Some whalers spent nine months of the year locked in the snow and ice at Herschel Island. While time was spent preparing the ships for winter moorage and later for the summer whale hunt, much time was spent with little to do. Boredom, loneliness, and disease took their toll on the whalers. Alcohol often aggravated these situations for them.

Captain Bodfish held the superstition that men who gave liquor to the natives would not enjoy good fortune. As a result, liquor was not included in his list of trade goods though it was brought along on the voyage for medicinal purposes and special occasions. All did not hold this outlook, and many ships arrived with cargos full of liquor for trade. The only law on the Island (the North West Mounted Police did not arrive until 1903), was imposed by the ships’ officers, many of whom were not exactly "law abiding citizens" themselves.

In the early years liquor flowed quite freely on Herschel Island. It was sold or traded for furs, walrus ivory, bone, and female companionship. As a result, drunkenness, rape, abductions, assaults, murder, and suicide all occurred from time to time.

Things began to settle down with the arrival in 1893 of Reverend Isaac Stringer. By 1894, many ship captains began to bring their wives and children. The newly established social clubs barred intoxicants.

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