Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/708

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judgment are necessary in directing the movements of the ship, the only indications at times being doubtful ice-blinks and undecided water-skies.

The ice-blink is frequently a very weak indication in summer, appearing as a narrow belt of a little lighter and yellowish sky just above the horizon. So faint is its appearance at times that it would not be recognized except by comparison with known water sky. The latter is dark and gloomy, much resembling that preceding a thunder-storm.

In the pack itself it is generally calm, a slight breeze being almost certain evidence of the close proximity of considerable open water.

The sealers of Dundee and St. John, Newfoundland, rendezvous at the latter port and start almost in the same half-hour about midnight of some day in March. The date is fixed by law, in order to protect the seals during their bearing' period. They have a less venturesome voyage than the whalers, though starting earlier, their hope being to meet the first great ice-floes in the open sea where they are subjected to very little pressure, though the fogs and dark nights make it difficult to avoid collision with one of the numerous icebergs.

The sealers depend in a great measure on luck to strike the floes on which the hair-seal is found in great numbers; a few of the oldest captains are supposed to possess a prescience or peculiar judgment, though it is by no means certain that the seals will be met with in the same part of the open sea in two consecutive seasons. In fact, out of ten or twelve sealers leaving in the same hour every year, it frequently happens that one or two of the luckiest have made two successful trips with full cargoes before some of the others have reported more or less bad luck from their first; the Proteus once brought in one hundred thousand skins from her first trip of the season alone.

On sighting the ice the steamers run along the great floes and through the leads until they find a floe on which a colony of seals have congregated; a dock is rammed into the ice at once; ice anchors are laid out ahead; the very large crew carried is landed by the Jacob's ladders dangling from the head-booms. Sometimes the crew is split up into several parties to work on different floes; in all cases the seals are surrounded as rapidly as possible and driven toward a common center. Here they crawl up on each other, barking and moaning, until they form a great heap ten feet or more in height, writhing and fighting, while the ice in every direction is dotted with the white puppy-seals so young as to be unable to move. The men at work on the ice esteem very highly the frozen hearts of these young seals, claiming that they are not only palatable, but enable them to better stand cold and fatigue.