Durability - Alaska Seals - Characteristics of Seals - How they are Killed - The Sealskin Coat The Musquash sealskin, in the opinion of many, exceeds all other fur in beauty and value. It certainly has some signal advantages. Sealskin is noted for its durability. In this respect it comes after sea-otter - the most durable of all furs - and far ahead of sable, ermine, silver fox, blue fox, and the fatally delicate chinchilla. Then, to the touch, it is softer and more silky than the finest silk, and to say that it feels "like sealskin " is the only-description of its exquisite texture. Also, it adapts itself better than any other fur to garments which are cut to fit the figure closely; and, best of all praise, its dark, rich tone makes it most becoming to a woman with a good complexion. In fact, fine sealskin is now as much sought after as Russian sable.
On the other hand, sealskin is a heavier fur than either sable, ermine, broadtail, or chinchilla, and is also more weighty than its poorer relation, musquash. But sealskins, as now cured, are half as light again as they were a decade or so ago; and the younger the animal the lighter its skin, as may be easily imagined. As a result, the young seals are far more valuable than their older companions.
The cost of Alaska seal will soon become prohibitive. The chief supply comes from the Behring Sea, and the take is now regulated by the treaty of 1894 between Great Britain and the United States of America. At the time of writing, a long coat of the best Alaska would cost from 180 to £"200; and the value of this fur will increase, as the price of good skins is rising in a reckless manner. Next in quality comes what is known as North-west sealskin, and a coat made of the finest skins could be procured for about £150.
Alaska seals comprise the male seals taken by the American Commercial Company in the Pribylov Islands, in the Behring Sea. These skins are the best because they come from an Arctic climate. The seals found further south have much poorer skins, for careful Nature provides the creatures who live far North with a thicker coat than those who dwell in warmer and more southern regions. As regards seal fur, an expert states a curious fact, namely, that the number of hairs on a baby skin is as great as those on a full-grown and, of course, much larger animal. Hence the fur is closer on the younger ones, by which token a young Alaska seal is the most precious of the entire species.
The North - West seals are those taken by the pelagic (deep-sea) sealers off the western coasts of North America.
The seal is an amphibious creature, can swim and dive, and its movements in the water are extremely graceful. On land it moves in rather a clumsy fashion. The male seal, when full-grown, measures six feet or more in length, and weighs at least four hundred pounds. Its head is small, its eyes large and expressive, and the upper lip bears a long, stiff moustache. The fore feet, or "flippers," are a pair of dark bluish-black hands, with no suggestion of fingers, but the hind feet, which are longer, have loose, slender, ribbon-like toes, that were described by an American traveller as being "like a pair of black kid gloves flattened out and shrivelled." The female is smaller in size, but her head and large black eyes are strikingly beautiful.
Seals have their peculiarities. One of these is that the outer ear is almost entirely wanting; and another, that they have the strange habit of swallowing large stones, for which no reason has as yet been discovered.
A Sealskin Coat such as this is a precious possession. Before one is bought it should be very carefully examined, since sealskin is imitated more easily than sable photo: Renthinger
They take kindly to the water, and a seal has been known to stay under for quite twenty minutes. But seals possess all the five senses to great perfection. Their hearing seems to be acute, and they are much affected by the sound of music. A flute is said to attract them to a boat, when they have not learned caution by experience.
The ringing of church bells at Hoy, in Orkney, often causes their appearance in the little bay, which is almost landlocked. In a word, travellers who have spent much time in observing the ways and manners of these creatures, declare that they exhibit a high order of instinct, even of intelligence.
The season for seals begins in March, and lasts for about three months. The vessels engaged in this trade belong, in most cases, to Newfoundland. The crews land on the ice, and drive the herds to the "killing grounds," which are situated close to the villages. Here they are allowed to rest until they become cool. If killed while heated, the hair comes off in the skinning process, and the pelt is thereby ruined.
The seals are killed by club, knife, or rifle. The pelagic sealers, of course, have a different method. These hunters go from their ships in boats, paddle up to the seals, and spear them as they sleep on the surface of the water.
The fur of the seal is found to be finest and thickest in its third or fourth year, and in their work the hunters employ great skill and discrimination.
With regard to the fur, anyone who has seen the seals at the Zoological Gardens will have noticed that their coat is long and hairy, not short and close as in sealskin. In real fact, the seal has two coats, one long and one short, and it is the under coat That furnishes the fine, silky pile which is seen in our sealskins.
One word as to the killing. It has often been said that these animals are killed in a cruel fashion. But, in a Government report, Professor Thompson testified as follows: