The Journals of Lewis & Clark: Lewis, February 23, 1806

Lewis, February 23, 1806

Sunday February 23rd 1806. not anything transpired during this day worthy of particular notice. our sick are all on the recovery, except Sergt. Ordway who is but little wose and not very ill tho more so than any of the others. the men have provided themselves very amply with mockersons and leather cloathing, much more so indeed than they ever have since they have been on this voige.

The Sea Otter is found on the sea coast and in the salt water. this anamal when fully grown is as large as a common mastive dog. the ears and eyes are remarkaby small, particularly the former which is not an inch in length thick fleshey and pointed covered with short hair. the tail is about 10 inches in length thick where it joins the body and tapering to a very sharp point; in common with the body it is covered with a deep fir particularly on the upper side, on the under part the fur is not so long. the legs are remarkably short and the feet, which have five toes each are broad large and webbed. the legs are covered with fur and the feet with short hair. the body of this animal is long and nearly of the same thickness throughout. from the extremity of the tail to that of the nose they will measure 5 feet or upwards. the colour is a uniform dark brown and when in good order and season perfectly black and glossey. it is the riches and I think the most delicious fur in the world at least I cannot form an idea of any more so. it is deep thick silkey in the extreem and strong. the inner part of the fur when opened is lighter than the surface in it's natural position. there are some fine black and shining hairs intermixed with the fur which are reather longer and add much to it's beauty. the nose, about the eyes ears and forehead in some of these otter is of a lighter colour, sometimes a light brown. those parts in the young sucking Otter of this species is sometimes of a cream coloured white, but always much lighter than the other parts. the fur of the infant Otter is much inferior in point of colour and texture to that of the full grown otter, or even after it has been weaned. there is so great a difference that I have for some time supposed it a different animal; the Indians called the infant Otter Spuck, and the full grow or such as had obtained a coat of good fur, E-luck'-ke. this still further confirmed the opinion of their being distinct species; but I have since learned that the Spuck is the young Otter. the colour of the neck, body, legs and tail is a dark lead brown. The mink is found in the woody country on this coast, and dose not differ in any particu from those of the Atlantic coast. the seal are found here in great numbers, and as far up the Columbia river as the great falls above which there are none. I have reason to beleive from the information of the men that there are several species of the seal on this coast and in the river but what the difference is I am unable to state not having seen them myself sufficiently near for minute inspection nor obtained the different kinds to make a comparison. the skins of such as I have seen are covered with a short coarse stiff and glossey hair of a redish hey brown colour. tho the anamal while in the water or as we saw them frequently in the river appear to be black and spoted with white sometimes. when we first saw those animals at the great falls and untill our arrival at this place we conseived they were the Sea Otter. but the indians here have undeceived us.- I am not much acquainted with the Seal but suppose that they are the same common also to the Atlantic Ocean in the same parallel of latitude. the skins I have seen are precisely such as our trunks are frequently covered with.