Monday, April 30, 2007

Mr Cogito Watches Stephen Hawking Fly For 8 Minutes And Then Ponders His Own Attempt At Weightlessness At 2 to 15 Meters Above Current Sea Level

" ... offshore the same depletion and near extermination of marine mammals occurred. There, the decimation began even before the advent of mining, without the influence of tens of thousands of gold seekers. Two aquatic animals—the sea otter and the beaver—were the targets of the fur rush beginning more than a century before the Gold Rush. The sea otter was abundant along the California coast, particularly around San Francisco and Monterey bays and the Channel Islands. Perhaps 300,000 or more swam in the offshore waters. Unfortunately for the otters, they had a dense, warm brown coat with a silvered frosting of guard hairs. This came to be regarded as highly desirable among fur wearers in Moscow, Peking (Beijing), and elsewhere among the world's elite.

The trouble started in 1740, when the Russian government sent Vitus Bering to explore the northern Pacific toward Alaska. In the Aleutian Islands, the native Aleuts brought him large numbers of otter skins, which on the return of his expedition proved to be highly popular in Russia and China, and by the late 1700s, Russian ships were hunting the animal along the California coast. The Spanish exploitation of sea otters, probably using Chumash hunters, began before 1785, when the first government regulations on the trade were issued. Between 1786 and 1790 alone, nearly 10,000 skins were exported from Mexico to Asia via the Manila galleons. The Russians, partly to improve their access to the fur trade, established bases at Fort Ross in 1812 and in the Farallon Islands, from which they went forth with their Aleut hunters to kill sea otters. One hunting party in San Francisco Bay in 1811 massacred 1,200 otters. The French also played a minor role; in 1786 the expedition of Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse obtained 1,000 skins, which they sold in China for $10,000. The price went up from $10 to $60 a skin by the 1790s. Americans became involved in the early 1800s and were still active by gold-rush times. The best known American hunter, George Nidever, was particularly busy in the Channel Islands and offshore in Baja California from 1834 to 1855. By gold-rush times the otters were becoming scarce, and prospecting held a greater allure for the hunters. Nevertheless, the otter population had been reduced to perhaps thirty-two survivors by the time it was given full protection in 1911." ...

Raymond F. Dasmann from Chapter 5 "Environmental Changes before and after the [California] Gold Rush" in James J. Rawls and Richard J. Orsi, editors A Golden State: Mining and Economic Development in Gold Rush California California History Sesquicentennial Series, 2

'Egg pickers gather the harvest on one of the Farallon Islands, some thirty miles off the Golden Gate, in 1880. The wild rush west of thousands of gold seekers created an enormous demand in California not only for game, but also for fish and fowl and eggs. Between 1850 and 1856 the Farallone Egg Company alone brought over three million eggs—chiefly those of the common murre—to the San Francisco markets.' California Historical Society, FN-30975.

Photo and caption credit: (c) California Historical Society from sources cited above. With thanks.


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