T. Pedersen and Canalaska
Theodore Pedersen first came to the Arctic as part of the crew of
a whaling ship that wintered at Herschel Island in 1894/95. After
this initial experience he continued in the whaling industry in
different capacities, eventually commanding the whaling schooner
Challenge, that wintered at Point Barrow, Alaska in 1908-09.
C.T. Pedersen in suit.
N- 1986-002: 0066)
the collapse of the whalebone market, which began in 1906, Pedersen
continued to work as a ships captain engaged in the fur trade
along the coast of Alaska. Pedersen made his first attempt to
go into business for himself in 1912 when he purchased a schooner
that he named Elvira. Unfortunately Elvira was
crushed in ice in her second season of whaling and trading along
the coast of Alaska. It was at this time that Pedersen began a
long relationship with George Washington Porter, a man of European
and Alaskan Eskimo descent who served as a deck hand on the Elvira.
Porter would later play a key role in Pedersen’s Canalaska
business in the Kitikmeot.
returned to the western Canadian Arctic in 1914 when he was hired
by the H. Liebes Company of San Franscisco to command their supply
ship Herman to resupply their trading posts in Alaska
and to conduct whaling and trading voyages in the Beaufort Sea.
He continued coming north in the open water season, and whaling
and trading in the western Arctic as the captain of the Herman
captain of the Herman, Pedersen developed a reputation
among native and white residents of the north as an honest and
reliable trader who provided goods at a reasonable price. This
reputation served him well when he resigned from the H. Liebes
Company in 1923 over a salary dispute, and he embarked upon his
own trading voyage in his new motor schooner Nanuk. He
was so successful that he drove his old employers out of the western
Arctic and his new company the Northern Whaling and Trading Company
Shortly after establishing his new business the Canadian government
invoked an existing regulation that prohibited coastal trade by
foreign ships. Before this legislation was acted upon, Pedersen
would sail along the Beaufort Sea coast and make a number of stops
to trade as far east as Baillie Island. He now had to land his
goods at Herschel and pay duty on them. In order to comply with
these new conditions Pedersen built a bonded customs warehouse
at Herschel Island in 1924 and a trading post in 1925. To continue
his Canadian trade practices, he formed a Canadian subsidiary
of the Northern Whaling and Trading Company - the Canalaska Trading
Company - with Vancouver business interests. Canalaska took delivery
of goods at Herschel and conducted the coastal trade from the
smaller over-wintering schooners Nigalik and Emma
that were under Canadian registry.
Canalaska gas schooner Emma. Cambridge Bay, September
Burwash/National Archives of Canada/PA 99650)
Canalaska Trading post with Company's trading
schooner Nigalik in front. Cambridge Bay. 1931
Archives of Canada/PA 100686).
By 1925 Pedersen’s business was so successful that he had
to replace the 261-ton Nanuk with the 580-ton former
Coast Survey vessel Patterson. He had two small schooners,
the Nigalik and Emma and established trading
posts as far east as Gjoa Haven on King William Island. There
his agent, George Washington Porter, Jr., received furs from as
far east as Somerset Island in the eastern Arctic. The Nigalik
and Emma met the Patterson at Herschel Island
annually to exchange furs and trade goods.
Patterson in shipyard at Oakland, California almost ready
to sail for Herschel Island.
Archives of Canada/C 26527)
was a successful fur trading business, competing head to head
with the HBC. Unfortunately there was a decline in trading activity
along the arctic coast after the beginning of the depression in
1930. At this time the HBC continued to expand and relocate its
posts. Pedersen failed to persuade his partners in Canalaska to
expand to meet the challenge, and had to recommend that the company
be sold to the HBC. Canalaska was sold to the HBC in 1936. Its
stock was bought by the HBC at locations where they had competing
posts, and the schooner Nigalik was purchased for $10,000.
Canalaska discontinued operations in the Kitikmeot in 1938.