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When the Whalers Were Up North: Inuit Memories from the Eastern Arctic

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whaling vessels from Great 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 solely documented from the perspective of the whalers, never from the viewpoint of the Inuit, whose lives were touched – and sometimes destroyed – by their presence. 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, tales are told of when the whalers first appeared on the north-east coast of Baffin Island. Our understanding of Inuit life is often linked to the fur traders, who arrived in the North fifty years after 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.

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