Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/559

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543
SEALING IN THE ANTARCTIC.

are away after plunder. Now a full boat is making its way to the ship. We steam toward her. As we near, the engines are stopped and she glides alongside. The cook or the steward rushes from the lookout, the doctor from the wheel, one working the steam winch and the other unswitching the skins, while the boat's crew swallow a hasty meal. The boat being unloaded, they are off again for another fill. The greatest rivalry exists between the boats' crews, each endeavoring to get the greatest load for the day. Another boat is seen approaching, and away we go again, dodging this piece of ice, charging that piece with our sturdy bows, boring away where the ice lies closely packed, rounding this berg, and on to the next until we reach the boat, which is down to the gunwale in the water, with its crew cautious, plying their oars as they lie crouched upon their bloody load. So it goes on from day to day; hay is made while the sun shines, and the pile of skins and blubber rises high upon the ship's deck. Then comes a gale of wind, accompanied by fog, sleet, and snow, and we lay to under the lee of a stream of ice or a berg. The deck becomes busy with life, the blubber is "made off" and put into the tanks, and the skins are salted. When the gale is over, at the end of two or three days, the next few days of calm weather are again taken advantage of in the boats. Thus the periods of gales and calms which alternate in this part of the world come in quite conveniently for sealing, the produce obtained in the calm weather being "made off" during the gales. We never experienced much swell, being sheltered by the land, our work lying only a little east of Erebus and Terror Gulf. With "all hands and the cook" so incessantly occupied in the calm weather, all scientific observations were at a standstill, but in the evening, and sometimes during the night, a few chance readings could be obtained, and during gales fairly copious meteorological notes were obtained.

The seals are very foolish beasts. The present generation have never seen man, and they survey him open-mouthed and fearful, during which process they are laid low with club or bullet. Sometimes they are so lazy with sleep that a man may dig them in the ribs with the muzzle of his gun, and, wondering what is disturbing their slumbers, they raise their head, which quickly falls pierced with a bullet. There may only be one seal on a piece of ice, which is usually the case with the larger kind; but the smaller kinds lie in half-dozens and tens, and as many as forty-seven were seen on one piece. Seldom do any escape—one cartridge means one seal. Besides the three seals mentioned we came across a fourth, a large kind with a small head, small fore flippers, very thickly blubbered, and a more woolly skin. The last day of our sealing we were among a great host of the largest