Ocean Crossings: Hudson's Bay Company Seafaring in a Northern North Atlantic World

By Hall, Norma J. | Manitoba History, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Ocean Crossings: Hudson's Bay Company Seafaring in a Northern North Atlantic World


Hall, Norma J., Manitoba History


The maritime component of the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), though fundamental to its trade, is an aspect of its influence in the North-West that is often overlooked, despite readily apparent clues. The Company's yearly outfit, for example, was set when ships were outfitted to voyage to Hudson Bay at the beginning of June. The posts built on the shores of Hudson and James bays were first of all ports--built by ships' crews and located where ships could go. "Ship time" marked the beginning of the trade season in the North-West. The master-servant relationship on shore was a reflection of a long-standing relation aboard ship, and, historically, masters ashore (at least those stationed bayside) were often mariners--people like Richard Norton, his son Moses Norton, and Joseph Isbister--as were Company founders and committee members such as Prince Rupert, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Captain George Spurrell. Inland surveyors of renown were trained in mariner methods as well--from Henry Kelsey and Samuel Hearne to David Thompson. (1)

The nature of HBC seafaring can be gleaned from ships' logs that indicate where ships were and what work was being done, from journals that impart glimpses of the social life aboard ship, and by comparing data--about ships, routes and sailors--with what is known about seafaring that took place elsewhere. (2) Surveying transatlantic shipping to Hudson Bay, from the late 1600s to the early 1900s, reveals that each voyage was unique in terms of conditions, a ship's complement, and encounters. Nevertheless, Company records show enough regularity to support a general description, broadly representative of HBC ocean crossings of the northernmost extent of the North Atlantic. Such a description follows: defining the Northern North Atlantic as a distinct portion of the maritime world, then furnishing an unrealistically brief view of an ocean crossing, followed by a description of the ships that were workplaces and social spaces, and finishing with a mention of seafarers associated with Red River Settlement.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The point made is that the Western Canadian present is not an arbitrary circumstance, but a context arising out of a historical process with an ocean-crossing dimension. When contemplating the dynamics of this process, notably at Red River, but in other locations as well, there is merit in thinking beyond shorelines to take seafaring experience into account.

In 2009, Norma Hall obtained a PhD from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Since then she has worked with the governments of Canada and Manitoba, recovering the history of the Legislative Assembly of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia (1870), and researching the Metis experience with residential schools.

Geographical space and the HBC ocean arc

Ocean crossings to Hudson Bay shared aspects of merchant voyages on shipping lanes, just to the south, that connected European ports and those of the Eastern Seaboard of North America. Nevertheless, HBC seafaring was distinct. First, sailors and seafarers dealt with a different set of natural features. Second, their ships, as workplaces, were more crowded and in some respects more complicated to handle. Third, they underwent a singular social experience, due to the first two factors and because the people who made up a ship's community were overwhelmingly "Company" people--including individuals who were native to North America.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The space traversed by HBC ships was markedly northern. Canadian historians generally situate the North between 54[degrees] and 66[degrees]33'35" North latitude, above the fertile belt of the prairies, and below the "eternal ice and snow" of the Arctic. (3) Company voyages also dipped into Canada's Middle North in James Bay. And, at their eastern end, voyages crossed what maritime historians have designated the North Atlantic. Geographically speaking, the oceanic space of historical HBC sea voyages was not properly a region, because that term applies to land.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ocean Crossings: Hudson's Bay Company Seafaring in a Northern North Atlantic World
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.