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Americans in Cumberland Sound

Americans in Cumberland Sound

(p.1) 1 Americans in Cumberland Sound
Do You See Ice?
Karen Routledge
University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers the experiences of American whalers in the Inuit homeland of Cumberland Sound. Voyages from 1850-1880 are discussed, but the focus is on the booming years of the commercial bowhead whaling industry in the 1860s, when shiploads of Qallunaat (non-Inuit, non-Indigenous people) arrived each year and froze their ships in for the winter. Despite living next to Inuit communities, most American whalers struggled to see Cumberland Sound as anything approximating a home. Many were miserable, fell ill, and perished here. I consider why these American whalers legitimately experienced Cumberland Sound as a hard place to live, how this related more to their background and circumstances than to an inherently harsh environment, and what this can tell us about how Qallunaat have related to the Arctic and to Inuit. I also consider a few American whalers who returned to Cumberland Sound over and over again, and their relationships with this place and its people. This chapter is structured around six Inuit seasons, and looks at distinct events that occurred as these Arctic seasons turned: desertions, shipwrecks, loneliness, the experience of overwintering, scurvy, and whaling itself.

Keywords:   Inuit, American, whalers, Arctic, bowhead, Cumberland Sound, George Tyson, Sidney Budington, scurvy, shipwrecks, seasons

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