29th May 2020

The Strange History and Legend of the Moran Moor

Extract Six. The Savage Coast

Apart from the Honorable East India Company the only other regular source of employment was to be found in the counting house of John Perkins Cushing, a Bostonian native who had arrived in Guangdong province in the year 1804. Cushing had soon realized that the only way to make any inroads into the EIC’s virtual monopoly in Canton was to dabble quite blatantly in the opium trade.  The export of the Indian opium production was totally controlled by his British opposition, so Cushing and several other Bostonian shipping companies contrived to opened up the only alternative supply, that being through the Ottoman Empire. Small clippers were soon running from Boston across the Atlantic, through the straits of Gibraltar, to reach the Levant, carrying all manner of Chinese silk and damask and return with holds packed with repurposed tea chests bursting with black opium.

Once again Julien’s comradeship with Aqantie’wit proved pivotal, the clippers returning from Canton via the north west reaches of the Americas Pacific coastline, in the constant thirst for sea otter pelts. Aqantie’wit’s northern tribal heritage made him invaluable crew for such a voyage and Julien’s now considerable skill at signing would prove almost as useful. Their clipper departed Dane Island anchorage in early February 1824, expecting to reach Russian America some three months later, hopefully avoiding the worst of the winters displeasure.

The ‘Sarah Elliot’, named for Thomas Handasyd Perkins spouse, was amongst the fastest of the Boston clippers and Captain Gracewell drove her relentlessly forward with an ever-present scowl. Unnecessary time at sea was money wasted and the captain’s bonus based on average knots accomplished ensured every inch of available canvas was raised high whenever possible. Julien and Aqantie’wit were kept busy keeping a weather eye out for any unwanted whale contact. The clippers high rate speed and every whales total indifference to the maritime rules of right of way made unwanted contact a constant threat. Such occurrences though unusual did happen and seemed not to bother the remarkably robust creatures much at all. A ship however was a vastly different construct and many a craft involved in such collisions would suffer the ultimate penalty.

It is at this moment in the historical record that conjecture and logical conclusion must take the place of verifiable fact. Whether it was indeed Whale strike that drove the ‘Sarah Elliott’ to Davy Jones locker or some other equally terrible ocean born calamity must remain purely a matter of rumor and hearsay. Our best and most intense research was unable to locate unerringly acceptable evidence, cept that within the oral histories and a certain number of appropriately aged woven blankets much reference is made to an enormous and unusually aggressive school of blackfish that in the very same timeframe held sway in the vicinity upending any number of native craft within the close confines of what is now know as the Salish sea and was then the preferred way to enter Vancouver passage and the many there established fur trading establishments.

References

Ships of the East India Company. Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society. Hackman, Rowan (2001).

Whaling Crew List Database, New Bedford Whaling Museum

Handbook of North American Indians, vol 15: Northeast.  B G Trigger ed. 1978

Micmac First Reading Book, 1870, Rand

Lloyds Register of Shipping 1806

Reports from the Select Committee of the House of Commons appointed to enquire into the present state of the affairs of the East India Company, together with the minutes of evidence, an appendix of documents, and a general index, (1830), Vol. 2.

Sea Otter Hunting on the Pacific Coast, Arthur Woodward 1938

Circumnavigation, Empire, Modernity, Race: The Impact of Round-the-World Voyages on Russia’s mperial onciousness, Ilya Vinkovetsky; Library of Congress

The Russian American Colonies, 1798–1867: A Documentary Record. Oregon Historical Society Press. Basil Dmytryshyn, E. A. P. Crownhart-Vaughan; Thomas Vaughan. 1989

 “Chapters of Boston History: Episodes of Boston Commercs”, The Atlantic Monthly. 1903 M.A. Howe DeWolfe, 1903

Moor’s Reach, Moran Water, Orcas

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