It might be expected that there should be a decrease in the Greenland seal fisheries, caused by the European and American sealers catching larger quantities every year, especially along the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and so actually diminishing the number of the animals in the Greenland seas.
They subsequently became known to sealers and traders in sandalwood, who, however, established no friendly relations with the natives.
After him came other navigators, French, Spanish, Russian and American; and, as the 8th century neared its end, came sealers, whalers and trading-schooners in quest of flax and timber.
The island is not permanently inhabited, but has been frequently visited by explorers, sealers and whalers; and an Austrian station for scientific observations was maintained here for a year in 1882-1883.
Whalers, sealers and traders followed in the wake of explorers, the traders dealing chiefly in copra, trepang, pearls, tortoiseshell, &c. The first actual settlers in the islands were largely men of bad character - deserting sailors, escapers from the penal settlements in Australia and others.
These officers always include three selectmen, a clerk, a treasurer and one or more auditors, and they may include any or all of the following: assessors, who together with the selectmen constitute a board for the assessment of taxes, one or more collectors of taxes, overseers of the poor, constables, surveyors of highways, fence-viewers, sealers of weights and measures, measurers of wood and bark, surveyors of lumber, cullers of staves, a chief fireward or engineer and one or more assistants, a clerk of the market and a pound keeper.
As early as 1872 the operations of foreign sealers attracted the attention of the United States government, but any precautions then taken seem to have been directed against the capture of seals on their way through the passages between the Aleutian Islands, and no claim to jurisdiction beyond the three-mile limit appears to have been put forward.
In the same summer three British sealers, the "Carolena," "Onward" and "Thornton," were captured by an American revenue cutter 60 m.
The question of damages, which had been reserved, was ultimately settled by a mixed commission appointed by the two powers in February 1896, the total amount awarded to the British sealers being $473,151.26.
The business of fur-seal catching is carried on to some extent in the North Pacific and in Bering Sea by sealers from Victoria, but the returns show it to be a decreasing industry, as well as one causing friction with the United States.
The sum of $463,454 was finally awarded as compensation to the Canadian sealers who had been unlawfully seized and punished.
Even in the 1st dynasty, about 4300 B.C., the Egyptian Pharaohs had their official sealers, or, to use a modern expression, keepers of the Royal Seal.
In 1820 the naval lieutenant Edward Bransfield was sent in the "Williams" to survey the islands, which attracted the attention of American and British sealers, and became fairly well known through the visits of Antarctic explorers.