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boat worked by one man, and we shove off in the direction of a point of ice where two great seals are basking in the warm rays of the sun. steadily towards them, dodging past the blocks of floating ice as we go.
Our two guns are ready, and we agree to fire at the same moment. Nothing seems more certain than that the precautions we have taken will meet with the success our efforts deserve, but we are again doomed to disappointment; we only wound the largest. These seals we made so of were what are called bladder noses (Cystophora cristata). These strange-looking fellows are quite unlike in facial aspect to any we had previously seen.
The bladder-nose is the fifth variety of seal we have as yet encountered, and from his habit of going farther on the ice, and making a greater show of resistance to his
pursuers, he promises to afford greater opportuni
ties for sport.
Hardly had we time to load, when they appeared again close by the boat; disturbed in their nap by our sudden onslaught, evidently they had dived to avoid the threatened danger, and were now on the surface to reconnoitre—perhaps each feared for the safety of the other. There was no time to lose, therefore, and a bullet was lodged in the tough hide of the male. Down he plunged once more, but evidently hard hit. We
prepare to harpoon him if he offers us the chance, but being too far off for this attempt, we wound him again, and again he disappears. The sailor gives way with a will, and on his again presenting himself we lunged at him with the harpoon. Owing to some awkwardness the head became detached, and he was struck with the harpoon staff instead; seizing the staff in his formidable jaws, he smashed it in half. We hasten to adjust another harpoon, and are determined not to fail should he appear once more.
We stand waiting impatiently for him ; as his great head appears over the water he stares wildly at us, and it is impossible to imagine a more ugly looking brute. The nose is puffed out, his teeth showing, his eyes glaring on us, blood streams down his forehead and over his cat-like whiskers, as he disputes with us every inch of the way. He comes steadily down upon us, but we are equally resolute, and this time the harpoon is driven home with all our force; and it passes right through the clumsy body of the seal. Of the six bullets fired at him, two we found had actually grazed his skull, and these wounds did not certainly add to his beauty. Dragging his great and unwieldy body on to the ice, we flenced him, and soon had the hide on board our boat-the skin spread like a mat beneath our feet. We turned towards
another tempting shot, and not to weary our reader with recitals of scenes which to the seal hunter are full of exciting incidents, we record our subsequent successes that day with the tale of four other captures, and conclude our day's work by a long evening's sport amongst a little colony as we go sailing steadily along. We saw in the distance one little party far in on the ice, a habit the bladder-nose seal indulges in, perhaps relying on his greater size and the security he feels in being under the protecting influence of some patriarchal fellow who shows marks of his
in former conflicts. So, at least, it might be inferred on this occasion, for one of the largest seals we had yet seen lay surrounded with a family of five of his fellows. As we can easily sail the schooner within range, the steersman is instructed to use all his skill in approaching them, while we distribute rifles amongst the
eager crew. Twelve men crouch down along the gunwale of the schooner, breathing quickly with impatient expectation; no other sound disturbs the victims as we rapidly approach within gunshot range. An occasional lifting of the heads and uneasy glance to the right and left indicates that the watchful leader is fearful of some impending danger, and presently the others participate in his apprehensions. We are close enough to risk a shot, when one of the seals, more nervous than the rest,
begins to waddle towards the edge. He has nearly gained the water, when the quick word is given to fire, and a volley, well directed, knocks over all but one. This one seems to bear a charmed life, for he rallies through the crowd of prostrate companions, in a hail of bullets, without receiving a single wound, and while all on board are madly intent upon the chase, no one, not even the steersman, heeds the position of the ship, now in such close proximity to the ice, and before the danger can be averted, our schooner bears down upon the point-end and the jibboom bends like a bow as it comes full-tilt against the hummock of ice which lately afforded a resting-place to the seals. The loud barking of the dog, with the wild shout the sailors raised to “blaze 'em,” as they say, in order to bewilder the escaping seal, was rapidly hushed, and the dead silence which ensued was only broken by the falling of the head-gear which came tumbling down in consequence of the shock. There lay the seals on the ice abeam of us, the old and savage bladder-nose, the leader of the family, glaring grimly at us, the loose skin over his nose distended to the utmost, giving him a hideous appearance ; his whole aspect full of threatening should we dare to approach. Every thought is now turned to the safety of the ship, and it is not until after proper order is restored on board, that the
men proceed to flence and bring in their valuable booty.
The cold northern wind at length arrives and the ice begins to slack off perceptibly ; up to this time it had been twisting about in a curious way, although seemingly jammed closely and compactly together. The motion is now more clearly defined—now it threatens us with a squeeze, but we manage to give the mass a different direction, pushing it on one side, and compelling it to vent its force upon its icy neighbour. We warps
and ice anchors out, make sail, and with a boat all ready to take the men from hummock to hummock, we commence the arduous task of “boring out.” After a few hours we get into a stream running to the southward, the ice also slacking off, and also trending in the same direction.
The 11th of June we speed on our way, keeping a sharp look out for the point ends as we coast ; the ice yields but little game, one seal only falling to our gun, and we pushed on some forty miles to the northwards without any further gain worthy of notice. There we saw a steamer far in the pack, and near her the ice is covered with seals; thousands and thousands of these animals recline upon the ice in long lines, and every block of ice in sight appeared quite blackened by the numbers upon them. These