G. Brown (George Brown) Goode.

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again. After they have attained the age 1 indicate, their instinct drives them down to the margin
of the surf, where the alternate ebbing and flowing of its wash covers and uncovers the rocky or
sandy beaches. They first smell and then touch the moist pools, and flounder in the upper wash
of the surf, which leaves them as suddenly high and dry as it immersed them at first. After this
beginning they make slow and clumsy progress in learning the knack of swimming. For a week
or two, when overhead in depth, they continue to flounder about in the most awkward manner,
thrashing the water as little dogs do, with their fore feet, making no attempt whatever to UNC the
hinder ones. Look at that pup now, launched out for the first time Iwyond his depth; see how be
struggles his mouth wide open, and his eyes fairly popping. He. turns instantly to the beacb,
ere he has fairly struck out from the point whence, he launched in, and, as the receding swell which
at first carried him off his feet and out, now returning leaves him high and dry, for a few minutes
he seems so weary that he weakly crawls up, out beyond its swift returning wash, and coils
himself up immediately to take a recuperative nap. He sleeps a few minutes, perhaps half an hour,
then awakes as bright as a dollar, apparently rested, and at his swimming lesson he goes again.
By repeated and persistent attempts, the young Seal gradually becomes familiar with the water
and acquainted witli his own power over that element, which is to be his real home and his whole
support. Once boldly swimming, the pup fairly revels in his new happiness. He and his brethren
have now begun to haul and swarm along the whole length of Saint Paul coast, from Northeast
Point down and around to Zapadnie, lining the alternating sand-beaches and rocky shingle with
their plump, black forms. How they do delight in it! They play with a zest, and chatter like
our own children in the kindergartens swimming in endless evolutions, twisting, turning, or
diving and when exhausted, drawing their plump, round bodies up again on the beach. Shaking
themselves dry as young dogs would do, they now either go to sleep on the spot, or have a lazy
terrestrial frolic among themselves.

How an erroneous impression ever got iuto the mind of any man in this matter of the pup's
learning to swim, I confess that 1 am wholly unable to imagine. I have not seen any "driving"
of the young pups iuto the water bv the old ones, in order to teach them this proc. - -.. ;i^ certain
authors have pointedly affirmed. 1 There is not the slightest supervision by the old mother or father
of the pup, from the first moment of his birth, in this respect, until he leaves for the North Pacific,

1 AIO.F.X : Hiatory of North American Piunipeds, p. 387.


I'u II fledged with amphibious power. At the close of the breeding-season, every year, the pups are
restlessly and constantly shifting back and forth over the rookery ground of their birth, in huge
squads, sometimes numbering thousands vipon thousands. In the course of this change of position
they all sooner or later come in contact with the sea ; they then blunder into the water for the ttrst
time, in a most awkward, ungainly manner, and get out as quick as they can ; but so far from
showing .any fear or dislike of this, their most natural element, as soon as they rest from their
exertion they are immediately ready for a new trial, and keep at it, provided the sea is not too
stormy or rough. During all this period of self-tuition they seem thoroughly to enjoy the exercise,
in spite of their repeated and inevitable discomfitures at the beginning.

PODDING OF THE PUPS. The " podding" of these young pups in the rear of the great rookeries
of Saint Paul, is one of the most striking and interesting phases of this remarkable exhibition of
highly organized life. When they first bunch together they are all black, for they have not begun
to shed the natal coat: they shine with an unctuous, greasy reflection, and grouped in small
armies or great regiments on the sand-dune tracts at Northeast Point, they present a most extraor-
dinary and fascinating sight. Although the appearance of the " Holluschickie" at English Bay
fairly overwhelms the observer with the impre-sion of its countless multitudes, yet I am free to
declare, that at no one point iu this evolution of the seal-life, during the reproductive season, have
I been so deeply stricken by the sense of overwhelming enumeration, as I have, when, standing on
the summit of Cross Hill, I looked down to the southward and westward over a reach of six miles
of alternate grass and sand-dune stretches, mirrored upon which were hundreds of thousands of
these little black pups, spread in sleep and sport within this restricted field of vision. They
appeared as countless as the grains of the sand upon which they rested.

SECOND CHANGE OF COAT. By the 15th of September, all the pups born during the year
have become familiar with the water; they have all learned to swim, and are now nearly all down
by the water's edge, skirting in large masses the rocks and beaches previously this year unoccupied
by Seals of any class. Now they are about five or six times their original weight, or, in other
words, they are thirty to forty pounds avoirdupois, as plump and fat as butter-balls, and they
begin to take on their second coat, shedding their black pup-hair completely. This second coat
does not vary iu color, at this age, between the sexes. They effect this transformation in dress
very slowly, and cannot, as a rule, be said to have ceased their molting until the middle or 20th of

This second coat or sea going jacket, of the pup, is a uniform, dense, light-gray over hair, with
an under-fur which is slightly grayish in some, but in most cases is a soft, light-brown hue. The
over-hair is fine, close, and elastic, from two-thirds of an inch to an inch in length, while the fur is
not quite half an inch long. Thus the coarser hair shingles over and conceals the soft under wool
completely, giving the color by which, after the second year, the sex of the animal is recogni/.eil.
The pronounced difference between the sexes is not effected, however, by color alone until the
third year of the animal. This over-hair of the young pup's new jacket on the back, neck, and
head, is a dark chinchilla-gray, blending into a stone-white, just tinged with a grayish tint on the
abdomen and chest. The upper lip, upon which the whiskers or moustaches take root, is covered
with hair of a lighter gray than that of the body. This moustache consists of fifteen or twenty
longer or shorter bristles, from half an inch to three inches in length, some brownish, horn-colored,
and others whitish-gray and translucent, on each side and back and below the nostrils, leaving the
muzzle quite prominent and hairless. The nasal openings and their surroundings are, as I have
before said when speaking of this feature, similar to those of a dog.

EYES OF THE PUP-SEALS. The most attractive feature about the fur-seal pup, and that

Tin: rri; SI:AI. : i:vi:s <r vorxG. '.;>

which liolds this place MS il -rows .MI ;iml older, is tin- eye. This organ is cM-ecdinnl> dear, .lark,
and lii|iiid, with which, lor beauty and amiability, together with real intelligence "I expression,
those of no other animal that I have ever seen, or have ever read of, ran bo compared ; indeed,
then- arc lew c\es in tin- orbits of men and women which suggest more pleasantly the ancient
thought of their being "windows to the soul." The lids to the eye are fringed with long, perfect
lashes, and the slightest annoyance, in the way of dust or sand, or other foreign substances, seems
tn cause them exquisite annoyance, accompanied by immoderate weeping. This involuntary tear-
fulness so moved Steller that he ascril>ed it to the processes of the Seal's mind, and declared that
the seal mothers actually shed tears.

RANGE OP VISION. I do not think that their range of vision on land, or out of the water, is
very great. I have experimented frequently with adult Fur Seals, by allowing them to catch
sight of my person, so as to distinguish it as of foreign character, three and four hundred paces
oil. taking the precaution of standing to the leeward of them when the winl was blowing strong,
and then walking unconcernedly up to them. I have invariably noticed, that they would allow me
to approach quite close before recognizing my strangeness; this occurring to them, they at once
made a lively noise, a medley of coughing, spitting, snorting, and blaating, and plunged in spasmodic
lopes and shambled to get away from my immediate neighborhood; as to the pups, they all stupidly
siaie at the form of a human being until it is fairly on them, when they i'lso repeat in miniature
these vocal gymnastics and physical efforts of the older ones, to retreat or withdraw a few rods,
sometimes only a few feet, from the spot upon which you have cornered them, after wliich they
instantly resume their previous occupation of either sleeping or playing, as though nothing had

BEHAVIOR OF FHR SEALS AT NIGHT. I naturally enough, when beginning my investigation
of these seal-rookeries, expected to find the animals subdued at night, or early morning, on the
Itreeding-grounds; but a few consecutive nocturnal watches satisfied me that the family organiza-
tion and noise was as active at one time as at another throughout the whole twenty-four hours. If,
however, the day preceding had chanced to be abnormally warm, I never failexl then to find the
rookeries much more n< isy and active during the night than they were by daylight. The Seals, as
a rule, come and go to and from the sea, fight, roar, and vocalize as much during midnight moments
as they lo at noonday times. An aged native endeavored to satisfy me that the "Seec tckie" could
see much better by twilight and night than by daylight. I am not prepared to prove to the
coutran , but I think that the fact of his not being able to see so well himself at that hour of
darkness was the true cause of most of his belief in the improved nocturnal vision of the Seals.

At 1 write, this old Aleut, Phillip Vollkov, has passed to his final rest "un konchielsnh"-
winter of 187S-'7i. He was one of the real characters of Saint Paul; he was esteemed by the
whites on account of his relative intelligence, and beloved by the natives, who called 1 him their
"wise -nan," and who exulted in his piety. Phillip, like the other people thereof his kind, was
not much comfort to me when I asked questions as to the Seals. He usually answered important
inquiries b\ Bussing himself, and replying, "God knows." There was no appeal from this.

SULI.KNNKSS OF ou> MALE SEALS. The old males, when grouped together by themselves,
at thi- close of the breeding-season, indulge in no humor or frolicsome festivities whatsoever. On
the contrary, they treat each other with surly indillerence. The mature females, however, do
not appear to le-se their good nature to anything like so marked a dcgicc as do their lords and
masters, for they will at all seasons of their presence on the islands be observed, now and then,
to suddenly unbend from severe matronly gravity by i-o.vly and amiably tickling and gently teasing
oni another, as they rest in the harems, or later, when strolling in September. Then' is no sign


given, however, by these seal-mothers of desire or action in fondling or caressing their pups ; nor
do the young appear to sport with any others than the pups themselves, when together. Some-
times a yearling and a five or six months old pup will have a long-continued game between them-
selves. They are decidedly clannish in this respect creatures of caste, like Hindoos.

POWER OF SCENT: ODOR OF THE SEALS. The greatest activity displayed by any one of
the five senses of the Seal, is evidenced in its power of scent. This faculty is all that can be
desired in the line of alertness. I never failed to awaken an adult Seal from the soundest sleep,
when from a half to a quarter of a mile distant, no matter how softly I proceeded, if I got to the
windward, though the.y sometimes took alarm when I was a mile off.

They leave evidences of their being on these great reproductive fields, chiefly at the rookeries,
in the hundreds of dead carcasses which mark the last of those animals that have been rendered
intirin, sick, or were killed by fighting among themselves in the early part of the season, or of those
which have crawled far away from the scene of battle to die from death-wounds received in the
bitter struggle for a harem. On the rookeries, wherever these lifeless bodies rest, the. living, old
and young, clamber and patter backward and forward over and on the putrid remains, and by this
constant stirring up of decayed matter, give rise to an exceedingly disagreeable and far-reaching
"funk." This has been, by all writers who have dwelt on the subject, referred to as the smell
which these animals emit for another reason erroneously culled the " rutting odor." If these
creatures have any od<>r peculiar to them when in this condition, I will frankly confess that I am
unable to distinguish it from the fumes which are constantly being stirred up and rising out of
these decaying carcasses of the older Seals, as well as from the bodies of the few pups which have
been killed accidentally by the heavy bulls fighting over them, charging back and forth against
one another, so much of the time.

They have, however, a very characteristic and peculiar smell, when they are driven and get
heated; their breath exhalations possess a disagreeable, faint, sickly odor, and when I have
walked within its influence at the rear of a seal-drive, 1 could almost fancy, as it entered my
nostrils, that 1 stood beneath an ailanthus tree in bloom; but this odor can by no means be
confounded with what is universally ascribed to another cause. It is also noteworthy, that if
your finger is touched ever so lightly to a little fur-seal blubber, it will smell very much like
that which I have appreciated and described as peculiar to their breath, which arises from them
when they are driven, only it is a little stronger. Both the young and old Fur Seals have this
same breath taint at all seasons of the year.

up the system and regular method of life and reproduction on these rookeries of Saint Paul and
Saint George, as the Seals seem to have arranged it, I shall say that

First. The earliest bulls land in a negligent, indolent way, at the opening of the season, soon
after the rocks at the water's edge are free from ice, frozen snow, etc. This is, as a rule, about
the 1st to the 5th of every May. They land from the beginning to the end of the season in perfect
confidence and without fear; they are very fat, and will weigh at an average 500 pounds each;
some stay at the water's edge, some go to the tier back of them again, and so on until the whole
rookery is mapped out by them, weeks in advance of the arrival of the first female.

Second. That by the 10th or 12th of June, all the male stations on the rookeries have been
mapped out and fought for, and held in waiting by the "Seecatchie." These males are, as a rule,
bulls rarely ever under six years of age; most of them are over that age, being sometimes three,
and occasionally doubtless four, times as old.

Third. That the cows make their first appearance, as a class, on or after the 12th or 15th of


.June, in very small numbers; but rapidly after the 23d and 25th of this mouth, every year, they
begin to flock up in MH-II numbers as to fill the harems very perceptibly; and by the 8th or 10th
of July, they have all come, as a rule a few stragglers excepted. The average weight of the
females now will not be much more than eighty to ninety pounds each.

Fourth. That the breediug-season is at its height from the 10th to the 15th of July every year,
and that it subsides entirely at the end of this month and early in August; also, that its method
and system are confined entirely to the land, never effected in the sea.

Fifth. That the females bear their first young when they are three years old, and that the
period of gestation is nearly twelve months, lacking a few days only of that lapse of time.

Sixth. That the females bear a single pup each, and that this is born soon after lauding; no
exception to this rule has ever been witnessed or recorded.

Seventh. That the "Seecatchie" which have held the harems from the beginning to the end
of the season, leave for the water in a desultory and straggling manner at its close, greatly
emaciated, and do not return, if they do at all, until six or seven weeks have elapsed, when the
regular systematic distribution of the families over the rookeries is at an end for the season. A
general medley of young males now are free, which come out of the water, and wander over all
these rookeries, together with many old males, which have not been on seraglio duty, and great
numbers of the females. An immense majority over all others present are pups, since only about
25 per cent, of the mother-seals are out of the water now at any one time.

Eighth. That the rookeries lose their compactness and definite boundaries of true breeding
limit and expansion by the 25th to the 28th of July every year; then, after this date, the pups
begin to haul back, and to the right and left, in small squads at first, but as the season goes on,
by the 18th of August, they depart without reference to their mothers; and when thus scattered,
the males, females, and young swarm over more than three and four times the area occupied by
them when breeding and born on the rookeries. The system of family arrangement and uniform
compactness of the breeding classes breaks up at this date.

Ninth. That by the 8th or 10th of August the pups born nearest the water first begin to learn
to swim ; and that by the 15th or 20th of September they are all familiar, more or less, with the

Tenth. That by the middle of September the rookeries are entirely broken up; confused,
straggling bands of females are seen among bachelors, pups, and small squads of old males,
crossing and recrossing the ground in an aimless, listless manner. The season now is over.

Eleventh. That many of the Seals do not leave these grounds of Saint Paul and Saint George
before the end of December, and some remain even as late as the 12th of January; but that by the
end of October and the beginning of November every year, all the Fur Seals of mature age five
and six years, and upward have left the islands. The younger males go with the others: many
of the pups still range about the islands, but are not hauled to any great extent on the beaches or
the flats. They seem to prefer the rocky shore-margin, and to lie aa high up as they can get
on such bluffy rookeries as Tolstoi and the Reef. By the end of this month, November, they are,
as a rule, all gone.

Such is the sum and the substance of my observations which relate to the breeding-grounds
alone on Saint Paul and Saint George. It is the result of summering and wintering on them,
and these definite statements I make with that confidence which one always feels, when he speaks
of that which has entered into his mind by repeated observation, amd has been firmly grounded
by careful deductions therefrom.

THE "HoLLUsoHiCKifi" OK "BACHELOB" SEALS: A DESCEIPTION. I now call the attention
7 F


of the reader to auother very remarkable feature in the economy of the seal-life on these islands.
The great herds of " Holluschiekie," ' numbering from one- third to one half, perhaps, of the whole
aggregate of near 5,000,000 Seals known to the Pribylov group, are never allowed by the " See-
catchie,'' under the pain of frightful mutilation or death, to put their flippers on or near the rookeries.

By reference to my map, it will be observed that I have located a large extent of ground
markedly so on Saint Paul as that occupied by the Seals' "hauling-grounds"; this area, in fact,
represents those portions of the island upon which the "Holluschickie" roam in their heavy
squadrons, wearing oft 1 and polishing the surface of the soil, stripping every foot, which is indicated
on the chart as such, of its vegetation and mosses, leaving the margin as sharply defined on the
bluffy uplands and sandy flats as it is on the map itself.

The reason that so much more land is covered by the "Holluschickie" than by the breeding
Seals ten times as much at least is due to the fact, that though not as numerous, perhaps, as the
breeding Seals, they are tied down to nothing, so to speak are wholly irresponsible, and roam
hither and thither as caprice and the weather may dictate. Thus they wear off and rub down a
much larger area than the rookery Seals occupy ; wandering aimlessly, and going back, in some
instances, notably at English Bay, from one-half to a whole mile inland, not traveling in desultory
files along winding, straggling paths, but sweeping in solid platoons, they obliterate every spear of
grass and rub down nearly every hummock in their way.

DEFINITION OF "HOLLUSCHICKIE." All the male Seals, from six years of age, are compelled
to herd apart by themselves and away from the breeding-grounds, in many cases far away ; the
large hauling-grounds at Southwest Point being about two miles from the nearest rookery. This
class of Seals is termed "Holluschickie" or the "Bachelor" Seals by the natives, a most fitting and
expressive appellation.

The Seals of this great subdivision are those with which the natives on the Pribylov group are
the most familiar : naturally and especially so, since they are the only ones, with the exception of
a few thousand pups, and occasionally an old bull or two, taken late in the fall for food and skins,
which are driven up to the killing grounds at the village for slaughter. The reasons for this exclu-
sive attention to the "Bachelors" are most cogent, and will be given hereafter when the "business"
is discussed.

schickie" are not permitted by their own kind to land on the rookeries and stop there, they have
the choice of two methods of locating, one of which allows them to rest in the rear of the rookeries,
and the other on the free beaches. The most notable illustration of the former can be witnessed
on Eeef Point, where a pathway ij left for their ingress and egress through a rookery a path left
by common consent, as it were, between the harems. On these trails of passage they come and go
in steady files all day and all night during the season, unmolested by the jealous bulls which guard
the seraglios on either side as they travel ; all peace and comfort to the young Seal if he minds
his business and keeps straight on up or down, without stopping to nose about right or left; all
woe and desolation to him, however, if he does not, for in that event he will be literally torn in
bloody griping, from limb to limb, by the vigilant old " Seecatchie."

Since the two and three year old "Holluschickie" come up in small squads with the first bulls
in the spring, or a few days later, such common highways as those between the rookery-ground
and the sea are traveled over before the arrival of the cows, and get well defined. A passage for
the "Bachelors," which I took much pleasure in observing day after day at Polavina, another at
Tolstoi, and two on the Reef, in 1872, were entirely closed up by the "Seecatchie" and obliterated,

1 The Russian term " Holluschiclde " or "Bachelors" is very appropriate, and is usually employed.


when I again searched lor them iii 1874. Similar passages existed, however, on several of the
large rookeries of Saint Paul; one of tho>c ;ii Tolstoi exhibits this feature very finely, for here the
hauling-ground extends around from Knglish Hay, and lies up back of the Tolstoi Rookery, over a
tlat and rolling summit, from lo to P_'( feet above the sea-level. The young males and yearlings
of both sc\cs come through and between the harems, at the height of the breeding-season, on two
of i licse narrow pathways, and before reaching the ground above, are obliged to climb up an almost
abrupt blutf, which they do by following and struggling in the water-runs and washes which are
worn into its face. As this is a large hauling-ground, on which, every favorable day during the
season, fifteen or twenty thousand commonly rest, the sight of skillful seal-climbing can be

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 21 of 146)