Sea History 145 - Winter 2013-2014

Page 42

Animals in Sea History

by Richard King

cott O'Dell 's famous young-adult novel, Island of the Blue Dolphins, tells the tale of a Native American girl named Karana. She lives alone on San Nicolas Island, one of the more distant of the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California. Early in the story, Karana stands on a cliff and watches men who have sailed here from a distant country:

The wide beds of kelp which surround our island on three sides come close to the shore and spread out to sea for a distance of a league. "" In these deep beds, even on days of heavy Ii

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winds, the Aleuts hunted. They left the shore



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at dawn in their skin canoes and did not return until night, towing after them the slain otter. The sea otter, when it is swimming, looks like a seal, but is really very different. It has a shorter nose than a seal, small webbed feet

much more beautiful. It is also different in other ways. The otter likes to lie on its back in the kelp

instead of flippers, and fur that is thicker and

waves, sunning itself or sleeping. They are the

beds, floating up and down to the motion of the most playful animals in the sea.

S outai'.J?-N SE:A ou~v., (fall-\ Y \:>\Z}'. LvT~IS N't\2.t:\S)


Scott O'Dell is historically and biologically accurate with much of his novel. He based Karana t'--\o \?.LvBEt:f?.' '61.l\ TWO LAYE:~S. oF FvF?; uNPi:::f'.LA'(~ 1>ENs1Ty on the true story of a woman who was stranded A\?ollT OtJE to\\ L.UON \-IA\RS \?el?- SG.vf">!Ft: . . 11'lc.1-1-T1-1E Mesi oF AN'< P..t-Jl!V\ALon San Nicolas for more than 20 years 111 the early 1800s. But who were the Aleuts? What D1<=:1 °f cµ-e.s, were they doing hunting otters here? And V~Cl-\\t-J S, C.L-i><MS P,"10 S1M1L-A1<-0FTE'N would someone in the 1800s have actuvs1t-1G 12-oc""s ANCl Tool.S 10 OPEN SHELLS ally thought of sea otters as cute and playful-as so many of us do today? The Aleuts, or the Aleutians, were MOf2.E CL-OSEL'( f?.8-Al'E"P \0 v E:l'<Sa..0:. l>'At-l £1*LS native hunters from the Aleutian Islands, which stretch into the far North Pacific '' \)OC'E:E:\5 I iJ t'VIZ- UN DE\2f>'-OtJT L-£b, f'v~ \-lo'-O\tJG beyond Alaska. Russian sea captains who roo1> ltJl-\i'-1':: \)\\JING. sailed past these islands on their way 1

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SEA HISTO RY 145, WIN T ER 201 3- 14