Walruses, in groups numbering from 2 to 50, were lying on cakes of ice. They were too shy to be approached, however, within shooting range, though many attempts were made. Some of the animals were as bulky, apparently, as oxen. They would awaken at the sound of the vessel crunching through the loose ice, lift their heads and rear as high as possible, then drop or plunge into the water. The ponderous fellows took headers in large groups; 20 pairs of flippers sometimes were in the air at once. They can stay under water five or six minutes, then come up to blow. If they are near the ship they dive instantly, going down like porpoises, always exposing a large curving mass of their body while dropping their heads, and lastly, their flippers are stretched aloft for an instant. Sometimes they show fight, make combined attacks on boats, and defend each other bravely. The cakes on which they congregate are of course very dirty and show a great distance. Since they soon sink when killed in the water, they are hunted mostly on the ice, and when it is rough and hummocky, are easily approached. We were not successful in finding the Lolito, so we steamed back near the Eskimo village. Soon three or four canoes came alongside, loaded with furs, ivory, and whalebone.
Original journal dimensions: 11.5 x 21 cm.
Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library
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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist