« PreviousContinue »
taken in the Pribyloff Islands between cruel and ghastly business. Two meth1870 and 1900 was about 2,200,000, and ods are generally employed—the surby pelagic hunting in Bering Sea during rounding or "driving" them on land and the same period about 700,000 more. clubbing them on the head, or spearing Since 1890 the catch had been much re them in the water, the latter being the duced through the seal herds being de- "pelagic” fishing frequently referred to pleted by killing them with guns, spears in the press and diplomatic dispatches and other weapons. The total value of relating to this industry. The killings the seals taken from these Alaskan on the land are only possible where rookwaters in thirty years by the Alaskan eries exist, and therefore can only be company and independent operators legitimately practiced by the lessees, who must have exceeded $30,000,000, and as hold concessions over the islands where the United States paid only $7,000,000 the seals herd. The Canadians, as their for Alaska itself in 1867, it is easy to see country possesses no rookery, have to what a good bargain that transaction was prosecute the pelagic sealing exclusively, for the fur companies. At the annual and this they can do legally unless they sale of seal skins in London in December, invade the closed area fixed by the Paris 1905, some 18,000 skins were sold at an Arbitration of 1892 around the Pribyloff average price of $100 a skin. The prices Islands. show a high water mark, and none but a By the hired employees of the sealing millionaire can afford to buy these gar- company the creatures are killed by first ments in the future. The supply has driving them—young seals preferablyreached its lowest level, there being only from the rookery to the “killing 40,000 fur seal skins throughout the grounds” inland where they can be world.
slaughtered conveniently to the salt The slaughter of the fur-seal is a houses where the skins are pickled, and
SKINNING A SEAL.
so that the rest of the herd will not be the surface of the water asleep, and while disturbed by the bloodshed and excite- there reposing the hunter spears her. ment. This driving is a terrible busi- Or the father will go out with her ness. The seal has no feet fit for walk, and their offspring accompany them ing, being able only to flop, wobble and as these grow bigger, and then whole hitch itself painfully along by means of families will be wiped out at a time. its flippers, for it is really a marine mam- Frequently almost the entire catch of mal, its natural habitat is the ocean, and a schooner will consist of females and it only comes to land to produce its pups, and as hundreds of thousands young. Often the seals die from sheer are slaughtered in this manner, to exhaustion during the “drive," and are say nothing of the wounded which
skinned as they lie, but the chief killing escape but die a slow death in the water is done as stated, the men stunning their after, and are lost, with their skins, the victims by means of blows on the head fear that the industry is destined to and then removing the skins by means speedy extinction is by no means an unof a sharp knife. There is no doubt the reasonable one. This is the cause that seals are often skinned alive. Many inspires the frequent demands for a rehunters claim it is easier to remove the vision of the sealing regulations of the pelt in that way, as in the poignant Paris award and the advocacy in some agony the creature suffers it draws its quarters of the internationalizing of the muscles away from the sharp steel, which seal herds and the killing of a prescribed tears away the flesh from the hide, so number annually. that the seal assists in parting with its The schooners are stout, stanch, woodown coat.
en crafts, many of them built in Maine Scarcely less horrible is the pelagic or Nova Scotia and sailed round Cape sealing, in which open sea pursuit of Horn to Vancouver to be employed in them, the most wanton, indiscriminate this industry. They are crewed largely killing of old and young, male and fe- by Newfoundlanders and Cape Bretoners male, goes on. It is not until after the who cross the continent to engage in the “pups” are about a week old that the pursuit, being attracted by the pecuniary mother ventures out to sea in search of advantages offered, undismayed by the food. After feeding she usually lies on perils of the sea or the hazards of such a venture. The little schooners carry a The most famous of these poachers white crew, to work them and partly to was Hansen, “the flying Dutchman," and hunt, and a number of Indians to hunt hero of many daring exploits. In 1884, exclusively, the latter bringing along when chased by the U. S. cutter Curwin their native canoes which they work with he sailed his schooner, the Adele, over a paddle and a sail, two men in each shoal, while the cutter, racing after him, canoe, with oftentimes a native woman grounded there and he escaped. Another as “steersman.” The value of the skins, time he and his men landed at St. Paul and the comparatively small capital with Island, menaced the alert guards with which the industry can be prosecuted— rifles and carried off nearly a thousand for only sailing crafts are used—make it skins from the salt houses in which they a favorite pursuit for the illicit sealers lay stored. Later still he and his crew also who frequently outwit the cruisers raided the rookery on St. George's Island of the interested powers, invade the one dark and stormy night, and though a rookeries and slaughter great numbers, cruiser was at anchor in the offing, sucor harry the swimming herds and secure ceeded in getting away with over two very substantial plunder indeed thereby. hundred pelts. On yet another occasion he made into a harbor near the Russian the rookeries and raided a small Russian rookeries on the Siberian coast, appar- island off Kamchatka, where a garrison ently as if damaged and desiring to refit, had formerly been maintained, but had and under cover of night looted a nearby then been withdrawn. His men clubbed sealery and made off with a liberal stock some seals, stole some Russian uniformis of pelts, being far beyond the horizon left behind and went on their way rewhen the outrage was discovered the joicing, intending to raid an ampler secnext morning. The recital of his achieve- tion, where, through the mist, they saw ments, outwitting the cruisers and guards another poacher at work. So Kearney who patrol the seal islands, would fill a rigged his men in the Muscovite univolume, but in the end he met a sailor's forms, improvised a funnel out of a winddeath, being sunk with all hands by a sail, converted a stove pipe into a dummy tempest in mid-Pacific.
“long-tom," and moved slowly in, like a Kearney, the hero of Kipling's “Three cruiser coming to her anchorage. The Sealers,” actually figured in the incident poachers at work ashore decamped, upon which the poem is based. In his leaving their plunder behind them, and schooner he sailed from Yokohama for the bogus cruiser helped herself to the
loot which lay ready at hand, only requiring to be gathered in. Kearney was the principal figure in many thrilling dramas of the industry, exhibiting the recklessness of the full-blooded mariner, but now he has retired and runs a sailors' boarding house in Yokohama. : McLean, said to be the original of Jack Lon
don's "Sea Wolf," is a INDIAN SEALING CANOES.
third interesting personage in the enterprise, and one about whom are woven countless stories of danger and adventure. According to report he commanded an American sealing "poacher" twenty years ago and fired upon an obsolete American warship, when ordered to heave-to; raided the rookeries several times, juggled with custom houses in entering and clearing, occasionally ran a party of Chinese or a consignment of opium
INDIAN METHOD OF Drying Seal Skins, through the Golden Gate, and eventually transferred his oper- arrest and imprisonment and the confisations to British Columbia, where he cation of such seals as they have on had charge of a pelagic sealer, until re- board, if they are captured by cruisers. cently. In 1904 some Americans backed International law marks with most drashim in buying a schooner, she securing a tic penalties its disapproval of seal poachMexican register. He enlisted a reckless ing, and dungeon doors yawn for those crew and started to raid the Copper who engage in it, yet such are its fasciIsland rookeries, only to be met with a nations and rewards that the practice volley from the guard which fatally cannot be stamped out. wounded one man and caused the others S torm and sea have also worked their to retire, when she made for Victoria wrath upon the sealing crafts, legal or with two hundred and fifty pelts aboard poaching, as the elements respect no and was seized and fined for infractions human distinctions and every year sees of the Canadian Marine laws.
whole crews fail to return, their vessels This lawlessness frequently met its doubtless sent down into the ocean's .punishment in the killing or maiming of caves by the ruthless tempest, or their · the poachers—for the guards shoot on frail crafts dashed to pieces against the sight at invading gangs—or else in their rocky inlets, their crews enduring the