G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

The fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) online

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peculiar to them when yourig, and to the females. The skin of the muzzle and flippers is a dark

1 " 8ee-catch," native name for the bulls on the rookeries, especially those which are able to maintain their position.
"Hauling up," a technical term, applied to the action of the Seal* when they land from the snrf and haul np or
drag themselves over the beach. It is expressive and appropriate, as are most of the sealing phrases.

6 f


bluish-black, fading in tbe older examples to a reddish and purplish tint. The color of the ears
and tail is similar to that of the body, being somewhat, if anything, a trifle lighter; the ears on a
bull Fur Seal are from one inch to an inch and a half in length ; the pavilions or auricles are tightly
rolled up on themselves, so that they are similar in shape to, and exactly the size of, the little linger
on the human hand, cut off at the second phalangeal joint, a trifle more cone-shaped, however, as
they are greater at the base than they are at the tip. They are haired and furred as the body is.

I think it probable that this animal has and does exert the power of compressing or dilating
this scroll-like pavilion to its ear, just according as it dives deeper or rises in the water; and also,
I am quite sure that the Hair Seal has this control over the meatus externus, from what I have seen
of it. I have not been able to verify it in either case by actual observation ; yet such opportunity
as I have had gives me undoubted proof of the fact, that the hearing of the Fur Seal is wonderfully
keen and surpassingly acute. If you make any noise, no matter how slight, the alarm will be given
instantly by these insignih'cant-looking auditors, and the animal, rising up from deep sleep with a
single motion erect, gives you a stare of stupid astonishment, and at this season of defiance,
mingling it with incessant, surly roaring, growling, and "spitting."

VOICE OF THE FUR SEAL. This spitting, as I call it, is by no means a fair or full expression
of the most characteristic sound or action peculiar, so far as I have observed, to the Fur Seals alone,
the bulls in particular. It is the usual prelude to all their combats, and it is their signal of aston-
ishment. It follows somewhat in this way: when the two disputants are nearly within reaching
or striking distance, they make a number of feints or false passes, as fencing-masters do, at one
another, with the mouth wide open, lifting the lips or snarling so as to exhibit the glistening teeth.
and with each pass of the head and neck they expel the air so violently through the larynx, as
to make a rapid choo-choo-choo sound, like steaui-pnffs as they escape from the smoke-stack of a
locomotive when it starts a heavy train, especially when the driving-wheels slip on the rail.

All of the bulls have the power and frequent inclination to utter four distinct calls or notes.
This is not the case with the Sea Lion, 1 whose voice is confined to a single bass roar, or that of the
walrus, which is limited to a dull grunt, or that of the Hair Seal, 2 which is inaudible. This
volubility of the Fur Seal is decidedly characteristic and prominent; he utters a hoarse, resonant
roar, loud and long; he gives vent to a low, entirely different, gurgling growl ; he emits a chuckling,
sibilant, piping whistle, of which it is impossible to convey an adequate idea, for it must be heard
to be understood; and this spitting or choo sound just mentioned. The cows-' 1 have but one note
a hollow, prolonged, bla .i-ting call, addressed only to their pups; on all other occasions they are
usually silent. It is something strangely like the cry of a calf or an old sheep. They also make a
spitting sound or snort when suddenly disturbed a kind of a cough, as it were. The pups "blaat"
also, with little or no variation, their sound being somewhat weaker and hoarser than their mother's,
after birth; they, too, comically spit or cough when aroused suddenly from a nap or driven into a
corner, opening their little mouths like young birds in a nest, when at bay, backed up in some
crevice, or against some tussock.

1 Eumetojrias Stelleri.

2 1'linea ritnlina.

"Without explanation, I may be considered as making lisa of paradoxical language by using those terms of
description; for the inconsistency of talking of "pups" with "cows," and "bulls,'' and "rookeries," on Ihr brccding-
grouuds of Ihe same, cannot fail to be noticed; but this nomenclature has been given and used by the An:crican iind
English whaling and sealing parties for many years, and iln> characteristic features of the Seals themselves so suit tint
naming, that I have felt satisfied to retain the style throughout as rendering my description more intelligible, especial! .
so to t lin-f- who are engaged in the business, or may be hereafter. The Russians are more consistent, but not so "pat";
they call the bull "See-catch," a term implying strength, vigor, etc.; the cow, "Matkah," or mother; the pups,
"Kotickie," or little seals; the non-breeding males under six and seven years, "Holluschickie," or bachelors. The
name applied collectively to the Fur Seal by them is " Morskie-kot," or Sea Cat.


Indeed. >o similar is tin- sound, that I noticed a number of sheep which tin- Alaska Commercial

i' paiiy had brought up from San Francisco to Saint George Island, during; the .summer of 1873,

were constantly attracted l<> the rookeries, and were running in among the " Holluschickie"; so
much so that they neglected the good pasturage on the uplands beyond, and a small boy had to be
leuularly employed to lu-rd them where they could feed to advantage. These transported OriWo-,
though they could not possibly lind anything in their eyes suggestive of companionship among the
Seals, had their ears so charmed by the sheep-like accents of the female pinnipeds, as to persuade
them against their senses of vision and smell.

The sound which arises from these great breeding-grounds of the Fur Seal, where thousands
upon tens of thousands of angry, vigilant bulls are roaring, chuckling, and piping, and multitudes
of seal-mothers are calling in hollow, blaatiug tones to their young, that in turn respond inces-
santly, is simply defiance to verbal description. It is, at a slight distance, softened into a deep
booming, as of a cataract; and I have heard it, with a light, fair wind to the leeward, as far as six
miles out from land on the sea; and even in the thunder of the surf and the roar of heavy gales,
it will rise up and over to your ear for quite a considerable distance away. It is the monitor which
the sea-captains anxiously strain their ears for, when they run their dead reckoning up, and are
laying to for the fog to rise, in order that they may get their bearings of the land; once heard,
they hold on to the sound and feel their way in to anchor. The seal-roar at "Novostashnah,"
dining the summer of 1872, saved the life of the surgeon,' and six natives belonging to the island,
who had pushed out on an egging- trip from Northeast Point to Walrus Island. 1 have sometimes
thought, as I have listened through the night to this volume of extraordinary sound, which never
ceases with the rising or the setting of the sun throughout the entire season of breeding, that it
was fully equal to the churning boom of the waves of Niagara. Night and day, throughout the
season, this din upon the rookeries is steady and constant.

EFFECTS OF HEAT ON THE SEALS. The Seals seem to suffer great inconvenience and positive
misery from a comparatively low degree of heat. I have been often surprised to observe that,
when the temperature was 46 and 48 Fahr. on laud during the summer, they would show every-
where signs of distress, whenever they made any exertion in moving or fighting, evidenced by
panting and the elevation of their hind-flippers, which they used incessantly as so many fans.
With the thermometer again higher, as it is at rare intervals, standing at 55 and <JO, they then
seem to suffer even when at rest; and at such times the eye is struck by the kaleidoscopic appear
ance of a rookery in anj- of these rookeries where the Seals are spread out in every imaginable
position their lithesome bodies can assume, all industriously fan themselves; they use sometimes
the fore-flippers as ventilators, as it were, by holding them aloft motionless, at the same time
fanning briskly with the hinder ones, according as they sit or lie. This wavy motion of fanning
or flapping gives a hazy indistinctness to the whole scene, which is difficult to express in language;
but one of the most prominent characteristics of the Fur Seal, and perhaps the most unique feature^
is this very fanning manner in which they use their flippers, when seen on the breeding-grounds
at this season. They also, when idle as it were, off-shore at sea, lie on their sides in the water
\\ith only a partial exposure of the body, the head submerged, and then hoist up a tore- or hind-
flipper clear out of the water, at the same time scratching themselves or enjoying a mome: lar\
nap; but in this ixxsition there is no fanning. I say si patching," because the Seal, in common

'Dr. Otto Cramer. The suddenness with which foj; and wind shut down and swi-ejt over the HP* here, even wln-ii
the day opeiis moM ausjiii ionsly for a nhort hoat-vo\aj;e. h:i M> ahirmed tin- unlives in time* past, that a \icil i' MOW
nrv.T made l>v tin-in tniiii island to inland, nuletw on our of ;ln- i umpaiij's vemtels. Several Imlnrrahs have never been
heard from, which, in earlier times, attempted to nail, with picked crews of the imtiven, from one island to the other.


with all animals, is preyed upon by vermin, and it has a peculiar species of louse, or parasitic tick,
that belongs to it.

SLEEPING AFLOAT. Speaking of the Seal as it rests in the water, leads me to remark that
they seem to sleep as sound and as comfortably, bedded on the waves or rolled by the swell, as i hex-
do on the land ; they lie on their backs, fold the fore-flippers across the chest, and turn the hind
ones up and over, so that the tips rest on their necks and chins, thus exposing simply the nose
and the heels of the hind-flippers above water, nothing else being seen. In this position, unless it
is very rough, the Seal sleeps as serenely as did the prototype of that, memorable song, who was
"rocked in the cradle of the deep."

very tirst, that have been able to hold their positions, have not left them from the moment of their
landing for a single instant, night or day; nor will they do so until the end of the rutting season,
which subsides entirely betxveen the 1st and 10th of August, beginning shortly after the coming
of the cows in Juue. Of necessity, therefore, this causes them to fast, to abstain entirely from food
of any kind, or xvater, for three months at least; and a few of them actually stay out four mouths, iu
total abstinence, before going back into the water for the first time after "hauling up" in May;
they then return as so many bony shadows of what they were only a few mouths anteriorly;
covered with wounds, abject and spiritless, they laboriously crawl back to the sea to renew a fresh
lease of life.

Such physical endurance is remarkable enough alone; but it is simply wonderful, when we
come to associate this fasting with the unceasing activity, restlessness, and duty devolved upon the
bulls as the heads of large families. They do not stagnate like hibernating bears iu caves; there
is not one torpid breath drawn by them in the whole period of their fast; it is evidently sustained
and accomplished by the self-absorption of their own fat, with which they are so liberally supplied
when they tirst come out from the sea and take up their positions on the breeding-grounds, and
which gradually disappears, until nothing but the staring hide, protruding tendons and bones,
marks the limit of their abstinence. There must be some remarkable provision made by nature for
the entire torpidity of the Seals' stomachs and bowels, in consequence of their being empty and
unsupplied during this long period, coupled with the intense activity and physical energy of the
animals during the same time, which, however, in spite of the violation of a supposed physiological
law, does not seem to aflect them, for they come back just as sleek, fat, and ambitious as ever, in
the following season.

I have examined the stomachs of hundreds which were driven up and killed immediately after
their arrival in the spring, near the village; I have the word of the natives here, who have seen
hundreds of thousands of them opened during the slaughtering seasons past, but in no single case
has anything ever been found, other than the bile and ordinary secretions of healthy organs of
this class, with the marked exception of finding iu every one a snarl or cluster of worms, 1 from the
ize of a walnut to a bunch as large as a man's fist. Fasting apparently has no effect upon the
worms, for on the rare occasion, and perhaps the last one that will ever occur, of killing three or
four hundred old bulls late in the fall to supply the natives with canoe skins, I was present, and
again examined their paunches, finding the same worms within. The worms were lively in these
empty stomachs, and their presence. I think, gives some reason for the habit which the old bulls
have (the others do not) of swallowing small water- worn bowlders, the stones in some of the
stomachs weighing half a pound apiece, in others much smaller. In one paunch I found over five

l Nematoda.


|Miiiinls. in tin- aggregate, of large pebbles, which, in grinding against one another, I believe, must
comfort tin' Seal by aiding to destroy, in a great measure, these intestinal pests.

The Sea Lion is also troubled in the same way by a similar sj>ecies of worm, and I preserved
the .stomach of one of these animals in which there was more than ten pounds of stones, some of
them alone very great in size. Of this latter animal, I suppose it could swallow bowlders that
weigh two and three pounds each. I can ascribe noothercaiise for this habit among these animals
than that given, as they are the highest type of the carnivora, eating tish as u regular means of
subsistence, varying the monotony of this diet with occasional juicy fronds of sea-weed or kelp,
and perhaps a crab or such once in a while, provided it is small and tender or soft six lied. I know
that the sailors say that the Callorhittti* swallows these stones to "ballast" himself; in other words,
to enable him to dive deeply and quickly ; but I noticed that the females and the " Ilollnschickie"
ilhe nuickcr and swim better than the old fellows above specified, ami they do so without any
ballast. They also have less muscular power, only a tithe of that which the ''Sea catch" possesses.
Xo, the ballast theory is not tenable.

AIJKIVAL OF THE cow SEALS AT TUK.KOOKEKiKS. Between the 12th and 14th of June, the
first of the cow Seals, as a rule, come up from the sea; then the long agony of the waiting bulls is
over, and they signalize it by a period of universal, spasmodic, desperate tighiing among them-
selves. Though they have quarreled all the time from the moment they first landed, and continue
to do so until the end of the season, in August, yet that righting which takes place at this date is
the bloodiest and most vindictive known to the Seal. I presume that the heaviest percentage of
mutilation and death among the old males from these brawls occurs in this week of the earliest
appearance of the females.

A strong contrasi now between the males and females looms up, both in size and shape,
which is heightened by the air of exceeding peace and dove-1 ke amiability which the latter class
exhibit, in contradistinction to the ferocity and saturnine behavior of the males.

DKsci.'ti'i ION OF THE COW SEAL. The cows are from four to four and a half feet in length
from head to tail, and much more shapely in their proportions than the bulls; there is no wrapping
around their necks and shoulders of unsightly masses of blubber; their lithe, elastic forms, from
the first to the last of the season, are never altered ; this they are, however, enabled to keep,
because in the provision of seal economy, they sustain no protracted fasting period ; for, soon after
the birth of their young, they leave it on the ground and go to the sea for food, returning perhaps
to-morrow, perhaps later, even not for several days in fact, to again suckle and nourish it ; having
in the mean time sped far off to distant fishing banks, and satiated a hunger which so active and
highly organized an animal must experience, when deprived of sustenance for any length of time,

As the females come up wet and dripping from the water, they are at first a dull, dirty-gray
color, dark on the back and upper parts, but in a few hours the transformation in their appearance
made by drying is wonderful. You would hardly l>elieve that they could be the same animals, for
they now fairly glisten with a rich steel and maltese gray luster on the back of the head, the neck,
and along down the spine, which blends into an almost snow-white over the chest and on the
abdomen. But this beautiful coloring in turn is again altered by exposure to the same weather;
for after a few days it will gradually change, so that by the lapse of two or three weeks it is a
dull, rufous-ocher below, and a cinereous brown and gray mixed above. This color they retain
throughout the breeding season, up to tin- time of shedding their coat in August.

The head and eye of the female aie exceedingly beantiiul ; the expression is really attractive,
gentle, and intelligent; the large, lustrous, blue-back eyes arc humid and soil with the teuderest
expression, while the small, well formed head is poised as giacefully on her neck as can be well


imagined; she is tbe very picture of benignity and satisfaction, when she is perched up on some
convenient rock, and has an opportunity to quietly fan herself, the eyes half-closed and the head
thrown back ou her gently-swelling shoulders.

The females land on these islands not from the slightest desire to see their uncouth loids and
masters, but from an accurate and instinctive appreciation of the time in which their period of
gestation ends. They are in fact driven up to the rookeries by this cause alone ; the young cannot
be brought forth in the water, and in all cases marked by myself, the pups were born soon after
landing, some in a few hours, but most usually a day or so elapses before delivery.

ORGANIZATION OF THE ROOKERIES. They are noticed and received by the males on the
water-line stations with attention; they are alternately coaxed and urged up ou to the rocks, as
far as these beach-masters can do so, by chuckling, whistling, and roaring, and then they are
immediately under the most jealous supervision ; but, owing to the covetous and ambitious nature
of the bulls which occupy these stations to the rear of the water-line and way back, the little cows
have a rough-and-tumble time of it when they begin to arrive in small numbers at first, for no
sooner is the pretty animal fairly established on the station of male number one, wbo has welcomed
her there, than he, perhaps, sees another one of her style in the water from whence she has come,
and, in obedience to his polygamous feeling, he devotes himself anew to coaxing the later arrival,
by that same winning manner so successful in her case ; then when bull number two, just back,
observes bull number one off guard, he reaches out with his long strong neck and picks up the
unhappy but passive cow by the scruff of her's, just as a cat does a kitten, and deposits her upon
Ids seraglio ground ; then bulls number three and four, and so on, in the vicinity, seeing this
high-handed operation, all assail one another, especially number two, and for a moment have a
tremendous fight, perhaps lasting half a minute or so, and during this commotion the little cow is
generally moved, or moves, farther back from the water, two or three stations more, where, when
all gets quiet again, she usually remains in peace. Her last lord and master, not having the
exposure to such diverting temptation as her first, gives her such care that she not only is unable
to leave, did she wish, but no other bull can seize upon her. This is only a faint (and I fully
appreciate it), wholly inadequate description of the hurly-burly and the method by which the
rookeries are filled up, from first to last, when the females arrive. This is only one instance of
the many trials and tribulations which both parties ou the rookery subject themselves to, before
the harems are filled.

Far back, fifteen or twenty " See-catchie" stations deep from the water-line, and sometimes
more, but generally not over an average of ten or fifteen, the cows crowd in at the close of the
season for arriving, which is by the 10th or 14th of July; then they are able to go about pretty
much as they please, for the bulls have become so greatly enfeebled by this constant fasting,
fighting, and excitement during ihe past two months, that they are quite content now even with
only one or two partners, if they should have no more.

The cows seem to haul up in compact bodies from the water, filling in the whole ground to
the rear of the rookeries, never scattering about over the surface of this area ; they have mapped
out from the first their chosen resting places, and they will not lie quietly in any position outside
of the great mass of their kind. This is due to their intensely gregarious nature, and admirably
adapted for their protection. And here I should call attention to the fact that they select this
rookery-ground with all the skill of civil engineers. It is preferred with special reference to the
drainage, for it must lie so that the produce of the constantly dissolving fogs and rain-clouds
shall not lie upon them, having a great aversion to and a firm determination to rest nowhere on
water-puddled ground. This is admirably exhibited, and will be understood by a study of my


.-.ken -h -ni;i]>s which follow, illustrative of these rookeries and the area and position of the Seals
upon them. Kvery one of these breeding-grounds slopes up gently from the sea, and on no one
of them is there anything like ;i muddy Hat.

I found it an exceedingly difficult matter to satisfy myself as to a fair general average number
of cows to each bull on the rookery; but, after protracted study, I think it will be nearly correct
when I ai.mi t<> each male a general ratio of from fifteen to twenty females at the stations nearest
the water: and for those back in order from that line to the rear, from five to twelve; but there
are so many exceptional cases, so many instances where forty-five and flfty females are all under
the charge of one male; and then, again, where there are two or three females only, that this
question was and is uot entirely satisfactory in its settlement to my mind.

Near Ketavie Point, and just above it to the north, is an odd washout of the basalt by the
surf, which has chiseled, as it were, from the foundation of the island, a lava table, with a single
roadway or land passage to it. Upon the summit of this footstool I counted forty-five cows, all
under the charge of one old veteran. He had them penned up on this table-rock by taking his
stand at the gate, as it were, through which they passed up and passed down a Turkish brute

UNATTACHKD MALES. At the rear of all these rookeries there is invariably a large number
of able-bodied males who have come late, but who wait patiently, yet in vain, for families; most
of them having had to fight as desperately for the privilege of being there as any of their more
fortunately located neighbors, who are nearer the water, and in succession from there to where
they are themselves ; but the cows do not like to be in any outside position. They caunot be
coaxed out where they are not in close company with their female mates and masses. They lie
most quietly and contentedly in the largest harems, and cover the surface pf the ground so thickly
that there is hardly moving or turning room until the females cease to come from the sea. The
inaction on the part of the males in the rear during the breeding-season only serves to qualify
them to move into the places which are necessarily vacated by those males that are, in the mean

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 19 of 146)