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Sealing Plant

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1951

The sealing plant on Saint George retains most of its original equipment, although no furs have been taken from the island since 1985. Inside the large wood-framed U-shaped building, the processing equipment has changed little since the nineteenth century; only a portion was ever mechanized. The plant was used to process the furs for shipment to the Fouke Company plant in Saint Louis, Missouri, where they were further processed before sale. The seals, all immature males, were killed on the beaches and the furs brought to this building. The furs were first washed of blood and flesh in redwood tanks, then placed in kench tanks to preserve them before processing. Here they were layered with salt; several skins remain.

In the blubbering room, each skin was placed on a metal mold and stripped of its blubber with a curved knife. The blubber ran in a gutter to barrels outside, where it was retained for use in preserving the texture of the skins. The skins, moved around the plant via a cart and overhead track, were taken to the brining tank, where they were soaked in brine and agitated. After drying, the skins were rolled in borax and packed in barrels.

Without this industry, the Pribilof Islands would still be uninhabited. The sealing plant is the most poignant reminder of the reasons behind the human presence on the island.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Alison K. Hoagland
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Citation

Alison K. Hoagland, "Sealing Plant", [Saint George, Alaska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/AK-01-SW020.

Print Source

Buildings of Alaska, Alison K. Hoagland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 299-299.

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