Each spring, Jack Casey of Conche would set out in his rodney and row twelve to fourteen miles to the Grey Islands in search of seals. “It was a long row,” he remembered. “The worst part was when you wanted to come home,” he laughs, “if you could find seals to chase it’d be alright, but sometimes we wouldn’t see a seal for miles and miles.”
Sealing Hunting in a Rodney
The Grey Islands include Northern Grey Island [Groais Island] and Southern Grey Island [Bell Island] off Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. While the north island was never populated, Southern Grey Island was once home to a number of families.
“Last time we were out to the northern island, it was thick with partridge berries – no one goes there,” Jack told me, “There’re lots of seals out there. You can see them going off the rocks. Bay Seals – ‘Doters’ we call them. I don’t know where the name came from, but that’s what the old fellas to call them and it just got passed on from one generation to the other.”
When hunting seals, Jack says there would always be two men to a rodney. With a muzzle loader and shot or rifle, Jack hunted seals for their meat. “Square flipper seal, that was good seal to eat. Square flipper meat is red, not like harp meat at all. Square Flipper seals had square flippers, where harp has more of a point – that’s how they got their name I guess. They were big seals.”