Post-Grant Reports


Whaling the Pacific World: Race, Sexuality, and Environment on the High Seas

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Cultural History | Environmental Sciences


My research has made great strides in 2014 thanks to the generosity of the Faculty Development Program. As I was able to combine archival research trips with travel for invited talks and other service opportunities, I managed to stretch my research funds to their maximum capacity. I gave several invited talks in California in March, presented on my current project at the annual meeting of the American Society for Environmental History, and then stayed on in San Francisco to conduct research at both UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library and at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in San Bruno, CA (just south of San Francisco). At Berkeley, I consulted several archived whaling ship logs and gained a better understanding of their overall holdings. At San Bruno, I mined the Admiralty Court records of San Francisco from the mid-nineteenth century. I gained a better understanding of the types of legal charges most commonly brought against whaling ship captains in that port and traced some of the whaling ship crews actively involved in the court case at the heart of my new project (Enos v. Sowle). In the process, I determined that legal charges of a sexual nature were incredibly rare in the time period in question, and I gained a fuller picture of the sequence of events that led to the arrest of Captain Nathaniel Sowle in 1860.

Soon after my trip to San Francisco, I traveled to Washington, D.C. Since I was invited to serve on a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) review panel and had to be in D.C. anyway, I had the opportunity to arrive a few days early and conduct research at the National Archives in College Park, MD. I was thus able to take advantage of the NEH reimbursement of my airfare to do research I otherwise would have had to pay for on my own. While there, I explored the letters of the U.S. Consul to Hawai’i in the late 1850s and early 1860s. I discovered revelatory correspondence between consular officials and the Hawaiian Minister of Foreign Affairs about Enos v. Sowle, so this was an extremely productive trip.

My final research trip utilizing these funds was to Bellingham and Seattle, Washington. As my research progressed on both the whaling project and on a previously written draft article I was revisiting and hoping to complete, it became clear that quick visits to the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies at Western Washington University and to the University of Washington Library would be extremely fruitful. In Bellingham I explored several Northwest Native oral history collections for my draft article. In Seattle, I took advantage of the vast holdings of the University of Washington Library to do additional research for both the article and my whaling project. I also spent several days in the library’s Special Collections division. I made significant strides on both projects as a result.

My primary goals for my sabbatical period have been more than met, thanks to the combination of these faculty development monies and funds from outside sources. The research trips listed here, together with others I took to Hawai’i that were funded by the American Philosophical Society have convinced me that the whaling project should become a book-length study. As noted, I am also in the process of revising a journal article I drafted years ago about the impact of the U.S.-Canada border on Pacific Northwest Native peoples in the mid-nineteenth century. I hope to both submit this piece for publication in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal and continue to move forward on the whaling project in the spring of 2015. Given the current status of my whaling research, I am also hopeful that I will be able to create student collaborative research opportunities in the coming summers.


This research was conducted as part of a Linfield College Faculty Development Grant in 2014, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

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