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This, however, does not appear to be the case with the common Seal, for Mr. L. Lloyd says (I be-
lieve in his 'Game Birds and Wild Fowl of Norway and Sweden,' but I have not the book to refer
to) that the cub of the common species, whilst still in its mother's womb, casts this wooly covering;
and when ushered into the world has acquired its second or proper dress. 1 If this is the case, it
fully accounts for the cub being able to bear immersion from the hour of its birth. The Seal, if
lying undisturbed and at rest, can remain for hours without coining to the surface."'

I am informed by competent observers that on the coast of Maine they assemble in a similar
manner on sand bars, but take to the water before they can be closely approached.

Mr. Kumlien (in his MS. notes) observes: "The so-called 'Fresh-water Seal' of the whalemen
is one of the rarer species in the waters of Cumberland Sound. They are m.wtly met with far up
in the fjords, and in the fresh -water streams and ponds, where they go after salmon. They are
rather difficult to capture, as at the season when they are commonly met with they have so little
bluMier that they sink when shot. . . . The adult males often engage in severe combats
with each other. I have seen skins so scratched that they were nearly worthless. In fact, the
Kskimo consider a ' Kassiarsoak 1 (a very large 'Kassigiak') as having an almost worthless skin,
and seldom use it except for their skin tents. The skins of the young, on the contrary, are a great
acquisition." He further states that they do not make an excavation lieneath the snow for the
reception of the young, like Phoca ffetida, "but bring forth later in the, season on the, bare ice, fully


Under the name " Leopard Seal," Captain Scammon has given a very good account of the habits
of this species as observed by him on the Pacific coast of North America. He speaks of it an dis-
playing no little sagacity, and considerable boldness, although exceedingly wary. He says it is
"found about outlying rocks, islands, and ]M>ints, on sand-reefs made bare at low tide, and is
frequently met with in harbors among shipping, and up rivers more than a hundred miles from the
sea. We have often observed them," he continues, "close to the vessel when under way. and
likewise when at anchor, appearing to emerge delil>erately from the depths below, sometimes only
showing their heads, at other times exposing half of their bodies, but the instant any move was
made on board, they would vanish like an apparition under water, and frequently that would be

'A statement to this effect is also made by Mr. Carroll, but Mr. Bobert Brown nfllnnx, on the authority of Captain
McDonald, that in tin- \Vt-Hl.-rn IsU-8 of Scotland I lie young are "born pure white, with curly liair, like tin- VOIIIIK of
rmjiiiHii* I'a-liiliix. lint within thror day* of its birth In-Kind to take dark colors on Hie miiiiit and tipH of the flippers. "-
Proc. Xool. S.M-. l.onil.. M>*. |>. -I IX

I'OKDKAUX, .Ions, in Zoologist, U'll m-r., vol. vii, IfT'J, pp. :\M3, 'JM4.


the last seen of them, or, if seeii again, they would be far out of gunshot." They conic ashore, he
observes, "more during windy weather than in calm, and in the night more than in the day; and
they have been observed to collect in the largest herds upon the beaches and rocks, near the full
and change of the moon. They delight in basking in the warm sunlight, and when no isolated rock
or shore is at hand, they will crawl upon any fragment of drift-wood that will float them. Although
gregarious, they do not herd in such large numbers as do nearly all others of the Seal tribe; further-
more, they may be regarded almost as mutes, in comparison with the noisy Sea Lions. It is very
rarely, however, any sound is uttered by them, but occasionally a quick bark or guttural whining,
and sometimes a peculiar bleating is heard when they are assembled together about the period of
bringing forth their young. At times, when a number meet in the neighborhood of rocks or reefs
distant from the mainland, they become quite playful, and exhibit much life in their gambols,
leaping out of the water or circling around upon the surface. . . . Its rapacity in pursuing
and devouring the smaller members of the piscatory tribes is quite equal, in proportion to its size,
to that of the orca. When grappling with a fish too large to be swallowed whole, it will hold and
handle it between its fore flippers, and, with the united work of its mouth . . . the wriggling
prize is demolished and devoured as quickly, and in much the same manner, as a squirrel would
eat a bur-covered nut. . . .

"Leopard Seals are very easily captured when on shore, as a single blow with a club upon the
head will dispatch them. The Indians about Puget Sound take them in nets made of large hemp
line, using them in the same manner as seines, drawing them around beaches when the rookery is
on shore. They are taken by the whites for their oil and skins, but the Indians and Esquimaux
make great account of them for food." He adds that the natives of Puget Sound singe them before
a tire until the hair is consumed and the skin becomes crisp, when they are cut up and cooked as
best suits their taste. 1

The apparent fondness of this animal, in common with other species of the family, for music,
has been often noted.

The food of this species consists largely of fish, but, like other species, it doubtless varies
its fare with squids and shrimps. That it aspires to more epicurean tastes is evidenced by its
occasional capture of sea-birds. This they ingeniously accomplish by swimming beneath them as
they rest upon the water and seizing them. An eye-witness of this pastime relates an instance as
observed by him on the Scottish coast. "While seated on the bents," he writes, "watching a flock
of [herring] gulls that were fishing in the sea near Donnaouth, I was startled by their jerking high
in the air, and screaming in an unusual and excited manner. On no previous occasion have I
observed such a sensation in a gull-hood, not even when a black-head was being pursued, till he
disgorged his newly-swallowed fish, by that black- leg, the skua. The excitement was explained
by a Seal [presumably Phoca vitulina, this being the only species common at the locality in ques-
tion] showing above the water with a herring gull in his mouth. On his appearing the gulls
became ferocious, and struck furiously at the Seal, who disappeared with the gull in the water.
The Seal speedily reappeared, but on this occasion relinquished his victim on the gulls renewing
their attack. The liberated gull was so disabled as to be unable to fly, but it had strength enough
to hold ii]i its head as it drifted with the tide." 2

They are evidently discriminating in their tastes, and not loath to avail themselves of a fine
salmon now and then not of their own catching. Their habit of plundering the, nets of the iisher-
men on the coast of Newfoundland has been already alluded to, but this peculiarity is evidently

1 RCAMMON," C. M.: Marine Mammals, etc., pp. 166, 167.
ANOU8, W. ( 'itAiiiK, in Zoologist, 2d ser., vol. vi, 1871, p. 2762.


not confined ii the Newfoundland representative of the species, us shown by the following incident
related l.v tin- writer hist quoted. "On a sunny noon in the autumn of 1868," says this observer,
"1 observed a Seal, not far from the same place, with a salmon in his mou'h, which ho forced
through the meshes of a stake net. The struggling salmon, whose head was in the jaws of the
Seal, struck the water violently with his tail, which gleamed like a lustre in the lessoning ray.
The Seal rose and sank alternately, keeping seaward to escape Eley's cartridges from the shore.
When above the water he shortened the silver bar, which continued to lash his sides long after ita
thickest part had disappeared, by rising to his perpendicular, as if to allow the precious inetal by
its own weight to slip into his crucible. The Seal evidently swallowed above, and masticated
below, water the process lasting about twelve minutes, during which the Seal had travelled a full
half mile. 1 '

In their raids upon the nets of the fishermen they become sometimes themselves the victims,
being in t his way frequently taken along our own coast as well as elsewhere. They are, however, at
all times unwelcome visitors. DeKay states that formerly they were taken almost every year in
the "fyke IK-US" in the Passaic Kiver, greatly to the disgust of the fishermen, the Seals when
raptured making an obstinate resistance and doing much injury to the nets. Their accidental
capture in this way often affords a record of their presence at localities they are not commonly
supposed to frequent, as in the Chesapeake Bay, and at even more southerly localities on the
eastern coast of the United States.

Owing to the difficulty of capturing this species, and its comparatively small numbers, it is of
little commercial importance, although the oil it yields is of excellent quality, and its skins are of
special value for articles of dress, and other purposes, in consequence of their beautifully variegated
tints. Though not a few are taken in strong seal-nets, they are usually captured by means of the
1 1 Me or heavy scaling gun. On rare occasions they are surprised on shore at so great a distance
from water that they are overtaken and killed by a blow on the head with a club. Like other
sjMJcies of the seal family, the Harbor seal is very tenacious of life, and must be struck in a vital
part by either ball or heavy shot, in order to kill it on the spot. Says Mr. Keeks, "I have been
often amused at published accounts of Seals shot in the Thames or elsewhere, but which 'sank
immediately.' What Seal or other amphibious animal would not do so if 'tickled' with the greater
part of, perhaps, an ounce of No. 5 shot!" lie adds that it is only in the spring of the year that
this seal will "float" when killed in the water, but says that he has never seen a Seal "so ioor,
which, if killed dead on the spot, would not have floated from five to ten seconds," or long enough
to give "ample time for rowing alongside," supposing the animal to have been killed by shot, and
the boat to contain two hands." The oil of this species, according to the same writer, sells
in Newfoundland for fifty to seventy -five cents a gallon, while the skins are worth one dollar each.
Mr. Carroll gives the weight of the skin and blubber of a full-grown individual as ranging from
eighty to one hundred pounds, while that of a young one averages, at ten weeks old, thirty to
thirty-five pounds. The flesh of the yonng, the same writer quaintly says, is "as pleasant to the
taste as that of any description of salt- water bird." Its flesh, as already stated, is esteemed by the
Greeulanders above that of any other species. Few statistics relating to the capture of this 8|>ecic8
are available, but the number taken is small in comparison with the "catch" of other species,
particularly of the Harp or Greenland Seal. Dr. Rink states that only from one thousand to two
thousand are annually taken in Greenland, which is about one to two per cent, of the total catoh.
They are hunted to a considerable extent, however, wherever they occur in numbers.

The Harbor Seal received this name from its predilection for bays, inlets, estuaries, and fjords,


from which habit it is also often termed Bay Seal, ami, on the Scandinavian coast, Fjord Sea,
(Fjordskiil), and also Kock Seal (Steen-Kobbe). 1


GENERAL, HISTORY AND NOMENCLATURE. The Harp Seal, Phoca (PagopMlm) grcenlandica
Fabricins, like the Crested Seal, presents characters, at least in the male sex, that readily attract
the attention of even the casual observer the one by its "saddle" or "harp-mark" of black on a
light ground, the other by its inflatable hood. Accordingly both were mentioned by various early
writers, but notably by Egede, Ellis, and Cranz, and the indications they gave of their existence
enter into the technical history of the species, forming as they do the basis of the first systematic
names. Erxlebeu described the species in 1777, under the name Phoca grcenhndica-, his descrip-
tion being founded mainly on information previously made public by Cranz.

Few Seals vary so much in color with age as the Harp Seal. This was long since mentioned
by Crauz, who says : " All Seals vary annually their color till they are full grown, but no sort so
much as this [the Attersoak], and the Greenlanders vary its name according to its age. They call
the foetus iblau; in this state these are white and wooly, whereas the other sorts are smooth and
coloured. In the 1st year 't is called Attaralc, and 't is a cream-colour. In the 2d year Atteitaiak
then 'tis gray. In the 3d Aglektok, painted. In the 4th Milaktok, and in the 5th year Attarsoak.
Then it wears its half-moon, the signal of maturity."

Dr. Rink states that at the present day the Greenlanders, as well as the Europeans, divide the
"Saddle-backs" into four or five different classes according to their age, but that in familial-
language they only distinguish by different names the full-grown animals from the half-grown
ones, the latter being called " Bluesides."

The young, when first born, are called by the Newfoundland sealers "White-coats"; later,
during the first molt, "Ragged-jackets"; when they have attained the black cresceutic marks
they are termed "Harps," or " Saddlers," and also "Breeding Harps"; the yearlings and two-year-
olds arc called "Young Harps" or "Turning- Harps/' and also "Bedlimers" (or "Bellamers," also
spelled "Bedlamers"). The older and some recent writers state that the mature pattern of
coloration is not attained till the fifth year, while Jukes, Brown, Carroll, and others state that it is
acquired in the third or fourth year. There is also a diversity of statement respecting the sexual
differences of color in the adults, some writers affirming that the sexes are alike, while others state
that the female is without the harp-mark, or has the dark markings of the male only faintly indi-
cated. Mr. Carroll says: " The reason why they are called Harp Seals, or 'Saddlers,' is, the male
Seal, as well as the female, has a dark stripe on each side from the shoulders to the tail, leaving a
muddy white stripe down the back. The male Harp Seal is very black about the head as well as
under the throat. . . . The female Harp is of a rusty gray about the head and white under
the throat." Both Jukes and Reeks, however, refer to the absence of the harp-mark in the female.

GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. Although the Harp Seal has a circumpolar distribution, it

1 Seals appear to be increasing in numbers in Massachusetts Bay. We observed them frequently near Race Point,
I'rovincetown, in 1879, where they sometimes get into the gill-nets set foi mackerel. At Banistable they have become
very numerous and troubleeoi' e of late. They are often shot or taken in the weirs at Barustable and Yarmouth, and
are accused of seriously depleting the fisheries in this locality, as well as at Plymouth, whore they have been preserved
for a number of years. Crossing the entrance to Barngtable Harbor at sunset November 10, 1 counted eight or ten
heads above the surface. The number here is estimated at sixty-five or seventy, and there are probably not less tbau
three hundred in the bay. They are resident, disappearing for a time in the spring and returning accompanied by
their young, about one-quarter a large as their parents, in April or May. Capt. Gideon Bowley, of Provincotown,
tells me that they feed on "sun squalls," or medusie, and that he has seen them "boil 'em up," or vomit them, when
caught. G. BROWN GOODK.


appears tint in advance MI tar norlhwaid as the Ringed Seal or the Bearded Seal; yet the icy MM
of the north are prc eminently its home It is not found on tlie Atlantic count of North America
in any immliers south of Newfoundland. A few are taken nt the Magdalen Islands, and while ou
their way to the Grand Banks some must pass very near the Nova Scotia coast. Dr. Gilpin,
however, includes it only provisionally among the Seals that visit the shores of that Province. It
doubtless occasionally wanders, like the Crested Seal, to points far south of its usual range, as I
liinl a skeleton of this sjiecies in the collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, bearing
the legend " N'ahuiit, Mass., L. Agassis." I have at times felt doubtful about the correctness of
the assigned locality, as this seems to be the only proof of the occurrence of this species on the
Massachusetts coast. I have, however, recently been informed by Dr. C. C. Abbott, of New Jersey,
that a Seal, described (o him as being about six feet long, white, with a broad black bund along
each side of the back, was taken near Trenton, in that State, during the winter of 1878-79. This
description can of course refer to no other species than Phoca grnrnlandica, and as it comes from
a wholly trustworthy source it seems to substantiate the occasional occurrence of this si>ecies as
tar south as New Jersey. Von Heuglin gives it as ranging "in den amerikanischen Meercu
siidwarts bis New York," 1 but I know not on what authority.

The Harp Seals are well known to be periodically exceedingly abundant along the shores of
Newfoundland, where, during spring, hundreds of thousands arc annually killed. In their migra-
tions they pass along the coast of Labrador, and appear with regularity twice a year oft' the coast
of Southern Greenland. Capt. J. C. Ross states that in Baffin's Bay they keep mostly "to the
loose floating floes which constitute what is termed by the whale-fishers ' the middle ice' of Battin's
Bay and Davis' Straits." He says he never met with them in any part of Prince Regent's Inlet,
but states that they are reported by the natives to be very numerous on the west side of the.
Isthmus of Boothia, but that they are not seen on the east side. 2 They are well-known visitors to
the shores of Iceland, and swarm in the icy seas about Jan Mayeu and Spitsbergen. They also
occur about Nova Zembla, and Payer refers to their abundance at Franz Josef Land. They occur
in the Kara Sea, and along the arctic coast of Europe. Malmgren, Lilljeborg, and Collett state
that it is of regular occurrence on the coast of Finmark, where it occurs in small nnmlH'rs from
October and November till February. Although reported by Bell and others as having been taken
in the Severn, and by Saxby as observed at Baltasound, Shetland, the capture of a specimen in
Morecombe Bay, England, reported by Turner in 1874, Mr. E. R. Alston says is "the first British
specimen that has been properly identified."

The distribution of this species in the North Pacific is not well known. Pallas (under the
name Phoca dorsato) records it from Kaintchatka, where its occurrence is also affirmed by Steller.
Teuimiuck mentions having examined three skins obtained at Sitka, but adds that it was not
observed by"les voyageurs neerlandais" in Japan. In the collections in the National Museum
from the North Pacific this species is unrepresented, the species thus far received from there being
the following four, namely : Phoca vitulina, Phoca fcetida, Erignathu* barbatiut, and Histriopkoca

HUNTING AND PRODUCTS. As so large a part of what has been already said in the general
account of the seal fishery of the North Atlantic and Arctic waters necessarily relates to the
present species, it is scarcely requisite in the present connection to more than recall the leading
points of the subject, with the addition of a few details not previously given. As already stated,
the sealing grounds par excellence are the ice Hoes off the eastern coast of Newfoundland and around

'VON HKUGLIN: KViw-n nnt-h ili-iii .\iinl|M.lariinMT, p. 56.
J C'ABROLL: Seal and Hrrriug KiHlirrira of Newfoundland, p. M.


Jan Mayen Island, where the present species forms almost the sole object of pursuit. The sealing
season lasts for only a few weeks during spring; the enterprise 1 gives employment during this
time to hundreds of vessels and thousands of men, the average annual catch falling little short of
a million Seals, valued at about three million dollars. While the pursuit is mainly carried on in
vessels, sailing chiefly from English, German, and Norwegian ports, or from those of Newfoundland
and the other British Provinces, many are caught along the shores of the countries periodically
visited by these animals, as those of South Greenland, Southern Labrador, Newfoundland, and
the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The pursuit with vessels, and the various incidents connected
therewith, have already been detailed, and sufficient allusions have perhaps also already been made
to the Greenland method of seal-hunting.

In consequence of the gregarious habits of the species, and the fact that one-half to two-thirds
of those taken are young ones that are not old enough to make any effectual attempt to escape,
the success of a sealing voyage depends almost wholly upon the mere matter of luck in discovering
the herds. While the old Seals are mostly shot, the young are killed with clubs. In respect to
the ease and facility with which they are captured it may be noted that it is not at all unusual, in
the height of the season, for the crew of a single small vessel to kill and take on board from five
hundred to a thousand in a day. Mr. Brown states : " In 1866 the steamer Camperdown obtained
the enormous number of 22,000 Seals in nine days," or an average of 2,500 per day. " It is nothing
uncommon," he adds, " lor a ship's crew to club or shoot, in one day, as many as from 500 to 800 old
Seals, with 2,000 young ones." 2 Such slaughter is necessarily attended with more or less barbarity,
but this seems to be sometimes carried to a needless extreme. The Seals are very tenacious of
life, and, in the haste of killing, many are left for a long time half dead, or sire even flayed alive.
Jukes states that even the young are " sometimes barbarously skinned alive, the body writhing in
blood after being stripped of its skin," and they have even been seen to swim away in that state,
as when the first blow fails to kill the Seals their hard-hearted murderers " cannot stop to give
them a second." " How is it," he adds, " one can steel one's mind to look on that which to
read of, or even think of afterwards, makes one shudder T In the bustle, hurry, and excitement,
these things pass as a matter of course, and as if necessary ; but they are most horrible, and
will not admit of an attempt at palliation." Scoresby and other writers refer to similar heartless
proceedings as though the necessary suffering attending such a sacrifice of unresisting creatures
were not in itself bad enough without the infliction of such needless cruelty. The young Seals
not only do not attempt any resistance, but are said to make no effort to move when approached,
quietly suffering themselves to be knocked on the head with a club. The old Seals are more
wary, and are generally killed with fire-arms. Scoresby relates that "When the Seals are
observed to be making their escape into the water before the boats reach the ice, the sailors give
a long-continued shout, on which their victims are deluded by the amazement a sound so unusual
produces and frequently delay their retreat until arrested by the blows of their enemies."

The annual catch of H;irp Seals in Greenland is stated by Rink to be 17,500 full-grown " Sad-
dle-backs " and 15,500 " Bluesides," or 33,000 in all. The catch from the Newfoundland ports alone
often reaches 500,000, and in the Jan Mayen seas often exceeds 300,000, so that the total annual
catch of this species alone doubtless ranges from 800,000 to 900,000.

The commercial products are the oil used in the lubrication of machinery, in tanning leather,
and in miners' lamps and the skins, which are employed for the manufacture of various kinds of

'For statistics of the seal fishery, see Allen's "North American Piuuipeds," pp. 497-502.
"Han. Nat. Hist., Geol., &.C., Greenland, Mammals, p. 67, foot-note.


leather and articles of clothing. The skins are s;iid to be mostly so'd to Knglihh manufacturers,
who employ them in the preparation of a superior article of "patent" or lacquered leather. The
llesh is esteemed by the Greeulanders as superior to that of their favorite Yei/mfc (Phoca ftrliiln).

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 15 of 146)