A hard day’s work
Posted on 01 June 2011
Written by Steve Knauth
This 19th century engraving, made for the U.S. government by artist H.W. Elliott, seems at first just an idyllic fishing scene, with a few birds and a nostalgic old dory. But there’s drama in the details; the wave tops are blown into spindrift, the doryman’s hat is blown from his head, the birds wheel along with a stiff breeze, and the dory — full of fish — is filling with water.
Scribbled on the picture are the words “a struggle for life — caught to leeward in a squall.” Anyone who’s fought his or her way across a windswept harbor in a dinghy full of groceries has an inkling of the feeling.
The big fishing schooner, the mother ship, can do little to help; it has put out a line astern with a trawl buoy attached. It’s that lifeline the dorymen are desperately pulling for. Once attached, their fellow fishermen will haul them in little by little to safety, a warm cup of coffee and maybe a shot of brandy. Until then, who knows?
Elliott was advised in this work and many others depicting the nation’s fisheries by Capt. J.W. Collins, who certainly knew his business. A career commercial fisherman out of the Gloucester-Cape Ann, Mass., area, he spent a lifetime culling the coastal waters from Massachusetts Bay to Bar Harbor, Maine, and beyond. He also contributed valuable fishing observations and information to the U.S. Fish Commission — precursor to today’s NOAA fisheries — and served as head of the Division of Fisheries.
This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.