top of page

Nutritional Degeneration

The degeneration of the body through a changing nutrition from animal to plant foods.

Nutritional Degeneration

Recent History

January 1, 1697

Arctic Passage

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

The Kamchatka Peninsula is invaded by Russian Cossacks in 1697 and the natives are forced to turn to trapping for furs instead of living off of their highly carnivorous diets of fish and sea mammals such as seals, whales, or walrus.

URL

The Russian subjection of Siberian natives did not begin with the work of the two Kamchatka expeditions headed by Vitus Bearing, though these expeditions accelerated the process. In 1581 the Cossack Ermak led his followers across the Urals for their first plunders in the vast easten territories. Gradually, over the next 100 years, the Cossacks pushed on to exploit the fur riches and pacify territory for the Moscovite Empire. Southeastern advances along the Amur River were checked by the powerful Manchu forces of China, but there was no concerted resistance north of the Amur. Following the great rivers, the Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei, and Lena, the Cossacks subdued the primitive natives who stood in their way. Tribute in furs was exacted mercilessly. To resist was to be decimated. 


Advances to the far northeast were slowed by the lack of easy river access and the forbidding climate. The Kamchatka Peninsula was not explored until 1696. A year later, Cossack Vladimir Atlasov led a party of 100 soldiers, conveyed by reindeer, to Kamchatka's east coast, where the Russians encountered Kamchadals for the first time. Soon after this, fur traders established themselves in Kamchatka to plunder and oppress the natives until they were driven to a desperate resistance. In 1731 the natives rose against their oppressors, but their rebellion was savagely crushed within a year. It was part of the assignment of the second Kamchatka expedition, officially called the Great Northern Expedition, to compile information on the people and resources of northeastern Asia. Much of this work was done by Georg Steller prior to his 1741 voyage with Bering to America, and by a young Russian scientist, Stepan Petrovich Krasheninnikov. Krasheninnikov, only twenty-five years old in 1737 when he arrived in Kamchatka, did the major portion of the investigation and, with the help of Steller's notes, produced his study, Explorations of Kamchatka, which was published by the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1755. This book has long been the classic source on the Kamchadals of southern Kamchatka and, to a lesser extent, on the Koriak and Chukchi peoples inhabiting the regions farther north. In the Explorations of Kamchatka we Bet an invaluable picture of the recently subjugated peoples of the Bering Sea frontier and, indirectly, an insight into the attitudes of their Russian overlords toward the region and its inhabitants. Krasheninnikor was not involved in the most exciting assignment of the expedition, the attempt to discover America from the west. His task was to provide a careful assessment of Kamchatka upon which the government could base its developmental policies. His temperament was well suited to the task. He was disposed to report the sober truth as he saw it, without exaggeration or inclinations to optimistic promotion. In weighing the advantages and disadvantages of Kamchatka, his report was balanced and careful. "The country has neither grain nor livestock. It is subject to frequent earthquakes, floods and storms. The only diversions are to gaze on towering mountains whose summits are eternally covered with snow, or, if one lives along the sea, to listen to the crashing of the waves and observe the different species of sea animals." 3 Considering this, Krasheninnikov commented, "it would seem more appropriate for this country to be inhabited by wild animals than by human beings."4 On the other hand, pure air, healthy water, the absence of diseases, a climate neither excessively hot or cold, make the country "no less fit to be lived in than other countries which may have an abundance of other things, but are exposed to all these ills and dangers." 5 


Although Kamchatka might be "fit to be lived in," it did not attract large numbers of European Russians. A small number of colonists from other parts of Siberia were settled there among the natives, soldiers, and government officials, and plans were laid for a self-supporting agricultural economy. But attempts to achieve such an economy were sporadic and largely unsuccessful. Economic development remained a vision of government planners. Yet the region did provide riches for a few Russians who reaped profits from its most obvious resources, its people and its fur-bearing animals. Both were exploited shamelessly by mercenary interests. In time, the Kamchadals lost their identity as a distinct people, while the relentless hunting of sables, foxes, and other fur-bearing animals drastically reduced their numbers. Only the discovery of new fur resources to the west saved the land animals of Kamchatka from a total extermination. 


The Kamchadals were a free, independent people before the Russians conquered them. Like that of their Eskimo neighbors in Alaska their social organization was loose and unstratified. No rulers or chiefs were recognized, though men esteemed for their wisdom and experience were highly regarded. Russians could appreciate some of the skills exhibited by natives- hunting and dog-sled driving in particular--but generally considered them barbaric and contemptible. "They are filthy and disgusting," wrote Krasheninnikov, "they never wash their hands or faces, nor do they cut their fingernails, they eat from the same bowls as their dogs and never wash them. They all reek of fish and smell like eider ducks." 6 Different standards of personal hygiene have always formed a barrier between peoples, though many Siberian travelers observed little distinction between Cossack and native habits of cleanliness. 


Kamchatka's great wealth was in the numbers of fur-bearing animals to be found there. The dense, glossy pelts of foxes were esteemed in the fur trade and the sables, because of their size and beauty, were considered superior to those hunted elsewhere in Siberia. These animals as well as hares, marmots, ermines, bears, wolverines, and weasels were caught in traps, poisoned, or shot with a bow and arrow. Kamchadals were delighted when Cossacks offered a single knife in exchange for eight sable pelts and a hatchet for eighteen skins. "It is quite true," Krasheninnikov reported, "that when Kamchatka was first conquered, there were some agents who made as much as thirty-thousand roubles in one year." 7 


All the natives of Kamchatka and northeastern Siberia, except for the Koriak reindeer herdsmen of the interior, used dogs for transport during the winter. Besides hauling sleds, dogs assisted in the hunt of mountain sheep and other land animals, and their skins provided a wide variety of clothing. Food for the dogs was easily obtained, consisting, primarily, of the salmon which abounded in Kamchatka's rivers. Great quantities of fish were taken in the summer and dried for winter use as dog food. Marine mammals were also hunted. Seals were taken off the coast in winter and from the rivers and estuaries in summer. Natives clubbed sleeping seals on land and harpooned them in the water. Seal skins yielded material for boots and clothing, their oil provided lighting and heat for native dwellings; their flesh and blubber were important sources of food and were sometimes preserved for later use by smoking. Other mammals could only be taken at sea. These included the sea lion, fur seal, sea otter, whale, and, in northern waters, the walrus. All these mammals contributed to the native economy to varying degrees. The Chukchis primary food source was the whale, which they hunted in the European manner, harpooning the beasts at sea from large boats and towing the whales ashore for butchering. Kamchadals, on the other hand, did not usually venture out to sea to hunt whales, but made good use of any that washed ashore.

January 1, 1763

West of the Revolution - An Uncommon History of 1776

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Aleuts engage in warfare with the Russians but gradually lose - especially when the Russians destroy their boats - key to their hunting practices and "as indispensable as the plow and the horse for the farmer"

In 1763, four ships, the Zacharias and Elizabeth, the Holy Triniry, the

John, and the Adrian and Natalie, were visiting Umnak and Unalaska,

two of the larger islands of the Aleutian chain that Russians had dis-

covered only four years earlier. The captains collected iasak from local

Aleuts and demanded amanaty to ensure prompt payment and their own

safety. Then they divided their crews into hunting parties, as Aleuts

from Unalaska, Umnak, and neighboring islands had expected. The

Aleuts hatched a plan. As Solov'ev reported it, local residents would

"live in friendship at first," but when the Russians split up to hunt and

trade, they would take them by surprise. "Using this ruse," they hoped

to "kill all the Russians."


On Unalaska, the Aleuts ambushed the hunting parties from the

Zacharias and Elizabal. Four survivors, fleeing along the coust to their

vessel, spotted a locker washed ashore, then bits and pieces of the ship

itself, and finally the bodies of their mates, mangled and strewn about

the beach. Months later, they reached the Holy Trinity, where they

learned that, besides themselves, only three of their chirty-seven crew-

mates had survived."


The Holy Trinity had also come under attack and would soon be

destroyed. The skeleton crew, reduced in number and weakened by

scurvy, could not control the vessel, and in heavy winds it was driven

to Umnak and crushed on the rocky shore. Aleuts set upon fifty-four

castaways that same night. In July 1764, the twelve survivors of that

raid built a skin boat and rowed around the island, searching for the

John, the third of the four ships that had been trading in the islands.

In a steam bath constructed by the Russians, they found only a charred

frame and the garroted bodies of twenty countrymen. (No one from the

Job survived to recount its story, but in 1970, archaeologists discovered

the steam bath and the remains of the crew. The refugees from the

Zacharias and Elizabeth and the Holy Trinity were soon rescued by the

last surviving ship, the Adrian and Natalie. In September 1764, relief

arrived when Solovey anchored off Unalaska and learned of the plight

of his fellow promyshlenniki."


In retaliation, Solover killed at least seventy Aleuts in five differ-

ent engagements. "I preferred to talk them out of evil intentions so

that they could live in friendship with the Russian people," he main-

tained. But elderly promyshlenniki, interviewed in the early nine-

tenth century, would remember differently. On one occasion, Solovev,

after being provoked, killed one hundred Aleuts "on the spot." The 

bloodshed was "terrible," they recalled. On another, Solovev blew up

a fortified structure sheltering three hundred Aleuts and cut down

the survivors with guns and sabers. One trader stated that Solovev

had killed more than three thousand in all, perhaps an exaggera-

tion; another insisted that he had killed no more than two hundred.

Considering that Unalaska sheltered only a few thousand inhabitants,

even two hundred deaths would have represented a crushing blow to

the population."


Years later, Aleuts insisted that Solovief, above all others, was

responsible for their decline. The Russian captain had killed hundreds

or thousands, they said, and many others had fled at his approach. He

made a practice of destroying their haidarkat, as kayaks are known in

the Aleutians. The boats were essential for hunting, "as indispens-

able as the plow and the horse for the farmer," observed one Russian.

Many of the refugees died from starvation or exposure while laboring

to replace the skin-covered vessels, which took over a year to build."


On Unalaska and surrounding islands, Solover "shot all the men;

three residents recalled in 1789. He reportedly practiced a cruel experi-

ment: arranging the Aleuts in a line, he fired at the first to discover

how many people the bullet would pass through. On one occasion,

villagers sought refuge on Egg Island, a tiny outcropping with cliffs

four hundred feet high, lying in deep water just off the eastern edge

of Unalaska. Its rocky shoreline hindered Solov'ev's approach, but he

made landfall on the second attempt and killed the men, women, and

children who had gathered there. "The slaughter was so atrocious,"

Aleuts said, "that the sea around the islet, became bloody from those

who threw themselves or were thrown into it."6


In his journal, Solover remained largely silent about his thirty-five

months on Unalaska and the surrounding islands, where his crew

harvested the vast majority of the furs that would eventually be

sent on to Kyakhta. There was "nothing worthy of notice" in the journal,

declared the Russian Senate, which ordered future voyagers to keep bet-

ter records. Solov'ev's reticence may have been grounded in knowledge

of the fate of Ivan Bechevin, a wealthy Irkutsk merchant who was put

on trial in 1764 for the actions of his company. The official investigation

concluded that Bechevin's promyshlenniki-_who kidnapped, raped,

and murdered a number of Aleut women--committed "indescribable

abuses, ruin and murder upon the natives."3


Nonetheless, enough details exist to reveal that relations berween

Solover and the Aleuts rapidly deteriorated. Shortly after Solov'ev set

up camp on Unalaska, he sent out two hunting parties. A detachment

from the first became stranded in a cove surrounded by high cliffs.

The Aleuts who discovered the vulnerable men severed their arm and

leg tendons and then cut off their limbs and heads. Later, they boasted

to Solovev, "we are going to kill all of you just like we killed Russian

people before." Solov'ev ordered two Aleut captives stabbed to death."

The remainder of the first party went west, to hunt dt Umnak and

other western islands. It mer with success, according to Solov'ev. The

men lived peacefully with the islanders, who "voluntarily" gave them

hostages, traded with them, and paid dasak. "I was always happy wich

those foreigners and nothing bad happened while we stayed there,

" he stated. (lozemtry, meaning "foreigners," was the term Russians applied to

the native peoples of Siberia, as well as to the Aleuts.) Their acquiescence

to Solov'ev's presence may have been forged in the 1760s, when, accord-

ing to one report, promyshlenniki had virtually "exterminated" the

'"disobedient" populations on southern Umnak and its western islets.**


January 11, 1844

Jean-Francois Dancel

Obesity, Carnivore, Keto

Obesity, or, Excessive corpulence : the various causes and the rational means of cure

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Dr Dancel says "These chemical principles are founded upon facts—upon observation. As I have said, carnivorous animals are never fat, because they feed upon a substance rich in nitrogen—flesh; which flesh makes flesh, and very little fat. They have no belly, because flesh, taken in small quantity, suffices for one day, or twenty-four hours."

These chemical principles are founded upon facts—upon observation. As I have said, carnivorous animals are never fat, because they feed upon a substance rich in nitrogen—flesh; which flesh makes flesh, and very little fat. They have no belly, because flesh, taken in small quantity, suffices for one day, or twenty-four hours.

It has been objected that the carnivora do not always obtain food when hungry, and that they are often obliged to chase their prey for a long time before catching it. This is true; but on the other hand, carnivorous animals, when domesticated and fed upon meat, are not more fat, and have no belly. The celebrated traveller, Levaillant, in his Travels in Africa, says that he has seen, in the southern part of the continent, flocks of gazelles, which live in the interior, numbering from ten to fifty thousand. These flocks are almost continually on the move; they travel from north to south, and from south to north. Those of the flock which are in advance, and in the enjoyment of a rich pasturage, frequently come upon the borders of the settlements of Cape Colony, and are fat; those composing the centre of the herd are less fat; while those in the rear are extremely poor, and dying with hunger. Being thus stayed in their course by the presence of man, they retrace their steps; but those which composed the rear are now in advance, and regain their fat, while those which were in advance become the rear, and lose fat. Notwithstanding the vast numbers which daily perish, their natural increase suffices to maintain the integrity of the herd. In connexion with my subject I may state that these flocks are always accompanied or followed by lions, leopards, panthers and hyenas, which kill as many of them as they please for food, devour a part, and leave the rest to the jackals and other small carnivorous animals, which follow upon their steps. Now, these lions, panthers, leopards and hyenas, which need make but the slightest exertion to find food when hungry, are never fat.

It has been said, by way of objection to my system, that butchers are generally fat, due to their living upon meat. Now, I have made some enquiries in this matter, and have satisfied myself that butchers, as a general thing, are not fond of meat, but live chiefly upon vegetable food, and usually drink a great deal. It has been said also that their good condition is due to the atmosphere (filled with animal miasm) in which they live, a supposition which has yet to be proven. Again, it has been said that hogs can be fattened upon horse-flesh. My reply is, that they drink at the same time a large amount of water. And here I may remark, that the lard of hogs thus fattened upon flesh is soft and watery, and is considered by dealers to be of little value. It is evidently not due to the flesh upon which these hogs are fed, that their fat is soft and watery, but to the great amount of fluid they imbibe.

On the other hand, those animals which are enormously fat, live exclusively upon vegetables, and drink largely. The hippopotamus, for example, so uncouth in form from its immense amount of fat, feeds wholly upon vegetable matter—rice, millet, sugar-cane, &c. Naturalists long entertained the opinion that this animal, living mostly in the water, fed chiefly upon fish. It is now, however, well ascertained that the hippopotamus never touches fish, and is wholly a vegetable feeder.

The walrus, which, according to Buffon, seems to afford the connecting link between amphibious quadrupeds and the cetacea, is a veritable mass of fat, and lives exclusively upon marine herbage. The walrus of Kamschatka measures from twenty to twenty-three feet in length, sixteen to eighteen feet in circumference, and weighs from six to eight thousand pounds.


The following fact may be cited as a remarkable proof that the quantity of fat in any animal is mainly dependent on the character of its food: Among the whale tribe, those monsters in size, that of Greenland (Balæna mysticetus of Linnæus) possesses the greatest amount of blubber, and it feeds upon zoophytes, of which many resemble as much in character the plant as the animal. The fin-backed whale (Balæna böops of Linnæus), which does not feed upon mucilaginous matter, but upon small fish, has a much thinner layer of blubber than the former. The sperm whale or cachalot (Balæna physalus of Linnæus), which feeds on mackerel, herrings, and northern salmon, although nearly as long as the Greenland whale, is much thinner. The layer of blubber is not so thick as in the fin-backed, and yields only ten or twelve tuns of oil; while the Greenland whale yields fifty, sixty, and even eighty tuns.


Now, chemistry, as we have said, furnishes a rational explanation of these facts. With the exception of flesh, all alimentary substances (the mucilaginous, the gummy, the saccharine, the aqueous, &c.) consist of carbon and hydrogen, and fat is composed of the same elements. Success in the treatment of disease would be more frequent, if medical practitioners would pay greater attention to the chemistry of the vital functions; and the reason why certain articles of diet have a greater tendency than others to the formation of fat, would, by the aid of the exact science of chemistry, be rendered self-evident.

June 5, 1851

Jean-Francois Dancel

Obesity, Carnivore, Keto

Obesity, or, Excessive corpulence : the various causes and the rational means of cure

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Dancel returns a young woman to health with meat, and her menstruation returns as well. "This young person, about twenty-three years of age, was very fat, and irregular in her menstrual periods. She was of lymphatic temperament, very pale, and rarely partook of meat: her ordinary food consisted of vegetables, sweetmeats, cakes and sweet fruits; She had lost much of her fat, and had become regular. She ate meat principally, both at breakfast and dinner, and drank wine."

To return to the cases of cure. Madam C., a landed proprietor, living in the Rue de la Concorde, at Paris, went to take the waters in Germany, in the year 1851. On her return, she made trial of my system, on account of excessive corpulence. Meeting with the usual success, she thought it would be of great advantage to a young lady, a friend, whom she had left behind her at the watering place, and who was then in bad health. This young person, about twenty-three years of age, was very fat, and irregular in her menstrual periods. She was of lymphatic temperament, very pale, and rarely partook of meat: her ordinary food consisted of vegetables, sweetmeats, cakes and sweet fruits; water was her principal beverage. At the pressing instance of Madam C., Miss C. visited Paris, in order to be under my care. 


After following my directions for a fortnight, her health was much improved. Her parents then came to Paris, and I continued in attendance on Miss C. for three months. At the expiration of this time, she returned with her parents to Brussels. She had lost much of her fat, and had become regular. She ate meat principally, both at breakfast and dinner, and drank wine. I may lay claim, in the case of this young lady, to have effected a complete change of temperament. With but trifling menstrual flow, and great pallor, she was gradually progressing to a state of obesity, which would have proved entirely destructive to health, which would have ended in a total suppression of the menses, and ultimately in death. But now, having overcome her obesity, the menstrual flow has become normal in quantity, the digestive powers have resumed their functional activity, so that she can partake of meat and wine, and in every respect her constitution is fully restored. Should she marry, she will in all probability have a family, which would have been very doubtful had she married while in the previous obese condition; and if she have children, her accouchements will be comparatively free of danger, and her sufferings much less; for it is well known that very corpulent females have more difficult labours than those of ordinary embonpoint; while the offspring of the latter are at the same time healthier. The same rule applies in the case of the human female as with other mammalia; when fat, conception is of more rare occurrence; and when they do conceive, they are very liable to miscarry. When, however, they go to the full period of gestation, the progeny of a very fat mother is almost always lean, and possesses little vitality. Moreover, the milk of a very fat mother is neither so abundant nor so nutritious as that of a moderately thin mother.

October 9, 1870

Arctic Passage, Whaleman's Shipping List and Merchants Transcript Letter

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Captain Frederick A Barker of the Japan shipwrecks in the Arctic Ocean in 1870 and is rescued by Eskimo natives who restore the frostbitten and dying men and then feed them a diet of raw walrus meat through the winter, despite suffering from famine themselves. Captain Barker realizes that his whaling and walrus slaugtering had reduced the natives only remaining food resources and wrote to authorites for help.

URL

From Artic Passage Book - Page 135 Physical Hardcover:

Captain Frederick A. Barker of the Japan was one of the few whaling men to cry out against the wholesale destruction of the walrus herds of the Bering Sea. In a letter to the Whalemen's Shipping List and Merchants Transcript he warned New England whaling men that the practice "will surely end in the extermination of this race of natives who rely upon these animals alone for their winter's supply of food." 28 If the butchering of the walrus did not cease, the fate of the Eskimo was inevitable: "Already this cruel persecution has been felt along the entire coast, while a wail like that of the Egyptians goes through the length and breadth of the land. There is a famine and relief comes not." 29 Eskimos had often asked Barker why the white men took away their food and left them to starve, and he had no answer to give them. They told him of their joy when the whalemen first began to come among them, and of their growing despair as the hunters began to decimate the walrus. "I have conversed with many intelligent shipmasters upon this subject," wrote Barker, "since I have seen it in its true light and all have expressed their honest conviction that it was wrong, cruel and heartless and the sure death of this inoffensive race." 30 Captains had told Barker that they would be glad to abandon walrus hunting if the ship owners would approve it, "but until the subject was introduced to public notice, they were powerless to act." 31 It would be hard to give up an enterprise that provided 10,000 barrels of oil each season. My advocacy "may seem preposterous and meet with derision and contempt, but let those who deride it see the misery entailed throughout the country by this unjust wrong." 32 


Captain Barker was not the only shipmaster to appeal for an end to the walrus slaughter, but he knew better than to most what was happening to northern natives. Barker had taken his Japan into the Arctic Ocean in 1870 and had made a good catch. Whales were plentiful and the weather was good, so Barker was reluctant to return south through the Bering Strait. As the days grew colder and the shore ice thickened, Barker was forced to give up the chase and work the Japan toward the strait. Unfortunately, he encountered heavy fog which slowed his progress, then a storm which buffeted the Japan for four days. On October 9, 1870, the Japan was off East Cape, Siberia, and in serious trouble. "The gale blew harder, attended by such blinding snow that we could not see half a ship's length." 33 Although Barker had taken in most of his sails, the Japan was racing at breakneck speed before the gale. "Just then, to add to our horror, a huge wave swept over the ship, taking off all our boats and sweeping the decks clean." 34 


The situation was critical. Barker steered for the beach and hoped for the best. An enormous wave hit the Japan and drove it upon the rocky shore. Miraculously, all the men got ashore safely, but their travails were just beginning. The weather was bitterly cold, and clothing and provisions had to be recovered from the disabled ship. Barker and his men struggled through the surf to the ship and back to the shore again and suffered fearful consequences. All were severely frostbitten, and eight of the thirty-man crew died in the effort. Natives came to the mariners' assistance. Barker was dragged out of the breakers, breathless and nearly frozen, loaded onto a sled, and taken to village. "I thought my teeth would freeze off." 35 Barker scrambled out of the sled and tried to run, hoping the exertion would warm him. Instead he fell down as one paralyzed. The natives picked him up and put him on the sled once more. 


In the village the survivors received tender care. "The chief's wife, in whose hut I was," wrote Barker, "pulled off my boots and stockings and placed my frozen feet against her naked borom to restore warmth and animation," 36. With such care the seamen who had not died on the beach recovered. But for the natives "every soul would have perished on the beach... as there was no means at hand of kindling a fire or of helping ourselves one way or the other." 37 


Barker and his men wintered with the Eskimos, They had no choice in the matter as the entire whaling fleet had returned south before the Japan started for Bering Strait, It was during these months that Barker leaned someching of the Eskimos' way of life and became their advocate. Except for a few casks of bread and flour that had washed ashore, the seamen were entirely dependent upon their hosts. The men ate raw walrus meat and blubber that was generally on the ripe side. The whalemen did not relish their diet, but it sustained them. Prejudices against a novel food inhibited Barker for a time. He fasted for three days. "Hunger at last compelled me and, strange as it may appear, it tasted good to me and before I had been there many weeks, I could eat as much raw meat as anyone, the natives excepted." 38 Barker soon understood that the natives were short of food. "I felt like a guilty culprit while eating their food with them, that I have been taking the bread out of their mouths."39 Barker knew and the Eskimos knew that the whalemen's hunting of walrus had reduced the natives to the point of famine, "still they were ready to share all they had with us." 40 Barker resolved to call for a prohibition of walrus hunting when he returned to New Bedford and further resolved that he would never kill another walrus "for those poor people along the coast have nothing else to live upon." 41 


In the summer of 1871 Barker and his men were rescued when the whaling fleet returned. Some recompense was made to the Eskimos for their charity; they were given provisions and equipment from the ships. The natives plight was observed by other captains too. One wrote a letter to the New Bedford Republican Standard to describe the "cruel occupation" of walrus killing. Most of those killed were females which were lanced as they held their nursing offspring in their flippers "uttering the most heartrending and piteous cries."' 42 Many whalemen felt guilty about this butchery, and they had to have very strong stomachs to carry out the bloody job under such circumstances. "But the worst feature of the business is that the natives of the entire Arctic shores, from Cape Thaddeus and the Anadyr Sea to the farthest point north, a shoreline of more than one thousand miles on the west coast, with the large island of St. Lawrence, the smaller ones of Diomede and King's Island, all thickly inhabited are now almost entirely dependent on the walrus for their food, clothings, boots and dwellings." 43 Earlier there were plenty of whales for them, but the whales had been destroyed and driven north. "This is a sad state of things for them." 


Other captains reported that they had seen natives thiry to forty miles from land on the ice, trying desperately to catch a walrus or find a carcass that had been abandoned by the whalemen. "What must the poor creatures do this cold winter, with no whale or walrus?" 45 Such appeals might have been effective eventually, though whether they would have led to a prohibition of walrus killing in time to spare the northern natives from famine is unlikely. But events took an unexpected turn in 1871: The ships which passed through the Bering Strait that season did so for the last time. The entire fleet was caught in the ice near Point Barrow, as the men including the Japan survivors-hunted walrus and whale. Thanks to the Revenue Marine, the seamen were saved, but the ships were lost. This disaster, coming six years after the Shenandoah's destructive cruise, dealt the whaling industry a blow from which it never recovered. But it may have saved the walrus and the northern natives from extinction. It was clear enough to the Bering Sea natives that they had benefited by the loss of the fleet. As an Eskimo or Chukchi of Plover Bay put it to a whaling captain when word of the loss reached Siberia: "Bad. Very bad for you. Good for us. More walrus now." 46

Ancient History

Books

Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom

Published:

November 26, 2018

Nourishment: What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom
bottom of page