2 Matching Annotations
- Mar 2017
In 1848, the whaling ship Superior, having an unsuccessful season hunting right whales in the Northern Pacific passed through the Bering Strait and into the Arctic Ocean. Within three years, 250 ships were hunting the plentiful bowhead whales in these Arctic seas. These whales were originally sought for oil, but the development of petroleum turned baleen into their most valuable commodity. This material possessed the peculiar property of retaining a heated shape once cooled, and as a result, its price rose from 32 cents a pound in 1850 to $4.90 by 1905.1 The expansion of whaling in the Arctic greatly developed San Francisco’s whaling industry, reducing the need to sail back New England. In 1880, the introduction of the steam ship to the Arctic made it possible for ships to winter north of the Bering Strait and thus reach the whales earlier in the season. But Eskimo exposure to these whalers because of this northern push proved especially detrimental when they were introduced to alcohol and a variety of diseases. It was so devastating that many northern villages lost as much as half their population. Eventually, the yearly fluctuations in the profitability of the industry as well as the high insurance rates introduced after the destruction of the entire fleet in 1871 and a declining price of baleen began to usher in the end of whaling in the artic. This decline was somewhat extended by an increase in the number of ships combining whaling with trade, but as steel and other substitutes for baleen grew in popularity, the industry collapsed. The baleen provided by the bowhead whale had extended whaling in the region beyond many others, but by 1916 only two ships went north, and one was almost exclusively focused on trade.1
- Vanstone, James W. "Commercial Whaling in the Arctic Ocean." The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 49, no. 1 (1958): 1-10. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40487275.
- Oct 2013