Page 35

and a short tail. These were large seals-some were more than four hundred pounds. They had big reddishbrown eyes to help see underwater and probably would have eaten fish, lobsters, crabs, and squid-all abundant in the Caribbean Sea . When Columbus and the early explorers came upon Caribbean monk seals, the animals were passive and unafraid. Hunting and general disturbances to their island rookeries by No v1 s 1i;s1.-c humans over a few hundred years dwindled their population until E A.~ fl-P-.?s. \v\P.."Jo ~ li'~'\;>.15\\0 ?-S : fv\ ,b--~ 1 5 1:\P..'?-~S just those few sightings were left, and by then their extinction was L-l~ 5 pA.~ = imminent. Sailors hunted seals 20 -3 0 '(12-s ? for food, as did Columbus's crew, but more often for their blubber, which was used for lamp oil, lubrication, and even as a coating \-\1(:,\..\L'( Sf'NS r\\'.Jt: for the bottom of boats. Swiss \fJ\-\\S~ E°"\2. 5 1\1)\G\-\T VJeL..l- t:>\:\f€ l..<'.lf'E.D naturalist Konrad Gesner wrote .\-\€.\...~ f'I t-11) fl SI-\ C '-f>..WS O\J ~DNi an unlikely account of how 16th_ V"1t> t {2..\/'JA\'E~ -f'-l p~ c- ~s century sailors used the seals' pelts: "Its hair is reputed to be of such a wondrous nature that the skins or pelts are worn by mariners. When in thunderstorms, tempests and other inclement weather is nigh, the hair shall rise and bristle, but when it turns still and mild, it shall lay down smoothly." In 1707 Sir Hans Sloane wrote: "The Bahama Islands are filled with Seals; sometimes Fishers will catch one hundred in a night. They try or melt them, and bring off their Oil for Lamps to the Island." Early explorers and mapmakers named a variety of places across the region in a way that says they saw these animals, names such as Lobos Cay in Cuba, Cayo Lobo Marino in Nicaragua, and Seal Keys in the Bahamas. Into the early 1800s, sailors and naturalists described monk seals throughout the Caribbean, including the Yucatan Peninsula and Venezuela. By the 1890s, however, four hundred years after Columbus's arrival, the Caribbean monk seal was considered very rare. The last Caribbean monk seal sighted in American waters was killed by a fisherman in 1922 near Key West, Florida. 1, In the next issue: the "people's food" of the ?;:::; 1,,,. ll..~';..~ Native American fishermen of the Pacific ) '-;_. I ~_/.:. ' ~7':) ,• / - (,,',. rr""Northwest. For past 'Animals in Sea History' \ " ,, . .,._ __.; -· r go to www.seahistory.org. "t~ I f ' r{ • . .- ~~ '"''J> "'-\

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1he Hawaiian monk seal (right) is a close relative of the now-extinct Caribbean monk seal (above, sketched by Henry W Elliott in the late 1800s).

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Sea History 137 - Winter 2011-2012  

10 The War of 1812: Year Three-1814, by William H. White • 18 Measure of the Earth: Navigation, Science, and the War of Jenkins's Ear, by L...

Sea History 137 - Winter 2011-2012  

10 The War of 1812: Year Three-1814, by William H. White • 18 Measure of the Earth: Navigation, Science, and the War of Jenkins's Ear, by L...

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