Friday, August 13, 2010

Bearded Seal

Nice Mustache
Bearded seals are a common sight in the water and on the ice this summer.  They are the largest seals in the area and although they tend to be loners, they are a little more gregarious around this area.   They earn their name from their thick brush of whiskers.  Like walrus, they are bottom feeders and they use their mustaches to search out clams, squid and fish.  I've been told that the Bearded seals in this area have nice white whiskers because the bottom sediments here are so clean.

Bearded Seal getting some sun

I Hate Mondays.

Stretch and a snooze
Bearded seals are sometimes called "square flippers" because of their short, wide front flippers.  When you get close enough to them, a lot of the seals here have scars.  Some scars are from fights with each other and many are from close calls with polar bears.  A Conservation Officer from Igloolik explained to me that a bearded seal's first instinct when it is hit by a harpoon or attacked by a bear is to roll.   When they are escaping from bears, this creates a long spiral scar along the back.  Some seals always roll left, some always roll right, and some are ambidextrous.  You can tell which way a particular seal rolls by the direction of the scars.
The black line in the middle of the back is a scar from an escape from a polar bear

This hefty fellow carries his scars on his face and neck.  Or maybe its a she - I can't tell the difference.
The have a bit of a flat head when they are spying on you from the water.

A nice day to catch some rays.

Metal harpoon for large seals, walrus, and beluga
Bearded seal is the only seal that I've genuinely enjoyed the taste.  Cubes of meat, intestine, and fat boiled together tastes like a fish porkchop.  The skin is the best skin for ropes and thongs and makes tough boot soles.  The Igloolik Inuktitut name for bearded seals is ugjuk.  The line on this harpoon is bearded seal, and the dog toggle below would have been on the end of a long bearded seal line and was used to attach a dog to a sled.

A lost antler toggle from a dog team line.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Hehehe. You should submit the Monday seal to I Can Has Cheezburger.

  2. Although I've only eaten Harp seal, I'm still not convinced that a "fish porkchop" is necessarily a good taste :)

    Cool metal harpoon - is that one of yours?

  3. I wish the harpoon was mine - it belongs to a hunter from Igloolik. Each one is hand made and slightly different. The harpoons have long solid metal foreshafts that give them a real good weight.

  4. Your observation that "Each one is hand made and slightly different" - has potentially important connotations regarding the interpretation of archaeological specimens.


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