The illustrated west shore. (Portland, Or.) 1891-1891, April 04, 1891, Page 224, Image 10

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ling in a huge fire place, bringing joy to the soul and comfort to the cramped
and uiilled body of the traveler, even as the table near by, laden with hearty
and toothsome fare brings satisfaction to his long-neglected and rebellious
stomach. There may be higher joys in life than this, but it would be hard to
convince the traveler who has ridden all night with a taciturn driver, his feet
tucked away under the apron and his hands anon desperately clutching the
side rail as the stage suddenly sank into the trough of one " ground swell "
or rose upon the crest of another, the thermometer meanwhile utterly neglect
ing its duty of keeping the atmosphere at a comfortable temperature, but
such is the case. Utter and complete satisfaction with one's present condition
must be the highest joy in life, whether it be that of a clam idly floating with
the tide, a Napoleon at Austerliu or a Christian science healer who has had a
successful contest with a case of toothache, and this is the feeling of the stage
traveler as he sits at the matutinal meal and feels the soothing warmth that
steals over him tram the glowing fire place. One by one the stages are
being driven out before the on-coming iron horse, and, while we welcome the
new and appreciate its advantages, we can but cast a half-regretful sigh at the
disappearance of the things that were.
Although it will be fully three months before the annual " ruckus will
begin in the disputed waters of Bering sea, the sealing season is already well
advanced in the waters along the coast from California north, and the same
vessels that will, about the first of July, enter the precincts of the contested
sea and begin the work of
slaughter in the vicinity of
the rookeries, are now qui
etly and unobserved!)' pur
suing the same business in
that undisputed public
highway known as the Pa
cific ocean.
The sealing fleet con
sists of about forty schoon
ers of small site, a vessel
of great carrying capacity
being unnecessary, and at
present they nearly all
have their headquarters at
Victoria and sail under the
British flag, though many
of them are owned and
commanded b y Ameri
cans. Ilefore the compli
cations anise that resulted
in the practical exclusion of American sealers from llering sea, a number of
vessels had their headquarters at San Francisco, and in their northern voyage
along the coast often caught quite a nuntlier of these amphibious wearers of
sealskin sacks before reaching the mouth of the Columbia i but now that Vic
toria is the headquarters, little sealing is dune south of that stream. Where
the seals scnd their winters is a mystery as profound as the deep-sea home
of the salmon. All that is known of them is that they make (heir appearance
off the coast of California very early in the spring, their numlicrs increasing
as progress north is made, until off the Straits of Kuca the northwardly mov
ing drove, or band, numbers millions, though extending, as it docs, from the
shore many miles in width out to sea, it does not give a very large number
within sight of any partkular vessel. In this way they move north in their
aniui.ll migration from their unknown winter home to the various rookeries or
breeding grounds in llering sea, receiving the attention of the sealers constant
ly during the passage, and even long after they have readied their destination,
when they should I left unmolested.
The first catch of the sealers is along the coast both north and south ol
the Straits of Kuca, off the shores of Washington and Vancouver island,
though often so far out to sea as to be out of sight of either of them. In
this catch a numlier of I'ugrt sound vessels partii iate, though they refrain
(mm making the unlawful incurskin into llering sea. Many of the most ex
perienced hunters are Indians from along the adjacent ovist, to whom sealing
has become an instinctive science thnxigh the Spencerian theory of cultiva
tion through generations of ancestors. It was here the first trailers a century
ago established trade relations with the natives, and it was here that occurred
those events that led to what is known as the " Noutka controversy," that
nearly plunged England and Spain into a war that would probably have in
volved other European powers, and possibly our own infant, but lusty, nation.
Sealing in the open sea fa done in small boats, of which each vessel has
about half a dojen, each equipped with a crew of two men, a boat puller and
a hunter. In the morning the boats pull away from the vessel in different di
rections, though always aiming to remain within easy returning distance in
case of accident or storm ; while those in charge of the schooner, on their
part, keep track of the boats and stand ready to go to their assistance when
ever necessary. Notwithstanding these precautions, boats are occasionally
lost and they and their crews never heard from again. A seal's head project
ing above the surface of the water is a small object to see, especially when a
swell is heaving the bosom of the ocean, and as a mark to shoot at by a rifle
man standing in a swaying boat it is one calling for great skill and experience
on the part of the hunter. When one is observed it is the duty of the boat
puller to get his craft as quietly as possible within range, and then to steady it
until the hunter fires, when he must pull quickly to the spot, for a dead seal
easily sinks and is lost. A hunter necessarily scores a great many misses at
such a target, and it fa stated by experienced sealers that not more than one
in ten of those killed or severely wounded is finally secured. It will be seen
that the hunter who returns to the vessel at night with half a dozen seals must
have spoiled considerable ammunition. It fa upon this basis of one in ten
that the great slaughter in Bering sea is estimated. If the fleet secure 40,000
skins, it means 400,000 dead seals, the majority of which, near the breeding
grounds, so it is alleged, are females out foraging for their young, or so heavy
with young that they are sluggish and easily shot. The engraving on the first
page shows a hunter in the act of trying his skill upon the bobbing head of a
seal. If successful, the
If successful,
shot will make him about
two dollars richer and in
crease the wealth of the
boat puller by fifty cents,
that being the scale of
wages decided upon for
the present season for a
boat securing 300 seals
during the year. As night
comes on the boats all put
back to the vessel, their
catch is hauled on board,
skinned, and the skins
salted away in the hold.
When seals begin to be
come scarce off the coast,
the fleet puts back to Vic
toria, discharges its cargo,
takes on supplies for the
northern cruise, and then
proceeds up the coast with the animals, hunting on the way, finally entering
llering sea with them late in June or early in July and remaining there until
September, bringing contention and bitterness ol spirit between two nations
that ought to be on the friendliest terms, and adding to the gray hairs and
wrinkles ol the worried diplomats.
The natives have many ways of capturing the seal, whose flesh and hide
have both been objects of desire to them for centuries, but the one depicted
in the accompanying engraving, as observed by Mr. H. D. Chapman, is cer
tainly the most ingenious. Says Mr. Chapman :
" I have often read of the adroitness of the American Indian in fooling
his enemy in time of war, by donning either the skin of a wild animal or
dressing himself with a headdress ol grass and crawling up to intrenchments.
or even into an enemy's camp, and, by imitating the call or some bird or ani
mal, signaling definite information to his friends at a distance. But not long
since, while crossing Gray's harbor with an Indian, 1 witnessed a scene which
for perspicacity outdid anything I had heretofore given the siwash credit for.
My attention was called to a gray object lying on the sandy beach of the mid
dle flats, by a cry much resembling that of a baby emanating therefrom, and
1 at once ordered the Indian to take me ashore to investigate. He, however,
assured me that it was only an Indian hunting seals, and if I had the time he
would cast anchor where we were and watch the result from the boat. To
this I assented. When we had cast anchor I commenced an investigation
with my glasses, and discovered that the object was a human being wrapped
in a piece of gray material and imitating the cry or whining noise of a young
seal. One an.,, however, was left free, and close by, ready for instant use.
was a long salmon spear. In a short time I discovered a seal cautiously mile-