Recollections of a crucial period of Inuit history by those whose lives were irrevocably altered by the arrival of the whalers.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whaling vessels from Britain and America plied their trade in great numbers in the waters off the Eastern Arctic of North America. The heyday of whaling has, until now, been documented solely from the perspective of the whalers, never from the viewpoint of the Inuit, whose lives were touched - and sometimes destroyed - by their presence. Here, finally, is a rich view from the perspective of the Inuit, who welcomed the whalers and served on their crews.
The author tells a story drawn from oral memories, a story which will soon disappear with the last Inuit generation to have seen the whalers. Illuminated by a remarkable collection of drawings, photographs, and illustrations, many in full colour, tales are told of when the whalers first appeared on the north-east coast of Baffin Island, how they set up land stations in the whale-rich waters of Cumberland Sound, and how they eventually pushed on into Hudson Bay. During this time the Inuit not only fed and clothed the whalers, they hunted with them, adding to the whalers' wealth.
Our understanding of change in Inuit life is often linked to the fur traders, who arrived in the North fifty years after the arrival of the whalers. In truth it is the Inuit's close contact with the foreign world of the whalers which marked the beginning of a change in previously undisturbed Inuit culture and traditions.