[Footnote 13: Yehl, embodied in the raven, is the Thlinkit Great Spirit]
“Old Kala-kash tells this story, and he says that one of these people, when very old, went down through the crater of the mountain, and, given long life by Yehl, stays there always to hold up the earth out of the water. But the other lives in the crater as the Thunder Bird, Hahtla, whose wing-flap is the thunder and whose glance is the lightning. The osprey is his totem, and his face glares in our blankets and totems.”
“I’ve wondered what that fierce bird was,” said Teddy, who was always quite carried away with Kalitan’s strange legends.
“Well, what else do we see on the way to Nome, father?”
“The most remarkable thing happening in the Bering Sea is the seal industry, but I do not think we pass near enough to the islands to see any of that. You’d better run about and see the ship now,” and the boys needed no second permission.
It was not many days before they knew everybody on board, from captain to deck hands, and were prime favourites with them all. Ted and Kalitan enjoyed every moment. There was always something new to see or hear, and ere they reached their journey’s end, they had heard all about seals and sealing, although the famous Pribylov Islands were too far to the west of the vessel’s route for them to see them. They sighted the United States revenue cutter which plies about the seal islands to keep off poachers, for no one is allowed to kill seals or to land on this government reservation except from government vessels. The scent of the rookeries, where millions of seals have been killed in the last hundred years, is noticed far out at sea, and often the barking of the animals can be heard by passing vessels.
“Why is sealskin so valuable, father?” asked Ted.
“It has always been admired because it is so warm and soft,” replied Mr. Strong. “All the ladies fancy it, and it never seems to go out of fashion. There was a time, when the Pribylov Islands were first discovered, that sealskins were so plentiful that they sold in Alaska for a dollar apiece. Hunters killed so many, killing old and young that soon there were scarcely any left, so a law was passed by the Russian government forbidding any killing for five years. Since the Americans have owned Alaska they have protected the seals, allowing them to be killed only at certain times, and only male seals from two to four years old are killed. The Indians are always the killers, and are wonderfully swift and clever, never missing a blow and always killing instantly, so that there is almost no suffering.”
“How do they know where to find the seals?” asked Ted.
“For half the year the seals swim about the sea, but in May they return to their favourite haunts. In these rookeries families of them herd on the rocks, the male staying at home with his funny little black puppies, while the mother swims about seeking food. The seals are very timid, and will rush into the water at the least strange noise. A story is told that the barking of a little pet dog belonging to a Russian at one of the rookeries lost him a hundred thousand dollars, for the seals took fright and scurried away before any one could say ‘Jack Robinson!’”