Page:The cruise of the Corwin.djvu/61

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THE ISLANDS OF BERING SEA

No one knows certainly whence they come or whither they go. But inasmuch as they make their appearance every year about the shores of the Aleutian Islands shortly after their disappearance from St. Paul and St. George, and then later to the southward, toward the coast of British Columbia, it is supposed that they are the same animals, and that they thus make journeys every year of a thousand miles or more, and return to their birthplaces like shoals of salmon. They begin to appear on the breeding-grounds about the first of June. These are old males, who at once take up their stations on high ground a short distance from the shore, and keep possession of their places while they await the coming of the pregnant, females who arrive about a month later, accompanied by the younger members of the community. At the height of the season the ground is closely covered with them, and they seldom go back into the water or take any food until the young are well grown and all are ready to leave the islands in the fall.

In addition to the one hundred thousand taken here, the Company obtains about forty thousand by purchase from the Russians at Bering and Copper Islands, and from Indians and traders at different points south as far as Oregon. These skins are said to be worth fif-