The Dartmouth Whalers

“THERE can be few incidents in Nova Scotian history which, on the surface, present a greater enigma than that of the Dartmouth whale fishery. In 1785 a fleet of thirteen whalers, with fishermen and their families, came to Dartmouth. They put up houses, and settled, and in three years built up a successful and lucrative industry. But four years later, in the full enjoyment of it, suddenly, and for no apparent reason, they packed up their belongings, left their homes to tumble down or rot, and sailed away. This strange interlude has attracted scant attention from contemporary or subsequent writers. The loyalist and romantic town of Shelburne, whose dramatic rise and fall after the loyalists’ coming has evoked prolonged comment from nearly everyone who has written on that period of Nova Scotian history, presented no stranger phenomenon than contemporary Dartmouth. Yet no Haliburton has arisen to grieve over her deserted wharves and vacant houses. For more than half a century they bore mute witness to the few years of frenzied work that comprised the life of Dartmouth’s lost enterprise.”

Ells, Margaret, “The Dartmouth Whalers” Dalhousie Review, Volume 15, Number 1, 1935