Who are strangers to the sea?

In the Maritime History Archives' Crew Agreements and Logs there are people who family researchers might not expect to find. These "strangers to the sea" were people employed in non-traditional occupations. Some were emigrating from their homeland working their passage. What suggests to us that they did not intend to be regular seafarers is their token remuneration. One shilling (per month) appears in the wage column. The kinds and numbers of "strangers" are significant. For instance, on liners there were pursers and Marconi operators who used landward skills to make their way across the sea. But there were other kinds of "strangers" of whom our knowledge is limited, for instance, stowaways and Inuit whalers. Some seamen started out as stowaways. Once discovered, they might well have been assigned mundane duties and ended up on the Crew Agreement that way. The work of women in the 19th Century can be particularly difficult to discover because it is most often informal and undocumented. Early in the century, women sometimes travelled as stewardesses and made a career from assisting female passengers. But the women we are concerned with here are "stewardesses" by way of hitching a ride as emigrants. Cattlemen were numerous on some merchant vessels but tracing them beyond the seas is difficult because of the transient nature of their work. Inuit were people who were not strangers to the sea; however, they rarely appear in the Crew Agreements and Official Logs. From a master's Official Log we have learned that they were employed in the Canadian Arctic on merchant whaling vessels as harpooners. Unlike other categories of "strangers," they were paid in usable goods such as cloths, tobacco and firearms.