Whaling was very profitable for the captains and owners of the ships. A good season could bring up to $400,000. worth of whales. In 1900 whale oil sold for $15 a barrel and baleen for $6 a pound. A single bowhead could yield a hundred barrels of oil and 2000 pounds of baleen, making the whale worth about $15,000.

In the summer of 1890, two American ships based in San Francisco arrived at Herschel Island. They brought sufficient supplies for the coming winter as it was almost impossible to sail north, hunt and return, all in one season. The ships’ crews were a motley assortment from Portugal, New Zealand, Hawaii, the Siberian coast, and America. Many were down-on-their-luck, or running from the law and had never been on a sailing ship. Consequently, although they were well suited for a life at sea, these nefarious characters would have profound negative effects on the native population.

Soon, a number of factors contributed to the demise of whaling in the area. The number of bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea declined quickly with the presence of over 30 ships each season. By the mid 1890s, the whales were no longer "thick as bees" around the mouth of the Mackenzie River. The introduction of plastic and the development of petroleum products caused the prices of baleen and oil to fall. In 1904, baleen sold for as much as $5.80 per pound. Within a few years, the price dropped to .50 cent
Old Log Church Museum

© Old Log Church Museum 2002. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans