Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.
Tokei , August 4, 1875. (Received September 10.)
Sir: Some days since, in a conversation with Sir Harry S. Parkes, I became possessed of information which has reached him touching certain American vessels which have been engaged in sea-otter hunting in the waters of Northern Japan.
It appears from the information which has reached Sir Harry that the Japanese authorities recently brought into Hakodadi, on board the Capron Maru, four American citizens who were left last autumn by the American vessel Fanny on the northeast side of the island of Iturup. These persons, it is said, erected a hut upon the island, and were provided with supplies, &c., for sea-otter hunting. The Fanny, it seems, was to call for them in the spring, but failing in this, they were found by the “Capron Maru,” a Japanese vessel, taken, brought to Hakodadi as prisoners, and delivered to Mr. Hawes, the United States consul, who, I am told, sentenced the chief, or captain, to one hundred dollars fine for entering a non-open harbor, and discharged the other three as having acted under orders of their superior. I also gathered from Sir Harry that these persons had taken some fifty-three sea-otters, worth from one hundred dollars to one hundred and fifty dollars each, and that the consul holds these for the Fanny.
Sir Harry further informed me that in June last an American sloop, the Dolphin, of ten tons, cruised all winter off the islands to the north of Yesso, engaged in sea-otter hunting, and was finally lost, with all hands on board.
The captain of this vessel, it seems, perished from exposure on board, and the two survivors attempted to bring the sloop to Hakodadi, when she was wrecked off Nambu, with the result above stated. It is said the sloop had on board when she left Chikaten twelve sea-otters and one hundred and fifty fox-skins. I am informed that this sloop came over from San Francisco, two years ago, in seventy-two days.[Page 821]
This is reported to be the fifth fatal wreck, within the last eighteen months, of sea-otter-hunting vessels in the northern seas of this empire.
Now that Japan has prohibited this business upon her immediate coasts, would it not be well to make some proclamation warning all American-registered vessels not to violate the regulations. Of course, if they cannot land on the islands, they cannot prosecute very successfully this perilous business.
I am, &c.,