Sandy Balcom will speak at the next meeting of the Old Sydney Society on 27 March 2014, 7:30 PM at the Centre for Heritage and Science, 225 George St., Sydney. The title of Sandy's talk is: To “the Ice”: Cape Breton and Mainland Nova Scotia Participation in the Seal Hunt 1825-1845
B.A. (Sandy) Balcom
During the mid-1820s, Nova Scotia's maritime entrepreneurs looked with envy at the tremendous growth in Newfoundland's seal hunt, which concentrated on the taking of immature harp seals on the ice-fields in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and more significantly to the north of Newfoundland. Occurring at a time of year when vessels and crews were typically under-employed, the seal hunt appeared a natural complement to the province's existing maritime trades and fisheries. On Cape Breton, a modest seal hunt already existed, which focused on the taking of young and adult seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as soon as ice conditions permitted. Entrepreneurs successfully lobbied for a bounty to encourage sealing, which began in 1833 and continued annually, with one exception, until 1844. In spite of this encouragement, the industry faced inconsistent returns, difficulties in obtaining competent crews and threats from ice and weather to vessels and crews. Although some growth was achieved, the bounty did not achieve its overall objective of fostering a sealing industry and was eliminated after 1844. Cape Breton participation in the seal hunt continued but this effort at diversifying the province's traditional maritime economy failed to meet its expectations.