The Russell Family
An historical and photographic perspective

A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora
The Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Company

The Aurora, Newfoundland Seal Fishery, c 1900
Robert Russell served aboard the Aurora from May 10, 1902 until March 22, 1905.

The Waugh Family Library

A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay, 1911 (12 MB pdf)

Ancestral Roots in Angus and Dundee, The Whaling Industry (195 Kb pdf)

Robert Russell served aboard the Aurora (ship # 75184) from May 10, 1902 until March 22, 1905.

Note: There were two different Auroras: the first one (ship # 75184) was a 244 foot, 823 ton,  iron-hulled vessel built (by the Gourlay Brothers) in Dundee in 1876 and owned in 1880 by James Murdie, Dundee; and the second (ship # 75196) was a 165 foot, 386 ton wood-hulled vessel built in Dundee in 1877 and owned in 1880 by William Stephen, Marine Parade, Dundee. It is likely that both were used in the seal and whale fishery. - from The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory for 1880

 From The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory for 1880
 From The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory for 1880
See also Lloyd's Register, 1887-88

The S.Y. Aurora (that was built in 1877) was one of the ships of the Dundee Seal and Whale Fishing Company fleet out of Dundee, Scotland. Sixteen ships sailed from Dundee every January for the early seal-fishery in Newfoundland. Some of these ships also engaged in the whale fishery once the the ice began to open in more northern Arctic waters. From 1876 to 1910, the Aurora made annual crossings of the Atlantic from Dundee to St. John's, Newfoundland to take part in the seal and whale hunts in the Arctic waters between Baffin Island and Greenland.  Robert Russell served aboard the Aurora from May 10, 1902 until March 22, 1905.

See the Listing for the Aurora in the Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory for 1904.

Robert Russell's Certificate of Discharge, 1901-1904, showing him boarding the Aurora on May 10, 1902
Robert Russell's Certificate of Discharge, 1901-1904, showing him boarding the Aurora on May 10, 1902
See original document | See other documents of Captain Robert Russell

Section and Deck Plan of the S.Y. Aurora
Section and Deck Plan of the S.Y. Aurora
from Douglas Mawson: Home of the Blizzard, William Heinemann, London, 1915


S. Y. Aurora
Photo by Xavier Mertz c 1913, Courtesy State Library New South Wales, Australia

A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora was written by David Moore Lindsay describing his experiences aboard the Aurora on a voyage in 1884. Although Robert Russell sailed twenty years later, he would have had similar experiences...


From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

January 30,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
January 30,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

February 20th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
February 20th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

North Atlantic Ocean, London Admiralty, 1869
North Atlantic Ocean, London Admiralty, 1869
Shows British cable of 1865 and 1866 (Valencia to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia), and French cable of 1869 (Brest to Duxbury Mass.).

St. John's, Newfoundland Sealing Fleet postage stamp

St. John's Newfoundland, c. 1900
St. John's Newfoundland, c. 1900

Fogo was one of the important sealing centres in Newfoundland.
Fogo was one of the important sealing centres in Newfoundland.
Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll - 137, 13.13.001),
Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.

March 10th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
March 10th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

After a refit at St John's they went on to Davis Strait (between Baffin Island and Greenland) and the sealing and whaling grounds, returning home in the autumn with oil and whalebone. The peak catch season for whaling off the coast of Newfoundland was in 1904.  This was a dangerous endeavour as the hunt took place amongst the ice floes. Many sealing and whaling vessels were caught in the floes and crushed by the ice.

Newfoundland Sealing Steamers Leaving for the Icefields
Newfoundland Sealing Steamers Leaving for the Icefields

The Aurora among ice floes
The Aurora among ice floes


From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

The Aurora in the ice
The Aurora in the ice

On the ice flow
On the ice flow

At the Newfoundland Sealfishery, c. 1904
At the Newfoundland Sealfishery, c. 1904

Whitecoats on the ice
Whitecoats on the ice
After the whitecoats were killed, they were sometimes piled on the ice and picked up later.
The ship's flag was placed on the ice to mark the ownership of the pile.
Photo by Holloway. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll - 137, 907-W),
Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Sealers towing pelts
Sealers towing pelts
Essential sealing equipment included gaffs for killing the seals and rope for hauling them back to the ship.
Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll - 137, 907-U), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.

Sealers towing pelts to the ship
Sealers towing pelts to the ship
The commercial spring seal hunt was one of Newfoundland and Labrador's most dangerous and demanding industries in the 19th century. Those who participated in it had to work in the hazardous and inhospitable conditions of the North Atlantic ice fields. Sealers spent up to 12 consecutive hours on the ice, often walking long distances across unstable ice pans.
Photographer unknown. Reproduced by permission of the Archives and Manuscripts Division (Coll. 137 25.01.010),
Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University, St. John's, NL.

March 16th,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
March 16th,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

March 17th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
March 17th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

March 22nd,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
March 22nd,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

St. John's Newfoundland - Unloading the Seal Pelts

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Seal pelts and ship

 

Seal Pelts

 

Seal Pelts

See The 19th Century Steamer Seal Fishery for more information on the Newfoundland Seal Hunt.

St. John's Harbour in Spring
St. John's Harbour in Spring
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Whalers going to Davis Strait

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

May 8th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
May 8th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
May 13th,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Map of Baffin Island showing Frobisher Bay (lower right) c. 1900
Map of Baffin Island showing Hudson Strait, Cape Chidley, Labrador and Frobisher Bay (lower right) c. 1900

Department of the Interior, Canada, Explorations in Northern Canada
Department of the Interior, Canada, Explorations in Northern Canada

Map showing Hudson Strait, Cape Chidley, Labrador and Frobisher Bay (lower right) c. 1860
Map showing Hudson Strait, Cape Chidley, Labrador and Frobisher Bay (centre) c. 1860

May 14th,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
May 14th,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

June 18th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
June 18th, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

June 22nd,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
June 22nd,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Map of Baffin Island showing Frobisher Bay (lower right) c. 1900
Map of Baffin Island showing Lancaster Sound and Cape Horsburgh, North Devon Island (upper left) c. 1900

Map showing Lancaster Sound and Cape Horsburgh, North Devon Island (upper left) c. 1860
Map showing Lancaster Sound and Cape Horsburgh, North Devon Island (upper left), J. Arrowsmith, 1860

S. Y. Aurora
S. Y. Aurora

July 3rd,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
July 3rd,  A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay


Before breakfast a bear was seen in the water and shot by McLean
July 3, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
July 10, A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

The ice floe edge, Whaling Barque Harmony of Hull, William John Huggins, 1781-1845
The ice floe edge, Whaling Barque Harmony of Hull, William John Huggins, 1781-1845


Log of the S.S. Aurora in Lancaster Sound, July 19, 1884, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Davis Strait Whale Fisher, John Boydell, 1720-1804
Davis Strait Whale Fisher, John Boydell, 1720-1804

Peche De La Baleine, Ambrose Louis Garneray, 1783-1857
Peche De La Baleine, Ambrose Louis Garneray, 1783-1857

Dangers of the Whale Fishery
Dangers of the Whale Fishery

Aug 9, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
Aug 9, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Whalebone
Whalebone
Photo courtesy of The Forgotten Story of Inuit Whalers

Whale fin and blubber aboard the ship
Whale fin and blubber aboard the ship
Photo courtesy of The Forgotten Story of Inuit Whalers

The Aurora at Cape York
The Aurora at Cape York
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Esquimaux Hans Henri, c 1875
At Proven, Hans Henri, Esquimaux Dog-Driver, with his son and daughter, c 1875
Repro ID: P39584 © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

Aug 29 & 30, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
Aug 29 & 30, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Aug 30, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
Aug 30, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Sept 8, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
Sept 8, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

Sept 20, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay
Sept 20, From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay

From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay, 1911
From A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay, 1911

Old Polynia

There’s a noble fleet of whalers a-sailing from Dundee,
Manned by British sailors to take them o’er the sea.
On a western ocean passage we started on the trip.
We flew along just like a song in our gallant whaling ship.
‘Twas the second Sunday morning, just after leaving port,
We met a heavy Sou’west gale that washed away our boat.
It washed away our quarterdeck, our stanchions just as well,
And so we sent the whole shebang a-floating in the gale.

CHORUS :

For the wind was on her quarter and the engine’s working free.
There’s not another whaler that sails the Arctic Sea
Can beat the Old Polina, you need not try, my sons,
For we challenged all both great and small from Dundee to St. John’s.
Art Jackman set his canvas, Fairweather got up steam,
But Captain Guy, the daring boy, came plunging through the stream.
And Mullins in the Husky tried to beat the blooming lot,
But to beat the Old Polina was something he could not.

CHORUS

There’s the noble Terra Nova, a model without doubt.
The Arctic and Aurora they talk so much about.
Art Jackman’s model mailboat, the terror of the sea,
Tried to beat the Old Polina on a passage from Dundee.

CHORUS

And now we’re back in old St. John’s where rum is very cheap.
So we’ll drink a health to Captain Guy who brought us o’er the deep.
A health to all our sweethearts and to our wives so fair.
Not another ship could make the trip but the Polina I declare.

Marine Chronometer c. 1815
Marine Chronometer c. 1815

A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora, by David Moore Lindsay, 1911 (12 MB pdf)

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