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Norwegian Whaling in Newfoundland

{Dr. Anthony Dickinson and Dr. Chesley Sanger}
Dr. Anthony Dickinson and Dr. Chesley Sanger

Dr. Anthony Dickinson and Dr. Chesley Sanger
With the publication of Norwegian Whaling in Newfoundland, Dr. Anthony Dickinson, of the Department of Biology and executive director of the International Centre, and Dr. Chesley Sanger, honorary research professor in geography and member of the Maritime Studies Research Unit, have brought to light a significant aspect of this province's maritime history that had been largely unexplored.

"Other resource exploitation industries in Newfoundland have been well described ... the seal fishery, the cod fishery; the whaling industry has not," explained Dr. Dickinson. Norwegian Whaling is the unique account of the wholly Norwegian owned and operated whaling station in Aquaforte which existed between 1902 and 1908. Due to the ephemeral aspect of the Newfoundland whaling stations, which prospered and then foundered according to the cyclical nature of commercial whaling, it proved difficult to find complete records of a single station. The Aquaforte whaling station, owned and operated by the Ellefsen family of Norway, was the only such operation for which Drs. Dickinson and Sanger found a "comprehensive set of information." The Aquaforte records they acquired constitute a microcosm of the whale fishery in Newfoundland in the early 20th century.

This case study is of great interest not only to maritime history scholars, but to "any Newfoundlander interested in history ... especially those along the Southern Shore," stated Dr. Sanger. He adds that they were pleased by the opportunity provided by the International Maritime Economic History Association to publish their research in a medium easily accessible to the general public. "Very seldom do academics have a chance to bring their academic work to the public, and the [book] so far has been very well-received."

Norwegian Whaling in Newfoundland is in fact the result of a fortuitous connection made by descendants of the Aquaforte Norwegian whalers. The descendants visited Newfoundland and contacted Drs. Dickinson and Sanger to discuss their relationship to the whaling industry here. The scholars were already combing through copies of "every single Newfoundland and St. John's newspapers, [dating from] 1895 right through the end of the whale fishery," in order to gather information for a comprehensive history of whaling in Newfoundland and Labrador they intend to publish at a later date. When the existence of the Aquaforte records was revealed to them, it was an extraordinary "bonus."

Dr. Sanger reiterates that the Aquaforte whaling operation is but a part of the significant whaling industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, which existed between 1898 and 1972, when the Canadian government brought an end to the industry. The Ellefsen records provided them with the best information on the Newfoundland whaling industry during this particular early 20th century cycle. It is a "snapshot" of the Newfoundland whaling history that will only serve to heighten interest in and awareness of this integral part of the "economic and social fabric" of the province.

[Image of Book Cover]

{Memorial University of Newfoundland}