||This species provided the few people who saw it a fleeting glimpse of the
Pleistocene. Steller's sea cow was discovered by Vitus Bering's crew in 1741
near the Commander Islands off the Kamchatka Peninsula in the North Pacific.
Captain Bering and his crew, stranded by a ship wreck, were accompanied by a
German surgeon/naturalist, Georg Steller who busily studied the natural history
of the island in between nursing the sick and burying the deceased, including
the Captain. Certain death awaited the entire wrecked crew, until someone suggested
they harpoon one of the many giant sea cows that were browsing along seaweed
in the shallow waters. After tasting one of the ten-ton animals, Steller described
it as having, "meat that tasted like beef, and fat that tasted like almond
butter." After Steller and the crew were rescued, word soon got out about the seas cows
and what followed was the all-out slaughter of the remaining 2,000 or so individuals
of this sea cow in the span of 27 years.
also: Domning, D. P., 1972. Steller's sea cow and the origin of North
Pacific aboriginal whaling. Syesis 5:187-189.