An interest attaches to living whales which outweighs the fascination with which we study their dead parts. Each species of the whale propagates with one of its own species only. The fidelity of whales to each other exceeds the constancy of birds. The whale mother gives birth to one calf, and in extremely rare cases two calves, producing every second year, the young being born between the end of March and the beginning of May. When the mother suckles her young she throws herself on one side on the surface of the sea and the calf regularly feeds at the breast (like a young Eskimo) for nearly two years. During this time the baby is extremely fat and the mother correspondingly emaciated. Perhaps nothing in nature is more touching than the devotion of a female whale to its wounded young. Whalers harpoon the babe at the breast so that they may afterwards secure the dam. In this case, the mother joins the wounded young under the surface of the water, comes up with it when it rises to breathe, encourages it to swim off, assists its flight by taking it under her fin, and seldom deserts it while life remains.
Unless the Circumpolar Bowhead is to become extinct within a decade, the thinking world should strengthen the hands of the Canadian authorities in an effort to put a close season for four or five years on the great Arctic Baleen Whale. At their rate of reproduction it is not so easy to restock a whale pasture as a salmon stream. Cutting down a whale which has taken ten centuries to grow is like cutting down an oak-tree with a thousand concentric rings. You cannot in one or two or twenty scant generations of man grow another one to take its place.
SOUTH FROM THE ARCTIC TO CHIPEWYAN
“The old lost stars wheel back, dear lass,
That blaze in the velvet blue.
They’re God’s own guides on the Long Trail—
The trail that is always new.”
A tax on tea caused the revolt of the thirteen Colonies, a taunting load of tennis-balls lost France to the Dauphin. Eighty years ago on this Arctic edge, white beads, or the lack of them, lost a lucrative fur-trade, alienated the Loucheux and caused the death of whites. “Trifles make the sum of human things.”
The old records tell the story. John Bell from Fort Good Hope, under date of August 14th, 1827, writes to the Factor at Fort Simpson:
“The beads sent in for the Loucheux trade are not sufficiently large to please them. I request you will endeavour to send in the largest size for the trade of the ensuing year. A specimen of the kind wanted I send enclosed.”
The Factor at Fort Simpson, under date of November 22nd of the same year, writes to the Governor and Chief Factors at Montreal:
“I now forward a specimen of the common white beads wanted for the trade with the Loucheux Indians. It is their request and I hope it will be attended to. I would not venture to make the demand, were it not from conviction that without this favourite article these Indians look with indifference on the best of our goods. No other ornamental article is ever asked for or wanted by these natives.”