The pioneers of British Columbia’s modern shore-based whale fishery were Captain Sprott Balcom and Captain William Grant who formed the Victoria Whaling Company in 1905. The company hunted the five major species that inhabited our coast: blue, humpback, fin, sei and sperm whales. They established whaling stations at Sechart (1905), Kyuquot (1907), Rose Harbour (1909), and Naden Harbour (1911) and built a processing station at Sechart. They used steam-powered chaser boats and harpoon cannons to hunt all types of large whales. Between 1905 and 1967, these stations processed approximately 25,000 whales.
Captain Sprott Balcom
In 1915 Balcom’s company went into receivership and William Schupp acquired the company’s assets. Schupp’s Seattle-based American Pacific Whaling Company operated whaling stations at Akutan and Bay City (Gray’s Harbour, Washington). From 1915-1918 he reorganized the Canadian operation as a subsidiary of the American Pacific Whaling Co., renaming it the Consolidated Whaling Corporation Ltd.. Operations of the Consolidated Whaling Co. remained headquartered at Point Ellice, Victoria while the legal offices of the Consolidated Whaling Co. were in Toronto. In words of Graeme Balcom;
Whale hunting was an exciting and brutal adventure. With the ship in a likely area of the sea for finding whales, the helmsman crisscrossed the area and the gunner loaded the harpoon into the canon along with it’s mighty charge of black powder. At the same time, a crewman, having climbed up the ratlines and rope ladder mounted atop the mast, would begin his lookout duties. When a whale was spotted with an excited ‘Whale Ho!’, or ‘Thar She Blows!’, the ship would become completely quiet and the captain/gunner would take his place on the bow behind the harpoon cannon.”
The Consolidated Whaling Co. wharf outside of Victoria’s Point Ellice bridge was home to their five Norwegian-built whaling vessels Black, Blue, White, Brown, and Green. Gray (ex Petriana) was the company tender, travelling between Victoria’s main wharf and the whaling stations with supplies; returning with oil, whalebone and other by-products from the whaling industry. At the end of the whaling season Gray would travel south to San Francisco with a mixed cargo of whale oil and fertilizer for sale. Other vessels later owned by the company included the Orion, St. Lawrence and W. Grant.
The internment of Japanese–Canadians in 1942 deprived Consolidated Whaling Co. of its most skilled station hands. Whaling continued until 1943 when the boats were docked for the last time. By 1945 the boats were rusty from inactivity and though interested parties tried to revive the whaling fishery, response was indifferent. In 1947 Schupp sold the company’s remaining assets and the boats were sold for scrap in a public auction. The only vessel purchased was Green, however she remained inactive and eventually sank in Victoria’s harbour.
William Schupp passed away in 1948. After World War II, a consortium led by B.C. Packers out of Coal Harbour continued British Columbia’s whaling fishery. During the 1960s production shifted from oil and fertilizer manufacturing to the processing of edible whale meat for export. By 1967 the declining market for these products and a lack of whales in the area ended the whale fishery and the last west coast whaling stations closed.