G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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at once ; they are one-seventh longer than the fore-hands, and very much lighter and more slender;
they resemble, in broad terms, a pair of black kid gloves, flattened out and shriveled, as they lie
in their box.

There is no suggestion of fingers on the fore-hands; but the hind-feet seem to be toes run into
ribbons, for they literally flap about involuntarily from that point where the cartilaginous processes
unite with the phalangeal bones. The hind-feet are also merged in the body at their junction with
it, like those anterior; nothing can be seen of the leg above the tarsal joint.

The shape of the hind-flipper is strikingly like that of a human foot, provided the latter were
drawn out to a length of twenty or twenty-two inches, the instep flattened down, and the toes run
out into thin, membraneous, oval-tipped points, only skin-thick, leaving three strong, cylindrical,
grayish, horn-colored nails, half an inch long each, back six inches from these skinny toe-ends,
without any sign of nails to mention on the outer big and little toes.

On the upper side of this hind-foot tlie body-hair comes down to that point where the meta-
tarsus and phalangeal bones join and fade out. From this junction the phalanges, about six inches
down to the nails above mentioned, are entirely bare, and stand ribbed up in bold relief on the
membrane which unites them as the web to a duck's foot; the nails just referred to mark the ends
of the phalangeal bones, and their union in turn with the cartilaginous processes, which run
rapidly tapering and flattening out to the ends of the thin toe-points. Now, as we are looking at
t his Fur Seal's motion and progression, that which seems most odd, is the gingerly manner (if I may
be allowed to use the expression) in which it carries these hind-flippers; they are held out alright
angles from the body directly opposite the pelvis, the toe-ends or flaps slightly waving, curled, and
drooping over, supported daintily, as it were, above the earth, the animal only suffering its weight
behind to fall upon its heels, which are themselves opposed to each other, scarcely five inches apart.

We shall, as we see this Seal again later in the season, have to notice a different mode of pro-
gression and bearing both when it is lording over its harem, or when it grows shy and restless at
the end of the breeding season, then faint, emaciated, dejected ; but we will now proceed to observe
him iu the order of his arrival and that of his family. His behavior during the long period of
fasting and unceasing activity and vigilance, and other cares which devolve upon him as the most


eminent of all polygamists in the brute world, I shall carefully relate; and to fully comprehend
the method of this exceedingly interesting animal, it will be frequently necessary for the reader
to refer to my sketch-maps of its breeding-grounds or rookeries, and the islands.

examples of the Callorhinw to arrive in the spring on the seal ground, which has been deserted by
all of them since the close of the preceding year.

r.ctween the 1st and 5th of May, usually, a few males will be found scattered over the rook-
erics, pretty dose to the water. They are at this time quite shy and sensitive, seeming not yet
s.itistied with the land; and a great many spend day after day idly swimming out among the
breakers, a little distance from the shore, before they come to it, perhaps somewhat reluctant at
tirst to enter upon the assiduous duties and the grave responsibilities Iwfore them in fighting for
and maintaining their positions in the rookeries.

The first arrivals are not always the oldest bulls, but may be said to be the finest and most
ambitious of their class. They are full grown and able to hold their places on the rookeries of the
breeding-flats, which they immediately take up after coming ashore. Their method of landing is
to come collectively to those breeding-grounds where they passed the prior season; but I am not
able to say authoritatively, nor do I believe it, strongly as it has been urged by many careful men
who were with me on the islands, that these animals come back to and take up the same position
on their breeding-grounds that they individually occupied when there last year. From my knowl-
edge of their action and habit, and from what I have learned of the natives, I should say that
very few, if any, of them make such a selection and keep these places year after year. Even did
the Seal itself intend to come directly from the sea to that spot on the rookery which it left last
summer, what could it do if it came to that rookery margin a little late and found that another
"See-catch" had occupied its ground! The bull could do nothing. It would either have to die in
its tracks, if it persisted in attaining this supposed objective point, or do what undoubtedly it
does do seek the next best locality which it can attain adjacent.

One old "See-catch" was pointed out to me at the "Gorbatch" section of the Reef Rookery
as an animal that was long known to the natives as a regular visitor close by or on the same rock
every season during the past three years. They called him "Old John," and they said they knew
him because he had one of his posterior digits missing, bitten off, perhaps, in a combat. I saw
him in 1872, and made careful drawings of him in order that I might recognize his individuality
should he appear again in the. following year, and when that time rolled by I found him not; he
failed to reappear, and the natives acquiesced in his absence. Of course it was impossible to say
that he was dead when there were ten thousand rousing, fighting bulls to the right, left, and below
us, under our eyes, for we could not approach for inspection. Still, if these animals came each to a
certain place in any general fashion, or as a rule, 1 think there would be no difficulty in recog-
nizing the fact; the natives certainly would do so; as it is, they do not. 1 think it very likely,
however, that the older bulls come back to the same common rookery-ground where they spent
the previous season; but they are obliged to take up their position on it just as the circumstances
attending their arrival will permit, such as finding other Seals which have arrived Iwfore them, or
of being whipped out by stronger rivals from their old stands.

It is entertaining to note, in this connection, that the Russians themselves, with the object of
testing this mooted query, during the later years of their possession of the islands, drove up :i
number of young males from Lukannon, cutoff their ears, and turned them out to sea again. The
following season, when the droves came in from the "hauliug-grounds" to the slaughtering lidds.
quite a number of those cropped Seals were in the drives, but instead of being found all at one


place the place from whence they were driven the year before they were scattered examples of
croppies from every point on the island. The same experiment was again made by our people in
1870 (t lie natives having told them of this prior undertaking), and they went also to Lukannon, drove
tip 100 young males, cut off their left ears, and set them free in turn. Of this number, during the
summer of 187'J, when I was there, the natives found in their driving of 75,000 Seals from the dif-
ferent hanling-groundsof Saint Paul up to the village killing-grounds, two on Novostashnah Rookery,
ten miles north of Lukannon, and two or three from English Bay and Tolstoi Rookeries, six miles
west by water; one or two were taken on Saint George Island, thirty-six miles to the southeast,
and not one from Lukannon was found among those that weie driven from there ; probably, had
all the young males on the two islands this season been examined, the rest of the croppies that had
returned from the perils of the deep, whence (hey sojourned during the winter, would have been
distributed quite equally about the Pribylov hatiliiig-grounds. Although the natives say that they
think the cutting off of the animal's ear gives the water such access to its head as to cause its death,
yet I noticed that those examples which we had recognized by this auricular mutilation were
normally fat and well developed. Their theory does not appeal to my belief, and it certainly
requires confirmation.

These experiments would tend to prove very cogently and conclusively, that when the Seals
approach the islands in the spring, they have nothing in their minds but a general instinctive
appreciation of the fitness of the land, as a whole ; and no special fondness or determination to elect
any one particular spot, not even the place of their birth. A study of my map of the distribution
of the seal-life on Saint Paul, clearly indicates that the landing of the Seals on the respective
rookeries is influenced greatly by the direction of the wind at the time of their approach to the
islands in the spring and early summer. The prevailing airs, blowing, as they do at that season,
from the north and northwest, carry far out to sea the odor of the old rookery flats, together with
the fresh scent of the pioneer bulls which have located themselves on these breeding-grounds, three
or four weeks in advauce of their kind. The Seals come up from the great North Pacific, and hence
it will be seen that the rookeries of the south and southeastern shores of Saint Paul Island receive
nearly all the seal-life, although there are miles of perfectly eligible ground at Nahsayveruia, or
north shore. To settle this matter beyond all argument, however, I know is an exceedingly difficult
task, for the identification of individuals, from one season to another, among the hundreds of
thousands, and even millions, that come under the eye on one of these great rookeries, is well nigh

AGE OF FEMALES WHEN FIKST PREGNANT. As to the time when the virgin cow is first
covered by the bull, I found a strange medley of ideas among the people on the island. The com-
mon opinion of the others and the natives was, that they were not covered until they were three
years of age, bringing forth their first young in the former case, in the generally accepted version,
when they reached their fourth year. But this, on examination, was not a difficult problem at all
to solve. The evidence every year decides when the yearlings are driven up to the village in the
fall, that although to external appearance there is no difference between the sexes, an examination
conclusively established the fact, that the yearling females herded with the yearling males on the
hauling-grounds, each about equal in number, and that when the balance of the " Ilolhischickic."
two-year-olds and upward, were driven in they never found a female 1 in the droves. Where were
these two-year-old females thenT They wereuotupon the hauling-grounds with the yearling females
and bachelors. Where were they f The answer is, they have come up on the breeding-grounds,
clothed with desire and supplied with physical life to meet prospective maternity.

1 1. ., virile female.


ttiat. as the female Fur Seal is so conspicuously inferior to the male, physically viewed, as to size
and weight, so also is her life lessened. In other words, when she is matured, as she must IK- by
her third year, in hearing then her first pup, she can reasonably be exj>ected to live no longer than
nine or ten years, according to the general natural law governing this question; while the male,
not. coming to his maturity and physical prime until he is five or six years of age, lives, in obedicnee
to the same law. tit'teeu or twenty years.

OLD AND YOUNG MALES FIGHTING. The males under six years of age, although hovering
alxmt the sea margins of the breeding-grounds, do not engage in much fighting there ; it is the six
and M-veii year old males, ambitious and flushed with their reproductive consciousness, that swarm
out and do battle with the older males of these places. The young male of this latter class is,
Imuever, no match for an old fifteen or twenty year old bull, provided that the aged " Seecatchie"
retains his teeth; tor, with these weapons, his relatively harder thews ami sinews give him the
advantage in almost every instance, among the hundreds of combats that I have witnessed. Tlie.-e
trials of strength between the old and the young are incessant until the rookeries are mapped out;
and by common consent the males of all classes recognize the coming of the females. After their
arrival and settlement over the whole extent of the breeding-grounds, about the 15th July at the
latest, very little fighting takes place. 1

ONLY ONE PUP BORN AT TIME OF PARTURITION. Touching the number of young born at a
birth, the most diligent inquiry and scrutiny of observation on the rookeries have satisfied me that
it is confined to a single pup. If they have twins, 1 have failed to discover a single instance of
that character. I also failed to notice a malformed pup or a monster anywhere throughout the
multitudes under my observation, from July until the middle of November every season. I think
this somewhat noteworthy, as it presents, peihaps, better than any other exhibition in the animal

'It has been suggested to me that the exquisite power of scent possessed by these animals enables them to reach
the breeding-grounds at about the place where they left them the season previously ; surely the nose of the Fur Seal
is endowed to a superlative degree with those organs of smell, and its range of appreciation in this respect must be
very great.

" In carnivorous quadrupeds the structure of the bones of the nassl cavities is more intricate thin iu the her-
bivorous, nnd is calculated to afford a far more extensive sr.rface for the distribution of the nerve. In the Real iliii
conformation is most fully developed and the bony platesarc here not turbinatcd, but ramified, as shown in tin- wo<xlrut.
Eight or more principal branches rise from the main trunk, and each of these is divided ami subdivided to mi extreme
decree of minuteness, so as to form in all many hundred plates. The olfactory membrane, with all its nerved, i- clow ly
applied to every plate in this vast assemblage, as well as to the main trunk and to the internal surface of the surrounding
cavity, so that its extent cannot be less than 120 square inches in each nostril. An organ of such exquisite sensibility
requires an extraordinary provision for securing it against injury, and nature has supplied a mechanism for the
purpose, enabling the animal to close at pleasure the orifice of the nostril." HARWOOO: Comp. Anat. and I'hysiol.,
Bridgewaler Treatise, vol. ii, p. 402.

I noticed in all sleeping and wakipg Seals that the nasal apertures were never widely expanded ; and that they
were ut intervals rapidly opened and closed with inhalation and exhalation of each breath; the nostrils of the Fur
Seal are, as a rule, well opened when the animal is out of wafer, and remain so while it is on land.

The distances at sea, away from the Prihylov Islands, in which Fur Seals are found during the breeding semon,
are very considi ruble : scattered records have been made of seeing large bands of them during August at far down the
northwest coast as they probably range at any season of the year, viz, well out at. sea in the latitude of Cape Flattery,
IT to 111 sou 111 hit it mle. In the winter anil spring, up to middle, of June, all classes are found here spread out over
wide arras ut' I lie oeeaii : then, by the l">th June they will have all departed, the first and the latest, en route for the
I'ribylov Islands. Then, when seen a^niu in this extreme southern range, I presume the unusually early examples of
return, toward the end of August, arc squads of the yearlings of both sexes, for this division is always the last to land
on, and (he first to Ieu\e, the Seal Islands, annually. Also, the two-year-old females which have been covered on the
breeding-grounds during Juno nnd .Inly undoubtedly .stray back to sea, and down again from tin- 1'rihylov gionp, very
early iu August, some of them as fur as the eoagt-lu-ads of Fuca Straits; at least, many of them at one time are never
-i -i-ii massed n I lie rookeries, and as they do not consort with the llolliisrhickie and yearlings on laud, quite number
<>t' tlieir large aggregate doubtless make frequent and extended ushing excursions during the height of the breeding


kingdom, the survival of the fittest in the struggle for existence; for these bulls, by their own
evolution, permit only the strongest and most perfect of their kind to stamp their impress on the
coming generations. '

From the time of the first arrival in May up to the beginning of June, or as late as the middle
of that month, if the weather be clear, is an interval in which everything seems quiet. Very few
Seals are added to the pioneers that have landed, as we have described. By the 1st of June, how-
ever, sometimes a little before, and never much later, the seal-weather the foggy, humid, oozy
damp of summer sets in; and with it, as the gray banks roll up and shroud the islands, the bull
Seals swarm from the depths by hundreds and thousands, and locate themselves in advantageous
positions for the reception of the females, which are generally three weeks or a mouth later than
this date in arrival.

maintaining a position on the rookery is really a terribly serious business for those bulls which
come in last; and it is so all the time to those males that occupy the water-line of the breeding-
grounds. A constantly sustained fight between the newcomers and the occupants goes on
morning, noon, and night, without cessation, frequently resulting in death to one or even both of
the combatants.

It appears, from my survey of these breeding-grounds, that a well-understood principle exists
among the able-bodied bulls, to wit: that each one shall remain undisturbed on his ground, which
is usually about six to eight feet square, provided that at the start, and from that time until the
arrival of the females, he is strong enough to hold this ground against all comers; inasmuch as the
crowding in of the fresh arrivals often causes the removal of those which, though equally able-
bodied at first, have exhausted themselves by fighting earlier and constantly, they are finally
driven by these fresher animals back farther and higher up on the rookery, and sometimes off

Many of these bulls exhibit wonderful strength and desperate courage. 1 marked one veteran
at Gorbatch, who was the first to take up his position early in May, and that position, as usual,
directly at the water-line. This male Seal had fought at least forty or fifty desperate battles, and
fought off his assailants every time perhaps nearly as many different Seals which coveted his
position and when the fighting season was over (after the cows are mostly all hauled up), I saw
him still there, covered with scars and frightfully gashed; raw, festering, and bloody, one eye
gouged out, but lording it bravely over his harem of fifteen or twenty females, who were all
huddled together on the same spot of his first location and around him.

This fighting between the old and adult males (for none others fight) is mostly, or rather entirely,
done with the mouth. The opponents seize one another with their teeth, and then clenching their
jaws, nothing but the sheer strength of the one and the other tugging to escape can shake them
loose, and that effort invariably leaves an ugly wound, the sharp canines tearing out deep gutters
in the skin and furrows in the blubber, or shredding the flippers into ribbon-strips.

They usually approach each other with comically averted heads, just as though they were
ashamed of the rumpus which they were determined to precipitate. When they get near enough
to reach one another they enter upon the repetition of many feints or passes, before either one or
the other takes the initiative by gripping. The heads are darted out and back as quick as a flash ;

'A trained observer, Kumlien, who passed the winter of 1S77-'78 in Cumberland Sound, and, speaking of this
feature in the Kinged Seal ( Phoca fastida), says, " There is usually but one young at a birth ; still twins are not of rare
occurrence, and one instance came under my observation where there were triplets; but they were -mall, and two of
them probably would not have lived had they been born."


tlirir hoarse roaring and shrill, piping whistle never census, while their fat bodies writho and swell
with exertion and rage; furious lights gleam in their eyes; their hair flies in the air, and their blood
streams down; all combined, makes a picture so fierce and HO strange that, from its unexi>ected
position and its novelty, is perhaps one of the most extraordinary brutal conte ts man can

In these bat t Irs of the Seals, the parties are always distinct; the one is offensive, the other
defensive. If tin- latter proves the weaker he withdraws from the position occupied, and is never
followed by his conqueror, who complacently throws up one of his hind flippers, fans himself, as it
were, to cool his fevered wrath and blood from the heat of the conflict, sinks into comparative quiet,
only uttering a ]>eculiar chuckle of satisfaction or contempt, with a sharp eye open for the next
covetous bull or "See-catch." 1

ATTITUDES AND COLORATION OF THE Fun SEAL. The period occupied by the males in
taking and holding their positions on the rookery, offers a very favorable opportunity to study
them in the thousand and one different attitudes and postures assumed, between the two extremes
of desperate conflict and deep sleep sleep so profound that one can, if he keeps to the leeward,
approach closo enough, stepping softly, to pull the whiskers of any old male taking a nap on a
clear place; but after the first touch to these moustaches, the trifler must jump with electrical
celerity back, if he has any regard for the sharp teeth and tremendous shaking which will surely
overtake him if he does not. The younger Seals sleep far more soundly than the old ones, and it is
a favorite pastime for the natives to surprise them in this manner favorite, because it is attended
with no personal risk; the little beasts, those amphibious sleepers, rise suddenly, and fairly shrink
to the earth, spitting and coughing their terror and confusion.

The neck, chest, and shoulders of a fur-seal bull comprise more than two-thirds of his whole
weight; and in this long, thick neck, and the powerful muscles of the fore-limbs and shoulders, is
embodied the larger portion of his strength. When on land, with the fore hands he does all climb-
ing over the rocks and grassy hummocks back of the rookery, or shuffles his way over the smooth
parades; the hind-feet being gathered up as useless trappings after every second step forward,
which we have described at the outset of this chapter. These anterior flippers are also the propel-
ling power when in water, the exclusive machinery with which they drive their rapid passage; the
hinder ones floating behind like the steering sweep to a whale-boat, used evidently as rudders, or
as tin- tail of a bird is while its wings sustain and force its rapid flight.

The covering to tlie body is composed of two coats, one being a short, crisp, glistening over-
hair, and the other a close, soft, elastic pelage, or fur, which gives the distinctive value to the pelt.
I can call it readily to the mind of my readers, when I say to them that the down and feathers on
the breast of a duck lie relatively as the fur and hair do upon the skin of the Seal.

At this season of first "hauling up,"* in the spring, the prevailing color of the bulls, after they
dry off and have been exposed to the weather, is a dark, dull brown, with a sprinkling in it of
lighter brown-black, and a number of hoary or grizzled gray coats peculiar to the very old males.
On the shoulders of all of them, that is, the adults, the over-hair is either a gray or rufous ocher,
or a very emphatic "pepper and salt"; this is called the "wig." The body-colors are most intense
and pronounced upon the back of the head , neck, and spine, fading down on the flanks lighter, to
much lighter ground on the abdomen ; still never white, or even a clean gray, so beautiful and

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 18 of 146)