Cruises in the Bering Sea: Being Records of Further Sport and Travel .

The German author hunted bear and sheep in Alaska and Siberia and his book is now especially current as he hunted on the fabled Kamchatka Peninsula where hunting has just been opened. The author bagged many brown bears and snow sheep.

First published in London by Rowland Ward in 1909, in translation from German, the book describes a hunting expedition in 1906, an account full of adventure, some anti-Semitic jokes (chiefly re the ship’s captain), and needless killing of bears, etc.

p. viii: While eminent explorers expand their best energies, and millions are squandered, in order to discover the North Pole, the regions which lie between the latter and the temperate zone remain neglected by Science….whilst the discovery of the North and South Poles of the early would only be of small value to Science and scarcely any to humanity at large.

p. 18, on the Ainu people of the Kurile Islands: The inhabitants of the Kuriles are the Ainu, of whom tradition says that they formerly inhabited the whole of Japan. To-day there are only a few thousands of them left, although they are a vigorous race and considerably taller in stature than the Japanese. Their grade of culture is extremely low; they mostly live in caves, feed on what the ebb-tide leaves on the beach, and, like all primitive races, are doomed to certain extinction.

Their tradition relates that one day an Ainu god dined with a Japanese god, on which the Ainu got drunk and fell asleep; thereupon the Japanese stole his confrére’s grammar and alphabet, and taught his faithful worshippers the art of reading and writing, while the Ainu to this day are unacquainted with written characters.

p. 23-24: Even in Japan and on the voyage, I had had differences of opinion with Mr. Storck, the owner of the Stepney, in the course of which I had acquired the conviction that he was the sort of man who, to express myself cautiously, spells money with a capital M, and whose statements must be taken cum grano salis. He is one of the class of self-made men whose education is by no means on a par with the wealth, apparently considerable and rapidly acquired, which they possess; a class of persons more frequently met with in the United States than in other countries, for the Americans are, of all men, the finest exponents of the noble art of money-making, and their country affords them special and copious facilities for practising the same. My friend Radclyffe is a man who generally manages to hit the right nail on the head, and at Petropaulovsky I overheard him give the following neat and appropriate reply to the question, “How are you getting along with Mr. Storck?” “During a somewhat varied career in many lands, I have encountered a number of men whose ancestors undoubtedly in former times hunted jackals round the walls of Jerusalem. Most of these men who can lay claim to such a descent have an eye to the main chance in business propositions when money matters are concerned. But seldom have I met one of them who was as sharp on the tracks of the almighty dollar as this worthy individual. He has also a somewhat exaggerated idea of his own accomplishments and abilities. In fact he is one of those men whom I should like to buy at my price and afterwards sell out at his own valuation, in order to make myself a small fortune quickly.”

p. 100, alludes to Nansen’s tales about the dangers of walruses.

p. 124-25, an account of polygamy, pederasty, and other marital customs among Konjaks of Kodiack, included here as a fascinating passage apart from any reading implications: Polygamy was universal in former times among the Konjaks; rich men might own as many as five wives. Their weddings were performed with but few ceremonies. The suitor betook himself to the father of the bride, and when he had been accepted, was obliged himself to carry wood to the hut and heat the bathroom, where he and his father-in-law then took a bath together. Meanwhile the relations of the bride assembled in the hut and sat down to banquet. After the bridegroom had come out of the bath with his prospective father-in-law, he adopted the latter’s name and handed over his wedding gifts, and having done this, he left the house with his bride and repaired to his own dwelling. The first wife always ranked above the others. The heritage went in the first place to the brother of the dead man, and only from him to whatever son the latter had selected, according to his conduct, to be his heir.

In Kodiak, women did not play the same subordinate part as among other primitive tribes of America; rather did they enjoy considerable respect, and had so much power that they kept so-called “auxiliary husbands” by the side of and, it must be owned, with the consent of the husbands. Such an “auxiliary” had the right, in the absence of the legitimate husband, to assume his place and privileges with his wife, but had to vacate both when husband No. 1 returned.

his wife, but had to vacate both when husband No. 1 returned.

A thing worthy of notice is that both among Aleuts and Konjaks the so-called Grecian love (pæderastia) was an indigenous custom. Davydoff’s account of this is as follows:

“There are here (on the island of Kodiak) men with a tattooed chin, who only do women’s work, always live together with the women, and like them have husbands, sometimes even two at a time. Such creatures are called Achnutschik. They are anything but despised; rather do they enjoy consideration in the settlements, and are mostly sorcerers. The Konjak who, instead of a wife, has an Achnutschik is even regarded as a happy man. If a boy appears to be particularly girlish, his father or his mother destine him from earliest childhood to the profession of Achnutschik. Sometimes it happens that the parents fancy beforehand that a daughter is going to be born to them, and when they find themselves disappointed in their hopes they make their new-born son an Achnutschik.”

Both among the Konjaks and the Thlinkets we find the same cruel treatment of women when they are just attaining the age of puberty. At this period a small hut was built for the virgin, in which she had to spend half a year, kneeling in a stooping position. After this time the hut was slightly enlarged, so that, while still on her knees, she could at least keep her back upright, and in this attitude she had to remain another six months. After the lapse of a whole year the parents took her home again, when a great feast celebrated the occasion.

p. 135, on Thlinkets customs and manners. The second section of the book is on Alaska, mainly topographic and ethnographic with much less emphasis on hunting. Not the most sympathetic of authors but an interesting specimen of sporting literature.

p. 138, education about the Thlinkets: The education of the children is very similar to the methods adopted by the ancient Spartans. When the child is a few weeks old it is wrapped in skins and tied to a board, which the mother always carries about with her. The first solid nourishment it receives is generally the raw blubber of some marine animal, excepting only that of the whale. When the child first begins to walk, it is bathed daily in the sea, quite irrespective of the season. This may possibly explain, on the one hand, the extreme hardihood of body of the Thlinket, when he has once safely survived the tender years of childhood; on the other, the scanty numbers of the population, since probablv only the smaller half of all the children born survives this treatment. The Thlinkets in general bathe in the sea daily, however severe the winter may be; should a boy refuse to go into the cold water, he is thrashed with a stick till he does so. This, however, is the only case in which corporal punishment is ever practised, for the Thlinket considers this as the greatest dishonour which can be offered to a free son of Nature. Theft, in their opinion, is no particular crime; if a thief is caught, he is only compelled either to restore the stolen property or to pay its value instead. Murder is avenged by murder; for the law holds good: Blood calls for blood.