guns, Powder, Shot, Cloth, Hatchets, Kettles, Tobacco, &c. which the English exchange with the Indians for Furrs, Beavers, Martin, Fox, Moose, and other Peltry” [italics in source]. Ann M. Carlos and Stephen Nicholas, “Theory and History: Seventeenth-Century Joint-Stock Chartered Trading Companies,” The Journal of Economic History 56, no. 4 (December 1996): 918, observe the location of posts at river mouths “minimized transportation costs for the company while being constructed at focal points of trade.” Without supplying supporting evidence, they assert that posts ashore were necessary because “The disjunction between the timing of the arrival of native groups at the coast and the period when Hudson Strait was free from ice made ship-board trade impossible and posts indispensable.” Ann M. Carlos and Stephen Nicolas, “Managing the manager: An Application of the Principal Agent Model to the Hudson’s Bay Company,” Oxford Economic Papers 45 (1993): 244, leave the maritime component out of their description of HBC organizational levels. Catchpole and Faurer, “Ships’ Log-Books,” 121, state, “from its inception, transatlantic shipping played a pivotal role in the activities of the Hudson’s Bay Company.”

[27] HBCA, B.42/a/47, “NE Journal of the most material Occurrances [sic] on board the Churchill Sloop from 11 July to 23d Augst. 1756 Kept by John Mcbean Master [sic],” fo. 23d, describes “ship time” as the occasion on which Inuit north of Churchill visited Roe’s Welcome, adding “they only visited for the sloops arrival.” Richard Glover, “Introduction,” Letters from Hudson Bay, 170340 (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1965), xiv; and Dove, “Voyages to Rupert’s Land,” 22–23, remark on use of the term and its meaning. See also Richard I. Ruggles, “The West of Canada in 1763: Imagination and Reality,” Canadian Geographer 15, no. 4 (1971): 252–53, for a description of bayside activity during ship time.

[28] See Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 49–50. Oliver Warner, “Voyaging to York Factory,” The Beaver 37, no. 3 (winter 1957): 19, notes “the class of vessel” needed for trade between London, Churchill and York Factory “probably varied little over the centuries. Ships were needed ‘flat in bottom, to allow of crossing the bars of shallow rivers.’ … they ‘ought not to draw more water than 10 feet with full cargo,’ and should have fore and aft hatches. It was, in fact, natural hazards which dictated the type of ship likely to be successful. They could never be large; they must always be well found.”

[29] See W.A. Kenyon, “Old Fort Albany Relics,” The Beaver 41, no. 1 (summer 1961): 21–23. Cameron, “Ships of Three Centuries,” 8. de Trémaudan, Hudson Bay Road, 8. Glyndwr Williams, “The Indians and the Bay Trade,” The Beaver 63, no. 2 (autumn 1983): 26, is of the opinion that “The Company posts were, in effect, the meeting places between the Indians of the interior and the supply ships, and their location was determined more by the navigability of the rivers for canoes than by the convenience of their estuaries for ocean-going ships.” He then cites the distances from anchoring grounds at river mouths to the posts as examples of their inconvenience. In my estimation the point missed is that it was so inconvenient to access the shore from a ship anchored anywhere except at an estuary as to be almost impossible.

[30] See Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 45; 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), 81; Alan Cooke and Clive Holland, The Exploration of Northern Canada: 500 to 1920, A Chronology (Toronto: Arctic History Press, 1978), 40–43. From 1685 to 1689, ships supplying Severn appear to have anchored elsewhere first. See also Appendix A, and Appendix B, this thesis, source list no. 1044, 1047, 1056; also G.P. Wilson, “Nascopie: The Story of a Ship,” The Beaver 27, no. 2 (September 1947): 3–11; HBCA, C.4/1, Book of Ships’ Movements, 1719–1929; C.1/627–31, Ship’s Logs, Pelican, 1906–1913; Cooke and Holland, Exploration, 325, 328–29, 331, 338, 341–42, 344–46.

[31] Coats, Geography, 27, see also 36–37, is not clear on who used the name “Manato-e-sepe.” He suggests a number of groups traded at Churchill, including “Miscota Indians,” but is not sure where people came from, because “our interpreters are not clear” on the point. Jérémie, Twenty Years of York Factory, 18, called the Churchill River ‘Danish River.’ Beaudet, “Misinipiy,” Cree-English, English-Cree Dictionary, 82. de Trémaudan, Hudson Bay Road, 3, 17, mentions an earlier translation was “River of the Strangers,” and that by 1750 the Churchill was known as “Rivière des Christinaux.” See also J.B. Tyrrell, report, quoted in McKenna, Hudson Bay Route, 41–42, on the dimensions of the harbour.

[32] Coats, Geography, 35, puts the tide at 14 feet; Bell, “Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay,” 580, pus the average tide along the West Main at 11–12 feet. J. Ledingham, “Nascopie in Hudson Bay,” The Beaver 5, no. 1 (December 1924): 11, describes the harbour as “a perfect nightmare of a place for the uninitiated mariner to try to enter; a very narrow entrance, with shoal water all around.”

[33] Coats, Geography, 35–36; see also Bell “Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay,” 579, who describes the river as “remarkable for having at its mouth a splendid harbour with deep water and every natural convenience for the purposes of modern commerce.” C. Harding, “Churchill, Past and Present,” The Beaver 8, no. 4 (March 1929): 165, describes the harbour as “seven miles by four miles broad, making a water space of two miles with average depth of twenty feet at low water.”

[34] Coats, Geography, 35–36. See also de Trémudan, Hudson Bay Road, 93–95, who quotes a pessimistic description of the harbour from “a summary of the report of the Hudson Bay Railway surveys published in October 1909 by Mr. J.M. Butler, Deputy Minister of Railways and Chief Engineer.”

[35] K.G. Davies, “Kelsey, Henry,” DCB, observes “In nearly 40 years of service Kelsey played a part in most of the major events in Hudson Bay.” Cooke and Holland, Exploration, 43.

[36] James Knight, quoted in Coutts, On the Edge of a Frozen Sea, 16, 18. Coutts relates that in 1719, Knight “sailed off to look for precious metals and the northwest passage … Shipwrecked near Marble Island, a barren, wind-swept chunk of rock off the northwest coast of Hudson Bay, Knight and his crew of forty lived for a time in a stone and sod house they constructed on the island’s eastern shore, but eventually perished from starvation and cold. … the loss of the Knight expedition ranks only behind that of the Franklin voyage as the greatest loss of men, and like that tragedy, has remained shrouded in mystery.”

[37] James Knight, quoted in Coutts, On the Edge of a Frozen Sea, 17. McKenna, Hudson Bay Route, 38; Bell, “Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay,” 579, notes “The only harbours on the west side of Hudson’s Bay are those formed by the mouths of rivers, but none of them, with the exception of Churchill harbour, can be entered by vessels drawing more than ten or eleven feet, and only at high water.”

[38] HBCA, B.42/a/33, Fort Churchill Post Journal, 1748–1749; B.42/a/36-47, Fort Churchill Post Journal, 1750–1756; B.42/b/57, Churchill Correspondence Book, 1811–1812. Coats, Geography, 27. Harding, “Churchill, Past and Present,” 164, notes that originally the HBC named the fort for the third governor of the Company, John, Lord Churchill, who later became Duke of Marlborough. Coutts, On the Edge of a Frozen Sea, 27. Ernest S. Dodge, “Knight, James,” DCB.

[39] Alice M. Johnson, “Norton, Richard,” DCB. Sylvia Van Kirk, “Norton, Moses,” DCB; R. Glover, “Moses Norton (ca. late 1720s–1773),” Arctic 35, no. 3 (September 1982): 440–41; Sylvia Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties”: Women in Fur-Trade Society in Western Canada, 1670–1870 (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer Publishing, 1980), 10–11; A.J. Dyer, “Aboriginal History of Northern Canada,” Perspectives: the Journal of the Saskatchewan Council of Social Studies Teachers (winter 1978) tplan/sslp/aborhist.htm> (accessed 14 February 2006); Nan Shipley, Churchill-Canada’s Northern Gateway (Toronto: Burns and MacEachern, 1974), 15.

[40] Bell, “Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay,” 580. C.S. Mackinnon, “Hearne, Samuel,” DCB; Richard Glover, ed., A Journey from Prince of Waless Fort, in Hudsons Bay To The Northern Ocean 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 by Samuel Hearne (1795; reprint, Toronto: Macmillan, 1972), vii–xi; Samuel Hearne, A Journey from Prince of Waless Fort, in Hudsons Bay, to the northern ocean . . . in the years 1769, 1770, 1771 & 1772 (1795; reprint, ed. J.B. Tyrrell, Toronto: Champlain Society, 1911), 107–108.

[41] George Simpson McTavish, quoted in Coutts, On the Edge of a Frozen Sea, 40. Michael Payne, “Fort Churchill, 1821–1900: An Outpost Community in the Fur Trade,” Manitoba History 20 (autumn 1990) (accessed 7 April 2008), points out that ‘decline’ is a relative term that does not capture the continuities evident at Churchill. By some measures, for instance comparison to ‘typical’ staffing numbers and material accommodation provided at Northern posts from the early nineteenth century, Churchill factory held its own.

[42] HBCA, C.1/383, Ship’s Log, King George, 1779; C.4/1, Book of Ships’ Movements; Cooke and Holland, Exploration, 98, 102–34, 135–238, indicate that in 1779 excessive ice prevented the King George from getting to Port Nelson and Captain Jonathan Fowler Jr. instead returned to England.

[43] HBCA, C.4/1, Book of Ships’ Movements; Cooke and Holland, Exploration, 239–63, 264–346.

[44] Morton, History of the Canadian West, 78, remarks that ca.1675, Groseilliers and Radisson tried to interest Frontenac in opening a shipping route through Hudson Bay “but the merchants of the colony looked askance at their proposed expedition to Hudson Bay by sea, no doubt because it might injure the fur trade of the St. Lawrence, even though in French hands.” The desire to protect the monopoly of the St. Lawrence suggests competition between ports was regarded as a zero sum game that carried forward to the age of rail – the North denied predominance as a transportation/communication route. See McKenna, Hudson Bay Route, 4, 35, 38, 50–51, who presents Churchill as the logical choice; de Trémaudan, The Hudson Bay Road, 72–83, 103–18; John A. Cormie, “The Hudson Bay Route,” Geographical Review 4, no. 1 (July 1917): 26–40, esp. 31; Harold A. Innis, “The Hudson Bay Railway,” Geographical Review 20, no. 1 (January 1930): 1, 3, 6; Howard A. Fleming, Canada’s Arctic Outlet: A History of the Hudson Bay Railway (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1957); MacEwan, Battle for the Bay, 52–73, 134–57; Grant MacEwan, “Honourable John,” Manitoba Pageant 5, no. 3 (April 1960) honourablejohn. shtml> (accessed 5 May 2006); Ian Bickle, Turmoil and Triumph: The Controversial Railway to Hudson Bay (Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 1995), 83–93; David Malaher, “Port Nelson and the Hudson Bay Railway,” Manitoba History no. 8 (autumn 1984), and n.6, which cites Canada, Debates of the House of Commons (1912), Jan. 19, 1263–64, and notes “In October of 1910 Captain T. B. Miles of the Department of Naval Service reported that ‘it is difficult to imagine anyone, who has attempted the approach from seaward, showing any great enthusiasm over Port Nelson’.” All the above detail the Western Canadian demand – well evident by 1875 – for a seaport that allowed “escape” from the “monopoly of the Canadian Pacific Railway.” The ‘last spike’ of the belated rail link to the Port of Churchill was driven 1929. The first ship loaded with grain left the port in 1931. Gerald Friesen, “Norquay, John,” DCB, notes that Norquay “was a descendant of Hudson’s Bay Company servants who had worked on the northern rivers and the shores of Hudson Bay during the 18th century.” See also MacEwan, “Honourable John”; Ellen Gillies Cooke, Fur Trade Profiles: Five Ancestors of Premier John Norquay (Winnipeg: self published, 1978), 8–15; HBCA, C.1/1054, p.8. cited in, “Norquay, Oman,” Biographical Sheet, notes that John’s grandfather “sailed from Stromness on Seahorse to York Factory” in 1791; and “John Norquay,” biography, Orkney Roots (accessed 18 April 2008), notes that Norquay’s wife, Elizabeth Setter, was HBC Captain William Kennedy’s niece.

[45] See Grace Lee Nute, “The French on the Bay,” The Beaver 37, no. 3 (winter 1957): 32–37. de Trémaudan, The Hudson Bay Road, 3, 4, describes Nelson as mate not master. “Thomas Button (?1634),” Manitoba Biographies, Manitoba Historical Society (2 February 2008) (accessed 3 April 2008), credits Button with naming the bayside territory New Wales prior to Foxe. Jérémie, Twenty Years of York Factory, 22; Margaret Arnett MacLeod, ed., The Letters of Letitia Hargrave (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1947), xxxix, notes that the tip of the peninsula, from York Factory to the sea, was known as “Point of Marsh.”

[46] Thomas Gorst, quoted in Alice M. Johnson, “Early Ships in Hudson’s [sic] Bay,” The Beaver 26, no. 1 (June 1946): 12. Gorst maintained Newland was “buried ‘like a Soldier’,” at Charles Fort; Morton, History of the Canadian West, 66–68; Clifford P. Wilson, “Forts on the Twin Rivers,” The Beaver 37, no. 3 (winter 1957): 4; Hartwell Bowsfield, “Radisson in Hudson Bay,” Manitoba Pageant 11, no. 2 (spring 1966) (accessed 12 January 2009); Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 44, 45. Parks Canada, “Human History,” York Factory National Historic Sites of Canada, Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures (accessed 25 Mar. 2008), avers “As early as 1670 an attempt was made by the Company to establish a post at the mouth of the Nelson River, but fierce winds hindered landing and the crew sailed back to England” – not mentioning the wintering. Alice M. Johnson, “Bayly, Charles,” DCB, suggests Newland and his mate died of scurvy, after which Charles Bayly – who was to have stayed on as governor at Nelson – took command of the vessel. Johnson also indicates that though Bayly is not formally recognized as a mariner, he had fairly extensive seafaring experience and quotes Charles II’s injunction that Bayly’s release from the Tower of London be “granted on condition he betook himself  ‘to the Navigation of Hudsons Bay’.”

[47] See Frances G. Davenport, ed. and Charles Oscar Paullin, European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and its dependencies, Papers of the Department of Historical Research Series, vol. 4, no. 254 (Washington DC: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917–1937; reprint New Jersey: Lawbook Exchange, 2004), 324–26. Douglas and Wallace, “Introduction,” in Twenty years of York Factory, 6, 9, 22 n.4, 23, also note that in 1920 the Nelson River was known as Powinigow, that Jérémie had heard it called it Paouiriniouagou meaning ‘descent of strangers,’ that Cocking had heard Powethiniko, while Radisson had heard Kawirinagaw, which apparently meant ‘wicked’. Apparently, in 1682 the Hayes was known by Grosseilliers as Pinasiouetchiouen meaning “Rapid River.”

[48] E.E. Rich, The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company 1670–1870, vol. I (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1958), vol. I, 103–4, lists the difficulties the Company faced dealing with the captains for the voyage in 1682: on inspection at Gravesend “‘parcels’ of goods were lying about the decks” of the Rupert and Albermarle “and both ships had to be re-stowed”;on the eave of departure, the behaviour of the ships’ captains suddenly became most ominous.  … at the last moment, Captain Bond refused to take the oath [against private trade], Knight developed a quarrel [of an undisclosed sort]… which caused him to be suspended from his appointment until it was cleared up,” and Gillam unaccountably absented himself. It took several days to correct the situation. See also Wilson, “Forts on the Twin Rivers,” 4; and Clifford P. Wilson, “Bridgar, John,” DCB. Gillam was to leave Bridgar ashore at Nelson as governor. Bowsfield, “Radisson in Hudson Bay”; Grace Lee Nute, “Radisson, Pierre Esprit,” DCB, notes this was Radisson’s twelfth voyage into Hudson Bay. Maud M. Hutcheson, “Phipps, Thomas,” DCB; Rich, History, vol. I, 104. The London Committee suspected that Lucas was either off to pillage the wreck or recover furs he had removed from it and hidden on Tetherly Island. Nevertheless, the HBC rehired Lucas to captain the Owner’s Goodwill in 1685.

[49] Cameron, “Ships of Three Centuries,” 8; Nute, “Radisson,” DCB.

[50] Alice M. Johnson, “Abraham, John,” DCB, adds that by 1686 Abraham “changed his allegiance and apparently spent the rest of his life preying on English shipping in the St. Lawrence.”

[51] Rich, History, vol. I, 241. See also Nute, “Radisson,” DCB.

[52] Henry Kelsey, The Kelsey Papers (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina, 1994), xix.

[53] Richard Glover, “Introduction,” Letters from Hudson Bay, xxxviii; Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 54. Kevin Lunn, “York Factory National Historic Site of Canada: planning the future for a place with a momentous past,” Manitoba History (22 September 2004); Jérémie, Twenty years of York Factory, 9, notes that Kakiakioway may have meant the Nelson River in 1682, but became the name for what was later known as the Hayes River. M.J. Butler, quoted in de Trémaudan, Hudson Bay Road, 97, notes that by 1909, the Nelson River was “known locally as the North River,” while Port Nelson was “named by the British Admiralty as York Roads.” Wilson, “Forts on the Twin Rivers,” 5, notes James Knight built the 1714 landward establishment just prior to building Churchill.

[54] Coats, Geography, 27, see also 38.

[55] Coats, Geography, 38, observes as well that “Two mile higher up is a hole three fatham deep. sufficient for one ship. The river, up three miles to the factory, dry’s almost every tide [sic].” See also HBCA, E.12/5-7, Finlayson, “Notebook,” 67; and de Trémudan, Hudson Bay Road, 95–100, who quotes an optimistic description of Port Nelson from “a summary of the report of the Hudson Bay Railway surveys published in October 1909 by Mr. J.M. Butler, Deputy Minister of Railways and Chief Engineer.”

[56] Coats, Geography, 61, also 38.  notes Port Nelson “has the most principle trade in that country, where the two rivers brings down such swarms of natives annually, as is nowhere else in that country [sic].” A.R. Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’ 1911,” part I, The Beaver 62, no. 4 (spring 1983): 23, notes that while at anchor, “the buildings were only visible from aloft.”

[57] Cameron, “Ships of Three Centuries,” 12. Jean-Luc Pilon, “Parameters for Human Occupation of the Hudson Bay Lowlands and General Results of the Archaeological Inquiries along the Lower Severn River, Ontario, Canada,” Revista de Arqueologia Americana (1 January 2006) coms2/gi_0199-7323086/Parameters-for-human-occupation-of.html> (accessed 28 March 2008), describes the Hudson Bay Lowlands as 200 to 300 kilometres wide, covering over “300,000 square kilometres,” and extending from the west coast of James Bay to Churchill on Hudson Bay. de Trémaudan, Hudson Bay Road, 55, notes, “It is impossible to get within 12 miles of the mouth of the Nelson River with vessels drawing any depth of water. F. Berkes, A Hughes, P.J. George, R.J. Preston, B.D. Cummins, and J. Turner, “The Persistence of Aboriginal Land Use: Fish and Wildlife Harvest Areas in the Hudson and James Bay Lowland, Ontario,” Arctic 48, no. 1 (March 1995): 83, place the lowland in the Mushkegowuk region.

[58] James Knight, letter, York Fort 19 Sept 1714, Letters from Hudson Bay, 34–35.

[59] Alexander Gray, quoted in Warner, “Voyaging to York Factory,” 23. Johnson, “Early Ships,” 12, quotes Gorst’s account, which states the Wivenhoe had difficulty entering Port Nelson in 1670 “by reason of fogg & contrary winds could not find the right channell to get in” and ran aground, only coming off after “the losse of some Anchors & Cables.” Richard Glover, “Introduction,” Letters from Hudson Bay, li. Richard Glover, “Ward, Richard,” DCB.

[60] J. Ledingham, “An Adventure in Landing Supplies at York,” The Beaver (December 1922): 117, puts the distance from the supply ship to the post at fifteen miles.

[61] HBCA, E.12/5-7, Finlayson, “Notebook,” 67. On the use of buoys see, James Isham, James Isham’s observations on Hudsons Bay, 1743, and Notes and observations on a book entitled A voyage to Hudsons Bay in the Dobbs Galley, 1749, ed. E.E. Rich (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1949), 202–4, who explains that ‘beacons’ – empty casks tethered to an anchor – marking Five Fathom Hole had their ropes cut unless the identity of an arriving ship was certain. In times of war these beacons might be cut loose, because “those ships might be in the french [sic], or Spaniards Custity, and the Capts. Keep’t on board with a Design to Conduct them to the fort, in order to Deceive us under false Couller’s, as we have had Instances of Such [sic].” See also HBCA, C.1/415, Ship’s Log, King George, 1804, 6 August, which records that on arrival at Nelson, there was no beacon in sight. James Sutherland, pilot at the factory, came alongside in the factory boat and explained it had yet to be set up; also Warner, “Voyaging to York Factory,” 3, notes that Captain Jonathan Fowler Jr. “once got into difficulties because someone laid a buoy wrong in Hayes River.”

[62] Dove, “Voyages to Rupert’s Land,” 22–23. See also Wilson, “Forts on the Twin Rivers,” 11, for an aerial photograph “looking towards the sea,” taken in the 1930s; and Parks Canada, “Aerial photo circa 1926 © Provincial Archives of Manitoba, 1926,” photograph, York Factory National Historic Sites of Canada: Natural Wonders & Cultural Treasures (accessed 8 April 2008), that shows a three-masted schooner at the wharf, and suggests a ‘timeless’ aspect similar to that of Stromness. See LAC, acc. no. 1988-250-15, “Arrival at the York Fort anchorage in Hudson’s Bay, August 17, 1821, after a voyage of 79 days,” watercolour, by Peter Rindisbacher, showing a sloop and two open boats under sail in the Hayes River off York Factory.

[63] Glover, “La Pérouse on Hudson Bay,” 46n. 7. “Remarks betwixt Churchill Fort and York Fort on their being taken by the French A.D. 1782 by an Officer,” in Andrew Graham’s Observations on Hudson Bay, 1767–91, ed. Glyndwr Williams (London: Hudson’s Bay Record Society, 1969), 87, reported “Fourteen soldiers drowned in this attempt at taking York Fort.”

[64] Coats, Geography, 38, 44, notes the Nelson was more navigable than the Hayes for ships and “near half the trade comes down it,” but inland was “so full of sharps and falls,” that most used the Hayes.

[65] Oldmixon, “History of Hudson’s-Bay,” 392; see also “Northern Ontario – Fort Severn,” (accessed 30 March 2008), the name might be Anishininimowin, or Oji-Cree, and translate roughly as ‘a sparkling or clear river.’ Rich, Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company … First Part, 337; and Rich with Johnson, Copy-Book of letters outward &c, 380. Jérémie, Twenty Years of York Factory, 35, note that Ibervilled called it “rivière des Saintes Huiles.”

[66] Rich, History, vol. I, 78, 81, 108, 119, 180, 181, 220.

[67] Coats, Geography, 46; Jérémie, Twenty Years of York Factory, 35, states HBC servants burnt down the original establishment on sighting Iberville’s ship offshore in 1690. They rebuilt in 1691 when Iberville did not occupy the position – although apparently, after capture, the post commanding ‘Neue Savanne’ was renamed Fort Ste. Thérèse. Rich, History, vol. I, 682, notes that except during an English occupation in 1693, the port remained under French control, as Fort Phélipeaux, up to the treaty of 1713.

[68] W. Stewart Wallace, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, vol. 2 (Toronto: University Associates of Canada, 1948), 377.

[69] Coats, Geography, 52; Williams, “Last Voyage of the Stork,” 45. de Trémaudan Hudson Bay Road, 5, notes that until the HBC began using James Bay, cartographers perpetuated Henry Hudson’s mistake of dividing the bay into two bodies of water.

[70] Williams, “Last Voyage of the Stork,” 45.

[71] Coats, Geography, 52.

[72] Ibid. Peter Kemp, ed., “Lead Line,” The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976), 471.

[73] Coats, Geography, 52, 53.

[74] Oldmixon, “History of Hudson’s-Bay,” 378.

[75] Coats, Geography, 47, 52, see also 55, 61.

[76] E.M. Kindle, “The James Bay Coastal Plain: Notes on a Journey,” Geographical Review 15, no. 2 (April 1925): 230–31. See also Bell, “Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay,” 579.

[77] Coats, Geography, 46, 52, 59, took pains to describe island groups and warned that between and among the islands of the bay, “If you are entangled in ice hear, you run great hazard, for the tides are so distracted amongst these banks, that it will require your utmost address to secure your ship [sic].” Kindle, “The James Bay Coastal Plain,” 227, observes it is only “Near Cape Jones at the north-eastern corner of the bay [that] the plain gives way to high land, which rises near the shore from 1000 to 2000 feet above the sea between Cape Dufferin and Cape Jones. The land is low on the eastern side of James Bay with a gentle slope as far north as East Main River, where the elevation 100 miles inland is only 700 feet.”

[78] A.R.M. Lower, “By River to Albany,” The Beaver 24, no. 1 (June 1944): 19. Coats, Geography, 57; Morton, History of the Canadian West, 45, 50, 51; D.A. Chant, E.E. Lindquist, J.E.H. Martin, W.R. Allen, “Rupert River by Canoe,” The Beaver (spring 1964): 32; the first post, Charles Fort, was constructed 1668 on the bank of the Rupert River while the Nonsuch was careened for the winter.

[79] Kindle, “James Bay Coastal Plain,” 230–31, also 232, A.R.M. Lower is quoted as noting that along the coast, past Albany River “the woods are about three miles back from the average high-tide mark. Between the forest and the tide mark is an open, level plain, the first mile of which is covered with scrubby willows. The other two miles support a growth of luxuriant grass … between the extremes of high and low tide a space of about three miles of soft clay mud intervenes’.” See also Bell, “Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay,” 579; Coats, Geography, 30, who noted the east coast was “pestred [sic] with ice”; Ledingham, 10, as chief engineer for fifteen years by 1924, observed of ice that “[a]fter passing Coats Island, the bay is generally free … on the passage between Churchill and Charlton Island, ice is very frequently met between Nelson river [sic] and Cape Henrietta Maria, and often the ice extends to the Bear Islands in James Bay”; and Catchpole and Faurer, “Ships’ Log-Books, Sea Ice,” 125–26.

[80] Kindle, “James Bay Coastal Plain,” 230–31. See also Bell, “Commercial Importance of Hudson’s Bay,” 579.

[81] Lower, “By River to Albany” 19. See also Coats, Geography, 28.

[82] E.B. Borron, quoted in Kindle, “James Bay Coastal Plain,” 231, commenting to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, 1882.

[83] Kindle, “James Bay Coastal Plain,” 234.

[84] Oldmixon, “History of Hudson’s-Bay,” 399, writes ‘Chickewan,’ and implies the river was known as Moose-Sebe. Alice M. Johnson, “Bayly, Charles,” DCB, notes that between 1675 and 1679, Captain Charles Bayley established the first English post at Albany River. The French captured it in 1686. It was Fort Ste. Anne until 1692 when the English retook it. Coats, Geography, 54, 27, notes the settlement “has been thought so convenient and so commodious for trade, so secure a situation from the attempts of an enemy, that the trade here has been always so considerable as engage the Companys whole attention [sic].”

[85] Coats, Geography, 47, 50, 54, 57. Moose Factory, built on Hayes/Factory Island, approximately eleven miles from the river mouth, was captured several times by the French between 1686 and 1730 and renamed Fort St. Louis. The HBC only reoccupied it in 1732; Rich with Johnson, Copy-Book of letters outward &c, xxix, xxviii, 8, observes, “a sheltered anchorage in nine fathoms under the lee of Point Comfort had been charted by Captain Gillam in 1668 … This anchorage could be used by larger vessels bringing passengers and stores direct to the mainland … A trail led overland to Moose Factory, but one of the smaller coasting vessels was normally used for the rest of the journey”; Kindle, “The James Bay Coastal Plain,” 226, notes of Charlton that “supplies arriving by sea are transferred to schooners … capable of threading the channels about the mouth of Moose River. The difficulties of securing deep-water approaches to Moose Factory … are … many miles through depths of from one to four fathoms.” Morton, History of the Canadian West, 80; Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 49; A.R. Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’ 1911,” part II, The Beaver 63, no. 1 (summer 1983): 21.

[86] Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part II, 21. The origins of the islands’ names are obscure. See note 45 above, which suggests Thetherly was named for mate James Titherley who died in 1670 with Captain Nelson. John Meredith Read, A historical inquiry concerning Henry Hudson, his friends, relatives and early life, his connection with the Muscovy company and discovery of Delaware Bay (Albany NY: J. Munsell, 1866),136, mentions that according to Purchas, James Skrutton or Strutton sailed with Henry Hudson.

[87] Coats, Geography, 58, 59, 23. Morton, History of the Canadian West, 82. See Rich, History, vol. I, 9699, 11013, 135, 14654, 163, 26162, 267, on the Diligence, Lucas, the Expectation, and Walker. Rich with Johnson, Copy-book of letters outward &c, xxviii, states the Expectation was cast off heading inward to Charlton. Rich, Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1679–1684; Second Part, 1682–84 (Toronto: Champlain Society, 1946), 330, describes the Expectation as being captured in Hudson Strait, but see, 28081, 284, which clarify that while “shee was unduly forcibly taken by the sayd Nehemiah Walker … somewhere within Hudsons streights upon the high seas, but some hundred of Leagues from Hudsons Bay … near Cape Charles [sic]” subsequently the captured vessel was “cast away upon or near Charlton Island” by Walker’s “Chiefe Mate on board … with some other of his Company to Navigate [sic].”

[88] Ledingham, “Nascopie in Hudson Bay,” 11. Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part II, 21; Williams, “Last Voyage of the Stork,” 45, 46, notes that in 1908, the coastal ship SS Inenew “took the Stork in tow” to anchor, while in 1911, caretaker, W.L. Miller piloted the Discovery. Williams supplies a photograph showing the pier at Charlton Island, with the hulk of the Sorine, which ran aground in 1920, was hauled off, then beached near the depot where “ice and storm broke her up.” K.G. Davies, “Nixon, John,” DCB, notes Nixon objected to building a substantial post, complaining the island “was remote from trade, difficult to defend, and ice-bound longer than the mainland”; see also Coats, Geography, 58, 62, who avers wintering on the mainland was necessary for “every refreshment.” Oldmixon, “History of Hudson’s-Bay,” 400, notes “The Company intended to plant a Colony at Charlton Island, and order’d Mr. Sergeant to build a Fort there [1685], and always keep some Men upon it. Warehouses were also built to receive the Furs that were brought thither from the Factories, and Conveniences were made for the Reception of such as were oblig’d to winter there. The Company always enjoyn’d their Governours to endeavour to save the great Charge they were at in sending constant Supplies of Provisions, by planting Corn and other Grain there. But alas! Tho the Climate by its Distance from the Sun, should be as warm as ours; yet for Reasons, which the Naturalists will easily give us, ‘tis so cold and frosty, that it kills almost all sorts of Roots in the Ground which are sown there; and those Plantations, so often recommended by the Company, were chimerical and impracticable [sic: italics in source].”

[89] Williams, “Last Voyage of the Stork,” 45. Ledingham, “Nascopie in Hudson Bay,” 11. Williamson, “Voyage of the ‘Discovery’,” part II, 22. On the problem of ice at Charlton Island see Rich, “Appendix A,” Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company … First Part, 282.

[90] Oldmixon, “History of Hudson’s-Bay,” 379–80.

[91] Lower, “By River to Albany,” 19. Thomas Gorst, cited in Oldmixon, “History of Hudson’s-Bay,” 390, in his journal – which Oldmixon apparently possessed, and which Gorst had begun in 1670 – he likewise complained that the “Musketoes are extreamly troublesome [sic].”

[92] David Herd, quoted in Report from the Select Committee, (1858), 258, see also 256.

[93] Alwin, “Mode, Pattern and Pulse,” 8.

[94] John Nixon, “Report to the Governor and Committee by John Nixon, 1682,” Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company … First Part, 276.

[95] Oliver Fuller, “The Mariners at Sloop Cove,” The Beaver 43, no. 1 (summer 1963): 44–53, describes the careers of John Horner, Richard Camm, John Paterson, John Hulme, William Davisson, James Walker, John Marley, John Kelley, John Groat, Robert Fowler, John Douslen, John Irvin, George Holt, Robert Smith, Alexander Menzies, George Taylor, James Wood, Robert Lloyd, Richard Johnson, and William Story. See also, photo, in Richard Glover, “Samuel Hearne: Explorer and Naturalist,” Manitoba Pageant 4, no. 3 (April 1959) <; (accessed 9 October 2007).


Published 17 May 2010


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