Sealing in the Southern Oceans 1788-1833
"Prehistoric Man preyed on seals and related sea mammals so heavily that few survived except on uninhabitable coasts and islands far off shore. After 1750 the London-based Honourable East India Company began searching widely for whatever products they could sell on the fickle Canton market in order to buy China goods, especially tea. Captain Cook's last voyage established that the Chinese were keen to buy 'fine furs' such as sea otters and prime sealskins. In the bonanza rush that ensued to exploit the seals wherever they could be found, the fur trade was soon dominated by the smaller, more nimble, American merchant captains. To obtain seal skins for 'Peking Wraps' and 'London Hats', the American sealers explored the ends of the earth, including the subantarctic islands south of New Zealand, all the islands in the southern Indian Ocean, and even penetrated beyond into the Antarctic. The hardships borne by these sealers were very much the stuff of real life romance. This global review of the sealing trade shows that the sealers killed at least seven million seals, which is far more than previously estimated. This has required an adjustment of the base lines, with a big increase in estimates of the number of fur seals alive before commercial sealing began, and a sharp reduction in their rate of recovery so far." --Back cover.
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