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more strengthen'd and better satisfy'd with eating a small quantity of it, than with twice as
much mutton.

"It has not a free respiration in the water, and therefore often thrusts out its snout to take
breath, and so is disco ver'd by them that seek after it. When the Indians get sight of it they
follow it with their oars in little canoes; and when it appears above wa(pr to take breath, cast their
harping-tools made of shells, with which they stop its course, and take it. When they have
kill'd it, they cut it into pieces, and dry it upon wooden grates, which they call Boucan; and thus
dressed, it will keep good above a month. They have not the way of salting and drying it to keep
a long while, for want of plenty of salt; that which they use to season their meat being very scarce,
and made of the ashes of a sort of palm-tree, so that it is more like salt-petre than common salt." 1

For the Romanist of South America the Manatee is, as the old voyagers persisted in calling it,
a fish. It is, therefore, eaten on days when a meat diet is forbidden by the rites of the church.

CONCLUSION. In the Manatee, then, we have an animal of great size, of gentle disposition
and apparently of rapid growth, which lives in places readily accessible to man, and is easily
captured, and which furnishes meat which is not inferior, oil which is remarkably fine, and
leather which possesses great toughness. From these considerations it would seem evident that,
with the proper protection, it would furnish no small revenue to the people in those portions of
our country which it inhabits, for centuries to come.

32. THE ARCTIC SEA-COW.

THE EXTINCTION ov SPECIES IN HISTORICAL TIME. The catalogue of animals which are
known to have become extinct within historical times is not a long one. I do not allude, of



1 BAHBOT: A Description of tint Island of Cayenne, in Appendix to Description of the t'onstx of Not-ill and South
Guinea, I ;::.', p. 563.



THE ARCTIC SEA-COW: EXTINCTION. 129

course, to those aniuiiils which liavo been driven from their native haunts before advancing civili-
zation, and which with its decline would flourish again amidst the fallen columns and crumbling
walls, but to those of which no remnant remains, whose existence as the representatives of certain
definite stages of organic development is forever closed. Such a one is the Rhytina (Rhytina
gigas, Ziinmermann), which inhabited Bering Sea until within about a century. The story of its
discovery and extermination forms one of the most interesting pages of zoological history.

THE GREAT NORTHERN EXPEDITION. At the opening of the last century the northeastern
portion of the Russian Empire was one of the least known quarters of the globe. The barrenness
of the land, the dreadful winter, and the almost impassable sea, had deterred travelers and voyagers
to a large extent from penetrating into its wilds. Those who adventured in the frozen seas went
principally in search of a northwest passage, or in pursuit of other matters relating to geography
and commerce, and paid little attention to the products of the land or of the waters. Early in the
seventeenth century, however, Peter the Great, desirous of knowing whether Asia and America
were contiguous, gave orders that an expedition should proceed to ascertain the truth. Before
they could be executed he died, but the Empress Catherine commanded that they should be fulfilled.
Capt. Vitus Bering was placed in charge of the expedition, and Gmelin, of the St. Petersburg
Academy, was appointed chief naturalist. After several preliminary cruises had been made which
extended over a number of years, two ships set sail from Kamtchatka on the 15th (4th) of June,
1741. Before the departure of this final voyage, however, Gmelin had withdrawn on account of
ill-health, and George William Steller, who had been sent out by the St. Petersburg Academy as
his assistant, was commissioned to complete the scientific researches.

THE DISCOVERY OP BERING ISLAND AND WRECKING OF THE "Si. PETER." The two
vessels, the "St. Peter," commanded by Bering, and the "St. Paul," in charge of Tschirikov, sailed
eastward toward the American continent. Before arriving, however, on the 1st of July (20th of
June) a storm separated them. Having touched at Alaska, Bering started westward again, encoun-
tering before long the most tempestuous weather. The crew grew weak and sick through long-
continued hardship. On the 10th of November (30th of October) the ship approached Bering
Island, then unknown. A few days after the storm drove her upon the rocks, and the crew were
forced to take up winter quarters on the island.

DEATH OF BERING. Many of the sick died as soon as they were removed to the land, and on
the 19th (8th) of December the commander also perished. After some days ''it was resolved to
examine what store of provisions there was, and compute how long they would last, to regulate
the distribution of the shares accordingly, notwithstanding which thirty persons died on the
island. They found the stores were so much exhausted that if they had not l>een supplied
with the flesh of sea-animals they must have all perished for want of food." 1

USE OF THE RHYTINA TO THE SURVIVORS. Prominent among the animals which served
them as food was the Rhytina. Its well-flavored flesh and pleasant fat proved a great boon to
them. "And the sick found themselves considerably better, when, instead of the disagreeable
hard beaver's flesh, they eat of the Manati, tho' it cost them more trouble to catch than one of the
beavers. They never came on the land, but only approached tho coast to eat sea-grass, which
grows on the shore, or is thrown out by the sea. This good food may, perhaps, contribute a great
deal to give the flesh a more disagreeable* taste than that of the other animals that live on fish.
The young ones, that weighed 1,200 pounds and upwards, remained sometimes at low water on the
dry land between the rocks, which afforded a fine opportunity for killing them; but the old ones,

1 M i 1 1 r ii : Voyages from Asia to America. English translation, Jeffeiys, 1761, p. 58.
* This is surely a typographical error for ayrrtable.
9 F



130 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

which were more cautious, and went off at the right time with the ebb, could be caught no other-
wise than with harpoons fixed to long ropes. Sometimes the ropes were broke, and the animal
escaped before it could be struck a second time. This animal was seen as well in the winter as in
the summer time. They melted some of the fat, with which, like hogs, they are covered from three
to four inches thick, and used it as butter. Of the flesh, several casks full were pickled for ship's
provision, which did excellent service on their return." 1

STELLER'S OBSERVATIONS. In the midst of these privations, Steller did not fail to make and
record observations relative to the animals which came about the island. To his most praise-
worthy perseverance we owe all that we know of the appearance and habits of the Ehytiua. Not
a word has been added to his account of the characteristics of the animal, which a few years later
became extinct.

THE RETURN TO KAMTCHATKA ; MISFORTUNES OF STELLER. In the summer of 1742 the
shipwrecked crew of the "St. Peter" built a boat from the wreck of their vessel, and on the 21st
(10th) of August sailed toward Kamtchatka. "The next day at noon they were in sight of the
southeast point of Bering's Island, at a distance of four leagues N. by E., to which they gave the
name of CapeManati; from the above-mentioned Sea-cows, which herd more here than in any other
parts." 2 Shortly after they arrived safely in Kamtchatka. But while some of the crew soon
afterward reached St. Petersburg, and had distinctions conferred upon them by the government,
Steller was most shamefully treated because he dared to condemn the abuses of the officials, and
finally died, in November, 1746, in an obscure town, with but a single friend to sympathize with
him. 3 His observations on the Rhytiua, which I shall quote at length, together with those on
other marine animals, were published by the St. Petersburg Academy in 1751.

His statements, it should be remembered, relate to the occurrence of Ehytina on Bering
Island only. The somewhat numerous facts which have accumulated regarding the reality or
probability of its occurrence in other regions, I shall cite on another page.

After giving a table of measurements, and a very detailed description of external and internal
parts, which I am not at liberty to quote in this connection, Steller expands upon the natural history
of the Sea-cow. 4 The following translation of the original Latin is the product of the unremunerated
labor of my brother, Mr. A. Charles True, of the State Normal College, Westfield, Massachusetts,
who has taken pains to make it as accurate as possible.

STELLER'S OBSERVATIONS ON THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE SEA-COW. "It was my fortune
on an unlucky occasion," writes the naturalist, " to observe daily during ten months the habits and

l oc. tit., pp. 61,62.

*Loc. tit., p. 64.

3 "As to the academical company of travellers," says Mtiller, " Gmelin and I arrived at Petersburg on. Feb. 15 [26], 1743,
having passed through all the ports of Siberia. But Steller, who stayed in Kamtschatka after Waxel, to make researches
in natural history, did not enjoy this good luck. He immcrged himself without necessity, though with good inten-
tion, in masters that did not belong to his department ; for which he was called to an account by the provincial chancery
at Jakutzk. Steller vindicated himself so perfectly that the Vice Governor there gave him permission to proceed on his
journey. The proceedings were not sent to the Senate at Petersburg so soon as transacted. The Senate, who had
intelligence of his passing through Tobolsk, sent an express to meet him, and to carry him back to Jakutzk. And soon
after advice being received from Irkutsk, of his acquittal, another express was dispatched to annul the first order. In
the mean time, the first express met Steller at Solikamsk, and had carried him back as far as Tara, before the second
express overtook him. He then proceeded without delay on his return for Petersburg by the way of Tobolsk, but got
no farther than Tumen, where ho died of a fever in November, 1746, in company of one Uau, a surgeon, who had been
with him in the Kamtschatka expedition. I have thought it necessary to relate these circumstances, because many
falsities have been propagated abroad concerning him, nay, even his death has been doubted. He was born on the
10th of March (21st), 1709, at Winshfim in Franconia." MCLLER : op. tit., pp, 65, 66. Scheerer (fide Nordeuskiold), in his
biography, attached to Steller's account of Kamtchatka, states that Steller got as far as Moscow when ordered to
return, and was frozen by the way.

4 STELLER, GEORGK WILLIAM: De bestiis marinis auctore Georgio Wilhelmo Stellero. <Nov. Comrn. Acad.
Imp. Petropolitante, torn, ii, 1751, pp. 289, 294, et seq.



Till: AIM TIC SKA COW: STKI.I.KK'S ACCOl NT.

manners of these animals before tin- door of my hut. Hence in a few words 1 will subjoin the
facts which were mosi faith fully observed by me.

"These animals love shallow and sandy places about the shore of the sea, but most willingly
spend their lime about the months of rivers and small streams, allured by the pleasant motion of
the running waters, and they are always found in herds. In feeding they drive before them those
who are tender and not yet full grown, surround them carefully on the Hanks and in the rear, and
always keep them in the middle of the herd, and when the tide is risen they approach so near the
shore that they not only have been often attacked by me with a stick or a spear, but sometimes I
stroked their backs oven with my hand.

I laving received any severe injury, they do nothing else than to depart farther from the shore,
and after a short t ime ; having forgotten the injury, they again approach nearer. Whole families of
tin-in live most harmoniously as neighbors, the male and female with one full-grown and one young
offspring. They seem to me to be monogamous; they produce their young at any season of the
year, but most commonly in the autumn, as I inferred from the number of new-born yonng seen
about that time; and from the fact that I observed them in sexual intercourse most especially in
the early spring I concluded that the period of gestation covers more than a year, and fiom the
shortness of the horns and the dual number of the breasts I conclude that they produce not more
than a single calf, and besides I never observed more than one calf near a mother.

"Moreover, these animals eat most voraciously and without limit, and on account of too great
greed have the head always under the water. They are not at all anxious about life or safety, so
that in a boat or as a naked swimmer you can go into their midst and safely select whichever one
you wish to strike with the harpoon. Four or five minutes having been passed in this intense
devotion to eating, they breathe out air and a little water with a noise like the neighing of horses.
Wnile feeding they move one foot after another slowly forward and so partly swim quietly, partly,
as it were, walk after the manner of feeding cows or sheep. Half of the body, the back ami sides,
always rises above the water. During the feeding of the Khytina, gulls are wont to sit on his
back and refresh themselves with the fleas clinging to his skin in the same way as crows are wont
to feed on the fleas which infest hogs and sheep. Moreover, they do not devour all sea-plants
promiscuously, but especially, (1) a fucus with the crisped leaf of the Savoy cabbage, (2) a club-
shaped fucus, (3) a fucus with the form of an ancient Roman whip, (4) a very long fucus with wavy
edges whose sinuses reach to the nerves.

" Where they have pastured even for n single day great heaps of roots and stems are seen thrown
out by the waves upon the shore. When their bellies are Wiled some among them, lying on their
backs, sleep, and retreating farther from the shore, lest they should bo left on dry ground by the
receding tide, are often choked in winter by the ice floating around the shore, which also happens
if, caught by the waves dashing violently about the rocks, they are thrown against the latter. In
winter these animals are so lean that besides the spine all the ribs appear. Coition takes place
in the spring, and especially about evening, in a tranquil sea. They perform many gambols in
anticipation. The female swims quietly hither and thither in the sea while the male continually
pursues. For a long time the female eludes him with many turnings and meanderings until herself
impatient of further delay, as if wearied and overpowered, she throws herself on her hack, when the
male, rushing upon her furiously, extorts the trilnitum Veneris and both mutually embrace.

"Their capture was accomplished with a great iron harpoon, the point of which resembled the
flattened blade of an anchor Hnke, and the other extremity, with the aid of an iron ring, was
fastened to a very long and strong cable. A vigorous man took this harpoon, and, together with
four or five others, embarked in a boat, and while one guided the helm and three or four rowed



132 NATURAL HISTOEY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

hastened out to the herd. The striker stood in the prow, held the harpoon in his hand, and, as
soon as he was near enough to strike the animal from the boat, hurled his weapon. As soon as
this was done thirty men standing on the shore, seizing the other extremity of the rope, held the
animal, and in spite of his desperate efforts to resist drew him with great labor toward the shore.
Those who wree in the boat re-enforced themselves with another rope and wearied the animal with
repeated blows until, exhausted and quiet, he was dispatched with dirks, knives, and various
weapons, and was drawn to the shore. Some cut great pieces from the living animal. All that the
animal did was violently to move his tail and struggle so with his fore limbs that often great pieces of
the skin split off. He breathed heavily, and as with a groan. From his wounded back the blood
was Ihrown in a spray high up after the manner of a spouting fountain. As long as the head was
hidden under the water the blood did not flow, but as soon as he raised his head and breathed the
blood gushed out. The reason for this is that the lungs, situated on the back, were wounded first,
and as often as these were afterward filled with air they increased the strength of the flow of blood.
From this phenomenon I almost came to the conclusion that the circulation of the blood in this
animal, as in the seal, is completed in a twofold manner in the open air through the lungs, but
under water through an oval aperture (foramen ovale) and arterial duct, though I did not find
both. But that they at the same time respire in a different way from fishes I think happens on
account of the deglutition of solid food rather than because of a forward-moving circulation.

"The full-grown and very large animals are captured more easily than the calves, because the
calves move with a far more violent motion ; and though the harpoon remains intact, yet when the
skin is broken they easily escape, a thing which is repeatedly attempted.

"But if an animal captured by the harpoon begins to move quite violently, those near or in a
neighboring herd are frequently stirred and are aroused to bear aid to the captive. On account of
this, sometimes they attempt to overturn the boat with their backs, sometimes they fall upon the
rope and strive to break it, or, by the vibration of the tail, labor to extract the harpoon from the
back of the wounded animal, which oftentimes they attempt not without success. It is a most
curious proof of their disposition and conjugal affection that when the female has been taken and
drawn in with the harpoon, the male, after he has attempted her liberation with all his strength,
but in vain, and lias been struck many blows by us, none the less will follow her even to the shore,
and sometimes unexpectedly and suddenly will approach her when she is already dead. On the
next day at early dawn when we came to cut the flesh in pieces and carry it home we have found
the male still standing near his female, and I have even seen this on the third day when I
approached alone for the sake of examining the intestines.

"As regards voice, the animal is mute and does not give forth any sound, but only breathes
heavily, and when wounded sighs.

"How much power lies in his eyes and ears I dare not affirm, but frequently he sees and
hears very little for the reason that he keeps the head continually under water; nay, the animal
himself seems to neglect and despise the use of these organs. Among all who have written con-
cerning Sea cows, 1 no one has produced a more full and careful account than the most curious and
diligent Captain Dampier in the narrative of his travels published in London in 1702. As I read
his account, nothing seemed to me to be worthy of censure, although some few things did not agree
with our animal. For he says that two species of Sea cow exist, one of which has stronger eyes
than ears and the other stronger ears than vision. What he says concerning the hunting of this
animal, namely, that the Americans approach it without any noise or talking lest the Sea-cow flee,



'The allusions to the "Sea-cow" in this paragraph relate to the American and African Manatees. Steller at this
time seems to have regarded both these and the Rhytinia as forming but a single species.



THE ARCTIC SEA COW: STELLER'8 ACCOUNT. 133

is without doubt so InkMtttfefWlttro they are frequently captured mid ly long experience have
learned that men aro hostile to them, in the same way as others, otters and seals, which in this
deserted island never before have seen men, nor have been disturbed in their enjoyment of secure
peace, and were killed by us strangers on Bering's Island without any labor, have already been
rendered equally wild, and in the Knmtehatkan land, not only when an enemy is seen, but when
they scent his tracks, hastily commit themselves to flight. It happens sometimes that these
animals are thrown out dead by the tempests around the promontory called Kronozkoi Nos, and
also around Awatscha Land, and are called by the Eamtchatkans, on account of their use for food,
in their language, Kapnstnik, 'Kraut Eraser,' which fact I learned after my return in 1742.
Finally, concerning the use of the parts of this animal, according to Hernandes, the thick, firm, and
tough skin is used by the Americans for the soles of shoes and for belts. I hear that the skin is
used by the Tschuktschi for boats. They are accustomed to stretch the skin on sticks, and to treat
it in the same way as the tribe of Koraeccica do the skins of the very large seals called Lachtak.
"The fat encircling the whole body under the skin, a span, and in some places almost nine
inches thick, glandulons, consistent, white, when exposed to the sun turning yellow like hog's
lard, of a very pleasant odor and flavor, is to be compared with the fat of no marine animals,
nay, rather much to be preferred to the fat of quadrupeds ; for besides that it can be heated for a
very long time on the warmest days and not become rancid or otherwise offensive to the smell,
when tried out it is so sweet and palatable that it took from us all desire for butter ; in paste it
comes very near to the oil of sweet almonds, and can be applied to the same uses as butter ; in a
lamp it burns brightly without smoke or smell. Nor, indeed, is its use for medicine to be despised,
since it gently relaxes the bowels ; drunk from cups it causes neither nausea nor loss of appetite,
and, as I think, for those afflicted with gravel the Sea-cow would be of more benefit than the
masticatory bones or stones (masticatoria ossa seu lapides), so called. The fat of the tail is harder
and more consistent, and when cooked more delicate. The flesh consists of fibers somewhat more
stout and thick than those of neat cattle, is a deeper red than the flesh of terrestrial animals, and,
what is wonderful, even in the hottest days warms in the open air a very long time without stench,
though it is beset on every side with worms. The reason I allege for this fact is, that since the
animal subsists only on marine fuci and herbs, and these foci are more sparingly composed of sul-
phur and more largely of sea salt and niter, these salts prevent the exhalation of sulphur and the
softening and resolution of the flesh in the same way as salts or salt brine sprinkled on flesh, and
the more because these salts are mingled intimately with the substance of the flesh and cohere very
strongly to sulphurous parts. Though the flesh must be cooked a longer time, yet when cooked
it is of the best flavor and not easily t be distinguished from the flesh of neat cattle. The fat of
the calves so resembles fresh hog's lard that you can scarcely perceive the difference ; and the flesh
does not differ at all from veal, is quickly softened with cooking, and, that continuing, so swells,
like the flesh of a young pig, that it claims for itself very much greater room in the pot than before.
The tendinous fat about the head and tail is scarcely fit for boiling; on the other hand, the mnscles
of the abdomen, back, and sides are far to be preferred. It not only does not resist salting, as
many have thought, but only grows soft; so that it comes out like salted beef in all respects, and
very palatable. The viscera, heart, liver, and kidneys are too hard, and were not much sought
after by us because there was a very abundant supply of flesh.

" The full-grown animal weighs about 8,000 pounds (eighty hundredweight), or 200 Russian
puds.

"There is so great a multitude of these animals about this single island that they continually
suffice to support the inhabitants of Kamtchatka.



134 NATUEAL HISTOEY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

"The Ehytina is infested with a peculiar insect, like a louse, which is wont to occupy and
inhabit in large numbers especially the wrinkled limbs, breasts, nipples, pudendum, anus, and tho
rough cavities of the skin, and which bore through the cnticula and cutis. From the extra vasa ted
lymphatic fluid conspicuous warts arise everywhere; the gulls (Lari) are also allured to hunt with
their sharp beaks these insects (clinging to the backs of these animals), a pleasant food, and more-
over the birds perform a friendly and grateful office for the animals troubled by these parasites." '

ADDITIONAL OBSERVATIONS. This narrative, as I have already stated, contains all that we



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 27 of 146)