Pioneers of the Pacific Coast

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Henceforth Siberian merchants were to vie with each other in outfittinghunters--criminals, political exiles, refugees, destitute sailors--toscour the coasts of America for sea-otter. Throughout the long line ofthe Aleutian Islands and the neighbouring coasts of North America, forover a century, hunters' boats--little cockle-shell skiffs made ofoiled walrus-skin stretched on whalebone frames, narrow as a canoe, light as cork--rode the wildest seas in the wildest storms in pursuitof the sea-otter.... Sea-otter became to the Pacific coast what beaverwas to the Atlantic--the magnet that drew traders to the north-westseas, and ultimately led to the settlement of the north-west coast.
It was, to be sure, dangerous work hunting {34} in wild northern galeson rocks slippery with ice and through spray that wiped out everyoutline of precipice edge or reef; but it offered variety to exiles inSiberia; and it offered more--a chance of wealth if they survived. Iron for bolts of boats must be brought all the way from Europe; so theoutlaw hunters did without iron, and fastened planks together as bestthey could with deer thongs in place of nails, and moss and tallow inplace of tar.

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Pioneers of the Pacific Coast
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