Sea Ice and Wooden Boats
1989, Video, 26:00
The Peterhead boats are the vehicle for this production, both literally and figuratively. This documentary takes you on these old wooden boats through the pack ice of Hudson Bay and out to the Walrus Islands of Hudson Strait. The story of the old boats saps a 70-year period of Arctic history, now in decline. We begin with the whalers, the Scottish and American ships that wintered in such ice-bound harbours as Cape Fullerton, Repulse Bay and Marble Island. The whalers depended on the Inuit to provide them with caribou, seal and musk-ox for meat supplies and skins for the essential winter clothing the women made for them. In their turn the Inuit were introduced to the materials and ways of the industrialized world. By the 1950s, however, the Northern economy that had stayed relatively strong though the Great Depression collapsed. Fur prices declined sharply. The Inuit people were driven into a state of dependency on Ottawa and were bossed by the RCMP. Through all of this, some of the Peterhead families survived; they maintained their independence and their boats. This documentary is about them, about their tenacity and hard-working courage, and about the little-known Arctic maritime tradition they represent.