This is the business end of the two part story of Georg Steller, Vitus Bering and Steller’s Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) – shipwreck, death, survival, extinction and a lost world of astounding widllife. The Great Northern Expedition is coming to its dramatic end, and not everyone – or everything – is getting out alive.
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A wealth of images and further info awaits in the shownotes below …
First, a member of Steller’s menagerie that I feel bad about omitting for reasons of time … the wonderfully eccentric-looking Steller’s eider:
And here is, sadly, what we’ve got by way of images for Steller’s Sea Cow.
And an old, old drawing of Steller himself examining one:
Big, no? Really big.
And another sadly extinct wonder, the Spectacled cormorant (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus), which Steller also discovered on Bering Island:
If you want to explore the fascinating, if not exactly cheery, science behind our understanding of the extinction of Steller’s sea cow, here are a couple of scientific papers laying out the alternative explanations:
- Turvey and Risley, 2006, Modelling The Extinction of Steller’s Sea Cow (People hunted them to extinction)
- Estes, Burdin and Doak, 2016, Sea Otters, Kelp Forest and the Extinction of Steller’s Sea Cow (Maybe, but people killed so many sea otters they didn’t need to hunt the sea cow to cause its extinction)
And a bonus! Remember Steller’s Sea Ape, the mysterious unidentified animal Steller reported back in the previous episode? Here’s an unexpected theory for what it might have been. (Hint: Did Georg Steller have a sense of humour? I’m not entirely convinced myself (you don’t see much other evidence for it in his journal), but you never know …)