Friday, October 21, 2011

The Maritime Fur-Traders

The history of Haida Gwaii since the time of Cook's voyage was for many years to be the story of the sea-otter trade. The traffic in the glossy "peltries" was to be prosecuted relentlessly until the species was almost exterminated.

The men who initiated the English fur trade in the Pacific (Portlock, Dixon, and Colnett) and who were to visit and leave descriptions of Haida Gwaii were all Cook's men. Even the navigator, Vancouver [that was his name], the first actual cartographer of the whole coast, was an officer with Cook on his last voyage. All had been trained in the methods of the great navigator. It was they, too, who spread abroad the news of the wealth to be obtained in the maritime trade on that far coast. In fact, so elated were the crews of Cook's two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, over the prices the sea-otter pelts brought in Canton, that they almost mutinied when it was found impossible for them to return immediately to the American coast. The orders of the Admiralty, under whose control they sailed, and the outbreak of wars between Great Britian, France, and Spain curbed their eagerness. For five years no further developments took place in the maritime fur trade to the north. However, with the coming of peace by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 exploration again became possible. The publication of Cook's great work, entitled "Voyage to the Pacific Ocean undertaken by command of His Majesty for making discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere," aroused tremendous public interest and from that date commerce in the great Pacific North-west begins.

next:-- The First English Traders