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LONCJSIlirS LUJIITHOUSE, E/oiii. 













THE OCEAN. 


P. H. GOSSE, F.E.S. 


PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF 
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APPOINTED BY THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING 
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. • 



THE WHALE FISHEBI. 


PEEFACE TO THE FIEST EDITION. 

In the following pages the Author has endeavoured 
to describe, with some minuteness of detail, a few 
of the many objects of interest more or less directly 
connected with the Sea, and especially to lead 
youthful readers to associate wdth the phenomena 
of Nature, habitual thoughts of God. A subject 
so vast as the Ocean might be viewed in a variety 
of aspects, all of them more or less instructive: the 
one which has been chosen is that in which it 
presents itself to the mind of a naturalist, desirous 











































IV 


PEEFACE. 


of viewing the Almighty Creator in Ilis works. 
The selections are made chiefly from marine botany, 
zoology, meteorology, the flsheries, the varying 
aspects of island and coast scenery, incidents of 
navigation, &c., arranged (if snch a word be not 
inapplicable) in the order of geographical distribn- 
tion; as they might be supposed to present them¬ 
selves to the notice of an observant voyager. 

It may be thought that the Author has touched 
too frequently, or dwelt with too great prolixity, 
on objects minute in themselves, and by the 
generality of persons considered insigniflcant and 
unworthy of regard. If apology for this be necessary, 
he presents it in the words of Samuel Purchas :— 
Nicostratus in ./Elian, finding a curious piece of 
wood, and being wondered at by one, and asked 
what pleasure he could take to stand, as he did, 
still gazing on the picture, answered, ‘ Hadst thou 
mine eyes, my friend, thou wouldst not wonder, 
but rather be ravished, as I am, at the inimitable 
art of this rare and admirable piece.’ I am sure 
no picture can express so much wonder and ex¬ 
cellency as the smallest insect, but we want Nicos- 
tratus his eyes to behold them. 

And the praise of God’s wisdom and power lies 
asleep and dead in every creature, until man actuate 
and enliven it. I cannot, therefore, altogether con- 



PEEFACE. 


V 


ceive it unworthy of the greatest mortals to contem¬ 
plate the miracles of Nature; and that as they 
are more visible in the smallest and most con¬ 
temptible creatures (for there most lively do they 
express the infinite power and wisdom of the great 
Creator), and erect and draw the minds of the 
most intelligent to the first and prime Cause of all 
things; teaching them as the power, so the presence, 
of the Deity in the smallest insects.” 

London, 1845. 


































PEEFACE TO THE PEESEXT EDITION. 


The fifteen years that have elapsed since this work 
was written have been prolific of discoveries in 
Natural Science; and, perhaps, in no department 
has knowledge advanced so rapidly as in that of 
ilarine Natural History. 

The invention of the Marine Aquarium has not 
only made the history of the wondrous creatures 
of the Sea popular; it has rendered the study of 
them practicable to thousands, who, but for its 
aid, would have been entirely precluded from 
acquaintance with them. 

The Author has subjected his work to a thorough 
re^dsion for the present edition; cancelling some 
papers which conveyed erroneous or defective im¬ 
pressions, and re-writing and adding others, as the 
existing state of science demanded 

P. H. G. 


Torquay, 

Oct. 1860. 



CONTENTS. 


INTRODUCTION. 

PAG* 

Beauty and Grandeur of the Sea—Commercial Importance— 
Early Notices of Navigation—Proportion of Sea to Land—Changes 
in its Outline—Depth of the Ocean—Saltness—Loss by Evaporation 
—Supplied by Rivers—Motions of the Sea—Tides—Currents—The 
Gulf-stream—Origin of the Phenomenon—Famihar Illustration— 
Effect on the Climate of Europe—Local Currents—Winds—Trade- 
Winds—Monsoons—Land and Sea Breezes—Waves—Power of God 
—Man’s Insensibility—Reflections. 1 

I. THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 

Instruction to be gained at Home as well as Abroad—Wisdom in 
Minutiae of Creation — Habitually Submerged Beetle — Marine 
Water-fleas—Sea-weeds—Of various Interest—Manufacture of Kelp 
—Sea and Black Wrack—Curious Reproductive Organs—Knotted 
Wrack—Sea-lace—'S»Grious Provisions for securing Buoyancy—Sea 
weeds used as Food—Mannite—Dulse—Tangle—Sea-furbelows— 
Henware—English Dulse—Laver—Carrageen Moss—Sea-thong— 
Peacock’s-tail—Delesseria—Landscape of Sea-weeds—Parasitical 
Sea-weeds—Divine Care for these productions—Corallines—Uses— 
Sponges—Evidences of their Animal Nature—Their Currents—Mode 
of Growth—Uses to Crabs—Neptune’s Cup—Sea Anemones—Their 
Weapons—Mode of Warfare—Voracity—Beadlet—Dahlia Wartlet 
— Marine Parterre—Cup Coral—Star Coral—Tree Coral—Cow’s 
Paps—Warty Coral—Sea-fan—Sea-pen.23 




vm 


CONTEXTS. 


II. THE SHORES OF BRITAIN, continued. 

FAGR 

Fisheries — Structure of Fishes — Scales — Fins — Air-bladder— 
Motion—Spines—Fruitfulness of Fishes—Migrations—The Herring 
Fishery— Singular Stranding of a Shoal — Mackerel — Cod — Cod- 
pools — Flat-fishes — Crab — Lobster—Shrimp—Prawn—The Crab 
and the Baillie—Shelled MoUusca—Improperly called Fishes— 
Interesting Variations of Structure—Cliffs of Orkney—Sea-bird 
Catching—Perilous Enterprises—Gannets . . ..65 

III. THE ARCTIC SEAS. 

The Spirit of Geographical Discoveiy peculiar to Modem Times— 
Commercial Enterprise—^Whale Fishing—Majesty of Polar Seas— 
Coast of Spitzbergen—Fine Contrasts of Hue—Clearness of Atmo¬ 
sphere—Deceptive Distance of Land—Architectural Regularity of 
Rocks—The Three Crowns—Ice—Icebergs—Beauty—Vast Size— 
Varying Forms—Overturning—Sudden Rupture—Process of Forma¬ 
tion—Ice Islands—Disruption of One—Marine Ice—Formation— 

Ice Fields—IiTOsistible when in Motion—Perpendicular Ice-needles 
—Continual Daylight in Summer—Phenomena of VTinter—Aurora 
—Mock Suns—Fog Bow—Looming—Curious Results—Inversion— 
Ice-blink—Effects of Intense Cold—Frost Crystals—Their exceeding 
Beauty—Snow Stars—Antiseptic Power of Frost—^Ship tenanted 
by a Corpse—Vegetation—Whale—Interesting Peculiarities in its 
Conformation—Whalebone — Arterial Reservoir of Blood—Blow¬ 
hole—Windpipe—Eye—Blubber—Pveflections on the Goodness of 
God—Whale Fishery—Accidents—Rorqual—Structure of its Mouth 
—Enemies of the Whales—Arctic Shark—Thresher—Swordfish— 
Narwhal—Use of its singular Horn—Torpidity of Mackerel—Sea 
Blubber—Arctic Clio —“ Green Water ”—Microscopic Animalcules 
—Dissecting Crab.... , 102 


IV. THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 

Form of the Atlantic—Its Bays and Inland Seas—Extent of 
Coast—Sight of Land—Azores—Picturesque Appearance—Peak of 
Pico—The Atlantis of the Ancients—Islands swallowed up in 
Modem Times—Submaiine Volcano—Stormy Petrels—A Shoal 
of Dolphins—Their Gambols—Capture of One—Gulf-weed—Bar- 




IX 


COJyTEKTS, 

PAGE 

nacles—Ocean Crabs — Toad-fish—“Calm Latitudes”—Heat of 
the Sun—Gorgeous Sunsets—Southern Constellations—The Cross 
—Tropic Fishes—Coryphene—Pursuit of Flying-fish—White Shark 
—Bad Physiognomy—Ferocity—Teeth—Structure of its Egg— 
Hammer-Shark—Saw-fish—Capture of One—Horned Ray—Contact 
of Ships at Sea—A Breeze—The Pilot-fish—Rudder-fish—Sucking- 
fish—Possible use of its Disk—West India Isles—Their varied 
Beauty—Mangrove Tree—Green hue of Shallow Water—Decep¬ 
tive Effect—Bottom of the Sea—Green Turtle—Peculiar Structure 
of the Heart—Brilliance of the Fishes—Yellow-fin—Yellow-tail— 
Maiket^fish—Grunts—Hog-fishes—Cat-fish—Cow-Whale . . . 155 


V. THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 

Discovery of the Pacific—Voyage of Magellan—Sea-weeds— 
Elephant-seal—Fur-seal—Sea-lions — Sea-bear—Penguins—Sperm 
Whale—Adventurous Character of the Fishery—Destruction of a 
Ship by a Whale—Appearance and Habits—Regularity of its 
Motions—Its Enemies—Breaching—Its food—Description of the 
Fishery—Narrative of a Chase—Strange Sail—Speaking at Sea— 
Amusing Mistake.210 


VI. THE PACIFIC OCEAN, continued. 

Islands of the South Sea—Coral Islands—Reef—Lagoon—Forma¬ 
tion of Coral—Animals—Structure of a Coral Island—Various 
Species of Corals—Rate of Activity—Lines from Montgomery— 
Crystal Island—Caverns—Interesting Legend—Volcanic Island— 
Natural and Moral Beauty—Advanced Civilization—Reef—Islands 
at Openings—Beauty of Lagoon—Moonlight—Night at Sea—Na¬ 
tives swimming in the Surf—Sharks—Canoes—Origin of the Popu¬ 
lation—Various modes of Fishing—Pens—Rafts—Poison—Nets— 
Spear — Fishing by Torchlight — Hooks — Angling—Albacore— 
Sword-fish—Predaceous Habits of Fishes—Crabs—Animal Floweri 
— Cuttle — Oceanic Birds — Tropic-bird — Albatross — Booby— 
Frigate-bird—Immense Assembla«e of Birds.24S 



X 


CONTENTS. 


VII. THE INDIAN OCEAN. 

PAGR 

Indian Archipelago—Proas of the Ladrones—Malay Pirates— 
Rajah Brooke—His Expedition against the Pirates—His Success— 
Merciful Policy—Christian Mission in Borneo—Numbei’ and Beauty 
of small Islands—Houses over the Sea—Chinese Junks—Typhoon 
—Waterspouts—A Chinese Wreck—Esculent Birds’-nests—Their 
Nature—Modes of obtaining them—Value — Use — Sea-weeds — 
Trepang—Change of the Monsoon—Coming in of the Bore— 
Beauty and Singularity of Fishes—Curious Mode of Fishing— 
Violet-snail — Portuguese Man-of-wai*—SaUee-man—Glass-shells— 
Clamp—Pearls—Fishery— Floating-weeds—Pelicans — Luminosity 
of the Sea—Noctiluca—Various kinds of Luminous Animals— 
Conclusion.. ..312 



ILLUSTEATIONS. 


PAGE 

Longsliips Lighthouse. Frontisinece 

The Whale Fishery. iii 

Marine Entomostraca {Cythere albo-maculata and Cyclo'ps chelijer) 26 

The Sea-girdle {Laminaria digitata) .35 

The Sea-furbelows {Laminaria bidbosa) .37 

The Peacock’s Tail {Fadina pavonia) .44 

Bryopsis plumosa.46 

Coralline {Corallina officinalis) .49 

Sea-fan {Flabellum Veneris), ^nd Sea-pen {Pennatula phosphorea) 63 

Scales of Fishes.68 

Yarmouth Jetty, in the Herring Fishery.77 

Mackerel-Boat off Hastings.79 

Turbot-Boat off Scarborough.82 

Crab-pots.87 

The Shrimper.89 

Fowling in Orkney.. . . 96 

Gannet and Guillemot. 98 

The Bass Rock.99 

Iceberg seen in Baffin’s Bay. 107 

Swell among Ice.108 

Ships beset in Ice.109 . 

Aurora Borealis.118 

Mock Suns.122 

Distortions of Irregular Refraction.124 

Catching the Whale.140 

Spearing the Narwhal.148 

Food of the Whale ; 1, Limacina helicina ; 2, 3, 4, Medusae ; 5, Clio 

borealis . 151 

Pico.158 




























Xll 


ILLUSTKATIOXS. 


PAGE 

Submarine Volcano.162 

The Soutbem Cross.179 

Corypbene {Coryphoe'^m) .180 

Pursuit of Flying-fish, by Dolphins and Birds.183 

Hammer-Shark {Zygce'^na TrwJleus), and Saw-fish (Pristis anti- 

quorum) .190 

Elephant Seals, fighting.214 

Penguins.221 

Sperm Whale attacked by Sword-fish.231 

Section of Coral Island.257 

Crystal Island.264 

Volcanic Islands.269 

Bolabola.273 

White Shark.283 

Fishing by Torchlight ..292 

Polynesian Fishing-tackle.294 

Angling in a Double Canoe.296 

Proas of the Landrones.315 

Chinese Junks.323 

Ship under bare poles.325 

Waterspouts.327 

Sea-Cucumbers [HolothuricB) .337 

Grass Shells (Hyalca trLd^ntata and Cleodora pyramidaia) . 346 

Noctiluca miliaris, magnified.359 






















THE OCEAN. 


INTEODUCTION. 

Who ever gazed upon the broad sea without 
emotion? Whether seen in stern majesty, hoary 
with the tempest, rolling its giant waves upon the 
rocks, and dashing with resistless fury some gallant 
bark on an iron-bound coast; or sleeping beneath 
the silver moon, its broad bosom broken but by a 
gentle ripple, just enough to reflect a long line of 
light, a path of gold upon a pavement of sapphire; 
who has looked upon the sea without feeling that it 
has power 

To stir the soul with thoughts profound ?” 

Perhaps there is no earthly object, not even the 
cloud-cleaving mountains of an alpine country, so 
sublime as the sea in its severe and naked simplicity. 
Standing on some promontory whence the eye roams 
far out upon the unbounded ocean, the soul expands, 
and we conceive a nobler idea of the majesty of that 
God, who holdeth the waters in the hollow of his 
hand’' But it is only when, on a long voyage, 
climbing day after day to the giddy elevation of the 

B 



THE OCEAX. 


2 

mast-head, one still discerns nothing in the wide cir¬ 
cumference hut the same boundless waste of watei'S, 
that the mind grasps ami:hing approaching an ade¬ 
quate idea of the grandeur of the Ocean. There is 
a certain indefiniteness and mystery connected with 
it in various aspects that gives it a character widely 
different from that of the land. At times, in pecu¬ 
liar states of the atmosphere, the boundary of the 
horizon becomes undistinguishable, and the surface, 
perfectly calm, refiects the pure light of heaven in 
ever}" part, and we seem alone in infinite space, with 
nothing around that appears tangible and real save the 
ship beneath our feet. At other times, particularly 
in the clear waters of the tropical seas, we look down¬ 
ward unmeasured fathoms beneath the vessel’s keel, 
but still find no boundary ; the sight is lost in one 
uniform transparent blueness. Mailed and glitter¬ 
ing creatures of strange forms suddenly appear, play 
a moment in our sight, and vdth the velocity of 
thought have vanished in the boundless depths. The 
very birds that we see in the wide waste are mys¬ 
terious ; we wonder whence they come, whither they 
go, how they sleep, homeless and shelterless as they 
seem to be. The breeze, so fickle in its visitings, 
rises and dies away ; “ but thou knowest not whence 
it cometh and whither it goeththe night-wind, 
moaning bv, soothes the watcliful helmsman 'svith 
gentle sounds that remind him of the voices of be¬ 
loved ones far away; or the tempest shrieking and 
groaning among the cordage turns him pale with the 
idea of agony and death. But God is there ; lonely 
though the mariner feel, and isolated in his separa- 




INTEODUCTION. 


3 


tion from home and friends, God is with him, often 
unrecognized and forgotten, but surrounding him 
wdth mercy, protecting him and guiding him, and 
willing to cheer him by the visitations of his grace, 
and the assurance of his love. If I take the wings 
of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of 
the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and 
thy right hand shall hold me.'’’ 

The Ocean is the highway of commerce. God 
seems wisely and graciously to have ordained, that 
man should not be independent, but under perpetual 
obligation to his fellow-m'an ; and that distant coun¬ 
tries should ever maintain a mutually-beneficial de¬ 
pendence on each other. He might with ease have 
made every land to produce every necessary and com¬ 
fort of life in ample supply for its own population ; 
in which case, considering the fallen nature of man, 
it is probable the only intercourse between foreign 
nations would have been that of mutual aggression 
and bloodshed. But he has ordered otherwise ; and 
the result has been, generally, that happy inter¬ 
change of benefits which constitutes commerce. It is 
lamentably true, that the evil passions of men have 
often perverted the facilities of communication for 
purposes of destruction; yet the sober verdict of 
mankind has for the most part been, that the sub¬ 
stantial blessings of friendly commerce are prefer¬ 
able to the glare of martial glory. But the trans¬ 
port of goods of considerable bulk and weight, or 
of such as are of a very perishable nature, would be 
so difficult by land, as very materially to increase 
their cost; wliile land communication between coun- 

B 2 


4 


THE OCEAN. 


tries many thousand miles apart would he attended 
with difficulties so great as to be practically insur¬ 
mountable. Add to this the natural barriers pre¬ 
sented by lofty mountain ranges and impassable 
rivers, as well as the dangers arising from ferocious 
animals and from hostile nations, and we shall see 
that, with the existing power and skill of man, com¬ 
merce in such a condition would be almost unknown, 
and man would be little removed from a state of bar¬ 
barism. The Ocean, however, spreading itself over 
three-fourths of the globe, and penetrating with in¬ 
numerable sinuosities into the land, so as to bring, 
with the aid of the great rivers, the facilities of navi¬ 
gation comparatively near to every country, affords 
a means of transport unrivalled for safety, speed, and 
convenience. In very early ages men availed them¬ 
selves of naval communication. We find repeated 
mention made of ships by Moses; * and in the 
dying address of the patriarch Jacob to his sons, he 
speaks of a haven for ships ;”t while Job, who 
was probably contemporary with Abraham, alludes 
to them as an emblem of swiftness, J which would 
seem to imply that navigation had then attained 
considerable perfection, nearly four thousand years 
ago. In profane history the earliest mention of 
navigation is that of the voyage of the ship Argo 
into the Euxine, which took place probably about 
three thousand years ago. What a contrast be¬ 
tween her timorous and creeping course, and the 
arro^vy speed and precision of a modern Atlantic 

* Numb. xxiv. 24 • and Deut. xxviii. 68. 

t Job ix. 26. 


t Gen. xlix. 13. 




TJ^TPtODUOTION. 


5 


steaTn-ship, rushing to her destination without asking 
aid from wind or tide ! 

The proportion which the sea bears to the land 
in extent of surface has been ascertained with to¬ 
lerable accuracy, by carefully cutting out the one 
from the other, as represented on the gores of a 
large terrestiial globe, and weighing the two jjor- 
tions of paper separately in a very delicate balance. 
The ratio of the water to the land is found to be 
about 2|- to 1 : the surface of the former being 
about one hundred and forty-four millions of square 
miles, and that of tlie latter about fifty-two mil¬ 
lions. Vast, however, as is the sea, and mighty in its 
rage, it is restrained by the hand of Him that made 
it. Water was once the instrument of vengeance 
upon a guilty world, but He hath made a cove¬ 
nant with man, that never again shall the waters 
become a flood to destroy the earth. He '' shut up 
the sea with doors, when it brake forth as if it had 
issued out of the womb; when he made the cloud 
the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swad¬ 
dling-band for it; and brake up for it his decreed 
place, and set bars and doors, and said. Hitherto 
shalt thou come, but no further, and here shall thy 
proud waves be stayed!”* Slight changes are, it is 
true, going on in the course of ages, in the relative 
positions of the land and sea, but these are minute 
in their extent and slow in their operation. By 
the sand and mud, which are continually brought 
down by the rivers and deposited in the sea, banks 
and points of land are formed and perpetually im 


* Job xxxviii. 8—11. 



6 


THE OCEAN. 


creased, as is particularly the case at the mouths of 
the Ganges and ^Mississippi; while, from the same 
cause the bottoms of inland seas being gradually 
raised, the water rises in the same proportion and 
encroaches on the land. The port of Eavenna, once 
a rendezvous for the Eoman fleet, has been fllled 
up by the deposition of the Montone, a small river, 
so that now it is four miles from the sea. On the 
other hand the palace of the Emperor Tiberius at 
Capreae, on the opposite shore of Italy, is now wholly 
covered by the water : nor are our o^vn coasts, and 
especially those of Holland, deflcient in examples of 
once fertile flelds, which are now rolled over by the 
tide. 

Much ignorance prevails respecting the depth of 
the Ocean : in many places no length of sounding 
line has yet been able to reach the bottom, and, 
therefore, our conclusions must be formed from in¬ 
ference or indirect e^ddence. Generally, where a 
coast is flat and low, the water is shallow for a con¬ 
siderable distance, slowly deepening ; on the other 
hand, a high and mountainous coast is usually 
washed by deep water, and a ship may lie almost 
close to the rocks. From these circumstances, as 
well as from the various depths actually observed by 
sounding, it is probable that the average depth of 
the sea is not greater than the height of the land, 
in proportion to its extent. If we were to place a 
thick coating of wax over the bottom of a dish, 
taking care to make a very irregular surface, with 
cavities and prominences of all forms and sizes, we 
should probably have a fair idea of the solid surface 






INTEODUCTION. 


7 


of the globe. Let us then pour water upon it until 
the surface of the water should equal that part which 
is exposed, and it is clear the average depth of the 
one would be equal to the average height of the 
other. But if we increase the quantity of water 
until the proportion is as three to one, it is evident 
the depth will have increased in the same ratio. We 
may, therefore, with high probability conclude that, 
as the greatest height of the land is about five miles, 
the greatest depth of the water does .not much 
exceed twelve or thirteen; while the average depth 
may be about two or three. 

Every one is aware of the saltness of the sea. 
It has been assumed that its object is to prevent 
stagnation and putrescence. But this reason does 
not appear to be the correct one, for large masses 
of fresh water, such as inland lakes, do not stag¬ 
nate. Strictly speaking, however, water * cannot 
putrefy ; when a small body of it becomes offensive, 
it is on account of the decomposition of vegetable 
or animal matters contained in it. But organized 
substances will decompose, and consequently become 
offensive, in salt water as well as in fresh, as may 
be easily proved by experiment. Perhaps the 
reason for the Ocean’s saltness may be the increase 
of its weight without the increase of its bulk; for 
the decrease of specific gravity of so large a portion 
of the globe' would materially affect the motions 
of the earth, and perhaps derange the whole con¬ 
stitution of things. The increase of its specific 
gravity makes it more buoyant, and every one is 
aware with how much less effort a bather swims in 


8 


THE OCEAN. 


the sea than in a river. Now, superior buoyancy 
seems an important advantage in a fluid which bears 
on its bosom the commerce of the world. It is 
highly probable, then, that our gracious God had 
the convenience and benefit of man in view when 
He ordained the sea to be salt. The Ocean contains 
three parts in every hundred of saline matter, chiefly 
muriate of soda, or the common salt of the table, 
which is a chemical compound of muriatic acid and 
soda. The proportion is rather larger in the vicinity 
of the equator. If we considered only the immense 
amount of evaporation which is daily going on from 
the sea, we might suppose that, like a vessel of the 
fluid exposed to the sun, it would diminish in 
volume and increase in saltness, until at length 
nothing would be left but a dry crust of salt upon 
the bottom; on the other hand, looking alone at 
the many millions of tons of fresh water which 
are every moment poured into its bosom from the 
rivers of the earth, we might apprehend a speedy 
overflow, and a second destruction by a flood. But 
these two are exactly balanced; the water taken up 
by evaporation is with scrupulous exactness restored 
again, either directly, in rain which falls into the sea, 
or circuitously, in the rain and snow which, falling 
on the land, feed the mountain streams and rivers, 
and hurry back to their source. This interesting 
circulation had been long ago observed by the wisest 
of men : ‘‘ All the rivers run into the sea; yet the 
sea is not full; unto the place from whence the 
rivers come, thither they return again.”* And a 

* Eccles. i. 7* 



INTRODUCTION. 


9 


very beautiful and instructive instance it is of that 
unerring skill and wisdom with which the whole 
constitution is ordered and kept in order, by Him, 
who, with minute accuracy, ''weigheth the moun¬ 
tains in scales, and the hills in a balance/’^ 

The Ocean is never perfectly at rest: even be¬ 
tween the tropics, in what are called the calm 
latitudes^ where the impatient seaman for weeks 
together looks wistfully, but vainly, for the welcome 
breeze; and where he realizes the scene so gra¬ 
phically described in “The Eime of the Ancient 
Mariner: ”— 

Day after day, day after day, 

W"e stuck, nor breath nor motion; 

As idle as a painted ship 
Upon a painted ocean — 

even here the smooth and glittering surface is not 
at rest: for long, gentle undulations, which cause 
the taper mast-head to describe lines and angles 
upon the sky, are sufi&cienbly perceptible to tan¬ 
talize the mariner with the thought that the breeze 
which mocks his desires, is blowing freshly and gal¬ 
lantly elsewhere. The most remarkable of the mo¬ 
tions observable in the sea are the tides, periodical 
risings and fallings in the height of the surface, 
which take place twice every twenty-four hours, or 
nearly. It is now well ascertained that these mo¬ 
tions are caused by the attraction of the sun and 
moon, but more particularly the latter, upon the 
particles of water, which, moving freely among them¬ 
selves with little force of cohesion, readily yield to 

♦ Isa. xl. 12. 

R 3 


iO 


THE OCEA^. 


the attracting influence, and move towards it. The 
time of high water in the open sea is about two 
hours after the moon passes the meridian, owing 
to the impetus which the waters have been receiving 
not ceasing immediately; just as the hottest part of 
the day is not noon, but about two hours after it; 
and the hottest month of the year is not June, but 
July. On the coast, however, high water is delayed 
to a greater ' or less extent by the obstructions of 
straits, mouths of rivers, harbours, &c. It appears 
strange that the sea should be elevated, not only on 
the side next the moon, but also on the side which 
is diametrically opposite ; so that it is high water at 
the same moment on two opposite points of the 
globe, each of which points follows, so to speak, 
the moon in the daily revolution, and, consequently, 
every paid of the surface of the Ocean is raised twice 
in each day. The singular phenomenon is thus 
explained : the attraction of the moon elevates the 
particles of water on the nearest side, by slightly 
separating them from each other, which their im¬ 
perfect cohesion readily admits; it also afi‘ects the 
earth itself; but this being a solid body, the cohe^ 
sion of its parts cannot be overcome, and the whole 
mass is therefore moved towards the moon, while the 
particles of water on the farther side remain, owing 
to their freedom, nearly in the same position as be¬ 
fore. The fact is, that the earth is drawn away from 
the water on the remote side, and that the water is 
drawn away from the earth on the near side. The 
sun is far larger than the moon, but his attrac¬ 
tion, oving to his great distance, does not affect the 





INTKODUCTION. 


11 


tides to more than one-fourth of the moon’s extent. 
When the power of these luminaries is exerted in 
the same direction, the result is a higher elevation, 
called the spring-tide : and, for the reason already 
explained, the same occurs when they are in oppo¬ 
site quarters of the heavens. On the other hand, 
when they are in quadrature, that is, when appa¬ 
rently separated by just one-fourth of the heavens, 
the influence of the sun neutralizes, in the ratio of 
one-fourth, that of the moon ; and hence we have the 
lo\vest tides, called neap-tides, soon after the first and 
third quarters of the moon. 

Local circumstances greatly affect not only the 
time, but also the height of the tides. In some long 
bays, which grow gradually narrower, in the form of 
a funnel, the whole of the increased water wlrich en¬ 
tered the mouth of the bay, being confined within 
very narrow limits, rises rapidly to a great height. 
Near Chepstow, in the Bristol Channel, for example, 
the tide rises from 45 to 60 feet, and on one oc¬ 
casion, after a strong westerly gale, it even reached 
to 70 feet. Again, in the Bay of Bundy, in North 
America, the spring-tides sometimes rise to the 
astonishing elevation of 120 feet. At the mouths 
of some large rivers, where the shore is very level to 
a considerable distance inland, the tide rolls in under 
the form of one vast wave, which is called the bore: 
something of this kind occurs in Solway Firth on our 
own coast; and it is said that if, when the tide is 
coming in, a man upon a swift horse were placed 
at the water’s edge, and bidden to ride for his life, 
the utmost efforts of his steed would not preseiwe 


]2 


THE OCEAN. 


him from the overwhelming wave. Through the 
Pentland Firth, between Scotland and the Orkney 
Islands, the spring-tide rushes at the rate of nine 
miles an hour. The tide in inland seas is so slight 
as to be scarcely observable, probably owing to the 
smallness of the volume of w^ater which they con¬ 
tain ; and hence the astonishment which the soldiers 
of Alexander, accustomed to the equable condition 
of the Mediterranean, felt, when, at the mouth of 
the Indus, they beheld the sea swell to the height of 
thirty feet. 

That some purpose, important in the constitution 
of our world, is effected by these periodical ebbings 
and flowings of the mighty sea, is highly probable ; 
but our acquaintance with the arcana of nature is 
too slight to point it out. In navigation they are 
useful; the flood-tide permitting ships to sail up 
rivers, even when the wind is adverse, and often 
admitting deep vessels to pass into harbours, over 
banks or bars, impassable at the ordinary depth of the 
water. 

Besides the tides, the sea has other motions of 
great regularity, called currents. The principal of 
these is the notable Gulf-stream, a strong and rapid 
river, as we may say, in the sea, whose banks are 
almost as well deflned as if they were formed of 
solid earth, instead of the same flckle fluid as the 
torrent itself. It flrst becomes appreciable on the 
western coast of Florida, gently flowing southward 
until it reaches the Tortugas, when it bends its 
com'se easterly, and runs along the Florida Beef, 
increasing in force, till it rushes with amazing 


INTRODUCTION. 


13 


rapidity through the confined limits of the Strait of 
Florida, and pours a vast volume of tepid water into 
the cold bosom of the Atlantic. Here, unrestrained, 
it of course widens its hounds and slackens its speed, 
though such is its impetus, that it may be distinctly 
perceived even as far as the Great Bank of New¬ 
foundland. Nor is its strength then spent; for many 
curious facts warrant us in concluding, that even to 
the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and down the 
shores of Western Europe, this mighty marine river 
continues to roll its wonderful waters. The tempera¬ 
ture of this current is much higher than that of the 
surrounding water, and this is so uniformly the case 
that an entrance into it is immediately marked by a 
sudden rise of the thermometer. Another unfailing 
token of its presence is the Gulf-weed {Sargassum 
vulgare), which floats in large fields, or more fre¬ 
quently in long yellow strings in the direction of the 
wind, upon its surface. The cause of this vast and 
important current seems to be the daily rotation of 
the earth. If we turn a glass of water quickly upon 
its axis, we shall perceive that the glass itseK revolves, 
but that the particles of water remain nearly station¬ 
ary, owing to the slightness of their cohesion to the 
glass. To a very minute insect attached to the vessel, 
it would.seem that the w^ater was rushing round in an 
opposite direction while the glass remained stationary. 
Now the earth is whirled round with great rapidity 
from west to east, and the greatest amount of this 
rapidity is of course at the equatorial regions, being 
the part most remote from the axis but the particles 
of water, for the same reason as those in the glass, to 



14 


THE OCEAX. 


a certain extent, resist the influence of this rotation, 
and appear to assume a motion in the opposite direc¬ 
tion, from east to west. With respect to all the 
phenomena to be explained, this apparent motion is 
exactly the same as if it were real, and we shall con¬ 
sider it so. Xow, examine a globe, or a map of the 
Atlantic, and you will see that this westerly “ set ” of 
the equatorial waters, meeting the coast of South 
America, is slightly turned through the Caribbean Sea, 
until it strikes the coast of Mexico, which, like an 
impregnable rampart, opposes its progress. The stream, 
impelled by the waves behind, must have an outlet, 
and the form of the shore drives it round the northern 
side of the GuK of Mexico, until it is again bent by 
the peninsula of Florida. But here the long island 
of Cuba meets its southerly course, and, like the 
hunted deer, headed at eveiy turn, the whole of the 
broad tide that entered the Gulf, now pent up Avithin 
the compass of a few leagues, rushes with vast impetus 
through the only outlet that is open, between Florida 
and the Bahamas. It is as if we propelled with swift¬ 
ness agamst the air a wide funnel, the mouth being 
outwards, the tube of which was long and tortuous, 
and which terminated at length nearly at right angles 
to the mouth : it is easy to imagine that a strong 
current of air would issue from the tube, exactly as 
the waters of the Gulf-stream do from their narrow 
gorge. The waters of the Paciflc have the same 
westerly flow, but its force is broken, without being 
turned, by the vast assemblage of islands which 
constitute the eastern Archipelago ; it may, however, 
be recognized in the Indian Ocean; and, when bent 







INTRODUCTION. 


15 


southward by the African coast, and confined by the 
island of Madagascar, it forms a current of consi¬ 
derable force, which rounds the Cape of Good Hope, 
and- merges into -the Atlantic. Besides these, there 
are other more local currents, which are not so easily 
explained, such as that which constantly flows out of 
the Baltic, and that which flows into the Mediterra¬ 
nean. In each of these cases, while the main current 
occupies the middle of the channel, there is a subor¬ 
dinate current on each side close to the shore, which 
sets in the opposite direction. As in the case of the 
tides, it is obvious how serviceable these motions of 
the sea often are in aiding navigation, particularly as 
they are most strong and regular in latitudes where 
calms often prevail. 

But we, who inhabit Western Europe, derive a much 
more obvious advantage from this great marine river, 
in our mild and equable climate. If we compare the 
Atlantic coasts of North America and of Europe in 
this respect, we shall better appreciate this advantage. 
St. John’s, in Newfoundland, is nearly on the same 
parallel of latitude as Vannes, on the shore of the 
Bay of Biscay; but its climate is that of Norway. 
The coast of Labrador lies immediately opposite to 
Ireland; but its climate is about the same as that of 
Lapland. On the other hand, the nearest resemblance 
to an English climate on the American side of the 
Atlantic,—at least so far as the mildness of the 
winters is concerned, for the summers are far hotter,— 
must be sought in Alabama and Florida, which cor¬ 
respond in latitude to the north of Africa. 

It has been ascertained that the American climate 


16 


THE OCEAN. 


is the rule, the European the exception. 'WTiat, then, 
is the exceptional agency, which blesses us with a 
climate whose geniality would equal ten or twelve 
degrees of latitude ? It is none other than the Gulf- 
stream. This is in fact a vast hot water apparatus, 
heated in the tropics, and then poured along the 
shores of Europe, bringing with it its superincumbent 
stratum of warm air. This air, too, is diffused on our 
shores rather than on those of America, by the preva¬ 
lence of south and south-west winds, which blowing 
in gusty gales, characterize the Xorth Atlantic. The 
influence of these winds is perceptible even as far 
eastward as the borders of Eussia ; but it is much 
more powerful in the maritime parts, where the warm 
water is constantly maintaining the elevated tempera¬ 
ture of the air. 

Let us return, however, to consider the action of 
the winds upon the sea, which, though affecting only 
the surface, are the most powerful agents in producing 
the irregular motions of this element. By them the 
freighted bark, with her hardy crew, is wafted to the 
wished-for haven; and by them the crested billows 
are roused up, which dash her upon the sharp-pointed 
rocks, or swallow her up in fathomless depths, leaving 
none to record her destiny. The origin of wind has 
usuaUy been attributed to the rarefaction of the air 
by heat: a stratum of air near the earth being heated 
by the sun’s rays, or by radiation from the surface, 
becomes lighter, and consequently rises to a higher 
elevation. The empty space thus left is instantly 
filled by the surrounding air rushing in, pressed by 
the weight of the atmosphere above: this motion 







INTEODUCTIOIs. 


17 


communicated to the air has been supposed to con¬ 
stitute a wind blowing in the direction of the spot 
where the heat was generated. It must be confessed, 
however, that the cause thus adduced does not seem 
adequate to produce the effects attributed to itr 
though probably some of the currents of the air are 
owing to variations of its temperature. And as these 
variations are perpetually occurring, dependent on 
causes which are difficult to detect, and as the aerial 
currents resulting from them act and react on each 
other, variously modifying their direction, force, and 
duration, the ordinary winds are irregular and incon¬ 
stant even to a proverb. Some observations, however, 
recently made, have revealed some particulars of a 
highly-interesting character, concerning the winds of 
the temperate zones : one of which is, that they blow 
in a circular direction ; that is, the course which a 
storm has taken, if marked out on a map or globe, 
would describe a circle, often of many degrees in 
diameter. The direction of the gale in the circle is 
not arbitrary, but seems to be invariably from north 
to west, south,* and east, in the northern hemisphere, 
and in the opposite course in the southern. These 
winds appear to be intimately connected with mag¬ 
netism : it is a curious fact, that, in the midst of the 
southern Atlantic, where magnetic influence is at the 
lowest degree of intensity, storms are unknown, while 
the meridians of the magnetic poles, that of the Ame¬ 
rican cutting the West Indies, and that of the Siberian 
the China Sea, are peculiarly liable to tempests ; the 
hurricanes of the former, and the typhoons of the 
latter, being well known.* It is pretty certain, also, 

* See Eeid on Storms. 


18 


THE OCEAN. 


that the changes in the atmosphere produced by 
electricity, which is but another development of the 
same principle as magnetism, have considerable 
influence in the production of the variable winds ol 
temperate regions. Our knowledge of these sub¬ 
jects, however, is yet in its infancy; and though in 
all ages until the present, navigation has been entirely 
dependent on the aid of the winds, no laws for their 
certain prognostication have yet been discovered; and 
much obscurity, at least in detail, still hangs over 
their production. But within the tropical regions 
there are winds which possess great regularity, and 
may be depended upon with, nearly the same precision 
as the great marine currents already noticed, which 
indeed they very closely resemble, not only in their 
direction and their utility, but also in their origin. 
I refer paidiculaiiy to the Trade-winds, so named 
from the facility they afford to commerce, which blow 
constantly, within the tropics, from the north-east ou 
the north side of the equator, and from the south-east 
on the south side, the two currents merging near the 
line into one, which takes an easterly direction. The 
dividing line, however, is not exactly at the equator, 
but a little to the north of it. The air in the equato¬ 
rial regions becomes strongly heated by the rays of 
the vertical sun, and rises ; while that from the ]3olar 
regions moves in to supply its place : thus a northern 
and a southern current are produced towards the 
equinoctial But the earth is revoking from west to 
east, and the equatorial parts are, as we have before 
seen, those in which the velocity is greatest: the free 
air cannot at once acquire this velocity, and is left 




INTKODUCTION. 


19 


behind ; the effect being that an apparent motion in 
the contrary direction is given to it, which, combining 
with the one already possessed by the polar currents, 
makes the direction of the northern one north-east, 
and of the southern south-east. The point directly 
beneath the sun, also, is continually travelling west¬ 
ward, which increases the effect. The heat radiated 
from the surface of large masses of land being superior 
to that from the sea, while the former is subject to 
much variation from differences of elevation, and other 
circumstances, the trade-winds are disturbed, and be¬ 
come very irregular in the vicinity of land ; but in 
open sea they blow with much precision. 

A singular deviation from the uniformity of the 
trade-winds occurs in the Indian Ocean, which it 
seems difficult to explain. From 30'' south latitude, 
to within about 10° of the equator, the trade is pretty 
constant from the south-east; but to the north of 
the latter parallel, the wind blows six months from 
the north-east, namely, from October to April, while, 
during the remainder of the year, from April to 
October, it blows with equal pertinacity in a direction 
diametrically opposite. These are called respectively 
the north-east and south-west monsoons; but the 
former is the regular trade—the latter alone is the 
anomaly, and needs explanation. The cause usually 
assigned is, the rarefaction of the air on the continent 
of Asia during the summer months, when the sun is 
north of the equator ; the air from the Indian Ocean 
flowing in to supply its place. This would suffi¬ 
ciently explain why the wind should be southerly, but 
leaves its westerly inclination entirely unaccounted 


20 


THE OOEAH. 


for ; and this seems the more inexplicable, because 
one would suppose that the air over the burning 
deserts of Arabia and Xorth Africa would be much 
more heated, and that the direction of the supplying 
current would be south-east. Strange, however, as 
the fact is, it is perfectly uniform in its occurrence, 
and is obviously a very gracious ordination of God’s 
beneficent providence, in diminishing the uncertainties 
of nawgation. 

There is yet another phenomenon connected with 
the wind, in the climates of which we speak, that 
requires notice ; it is the alternation of the land and 
sea breezes. Every one who has resided near the 
coast in tropical countries is aware of the eagerness 
with which the setting in of the sea-breeze is looked 
for. Usually about the hour of ten in the forenoon, 
when the heat of the sun begins to be oppressive, a 
breeze from the sea springs up, invigorating and 
refreshing the body by its delightful coolness, and 
continues to blow through the whole day, gradually 
dying away as the sun sinks to the horizon. Then, 
about eight in the evening, an air blows off the land 
until near sunrise; but this is somewhat variable 
and irregular, always fainter than the sea-breeze, and 
dependent on the proximity of mountains. The ap¬ 
plication of what has been already said of the causes 
of wind in general wull readily be made to these 
particular cases, the air on the smface of the water 
being cooler during the day, and that on the moun¬ 
tains during the night. Either is a grateful allevia¬ 
tion of the oppressive sultriness of the climate. 

But for the winds, the surface of the sea would 



INTRODUCTION. 




ever present, notmthstanding its intestine motions, 
an unbroken and glassy smoi'thness. The playful 
ripple which breaks the moon’s ray into a thousand 
sparkling diamonds, and the huge billows that rear 
their curling and cresting summits to the sky, would 
be alike unknown. If the direction of the breeze 
were exactly horizontal, it is difficult to imagine how 
the surface could be ruffied at all; but doubtless the 
wind exerts an irregular ^pressure obliquely upon the 
water, a few particles of which are thus forced out of 
their level above the surrounding ones: these afford 
a surface, however slight, on w’-hich the air can act 
directly, and the effect now goes on increasing every 
moment, until, if the wind be of sufficient velocity, 
the mightiest waves are produced.* 'Tor he com- 
mandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth 
up the waves thereof. They [the mariners] mount 
up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths : 

* The perpendicular elevation of even the highest waves is, how¬ 
ever, much overrated. Viewed from the deck of a vessel, the im¬ 
mense undulating surface causes them to appear much higher than 
they are; while the ever-changing inclination of the vessel itself 
produces a deception of the senses, which increases the exaggera¬ 
tion. Experienced practical men have, however, made some obser¬ 
vations, which show us their height. Taking their station in the 
shrouds, they have proceeded higher and higher, until the summit 
of the loftiest billow no longer intercepted the view of the horizon. 
After watching for a sufficient length of time to verify the deduc¬ 
tions, they descended, and measured the height of the point of sight 
from the ship’s water-line; deducting half of this distance for the 
iepression of the hollow below the level of the surface, the remain¬ 
der gives the elevation of the highest wave. It is thus found that 
waves do not usually exceed six feet in height, except when cross¬ 
waves overrun each other; and probably in no case do the very 
loftiest rise above ten feet above the general level. 


22 


THE OCEAN. 


their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to 
and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at 
their wits’ end.” The Holy Spirit thus alludes to the 
terrific raging of the tempest as eminently calculated 
to draw man’s attention to the power and majesty of 
God, while the wondrous deliverances He has so often 
nought from its fury, are so many claims on man’s 
grateful love and praise. 

Let us, then, in contemplating a few of the in¬ 
numerable objects of interest which the ocean pre¬ 
sents to us, endeavour, in dependence on His own 
gracious aid, to recognise His hand, to discern the 
greatness of His power in creating and upholding all 
things ; His unerring skill and wisdom in arranging 
and cariying out His designs ; and the careful and 
provident benevolence which He continually exer¬ 
cises towards the sentient part of His creation. The 
varied tribes of living beings that throng the deep, 
from the wallowing whale to the luminous animalcule, 
visible but as a sparkling point; the multifarious 
forms of marine vegetation, displaying exquisite 
structure and elaborate contrivance; the golden sands 
of the smooth shore, the hoary cliffs hollowed into 
caverns by the restless billows, and, not least, the 
restless billows themselves, speak to us, in language 
not to be mistaken, of the glorious attributes of the 
Mighty God, '' the Lord of Hosts, which is wonderful 
in counsel, and excellent in working.” 




THE SHOEES OF BEITAIK 


Before we launch forth to investigate the wonders 
of the vast Ocean, a little time will not he misspent 
in observing a few of the curious productions which 
it brings to our very doors. AVe shall greatly err, if 
we suppose that only in distant parts of the world 
the works of God can be so studied as to illustrate 
His infinite power, and skill, and benevolence: we 
may have to search distant regions to find the giants 
of the deep, the huge whale, the Indian cuttle, or the 
island madrepore ; but in the most minute crustacean 
that hops above the retiring wave, or the most fragile 
shell that lies upon the shingle, there is the indelible 
impress of the mind and hand of God. Indeed, it 
may be asserted, that of two created objects of dif¬ 
ferent magnitude, but possessing similar organs, 
equally adapted to their requirements, that one in 
which these organs are of minute size is the more 
calculated to excite our admiration. Our own shores 
swarm with little creatures of many kinds, some so 
small as to escape the eye of any one but a naturalist, 
which yet are well worthy of being examined and 
studied. Take’one example. AYalking along a sea- 
beach, where the loose shingle rattles under the 
retiring waves, we may find a minute beetle, known 
to entomologists by the name of Aepus fulvescens, 



2i 


THE. OCEAN. 


whose habits may well excite our astonishment. 
Formed, like all other beetles, to breathe air alone, it 
deserts the haunts of its fellows, and betakes itseK to 
the sea, choosing to dwell among the pebbles so low 
down on the beach that the water covers it constantly, 
except for a day or two twice every month, when, at 
the lowest ebb of the spring-tide, it is for a few 
minutes exposed. Xow, during the weeks of its sub¬ 
mersion, how does this little creature breathe ? Oxy¬ 
gen it must have, or it will assuredly die. Many of 
the beetles that shoot hither and thither in our fresh¬ 
water ponds are clothed with a coat of thick but 
very tine down, in which air is entangled and carried 
beneath the surface. But our little Aepus is not 
furnished with a coating of dovm. If we examine 
it, however, with a magnifier, we shall discover that 
its whole body and limbs are studded with long, 
slender hairs, and w^hen it plunges under water, each 
of these hairs carries mth it a little globule of air 
from the atmosphere, and these, uniting, form a 
bubble of air surrounding the body of the insect, and 
ser\ung it for respiratiom But, subjected to the 
rolling of the tide, it would be liable to be perpetually 
washed away from its dwelling-place were there not 
an especial provision graciously made for its stability. 
For this end the feet are furnished with claws of 
unusual size, to cling firmly to the projections of the 
jtones, and in addition to these the last joint but one 
of the feet has a long curved spine meeting the claws, 
giving it an extraordinaiy power in grasping, as well 
as aiding it in obtaining its prey. In other respects, 
with regard to its eyes, its antennae, its jaws, we 



THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


25 


shall find, if we carefully examine it, that, minute as 
it is, being scarcely an eighth of an inch long, its 
wants have been accurately remembered and well 
supplied. A few other British insects, likewise very 
small, display similar instincts, some of them inhabit¬ 
ing holes in the sand, very near low-water mark, and 
therefore entirely submerged a great portion of their 
time. 

On our rocky shores may be found in abundance 
creatures still more minute than these, whose man¬ 
ners, lively and sportive, are highly interesting. I 
allude to the marine Entomostraca, or insects with 
shells, and particularly to those of the genus Cythere, 
scarcely any of which exceed in diameter a large 
pin’s head, and most of which are not equal to that 
of a small one. Imagine a pair of bivalve shells of 
this size, irregularly oval, or kidney-shaped, from 
which, slightly separated, protrude four pairs of little 
curved claws, or feet, most delicately fringed, and 
kept in constant motion ; and from one end a pair of 
jointed antennae. Mr. Baird, who has attentively 
studied their manners, gives the following pleasing 
account of them :—“ These insects are only to be 
found in sea-water, and may be met with in all the 
little pools amongst the rocks on the sea-shores. 
They live amongst the Fuci and Confervce, &c., which 
are to be found in such pools ; and the naturalist 
may especially find them in abundance in those 
beautiful clear little round wells which are so often 
to be met with, hollowed out of the rocks on the 
shores of our country, which are within reach of the 
tide, and the water of which is kept sweet and whole- 


26 


THE OCEAN. 


some by being thus changed twice during every 
twenty-four hours. In such delightful little ponds, 
clear as crystal when left undisturbed by the receding 
tide, these interesting httle creatures may be found 
often in great numbers, sporting about amongst the 
confervae and corallines which so elegantly and fanci- 



Marine Entomostraca {Cythert aibo^niaculata and Cyclops chelifer). 

fully fringe their edges and decorate their sides, and 
which form such a glorious subaqueous forest for 
myriads of living creatures to disport themselves in. 
Sheltered amongst the ‘umbrageous multitude’ of 
stems and branches, and nestling in security in their 
forest glades, they are safe from the fury of the ad¬ 
vancing tide, though lashed up to thunder by the 
opposing rocks which for a moment check its ad¬ 
vance ; and weak and powerless though such pigmies 
seem to be, they are yet found as numerous and 
active in their little wells, after the shores have been 
desolated by the mighty force of the tide which 
has been driven in by the power of a fierce tempest, 
as when the waves have rolled gently and calmly 
to the shore in their sweetest murmurs. These 
insects have never been seen to swim, invariably 






















THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


27 


walking among the branches or leaves of the confervce 
or fuel, amongst which they delight to dwell; and 
when shook out from their hiding-places into a bottle 
or tumbler of water, they may be seen to fall in 
g}^rations to the bottom, without ever attempting to 
dart through the watery element, as is the case with 
the Cyprides, Upon reaching the bottom they open 
their shells, and creep along the surface of the glass ; 
but when touched or shaken, they immediately again 
withdraw themselves within their shell, and remain 
motionless.’'* The Cyprides, here alluded to in com¬ 
parison, are species very closely resembling these, 
inhabiting abundantly every stagnant ditch and pool 
of fresh water. They have their antennae and feet 
beautifully feathered with long fringed bristles, by 
aid of which they swim with much vivacity. In 
exactly similar situations to those above described 
are found other Entomostraca, marine species of 
^he genus Cyclops, almost equally minute, and equally 
mteresting. Like their kindred of the same genus 
found in fresh waters, and which are so numerous in 
the w^ater conveyed into London that we swallow 
them daily, these swim with ease, progressing by 
sudden bounds made with great vigour and effect. 
Mr. Baird notices of one marine species ((7. depressus), 
which he found in Berwick Bay, that its motion is 
peculiar. ‘‘It generally swims on its back, and in¬ 
stead of darting forward through the water, as the 
other species of Cyclops do, it springs with a bound 
from the bottom of the vessel, where it rests when 
undisturbed, up to the surface of the water. For this 

* Mag. Zool. and Bot., ii. 141. 

c 2 


28 


THE OCEAN. 


purpose it curls its body up into the form of a ball, 
and then, suddenly returning to the straight position, 
springs with a sudden bound from the bottom to the 
surface, falling gradually down again to the same 
place from which it sprung.” It is a remarkable 
character of all these pretty little water-fleas, that they 
have but a single eye, which is generally of a bright 
crimson hue, sparkling like a little ruby, and is set in 
the front of the head. Any of my inland readers, 
who may have no opportunity for sea-side researches, 
may form a very good idea of the form and habits of 
these agile ''minims of existence’"’ by pulling up a 
handful of the common duck-weed from a stagnant 
pool, and putting a pinch of it into a clear glass 
phial, nearly filled with water : numbers of the fresh 
water Entomostraca will be almost certain to swim 
out; and the sight will amply repay the trouble of 
procuring them, especially if viewed with a micro¬ 
scope, or even a common magnifying glass. 

Probably the objects which would first arrest the 
observation of one who for the first time visited a rocky 
shore, would be, after the broad element itself, the 
marine plants which in such abundance and variety 
clothe the submerged rock. At a glance we perceive 
that they are singular productions ; the vast size of 
some, the strange and uncouth forms of others, 
and the extreme delicacy and vivid hues of many, 
cannot fail to attract attention : and it needs not the 
additional knowledge that many of them are pressed 
into the service of man to assure us that they 
are not less worthy of the consideration of rational 
beings than others of the glorious works of God. 


THE SHORES OP BRITAIN. 


29 


Viewing these tribes,” observes Dr. Greville, ‘‘ in thf 
most careless way, as a system of subaqueous vegeta* 
tion, or even in a merely picturesque light, we see the 
depths of ocean shadowed with submarine groves, 
often of vast extent, intermixed with meadows, as it 
were, of the most lovely hues : while the trunks of 
the larger species, like the great trees of the tropics, 
are loaded with innumerable minute kinds, as fine as 
silk, or transparent as a membrane.”* In stating 
some particulars of the history of but a few of the 
species found on our own shores, I hope to show that 
the contempt which has been, even to a proverb, cast 
ii])on the ''vile sea-weed,” is very much misplaced. It 
is only a contracted mind, governed by debasing 
selfishness, which measures'the esteem in which it 
holds any object by the degree to which it ministers 
to the comfort or profit of man : the instructed Chris¬ 
tian will feel a higher gratification in the thought that 
the perfections of God shine forth more luminously 
the more His handiwork is examined. It was no 
selfishness that prompted the Sons of God, when they 
saw this beautiful and glorious world, fresh in its 
unsullied prime, come from the hands of its Maker,— 
to sing together, and all the Morning Stars to shout 
for joy. Yet we may, with adoring gratitude, recog¬ 
nise the love wliich remembers man, and provides 
many natural objects for his appropriation ; endowing 
them with qualities which his intelligence discovers 
to be useful, and which alleviate the privation and 
toil of his fallen condition. 

A substance called kelp, an impure carbonate of 


* Algsc Britannicge. Introd- 


80 


THE OCEA^. 


soda, important in the manufacture of soap and of 
glass, is the produce of these ‘"worthless” weeds. 
Some years ago, the coasts and islands of Scotland 
yielded 20,000 tons of this valuable substance an¬ 
nually, which was worth ten pounds sterling per ton; 
but through the increased consumption of harilla, an 
alkali imported from Spain, it has somewhat dimin¬ 
ished. The autumnal storms detach large quantities 
of Algoe (a general name applied to all the sea-weeds), 
which are washed ashore. The inhabitants of the 
coast, aware of their value, hurry down to secure the 
riches thus freely presented, and either cast them 
on their fields as a valuable manure, or burn them 
into kelp. In Scotland, the kelp-kiln is nothing but 
a round pit, dug in the sand or earth on the beach, 
and surrounded by a few loose stones. In the morn¬ 
ing a fire is kindled in this pit, generally with the aid 
of turf or peat. The fire is gradually fed with sea¬ 
weed, in such a state of dryness that it will merely 
burn. In the coui*se of the day, the furnace becomes 
nearly full of melted matter, and iron rakes are then 
drawn rapidly backward and forward through the mass 
to compact it, or bring the whole into an equal state 
of fusion. It is then allowed to cool, and having been 
taken out and broken to pieces, it is earned to the 
storehouse to be shipped for market. The general 
vield of this alkali is one-fifth of the weight of the 
ashes from weeds promiscuously collected; but from 
one species, the Sea-wrack, or Black-tang {Fucus vest- 
culosus), one of the most abundant on our coast, the 
ashes yield half their weight of alkali. The Sea- 
wrack is of a dark-olive hue, bearing long, flat, and 



THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


31 


narrow fronds, resembling leaves, divided into 
branches, and having a midrib running through the 
centre; the leaf-like branches terminate in large 
greenish or yellow oval receptacles, the former con¬ 
taining many seeds, enveloped in a thick mucus, the 
latter some curious organs known as antlieridia, analo¬ 
gous to the anthers of flowers.* But its chief pecu¬ 
liarity is, that the substance of the frond swells at 
irregular intervals into oval air-cells, always arranged 
in pairs, one on each side of the midrib. The Dutch 
use this sort, and another called Black-wrack {F, eer- 
ratus), to pack their lobsters; the latter, however, is 
preferred, on account of its containing less mucus, and 
therefore being less liable to fermentation. 

Scarcely inferior in its alkaline properties to the 
Sea-wrack is the Knotted-wrack {F. nodosus). The 
fronds look like slender stems, swelling at intervals 

* Recent microscopical investigations of the Fucacece, or Wrack- 
weeds, have brought to light some unexpected facts of very high 
interest, particularly those which are connected with the reproduc¬ 
tion of these plants. Like the higher tribes of vegetable life, they 
are found to develop male and female organs, the former of which, 
called Zoospores, have the power of free, spontaneous, and, ap- 
parently, voluntary motion, vibrating their long threads, and 
swarming over the germ-cells, which they thus fertilise. 

^‘To observe the Zoospores in motion,” remarks Professor 
Harvey, fresh specimens (of Fucus serratus) collected in winter or 
early spring, having orange-coloured receptacles, should be removed 
from the water and left to dry partially. As the surface dries 
there will exude from the pores of the receptacles large drops of a 
thicx orange-coloured liquid, which on being placed under a micro¬ 
scope and moistened with salt water, will be found to be composed 
of innumerable antheridiay from which will issue troops of Zoo¬ 
spores, which, at the moment of their liberation, commence those 
strange animal motions which have so much puzzled philosophers 
to reconcile with vegetable life.”— (Phytol, Brit,) 



32 


THE OCEAN. 


into oval bulbs or air-vessels. Boys amuse them¬ 
selves occasionally by cutting off these nodules in a 
diagonal direction, to make them into whistles. They 
are too tough to be burst by the pressure of the fingers, 
like those of the Sea-wrack; but if stamped on, or 
put into the fire, they explode with a loud report. 
The seed-vessels are large, oval, and yellow, resem¬ 
bling those of the last, placed on footstalks. 

One of the most common species of our coasts 
is the long, string-like Sea-lace, or, as the Orkney 
people call it. Sea-catgut {Chorda Jilum). It usually 
grows in water some fathoms deep, attached to stones 
at the bottom, yet reaching to the surface *, indeed, it 
sometimes attains the length of forty feet; and this 
is believed to be the growth of a single summer, 
as it is an annual plant. Its structure is highly 
curious; at first sight it appears a simple cylindrical 
tube of an olive colour, about as thick as whipcord, 
but occasionally thicker : on examination, however, 
this hollow stem is found to be composed of a fiat 
thin ribbon, about one-sixth of an inch in width, 
spirally twisted into a tube, the edges exactly meet¬ 
ing each other, and adhering with sufBcient firmness 
to allow of the whole stem being skinned without 
separating : in this state it is twisted and dried, when 
it possesses a strength and toughness that adapt 
it for fishing-lines. In Norway it is collected as 
food for the cattle. The upper portion usually floats 
on the surface, or rather immediately beneath it, 
often in such abundance as to form large meadows, 
as it were, which obstruct the progress of boats. 
The fructification of this species long defied the 




THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


33 


investigations of botanists ; but it is now ascertained 
to consist of little pear-shaped capsules, imbedded in 
the surface, and much crowded, which the gradual 
melting away of the skin allows to escape. One 
of the most interesting circumstances connected with 
the history of the sea-plant is, the beautiful and 
varied apparatus with which many of them are pro¬ 
vided for securing buoyancy. It seems to be essential 
to their health that they should at least approach 
the surface, but as their substance is specifically 
lieavier than water, many of them are greatly length¬ 
ened, and furnished with hollow vessels inflated with 
air, by which their weight is diminished. These 
differ much in form and position in the various 
tribes ; in the Sea-wrack {F, vesiculosus) ^ we saw 
them take the form of bladders, arranged in pairs 
on each side of the midrib ; in the Knotted-wrack 
{F. nodosus) the stem swells at intervals into hollow 
bulb-like dilatations; while in the long Sea-lace 
before us, the same end is answered by dividing the 
hollow tube into chambers, interrupted at short dis¬ 
tances by portions of the solid substance of the frond; 
the cavities being filled in some unknown manner with 
air, probably hydrogen generated by the plant itself. 

Many of the Algoe are rather extensively used as 
food ; and though to one miused to such diet they 
would in general seem to offer little temptation to 
the appetite, the poorer natives, not only of our ovm 
but of other shores, eat them with much relish. Let 
us not despise their taste, though differing from our 
own, but rather adore the beneficence of God, who 

has supplied in much abundance an additional source 

c 3 




34 


THE OCEAN. 


of nutriment, and has conferred on the recipients 
of His bounty the taste requisite for its enjoyment, 
from the quantity of saccharine matter which they 
contain, many of these plants are highly nutritive, 
and cattle often feed on them with greediness. One 
of the species most extensively eaten is that known 
in Scotland by the name of Dulse {Rhodomenia 
imhnata). It exhibits the appearance of a thin mem¬ 
branaceous leaf, iiTegularly oblong, of a purplish or 
dark red colour, or sometimes rosy-red : there is 
no rib, but the substance is uniform ; it grows from 
three inches to a foot in length. Before the introduc¬ 
tion of tobacco, this leaf was roUed up and chewed 
in the same manner as the Virginian leaf is at 
present. It is an important plant to the inhabitants 
of Iceland ; they wash it thoroughly in fresh water, 
and dry it in the air, when it becomes covered with a 
white powdery substance, called mannite, which is 
sweet and palatable ; it is then packed in close casks, 
and preserved for eating. It is used in this state 
with fish and butter, or else, by the higher classes, 
boiled in milk, with the addition of rj^e-fiour. In 
Kamtschatka, a fermented liquor is produced from it. 
It is extremely common on aU our coasts, and being 
frequently washed on shore, is sought with avidity 
by the cattle: sheep sometimes go so far in the pur¬ 
suit of it at low water as to be drowned by the 
returning tide. This species, with another which I 
am about to describe, was, until recently, so much 
esteemed by our northern countr}^men, that it was 
publicly sold in the cities as an article of regular 
consumption. The cry of ''Buy dulse and tangle !* 




THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


35 


rosound-Gd at no very distant period even through 
the streets of Edinburgh. The latter is the sea-weed 
usually called in England the Sea-girdle, and in the 
Orkneys Eed-ware {Laminaria digitata). It is very 



The Sea-Girdle {Laminaria digitata). 

common, growing chiefly in deep water, where it 
is protected from the heavy action of the weaves. Its 
appearance is singular : from a number of little root¬ 
lets, which grasp with great tenacity the naked rock, 
springs a straight olive-brown stem, sometimes as 
thick as a man’s wrist, and three or four feet long: 







36 


THE OCEAN. 


at the summit it dilates into a broad cartilaginous 
leaf, oblong in form, and palmated, or divided into 
numerous iiTegular strips ; it is endowed with the 
power of renewing its frond if the latter be acci¬ 
dentally destroyed. Mr. Johns observes,* that of all 
the various kinds of sea-weeds thrown on shore 
during a storm. Tangles are the most abundant: a 
fact which he explains by the ravages of a species of 
limpet {Patella Icevis) upon their stems and rootlets. 
When cooked, the young stalks are said to be not 
unpleasant, and they are boiled and given to cattle. 
But, as we are informed by Mr. Neill, ''in Scotland 
the stems are sometimes put to rather an unexpected 
use, the making of knife-handles. A pretty thick 
stem is selected, and cut into pieces about four 
inches long. Into these, while fresh, are stuck blades 
of knives, such as gardeners use for pruning and 
grafting. As the stem dries, it contracts and hardens, 
closely and firmly embracing the hilt of the blade, 
[n the course of some months the handles become 
quite firm, and very hard and shrivelled, so that 
when tipped with metal they are hardly to be dis¬ 
tinguished from hartshorn.” 

Much resembling this species, but immensely 
larger, is the plant which has received the name 
of Sea-furbelows {L, hulbosa). A single specimen, 
fresh from the sea, is a hea\y load for a man’s 
shoulder: and one which was measured by ]\Irs. 
Griffiths, when spread out, covered a circular space 
of twelve feet in diameter. The great weight of the 
frond in this species requires extraordinary support 


Botanical Rambles, p. 286. 




THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


87 


against the force of the waves, which else, having 
so strong a purchase, would soon overturn it. To 
guard against this, the ordinary mode of attachment 
to the rock would be insufficient; and, instead of the 
primary root, the base of the stem is swollen out into 
a large hollow bulb, the extended surface of which 
putting forth powerful rootlets from every part enables 
the plant to defy the violence of the winter storm. 



The Sea-furbelows {Laminaria huUfsa), 

It is a fact worthy of our notice and admiration, that 
nothing.of the kind takes place while the plant is 
young and small; it is only when it acquires size 
and weight, or, in other words, it is only when addi¬ 
tional support becomes needful, that this extraordinary 



















38 


THE OCEAN. 


but most effective contrivance is resorted to. The 
English name of the species is derived ti'om the edge 
of the stem, which is greatly dilated and curled into 
tortuous waves or plaits. 

A long, narrow, ribbon-like leaf, with a thick mid¬ 
rib, gTOws on the coast of Scotland, where it is called 
Hen-ware, as well as on the northern shores of Ire¬ 
land, where it receives the appellation of ilurlins. 
It is the Alaria esculenta of botanists. It is of a 
transparent yellow-green, and in the herbarium dries 
without any change, and has a very beautiful ap¬ 
pearance. The midrib is the part usually selected 
for eating, but Mr. Johns gives us a somewhat unfa¬ 
vourable notion of its quality. While walking,” he 
observes, round the coast near the Giants' Causeway, 
I once observed a number of men and women busily 
employed near the water’s edge ; and on inquiring of 
my guide, found that they were providing themselves 
with food for their next meal. Being curious to dis¬ 
cover what kind of fare the rocks afforded, I stopped 
one of the men, who was going home with his bundle, 
and asked him to give me a bit to taste, prepared in 
the way in which it was generally eaten. He accord¬ 
ingly stripped off all the expanded part of a long and 
narrow leaf, and presented me with a stem, or midrib. 
It was, I must confess, as good as I expected; but at 
best a very sorry substitute for a raw carrot, combin¬ 
ing with the hardness of the latter the fishy and 
coppery fiavour of an oyster. I made a very slight 
repast, as you may suppose ; and after having given 
the man a few pence for his civility, continued my 
walk. My guide, however, seemed to think, that if I 



THE SHOEES OF BEITAIN. 


39 


did not choose to enjoy to the full the advantage which 
I had purchased, there was no reason why he should 
not. He accordingly stayed behind for a minute or 
two, and when he rejoined me, was loaded with a 
supply of the same plant, which he continued to 
munch with much apparent relish as Ave pursued our 
walk.” * Mr. Drummond, however, it must not be 
concealed, gives a somewhat different account, both 
of the part which is eaten and its flavour ; and as his 
obser\"ations refer to the coast of Antrim, it is not 
easy to account for the conflicting statements, except 
by supposing some variation of taste in different 
neighbourhoods or individuals. The latter gentleman 
sa}^, ‘‘It is often gathered for eating, but the part 
used is the leaflets, and not the midrib, as is com¬ 
monly stated. These have a very pleasant taste and 
flavour, but soon cover the roof of the mouth with a 
tenacious greenish crust, which causes a sensation 
somewhat like that of the fat of a heart or kidney. 
These leaflets are quite membranaceous when young, 
but in full-grown plants are fleshy, and at their middle 
a quarter of an inch or more in thickness.” *|* 

The Dulse of the Scottish coast, wliich was just 
now described, must not be confounded with the 
Dulse of the southern shores of England. This is a 
very different plant {IridexE edulis), having little re¬ 
semblance to it, except in being eatable. It consists 
of a short stem expanding into an oval leaf, without 
rib or veins, sometimes a foot and a half long, and 
. eight or ten inches wide. It is thick and fleshy, of a 
deep red hue, the surface smooth and glossy. It is 
* Bot. Ram., 279. f Mag. Zool. and Bot. ii. 148. 


40 


THE OCEAN. 


not frequently found, however, in a perfect state, the 
specimens being generally torn and perforated in 
every possible way. These defects have usually been 
attributed to the munching of crabs, which are said 
to be fond of it; but Mr. Drummond is of opinion 
that portions spontaneously separate from the frond 
and drop out. Like many other Algce it diffuses, 
when moist, a strong smell of violets. The fishermen 
pinch the fieshy frond between heated irons, and eat 
it; its taste is said to resemble that of roasted oysters. 
Its deep colour may yet be found useful in the arts : 
Mr. Stackhouse observes,* '' The most surprising 
quality of this plant, and one that will probably 
render it of service in dyeing, I discovered by acci¬ 
dent. Having placed some of the leaves to macerate 
in sea-water, in order to procure seeds from it, I per¬ 
ceived, on the second day, a faint ruby tint, very 
different from the colour of the plant, which is a dull 
red, inclining to chocolate colour. Being surprised at 
this, I continued the maceration and the tint grew 
more vivid, till at last it equalled the strongest infu¬ 
sion of cochineal. This liquor was mucilaginous, and 
had a remarkable property of being of a changeable 
colour; as it appeared a bright ruby when held to 
the light, and a muddy saffron when viewed in a con¬ 
trary direction : this probably arose from a mixture 
of the frond in the liquor. I endeavoured to ascer¬ 
tain its dyeing powers by the usual process without 
success; as the quantity of tinging matter was not 
sufficient; though if attempted at large, and properly 

* Nereis Brit. p. 58, as quoted by Turner, Hist. Fucorum, ii. 113; 
but I could not find the observation in Stackhouse, 



THE SHOKES OF BRITAIN. 


41 


evaporated, it might be made sufficiently strong. 
However, an ingenious chemical friend (the Eev. W. 
Gregor) assures me he has procured a fine lake from 
an infusion of it by means of alum.’' 

One or two species of the genus Porphyra are 
brought to our tables, stewed under the name of 
Laver, and are thought a delicacy. Mr. Drummond 
informs us that P. laciniata, called Sloke in Ireland, 
is gathered during the winter months only, the fronds 
being too tough in the summer. After being properly 
cleaned, it is stewed with a little butter, to prevent 
its getting a burnt flavour, and is brought to BeKast, 
where it is sold by measure usually at the rate of five- 
pence per quart. Before being brought to.table, it 
is again heated with an additional quantity of butter 
and is usually eaten with vinegar and pepper. P 
vulgaris is worthy of notice on account of the extreme 
difficulty with which it is preserved in a herbarium 
in a complete state : not that there is any difficulty 
in spreading and going through the other steps of the 
process, but because when it has nearly arrived at the 
last stage of drying, a moment’s exposure to the air 
will cause it to contract so instantaneously, that the 
edges of the paper are immediately drawn towards 
each other; and if attempted to be restored without 
the whole being first damped, the specimen tears 
through the middle, and becomes of little value. The 
edges of the plant adhere strongly to the paper when 
dry, or nearly so; but the centre does not adhere at 
all, and being as fine as gold-beater’s leaf, though 
having considerable strength, it at once loses the little 
moisture it possesses, on coming in contact with the 






42 


THE OCEAN. 


air, and contracts with a force remarkable when we 
consider its extreme thinness. If the paper be thin, 
its four corners will in a moment be brought almost 
in contact with each other.” The best method of ob¬ 
viating this inconvenience is said to be, when we 
suppose it is almost dry, to have a flat book held 
open, and the pressure being taken off, to remove the 
specimen along with the drying-paper covering it, 
as quickly as possible into the book, which must be 
instantly shut, and not opened till the next day, or 
till we know that it is thoroughly dry.* 

There is a substance which has been lately intro¬ 
duced as an article of commerce, intended as a substi¬ 
tute for Iceland moss, and sold by the London 
druggists by the name of Carrageen moss ; notwith¬ 
standing its name, however, it is a true Alga, Chon- 
drus crispus. It is an exceedingly variable species, 
but its most usual form is that of a flat leaf, spreading 
somewhat triangularly, or rather so as to give to its 
outline the flgure of one-fourth of a circle: the edge 
is branched into numerous flat segments overlapping 
one another. ^Tien viewed under water, in a grow¬ 
ing state, it gives out beautiful prismatic hues, the 
tips of all the segments appearing of the most bril¬ 
liant azure hue. Containing a large quantity of 
gelatine, it has been successfully applied, instead of 
isinglass, in the making of blanc-mange and jellies. 
A fucus, probably allied to this, found at the Cape of 
Good Hope, is boiled into a jelly, and, being mixed 
with sugar and the juice of lemons or oranges, makes 
a verj' agreeable dish. 


* Drummond. 




THE SHOKES OF BEITAIN. 


43 


1 shall notice a few other Algce, remarkable either 
for singularity or beauty, and then dismiss these 
interesting tribes. The common Sea-thong {Himan- 
thalia lorea)^ so generally distributed, is worthy of 
observation on account of its curious mode of growth. 
From a shallow cup, afiGLxed to the rock by a short 
foot-stalk, spring two or three long, olive-coloured 
straps, each of which becomes divided into two, and 
each of these into two more, in succession: these 
attain commonly the length of eight or ten feet, and 
have been asserted to reach even twenty feet. The 
thongs were formerly considered the fronds of this 
species ; but it is now ascertained that the singular 
cup is the true frond, and the thongs the receptacles 
of the seed greatly lengthened. The surface of the 
thong is studded with tubercles, from which are 
discharged the seeds, accompanied with much mucus, 
through the pores. The cup of this species has been 
occasionally observed on exposed rocks, swollen into 
a large hollow smooth black ball, exactly round, 
perhaps caused by the heat of the sun rarefying and 
expanding the contained air, or being perhaps the 
indication of a diseased state of the plant. 

A very remarkable form, and one of singular 
beauty, is presented by the Peacock’s tail {Padina 
pavonia), a species not uncommon, attached to rocks 
at the bottom of still, and generally shallow, marine 
pools with a muddy bottom. The fronds rise in form 
of a rounded fan, of a yellowish-olive tint, elegantly 
marked with concentric zones or bands, of a dark 
brown. One side, and sometimes both, is generally 
hoary, as if dusted with powder, and the outer edge 


44 


IKE OCEA^\ 



The Peacock’s Tail {Padina pavonia). 


is delicately fringed with exceedingly minute filaments, 
which, in a living state, often reflect the prismatic 
colours of the rainhow. 

Perhaps the most lovely of all the Fuci is the 
Delesseria somguineojy which is a common species. It 
consists of several oblong-oval or pointed leaves, of 
extreme delicacy, with the edges very much waved or 
plaited, furnished with a midrib arid side-veins, which 
materially increase their leaf-like appearance ; the 
colour is an exceedingly rich translucent rose-pink 
Tlie midrib often throws out smaller leaves, which, if 
the main frond be destroyed, soon attains its usual 
size ; an interesting provision against the accidents 
to which these apparently frail plants are necessarily 
exposed. The fructiflcation of this genus is curious, 
as being of a twofold character : both forms are found 















THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


45 


in the winter, affixed to the midrib, which alone 
survives that season, the foliaceous part having all 
decayed away. The one mode is by means of nearly 
globular capsules attached to the rib by short foot¬ 
stalks, and inclosing many irregularly-shaped seeds ; 
the other is by small membranaceous, leaf-like pro¬ 
cesses, likewise containing seeds. These two kinds 
of fructification occur on distinct individuals. This 
charming fucus, of which no adequate idea can be 
formed by a verbal description, retains much of its 
beauty when dried, and is very easily preserved. It 
is a pity that I am obliged to confess that its odour 
is very unpleasant, being rank and pungent. 

Some of those species, whose fronds are very deli¬ 
cately and numerously ramified, have been used to 
form mimic pictures. By skilful arrangement, very 
pretty landscapes are thus made, the forms and foliage 
of trees being beautifully imitated. The kinds most 
commonly appropriated for this purpose are, Ploca- 
, mium coccineum and Gelidium cartilagineurriy which 
have a very beautiful effect if simply expanded on 
smooth white paper, or on the pearly inner surface of 
large shells. The whole sub-class Rhodospermece, to 
which these belong, is remarkable for brilliant hues, 
and often elegant forms. 

Like their kindred, the plants of the earth and air, 
the sea-weeds have their parasites. As the Tillandsia 
grows on the giants of the tropical forests, and as 
the mistletoe grows upon the apple-tree of our own 
orchards, so do some of these draw their nourishment, 
or at least derive their support, from the fronds or 
stalks of others. Ptilota plumosa^ for example, a 



46 


THE OCEAN. 


delicately-feathered species, of a pink or purplish hue 
is found to be parasitical on the common tangle. It 
is justly considered one of the ornaments of our 
northern shores, but is unknown in the south of 
England, where it is represented by a kindred species, 
P. sericea, which always grows on rocks. The former 
must not be confounded with another elegant little 
plant bearing the same specific name, but belonging 



to a different genus, Bryopsis plumosa. The tribe of 
which the latter is a member is remarkable for its 
delicacy : in the species now mentioned the main 
stem is very slender, sometimes forming the midrib of 
a single feather, and at others set with horizontally¬ 
spreading branches, like a pine-tree, each of which is 
most elegantly feathered. Its colour is a bright-grass 










THE SHOKES OF BEITAIN. 


47 


green, and the whole surface shines as if it were 
varnished. It is so delicate, that, in drying, the 
colouring matter frequently contracts in the stem, 
leaving interrupted spaces destitute of colour, and 
perfectly transparent. 

These are but a very few of the Inultitudinous sea¬ 
weeds which would come under the notice of an 
observant visitor to our own rocky shores ; yet how 
manifold are the indications of infinite - intelligence 
and goodness even in these things proverbial for their 
vileness ! And while we gratefully acknowledge the 
Divine hand in such species as conduce to man’s 
sustenance or comfort, may we not, from the lavish 
beauty and elegance of such as are of nc direct 
benefit to us, legitimately draw the same consolatory 
inference which the Saviour drew from the lovely 
lilies at His feet ? If God so clothe these obscure 
caverns and submerged rocks, will He not muut more 
care for those whom He has redeemed with the blood, 
and conformed to the image of His Son ? Nor is the 
relation which He sustains to these frail and perish¬ 
ing weeds limited to an exertion of creative power. 
All are marshalled in order, each is provided inces¬ 
santly with the requisite supplies for its welfare, and 
each is assigned to that particular locality which suits 
its habit of growth, and where alone it flourishes. 
On this subject Mr. Neill observes, On our open 
shores a certain order is observed in the habitat of the 
Fuel, each species occupying pretty regularly its own 
zone or station. Chorda Jilum^ or Sea-laces, grows in 
water some fathoms deep: in places where the tide 
seldom entirely ebbs, but generally leaves from tv^o 








48 


THE OCEAN. 


to three feet of water, grow Alaria esculenta and 
Laminaria hulhosa^ and the larger specimens of 
L, digitata and saccharina^ with some small kinds, as 
Piliodomenia palmata^ Halidrys siliguosa, and Deles- 
seria sanguinea. In places imcovered only at the 
lowest ebbs, smaller plants of L. ddgitata and saccha- 
rina abound with HimantJialia lorea, or Sea-thongs. 
On the beaches uncovered by every tide, F. serratus 
occurs lowest down, along with Chondrus crispus and 
mammillosus ; next comes F. nodosus^ and, higher up, 
F. vesiculosus. Beyond this, F. canaliculatus still 
grows, thriving very well if only wet at flood-tide, 
and though liable to become dry and shrivelled during 
a great part of the day. Lastly, Lichina pygmaea is 
satisfled if it be within reach of the spray.” * 

In examining these Algae, and especially if we 
collect them for preservation, we shall And very fre¬ 
quently entangled among them, branches of a sub¬ 
stance which adheres with so much tenacity as to 
cause no little trouble in cleansing the specimens. 
I refer to the common Coralline {Corallina offici¬ 
nalis). Xo organic substances have more di^dded 
naturalists in opinion as to their real nature than the 
Corallines. Evidently placed on the very verge of 
the animal or vegetable kingdom, it required a 
minute acquaintance with their structure, derived 
from the closest observation, and all the research 
of modern science, to decide the long uncertain 
question, and to flx them where they now by com¬ 
mon consent hold their place, among the vegetable 

* Edin. Encyc. Art. Fucl” Most of the species here alluded to 
I have described above. 





# 


THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 49 

tribes. The one of which I speak, and the most 
common, being abundant on every rocky shore, or¬ 
dinarily presents, though subject to much variation, 
the form of a spreading bushy tuft, from one to four 
inches high, growing from a broad stony base, of a 
shape more or less round. Each branch consists of 
many short joints, a little broader at the upper than at 
the lower end, which often send out other jointed 
branches from each upper shoulder, as well as from 
the centre. The joints are of a stony or rather shelly 



Coralline (Corallina officinalis). 

consistence, being chiefly a deposit of lime; when 
dead they are perfectly white, but in a living state 
they assume a purplish tint. Linnaeus and many other 
eminent men were deceived by this shelly appearance 
into an opinion of their animal nature, maintaining 
that animals alone ever produced lime. But on re¬ 
moving the calcareous deposit, we perceive that it is 
merely a crust enveloping an axis of an evidently 

• D 












50 


THE OCEAN. 


vegetable character. On placing the Coralline in 
vinegar, or other weak acid, the lime is dissolved, 
leaving the vegetable part coloured as before, which, 
though continuous through its length, is constricted 
at the parts which corresponded to the joints of the 
crust, and looks very much like one of the jointed 
Fuel, It is very common to see the broad base with¬ 
out any jointed branches, for the former attains some 
size before the latter shoot, and may be seen in this 
state on almost every object between the range of 
high and low tide. It first appears as a thin, round, 
shelly patch of a purplish hue, on the shell of a 
Mollusk, or the frond of a Fucus, or the smooth rock, 
and gradually enlarges by additions at the edge, the 
progress of which is marked by concentric zones, 
or rings of a paler tint, till it sometimes attains 
several inches in diameter. It is tenacious of vi¬ 
tality, and when the branches are all torn off by the 
violence of the waves or other accidents, the base 
still lives on, and becomes studded with roundish 
knobs. This base, when growing on a soft calcareous 
rock, will often increase much in thickness, without 
showing any tendency to throw out its jointed 
branches ; or in situations where it is long uncovered 
by the tide, and exposed to the influence of the sun, 
it becomes ‘^a softish, white, leprous crusf Its 
ordinary form, however, is by far the most pleasing, 
particularly when growing, as it delights tc do, on 
the sides of the still, rocky pools already described, 
its bushy tufts gracefully hanging over each other, 
like weeping willows in miniature. Beyond its 
beauty I know not that this little creature has any 


THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


51 


obvious claim to our consideration, except that, in 
common with other sea-plants, it gives out oxygen, 
and thus maintains the element in which it grows in 
a state fit for the support of animal life. But this is 
a service vastly important, and explains why the 
floor of the ocean ” is covered, as it appears to 
be, with such a profusion of vegetable life. And 
here so wisely is the balance kept up between the 
animals which absorb oxygen and the plants which 
evolve it, that, perhaps, the world could not lose a 
single species of either without derangement of the 
existing order, which would be followed by manifest 
inconvenience. Of course our little Coralline cannot 
do much to promote this object; but that it does 
exert some beneficial influence, we have evidence in 
an experiment of Dr. Johnston’s, whose researches on 
these neglected tribes are so interesting. “Was there 
a need,” he observes, “ of adding any additional proof 
of the vegetability of the Corallines, an experiment 
in progress before me would seem to supply it. It is 
now eight weeks ago since I placed in a small glass 
jar, containing about six ounces of pure sea-water, a 
tuft of the living CoralUna officinalis^ to which were 
attached two or three minute Confervce, and the very 
young frond of a green Ulvay while numerous RissocCy 
several little Mussels and Annelides, and a Star-fish, 
were crawling amid the branches. The jar was 
placed on a table, and was seldom disturbed, though 
occasionally looked at; and at the end of four weeks 
the water was found to be still pure, the Mollusca 
and other animals all alive and active, the Confervce 
had grown perceptibly, and the Coralline itself had 

D 2 





52 


THE OCEAN. 


tliroTm out some new shoots, and several additional 
articulations. Eight weeks have now elapsed since 
the experiment was begun,—the water has remained 
unchanged,—yet the Coralline is growing, and appa¬ 
rently has lost none of its ^dtality ; but the animals 
have sensibly decreased in number, though many of 
them continue to be active, and show no dislike to 
their situation. "What can be more conclusive ? I 
need not say that if any animal, or even a sponge, 
had been so confined, the water would long before 
this time have been deprived of its oxygen, would 
have become corrupt and ammoniacal, and poisonous 
to the life of every living thing.” * 

AMio is not familiar with Sponge,—with its soft¬ 
ness, its elasticity, its capacity of absorbing and re¬ 
taining fiuids, and other qualities which render it so 
v^aluable in domestic economy ? And yet how few 
are aware that it is the skeleton of an animal! In 
fact. Sponge is one of those dubious forms which God 
has placed in the great system of Creation, on the 
confines of the two great divisions of organic beiugs, 
apparently having little in common with either. 
Like the Corallines, the Sponges have afforded occa¬ 
sion for much controversy as to their proper position ; 
but they are now pretty unanimously assigned to the 
animal kingdom. The common Sponge of household 
purposes [Spongia officinalis) is a native of the Medi¬ 
terranean, but is much more familiar to us than our 
native species, of which there are many. The ap¬ 
pearance which it presents is that of an irregularly- 
shaped mass, more or less rounded, composed of a 


* British Sponges, p. 215. 





THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


53 


brown woolly substance, perforated by innumerable 
pores in all directions, and having in addition, wide 
canals communicating with each other, and terminat¬ 
ing in round holes or mouths on the surface. But if 
we take a small portion of the substance, and place 
it under a common magnifying lens, we shall see that 
it is composed of shining, horny, nearly-transparent 
fibres, which, by uniting with each other at all angles 
and distances, form a loose and very irregular net¬ 
work. Now, when in a living state, every fibre was 
enclosed in a coating of thin, clear jelly, which 
formed the living animal, the horny fibres consti¬ 
tuting, as I have intimated above, only the skeleton. 
Imbedded in the substance of many species, some 
British ones, for example, are found sjotcula, or 
needle-like bodies resembling crystals, of. pure flint, 
varying much in shape in various kinds, while other 
species have similar crystals of lime. Where these 
occur in considerable numbers, the Sponge does not 
possess elasticity : it may be crushed, but it will not 
regain its original form. It is a singular fact, that 
Sponges of these three different kinds are sometimes 
found growing close to each other, and all alike 
nourished by the same simple fluid, pure sea-water ; 
yet they elaborate therefrom products so different as 
horn, flint, and lime. The animal nature of Sponges 
is not easily to be detected : it has been asserted, 
indeed, that no indication of sensation has ever been 
perceived in them when living, even though violence 
in many modes has been offered to them ; though 
beaten, pinched with hot irons, cut or torn, or sub¬ 
jected to the action of the strongest acids. This, 


54 


THE OOEAJN". 


however, is now known to be incorrect: the existence 
of ciliar}^ action, controllable at varjnng intervals 
has been proved by Dr. Dobie, and more abundantly 
by Mr. Bowerbank; while susceptibility to outward 
assaults, and sudden contractility, have been proved by 
myself to exist in some species. The substance may 
be destroyed, but there is no contraction, nor the 
slightest evidence of feeling ; to all appearance they 
are as passive as the rock on which they grow. One 
proof of their animality, however, is open to any 
one: we are all familiar with a peculiar smell pro¬ 
duced when horn, wool, feathers, &c. are burned; 
this smell arises from the presence of ammonia, and is 
peculiar to animal matter; on burning a bit of 
Sponge this animal odour is strongly perceptible. 
On viewing a living Sponge, however, in water, with 
care and attention, it is found to exhibit a constant 
and energetic action, which sufficiently shows its 
\dtality. Dr. Grant s account of his discovery of this 
motion in a native species is so interesting, that, 
though often quoted, I may be forgiven for repeating 
it here. “I put a small branch of the Spongia 
coalita, with some sea-water, into a watch-glass, 
under the microscope : and on reflecting the light of a 
candle through the fluid, I soon perceived that there 
was some intestine motion in the opaque particles 
floating through the water. On moving the watch- 
glass, so as to bring one of the apertures on the side 
of the Sponge fully into \dew, I beheld, for the first 
time, the splendid spectacle of this living fountain 
vomiting forth from a circular ca\dty an impetuous 
torrent of liquid matter, and hurling along in rapid 



THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


55 


succession, opaque masses, which it strewed every¬ 
where around. The beauty and novelty of such a 
scene in the animal kingdom long arrested my at¬ 
tention ; but after twenty-five minutes of constant 
observation, I was obliged to withdraw my eye, from 
fatigue, without having seen the torrent for one 
instant change its direction, or diminish in the 
slightest degree the rapidity of its course. I con¬ 
tinued to watch the same orifice, at short intervals, 
for five hours, sometimes observing it for a quarter of 
an hour at a time ; but still the stream rolled on 
with a constant and equal velocity.” 

Sponges, in general, appear to have little choice of 
situation, but to grow wherever the young offset or 
gemmule happens to drop, whether on the rock, on a 
shell, or on a sea-weed. If two of the same species, 
growing side by side, come into contact, their edges 
unite, and the two form one mass, so perfectly one 
that the most practised eye could detect no indication 
of the line of union. On the contrary, if the neigh¬ 
bours be of different species, the edges adhere by 
contact, but there is no union; and both of the con¬ 
tiguous edges will grow up far beyond their natural 
level, like walls striving to overtop each other, until 
the action of the waves prevents the continuance of 
a mode of growth so unnatural. Dr. Johnston speaks 
of two species of Sponge, which had become so inter¬ 
mingled in growth, without being united, that, being 
of different colours, they presented the appearance of 
a coloured map. The same writer has figured a much- 
branched species {Halichondria oculatd), grooving on 
the back of a small crab*; the latter has a grotesque 





56 


THE OCEAN. 


appearance crawling under the perpetual shadow of its 
cwn tree, the burden of whose weight, however, was 
probably more than compensated by the protection it 
afforded against enemies. 

A singular little creature, called the Hermit Crab 
[Pagurus), the hinder part of whose body is unpro¬ 
tected, except by a soft skin, is endowed with an 
instinct which prompts it to seek some univalve shell, 
into which it thrusts its abdomen, henceforth using it 
as a house. How there is a species of Sponge found on 
our coast {Halichondria suhered), of a corky substance, 
which grows on the surface of similar shells, over¬ 
spreading and enveloping them; and it so happens 
that in the great majority of instances, if not in all, 
the Sponge is found upon the individual shells in¬ 
habited by the Hermit. Gradually and insensibly 
the Sponge grows over the shell, and at length creeps 
round the edge of the lip, and begins to line the 
inside : the constant motion of the crab, who is very 
active, retards the growth for a while, but eventually 
the Sponge prevails, and the Hermit, finding his 
premises becoming every day more and more con¬ 
tracted, is at length compelled to seek another lodging. 
A proceeding very similar to this, but which the 
Hermit crab finds rather to his advantage than dis- 
comfort, takes place in the growth of a species of 
incrusting Polype called Hydractinia echinata, * This 
Polj^De also very frequently grows on a shell selected 
for a habitation by the little crab ; but as it grows it 
does not line the shell, but becomes moulded, as 

* For a description of this highly curious little Zoophyte, see 
^ Evenings at the Microscope,” p. 402. 





THE SHOEES OF BRITAIN. 


57 

it were, to the form of the enclosed animal, thus in¬ 
creasing the size and commodiousness of the dwell¬ 
ing, and precluding the necessity of quitting the tene¬ 
ment. Mr. Gray remarks on this :—'' One can under¬ 
stand that the Crab may have the instinct to search 
for shells on which the coral has begun to grow ; but 
this will scarcely explain why we never find the coral 
except on shells in which Hermit Crabs have taken 
up their residence.’' 

One of the most pleasing forms that are presented 
by the Sponges, which are exceedingly various, is 
that of a cup with a dilated foot; it is about as large 
as a tea-cup, but is more funnel-shaped, whence its 
name {H, infundibuliformis). A similar species from 
the Indian seas, commonly called Neptune’s Cup, 
though much larger, is inferior to our little goblet in 
neatness of appearance and sponginess of texture. 

Our shores abound with examples of those astonish¬ 
ing forms of animal life, the Polypes, both simple 
and aggregated. The former, under the names of 
Animal-flowers, and Sea-anemones, have attracted 
general admiration from their intrinsic beauty, and 
from their very close resemblance to composite 
^ flowers. AVhen out of water, or reposing, they 
usually take a semi-globular shape, adhering by a 
broad base to the rocks, but some are somewhat 
lengthened and cylindrical. The centre of the upper 
surface is depressed, and there is evidently an aper¬ 
ture which has been closed. When seeking for prey 
this orifice opens, by its edges turning inside out, as 
it were, and dilates, until it is as wide as the base ; 
while from within the outer rim protrude a multitude 

D 3 





58 


THE OCEAN. 


of fleshy organs, called tentacles, arranged in rows ex¬ 
tending all round. In the centre of the expanding 
disk is the real mouth, or opening into the stomach. 
It is these tentacles, which, spreading around exactly 
like the rays of an aster or marigold, give to the 
Pol}^e so striking a likeness to a flower. These 
animals are exceedingly voracious; though, when 
closed, you would think them mere lumps of jelly- 
like flesh, utterly helpless and incapable of any exer¬ 
tion ; yet, when the tentacles are all expanded, no small 
crab, or shrimp, or mussel, can even touch one of them 
with impunity. These are so many hands put forth 
to capture prey, and eminently are they furnished for 
their work. Within the skin of these organs reside 
countless multitudes of microscopically minute cells, 
called cnidce. Each of these is an oblong bladder, 
inclosing in its cavity a kind of wire of great length, 
but closely coiled up. At the will of the animal, oi 
under certain sorts of stimulus, this coiled wire is 
suddenly shot forth, and enters the flesh of the 
animal to be seized. Thousands of these weapons 
are projected at the same instant, and they are 
curiously barbed, so that they cannot be withdrawn 
when once they have penetrated. Besides this, the 
wound is accompanied with the injection of some 
fluid of most fatally poisonous power, so that the 
creature assailed, though apparently of far more 
vigorous strength than its sluggish opponent, almost 
inevitably succumbs, and presently dies. 

Meanwhile, other tentacles have come into contact 
with the prey, and by their contraction it is dragged 
across the disk to the mouth. The circular lip now 





THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


59 


dilates greatly, and soon embraces the victim, which 
is gradually but rapidly sucked down into the stomach, 
and the lip closes over it. In the course of a period 
varying from six hours to two or three days, the 
morsel is returned by the same orifice, more or less 
decomposed and digested. 

Most of the species are capable of very long fasts, 
although voracious enough when food is to be ob¬ 
tained. Dr. Johnston tells us of a specimen once 
brought to him, that might have been originally two 
inches in diameter, and that had somehow contrived 
to swallow a valve of the great Scallop {Pecten 
maximus), of the size of an ordinary saucer. The 
shell, fixed within the stomach, was so placed as to 
divide it completely into two halves, so that the body 
stretched tensely over, had become thin and flattened 
like a pancake. All communication between the in¬ 
ferior portion of the stomach and the mouth was of 
course prevented; yet, instead of emaciating and 
dying of atrophy, the animal had availed itself of what 
undoubtedly had been a very untoward accident, to 
increase its enjoyments and its chances of double 
fare. A new mouth, furnished with two rows of nu¬ 
merous tentacles, was opened upon what had been the 
base, and led to the under-stomach : the individual had 
indeed become a sort of Siamese twin, but with 
greater intimacy and extent in its unions ! * 

Some fifty or sixty species of Sea-anemones 
exist on our shores, many of which are exquisitely 
beautiful. Some are rare or local; others are gene¬ 
rally distributed and are very common. The south- 

* Brit. Zooph. Ed. i., p. 224. 





60 


THE OCEAIT. 


western shores of England and Ireland are particu¬ 
larly rich in these lovely creatures. The most 
common of all is the Beadlet {Actinia mesemhryan- 
themum), which is found sticking to rocks between 
high and low tide, hy scores or hundreds. It varies 
much in colour, but the most common tints are dark- 
red or liver-brown, and olive-green. When out of 
water, and closed, they are delicately smooth, and 
have the appearance of some plump, pulpy fruit; but 
when covered by the sea their tentacles expand, and 
then these organs are seen to be surrounded by a 
series of blue or white beads, like a string of pearls, 
whence the name of Beadlet. 

Another species, almost equally abundant, but 
much more Likely to be overlooked, is the Dahlia 
Wartlet {Tealia crassicornis). It is a good deal larger 
than the former, and like it is very variable in colour. 
The exterior is usually of a dull olive, or deep crim¬ 
son, or apple green streaked with scarlet: the skin is 
rough with warts, which have the power of attaching to 
themselves bits of shell, gravel, &c., which they collect 
in such quantities as to render them undistinguishable 
from the beach; and the concealment is the more 
perfect from the fact that the animal generally chooses 
for its residence the narrow angle between the foot of 
some great mass of rock and the ground near low 
water mark. Sometimes, however, this species is 
seen congregated in groups of half-a-dozen or more 
in a clear dark tide-pool; and then the effect is most 
gorgeous, for, as they are for the most part fully ex¬ 
panded under such circumstances, their magnificent 
great disks, generally of the richest scarlet, with thick 




THE SHOEES OF BEITAIN. 


61 


massive tentacles, often of the purest white, ringed 
and banded with olive or purple, look like some 
splendid flowers in a parterre, and tempt the hand 
to pluck them. 

Very closely allied to the Sea-anemones are the 
Corals. We have two very beautiful species on the 
coasts of north and south Devon—the Cup Coral and 
the Star Coral. These are, in fact. Anemones, with 
this peculiarity: that the flesh has the power of de¬ 
positing a skeleton of stone, which takes the form of 
a circular wall or cup, with a number of upright 
plates running from it towards the centre. In the 
former of these species {CaryophylUa Smithii), the 
upright plates converge regularly; but in the other 
[Balanophyllia regia), they run in threes, forming a 
curious six-rayed star. The colours of both are ex¬ 
quisitely beautiful.* 

Each of the animal-flowers yet mentioned, is a 
distinct and independent animal; but there are 
many which, while they possess a general similarity 
in structure to these, exist only in aggregated com¬ 
munities, produced by the successive putting forth of 
budding polypes from the original individual, which 
remain permanently united, like the branches of a 
tree, or the heads of an old mass of house-leek. Of 
the plated Corals, we have one native species that is 
compound, the Lophohelia prolifera, a fine shrub-like 
one from the Hebrides, but these are chiefly found in 
the tropical seas. The teat-shaped bodies, familiarly 

* For fuller particulars of these beautiful animals, the reader is 
referred to my ‘‘History of the British Sea-Anemones,” with 
coloured figures of all the species. 




62 


THE OCEAN. 


called by the fisbermen Cows’-paps, when simple, 
and Dead-man s toes, when branched, the Alcyonium 
digitatum of zoologists, is a more common example, 
but of another tribe. It consists of a cartilaginous 
mass, capable of contraction, studded with orifices, 
whence project little stars with eight rays, which are 
the expanded tentacles of the small Polypes that 
may be familiarly said to inhabit the hollows. That 
beautiful production, the Eed Coral, with other 
kindred forms, is also a compound Polype. These 
have generally a solid stem, partaking of the nature 
of stone, and branch out in imitation of shrubs. The 
stony or horny centre is, however, clothed with 
gelatinous flesh, in which hollows occur at intervals, 
occupied by minute star-shaped Polypes. The warty 
White Coral {Gorgonia verrucosa), not uncommon on 
some parts of our coast, is of this structure, having a 
stony skeleton ; but in the beautiful Sea-fan {Fla- 
helium Veneris), the skeleton shows more the texture 
of bone, or perhaps of horn: it is black, but is 
clothed with flesh of a yellow colour, or sometimes 
purple. From the ramiflcations being very numerous, 
and uniting with each other at short intervals, like 
the meshes of a net, this species is a very beautiful 
one. Its polypes, as in the other instances, have 
eight tentacles. This is said to have occurred on 
the British shores, but it cannot be considered as a 
native. 

But more singular than either of these is the form 
of a Polypidom, often brought up by fishermen, 
attached to their baits, and by them called Cock’s- 
comb, or rather more appropriately. Sea-pen {Pen- 


THE SHOEES OF BKITAIN. 


63 


natulaphosphorea). It very closely resembles a broad 
feather from two to three inches in length, and of 
a purplish colour. The lower part is cylindrical, 
or nearly so, and represents the quill, and the tip 
of this is tinged with orange. Above this the stem is 
fringed on each side with very regular, flat, dentated 
processes, diminishing gradually to the tip, represent¬ 
ing the vane. Along the upper edge of each of these 
pinnoe. are placed the cells, inhabited by minute. 



Sea-fan {Fldbellum Veneris), and Sea-pen {Pennatula j>hosjphorea). 


white, eight-rayed Polypes. The stem contains a 
long, needle-shaped bone, very slender at each ex¬ 
tremity, which is bent backwards so as to form a 
hook. Some authors have afiirmed that the Sea-pen 
swims freely in the sea by the waving motion of its 
pinnce; but modern observations tend to throw dis¬ 
credit on this statement, which in itself seems im^ 







































64 


THE OCEAN. 


probable : the -fishermen affirm that it abides with 
its stem inserted in the mud at the bottom; and 
those which have been kept for observ^ation have 
remained at the bottom of the vessel, without any 
apparent power of even turning over on the other 
side. This species, as its scientific name imports, is 
one of the many animals that inhabit the sea, which 
are endowed with the faculty of producing light: 
in this instance, it appears from experiments that the 
power is exerted as a means of defence, as only when 
injured or irritated does the animal give out its light, 
which is of a faint-bluish cast. Its sudden illumina¬ 
tion at the bottom of the sea may have the effect of 
terrifying some of its enemies, and of thus protecting 
it from the dangers to which its otherwise helpless 
frame would be exposed. 




THE SHOEES OF BEITAIN. 


CONTINUED. 

There is one aspect in which, if we view the sea, 
it speaks eloquently the beneficence of God to man ; 
namely, as the source from whence he draws an inex¬ 
haustible supply of wholesome and nourishing food. 
And there is no nation more favoured in this respect 
than Great Britain : the seas which surround us are 
stocked with a vast variety of fishes, the great ma¬ 
jority of which are eatable. From the form of our 
coasts, there is always at some part access to the 
sea, the wind which locks up the ports of one coast 
leaving others free : the numerous bays, harbours, 
and inlets offer a refuge to which to run in unfa¬ 
vourable weather, as well as a market for the disposal 
of the produce taken ; while the bold and hardy 
character of our population qualifies them to take 
advantage of a proffered source of profit, though not 
unattended with risk. Accordingly, we find that the 
fisheries afford to this country a revenue of great 
value ; and an immense quantity of cheap animal 
food is produced by them, the importance of which 
can hardly be overrated. The prosperity of Holland 
is notoriously founded upon the zeal, industry, and 
success with which her sons have prosecuted the 
herring-fishery ; a fact wliich is announced in the 
well-known Dutch saying, “The city of Amsterdam 


66 


THE OCEA^^ 


is built upon herring-bones:” and though, from the 
superiority of our internal resoui’ces, we are not 
compelled to give so undmded an attention to the 
scaly tenants of the deep as they have been, we may 
still assert, that on a similar base stand many of our 
important seaport towns. Let us then examine these 
finny tribes, which come so strongly recommended to 
our notice, and see if we cannot discover in their 
formation and economy evidences of that all-per¬ 
vading wisdom and goodness of which we have had 
occasion before to speak. 

An intelligent observer can scarcely fail to be 
struck with the perfect adaptation of fishes for swift 
motion through a dense fluid The form most suited 
for rapid progression is that of a spindle, swelling in 
the middle and tapering to the extremities : and this 
is the general form of fishes. The variations from this 
normal shape are comparatively rare, and consist 
chiefly in the lengthening of the body, as in the Eels, 
or in the widening of its diameter perpendicularly, as 
in the Dory, and the Flat-fishes, or horizontally, as in 
the Skates. But in these cases, and similar ones, the 
exceptions are made to suit variations in habit, for 
the Skates and Flat-fishes are intended not for rapid 
swimming, but for lying flat upon the bottom ; while 
the worm-like form of the Eels enables them to insi¬ 
nuate themselves with facility through the mud and 
ooze, or even to leave the water and crawl upon the 
shore. Still, however, in both, the usual form is to be 
traced, the central part of the body being the vudest 
and the extremities being pointed The facility of 
motion possessed by fishes is partly dependent on 








THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


67 


their simplicity of figure, the absence of those pro¬ 
minent limbs which project from the bodies of most 
other vertebrate animals; the head, without any 
visible neck, merging into the rounded body, which 
terminates in the tail in an almost unbroken outline, 
for the fins are usually so slight and membranous in 
their texture as scarcely to diminish this unity of 
form. The smooth and glittering armour in which 
these animals are for the most part invested, tends to 
the same end. Feathers or fur would greatly impede 
progress through water; and as the tribes of fishes 
are what is commonly called cold-blooded, or of 
nearly the same temperature as the fluid that sur¬ 
rounds them, those non-conductors of heat would be 
of no service, the animal heat necessary for existence 
not being liable to be abstracted. In place of those 
clothing substances, the fish’s body is encased in a 
coat of mail formed of many pieces of similar shape, 
of a transparent horny substance, which are imbedded 
in the skin on the side next the head, and overlap 
the succeeding ones at the posterior edge, like the 
tiles of a house. It is obvious how beautifully and 
effectually this formation precludes any impediment 
in swimming, arising from the free edges of the scales. 
These are so closely pressed on each other, that the 
water cannot penetrate, and are covered, moreover, 
in many fishes, with a glutinous slime, which water 
does not dissolve. The scales of fishes afford objects 
of very beautiful structure when viewed with a 
raicroscope. They are various in their form; those 
from different parts of the body not being quite alike 
even in the same fish. They are not perfectly flat, 





68 


THE OCEAN. 


but take the form of a very flattened cone, of which 
the apex is usually a little behind the middle. 
Between this point and the edge there is a great 
number of concentric flutings, too fine, as well as too 
near each other, to be readily counted ; and it is 
presumed that each of these lines indicates a stage in 
the growth of the scale; that the scale is increased, 
perhaps annually, or perhaps oftener, by a deposit 
of horny matter on the surface next the skin, each 
of which deposits exceeds in diameter that which 



Scales of Fishes. 


preceded it, by a very minute amount on every side. 
The concentric lines are often traversed by other 
lines, diverging with great regularity from the apex. 
The edges are sometimes cut into points, scallops, 
or waves, of exquisite symmetry; the surface is often 
variously sculptured; and the whole presents a 
specimen of the most elaborate workmanship, worthy 
of the Divine hand that formed it. The scales of 
some fishes are so minute as to be with difficulty 











THE SHOEES OF BRITAIN. 


69 


clistinguisliable ; such as those of the Eel: to procure 

these for microscopical examination, take a piece of 

the skin of the Eel that grows on the side, and while 

it is moist spread it on a piece of glass, that it may 

dry very smooth; when thus dried, the surface will 

appear all over dimpled or pitted by the scales, which 

lie under a sort of cuticle, or thin skin : this skin 

may be raised with the sharp point of a penknife, 

% 

together with the scales, which will then easily slip 
out, and thus you may procure as many as you 
please.” ^ 

The limbs of fishes differ greatly in appearance 
from those of terrestrial animals; consisting, as to 
the portion external to the body, of slender spines, 
sometimes cartilaginous and jointed, at others bony 
and simple, united by means of a thin membrane 
stretched from one to the other. Generally there 
are two pairs on the under part of the body, which 
are called the pectoral and the ventral fins, and 
represent respectively the fore and hind legs of 
quadrupeds, or the wings and feet of a bird. Besides 
these, there are one or more perpendicular fins along 
the back, called the dorsal, and one below the body, 
near the tail, called the anal; but the main instru¬ 
ment of motion is the broad, perpendicular fin, which 
terminates the body, often called the tad, but, more 
correctly, the caudal or tail fin. To rightly under¬ 
stand the motions of a fish, we must bear in mind 
that it is immersed in a fiuid which is of little less 
specific gravity than its own body; but in order to 
regulate, its own weight, it is in general provided with 

* JUartin’s Micro£ 3 *aphia Nova, p. 29. 


70 


TEE OCEA2S. 


an internal bladder filled ^tb air, and famished 
with mnscles for its compression or expansion; by 
the former process rendering its body heavier, and by 
the latter lighter than the water. It is true there are 
many fishes which are destitute of the air-bladder; 
but these are, for the most part, ground fishes, which 
reside habitually upon the bottom, rarely swimming 
to any distance. The tail, as was observ^ed, is the 
grand organ of progression ; and most of the muscles 
of the body are so inserted upon the joints of the 
spine as to give the greatest possible energy to the 
motions of this organ. Its expansion is vertical, and 
its motion is only horizontal from right to left: so 
that, striking the water on either side with great force, 
the fish shoots rapidly forward in the direction of 
the line of the body, but cannot, by its means, ascend 
or descend. The direction of a fish’s motion is 
governed by the pectoral and ventral fins, which aid, 
likewise, in balancing the body, and obviate the 
tendency to turn belly uppermost, a position which 
a dead fish assumes, from the weight of the muscular 
back being superior to that of the hollow and air- 
filled beUy. There is considerable diversity in the 
depth of water which different species of fishes habit¬ 
ually inhabit; and this depends, in a great measure, 
on the position of the ventral fins. Such as mainly 
reside at or near the surface have them so placed 
that the centre of the body shall fall nearly midway 
between them and the pectorals. Those whose habits 
lead them to range to great distances without any 
material change in their depth of water, have the 
ventral fins placed far back on the belly, as the 





THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


71 


Herring and the Salmon ; while those which feed at 
the bottom in deep water, but yet have considerable 
power of swimming, such as the Cod, require the 
ventrals to be situated near the head, sometimes even 
in advance of the pectorals, in order to act with 
rapidity and effect upon the fore part of the body, 
which is usually heavy in such fishes. The Flat-fishes 
and Skates, in which the ventrals are little developed, 
and the Eels, in which they are wanting, rarely quit 
the ground, but grovel on the mud in shallow water. 
Many fishes have certain spines of the fins developed 
into stiff and formidable weapons, and others have 
equally effective armour placed upon the gill-covers, 
the sides of the body, or the tail. With these, which 
are usually jointed, and which the fish has the power 
of erecting stiffly, and of directing with considerable 
-precision, it sometimes inflicts severe wounds on the 
incautious fisherman, as well as on its opponent in 
the battles with its own kind, which often occur. 
The little Stickleback {Gasterosteus), which abounds 
all round the coast, as well as in our fresh waters, is 
armed with sharp spines on the back and sides, which 
it wields like a perfect tyrant. ‘‘ ^Vhen a few are 
first turned into a tub of water, they swim about in 
a shoal, apparently exploring their new habitation. 
Suddenly one will take possession of a particular 
corner of the tub, or, as it will sometimes happen, of 
the bottom, and will instantly commence an attack 
upon his companions ; and if any one of them ven¬ 
tures to oppose his sway, a regular and most furious 
battle ensues; the two combatants swim round and 
round each other with the greatest rapidity, biting, 





THE OCEAN. 


72 

and endeavouring to pierce each other with theii 
spines, which on these occasions are projected. I 
have witnessed a battle of this sort which lasted 
several minutes before either would give way; and 
when one does submit, imagination can hardly con¬ 
ceive the vindictive fury of the conqueror; who, in 
the most persevering and unrelenting way, chases his 
rival from one part of the tub to another, until fairly 
exhausted with fatigue. They also use their spines 
with such fatal effect, that, incredible as it may 
appear, I have seen one during a battle absolutely 
rip his opponent quite open, so that he sank to the 
bottom, and died. I have occasionally known three 
or four parts of the tub taken possession of by as 
many other little tyrants, who guard their territories 
with the strictest vigilance, and the slightest invasion 
invariably brings on a battle.” * The Sting-rays 
(Trygon), which are furnished with a hard and sharp 
spine with toothed edges, near the base of the tail, are 
accustomed to twist their long and flexible tail around 
their enemy, while they inflict severe wounds with 
the barbed spine. The Common Skates [Eaia), on 
the other hand, which have the tail studded with rows 
of curved horny thorns, when irritated, are said to 
bend the body nearly into a circle, and to dash about 
the armed tail with violence in all directions. 

The goodness of God is manifest in the gregarious 
habits of most of those Ashes which constitute an 
important article of human food, in the innumerable 
individuals of which the shoals are composed, and 
in the fecundity by which the populousness of these 

* Mag. Nat. Hist. iiL 329. 





THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


73 


shoals are maintained. Nine millions of eggs have 
been ascertained to exist in the roe of a single Cod, 
and the hosts of this, and other species, which during 
the fishing-season crowd our shores, are utterly beyond 
human calculation. These swarms were formerly 
believed to perform vast annual migrations in military 
order from the Polar regions in spring, and back 
again to their homes beneath the icein the autumn. 
The groundlessness, and even absurdity of this notion 
has been shown, and it is now generally known, that 
the fishes are at no part of the year more than a few 
miles distant from the coast, but that on the approach 
of warm weather an unerring instinct teaches them, 
as by a common impulse, to seek the shallows near 
the shore, in order to deposit their spawn within the 
vivifying influence of the summer sun. This grand 
business of life being accomplished, they again retire, 
not to the Arctic ice, but to the deep water of the 
offing, where they may again rove in freedom and 
conscious security. And this is an admirable ordi¬ 
nation of Divine Providence, that these tribe are 
thus periodically brought within the reach of man 
precisely at the season when they are in the highest 
condition, and therefore most wholesome, as well as 
most agi’eeable. For they come from the deep water 
fat, and in full health and vigour ; but after having 
spawned they return sickly and poor, to recruit their 
exhausted strength. 

The herring famOy [Clupeadce), including the com¬ 
mon Herring, the Pilchard, the Sprat, the Shad, &c., 
are the most important objects of our fisheries, and 

particularly the first-named two species. 

E 








74 


THE OCEA^^ 


The fishen^ for the Pilchard is carried on almost 
%/ 

exclusively in the counties of Cornwall and Devon ; 
the Hendng is more generally diffused, hut the 
greatest numbers taken are on the shores of Scotland 
and the adjacent islands. Some idea of the com¬ 
mercial importance of these two animals may be 
formed from the facts, that between three and four 
hundred thousand barrels of Herrings are sometimes 

O 

cured in a single year in Great Britain alone, besides 
all that are sold while fresh; and that ten thousand 
hogsheads of Pilchards have been taken on shore in 
one port in a single day, “thus providing,” says 
ilr. Yarrell, “ the enormous multitude of twenty-five 
millions of li^dng creatures drawn at once from the 
ocean for human sustenance. The shoals of Herrings 
are occasionally known to approach the shore with so 
headlong an impetuosity as to be unable to regain 
deep water, and are stranded upon the beach in im¬ 
mense numbers. Mr. Mudie has described such an 
incident. “ The rocky promontory at the east end of 
the county of Fife, off which there lies an extensive 
reef or rock, sometimes has that effect, and there 
have been seas [seasons ?j in which, when the difl&cul- 
ties of the place were augmented by a strong wind at 
south-east, that carried breakers upon the reef, and a 
heavy surf along the shore, the beach for many miles 
has been covered with a bank of Herrings several 
feet in depth, which, if taken and salted when first 
left by the tide, would have been worth many 
thousands of pounds, but which, as there was not a 
sufficient supply of salt in the neighbourhood, were 
allowed to remain putrefying on the beach until the 






THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 75 

farmers found leisure to cart them away as manure. 
One of these strandings took place in and around the 
harbour of the small town of Grail only a few years 
ago. The water appeared at first so full of Herrings 
that half a dozen could be taken by one dip of a 
basket. Numbers of people thronged to the water’s 
edge, and fished with great success ; and the public 
crier was sent through the town to proclaim that 
‘ caller herrin,’ that is, Herrings fresh out of the sea, 
might be had at the rate of forty a penny. As the 
water rose the fish accumulated, till numbers were 
stunned, and the rising tide was bordered with fish, 
with which baskets could be filled in an instant. The 
crier was, upon this, instructed to alter his note, and 
the people were invited to repair to the shore, and 
get Herrings at one shilling a cart-load. But every 
successive wave of the flood added to the mass of 
fish, and brought it nearer to the land, which caused 
a fresh invitation to whoever might be inclined to 
come and take what Herrings they chose, gratis. The 
fish still continued to accumulate till the height of 
the flood, and when the water began to ebb, they re¬ 
mained on the beach. It was rather early in the 
season, so that warm weather might be expected ; 
and the effluvia of many putrid fish might occasion 
disease ; therefore the corporation offered a reward 
of one shilling to eveiy one who would remove a full 
cart-load of Herrings from that part of the shore 
which was under their jurisdiction. The fish being 
immediately from the deep water, were in the highest 
condition, and barely dead. All the salt from the 

town and neighbourhood was instantly put in roqui- 

E 2 


TjIE ocean. 


76 

sition, but it did not suffice for the thousandth paid of 
the mass, a great proportion of which, notwithstanding 
some not very successful attempts to carry off a few 
sloop-loads in bulk, was lost.” * 

The Herring appears on our shores in the middle 
of summer, but seems to approach the coast of Scot¬ 
land earlier ; for in Sutherland the fishery commences 
in June, and in Cromarty even so early as May, 
while the Yarmouth season rarely begins till Septem¬ 
ber. They are taken chiefiy by means of drift-nets, 
and by far the majority are cured : in the first part of 
the season, however, they are often so rich as to be 
unfit for salting, and these are sold for consumption 
while fresh. About the month of November the 
shoals spawn, and are then unfit for eating, and the 
fishery ceases. As is universally known, there are 
two modes of curing this fish, producing what are 
called white and red herrings. The former requiring 
only to be placed in barrels with salt, the process can 
be performed in the fishing-craft; consequently the 
vessels for this fishery are larger, being qualified to 
keep the sea. Eed herrings, however, require a much 
more elaborate process, which cannot be performed 
on board, and the procuring of them is essentially a 
shore fishery. The Yarmouth men confine themselves 
to this branch. They sprinkle the fish with salt, and 
lay them in a heap on a stone or brick fioor, where 
they remain about six days ; they are then washed, 
and spitted one by one on long wooden rods, which 
pass through the gills ; great care is required that 

they may not touch each other as they hang ; the 

♦ Brit. Naturalist. 




THE SHOEES OF BEITAIN. 


77 



YARMOUTH JETTY, IN THE HERRING FISHERY. 


rods are tlien suspended on ledges, tier above tier, 
from tlie top of the house to within eight feet of the 
ground ; a fire is then kindled and fed with green 
wood, chiefly oak or beech, and maintained with 
occasional intermissions, for about three weeks, or, if 
tlie fish are intended for exportation, a month ; the 
fire is then extinguished, and the house allowed to 
cool, and in a few days the herrings are barrelled. 

Next in importance to the members of the above 
valuable family, is the Mackerel, the most elegantly 
beautiful of the finny tribes that throng our shores. 
It is in season earlier than the Herring, usually 
appearing in spring, and the fishery is prosecuted in 




























78 


THE OCEAN. 


May and June, as in the latter month it spawns. It 
occurs in most abundance in the southern part of the 
kingdom, the coasts of Kent and Sussex being the 
chief stations of the fishery. The Mackerel is taken 
principally by nets, which are so set as to arrest the 
fish while roving about during the night; many, how¬ 
ever, are taken by means of the hook, the favourite 
bait being a strip of flesh cut from the tail of a 
fresh Mackerel, or, in default thereof, a bit of red 
cloth ; the fish bite most readily when the boat is 
sailing rapidly before the wind. The value of this 
fish depends, in a more than common degree, on its 
freshness ; and hence it is important that no time be 
lost in conveying it to market. Fast-sailing boats 
are therefore kept in readiness to convey the cargoes 
to London as soon as caught, which usually find it 
advantageous to secure the aid of steam in ascending 
the river, as the loss of a single tide may diminish 
the value of the cargo one half, or even render it 
utterly unsaleable. During the season, not less than 
one hundred thousand are thus brought to Billings¬ 
gate per week. 

The preceding species coming in swarming shoals 
into the shallow waters are usually taken by nets : 
but the Cod, another very valuable fish having dif¬ 
ferent habits, is taken singly, by hook and line. It 
does not appear that the Cod is gregarious from 
choice; or in any other sense than that of many 
individuals independently actuated by a similar mo¬ 
tive, flocking to any place where food is plentiful. 
The Cod rarely comes into the shallows ; but haunts 
the deep water, feeding at the rocky bottom, on 


THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


79 



marine worms, Crustacea, and shelled mollusca. It 
is a voracious fish. Mr. Couch records having taken 
thirty-five crabs, none of them less than a half-crown 
piece, from the stomach of a single Cod: his greedi¬ 
ness is often his own destruction and the fisherman’s 
advantage, for it induces him readily to seize the bait. 
It is most abundant on the north and west coasts 
of Scotland, but is taken in considerable plenty all 
round the coasts of our island. In some of the 
Hebrides there are large pools for the preservation of 
sea-fishes, hollowed out of the solid rock, and com¬ 
municating with the sea by narrow clefts at high tide. 
Great numbers of Cod-fishes are kept in these vivaria, 
and are fed with various garbage, or the bodies of 
other fishes. The stock is replenished by casting in 








80 


THE OCEAN. 


such individuals as are but slightly injured* by the 
hook in fishing, while small ones, or such as are 
lacerated, are thrown into the same receptacle, as food 
for their more fortunate brethren. There are two 
modes of capturing the Cod with the hook, the one is 
with what are called in Cornwall bulters, which are 
long lines, to which are attached, at regular distances, 
other lines six feet in length, each bearing a hook; 
the intervals are twice the length of the small lines, 
to prevent their intertwining; these are shot across 
the course of the tide. The other mode is by hand¬ 
lines, of which each fisherman holds two, one in each 
hand, and each line bears two hooks at its extremity, 
which are kept apart by a stout wire going from one 
to the other. A heavy leaden weight is attached 
near the hooks, and thus the fisherman feels when his 
bait is off the ground. He continually jerks them up 
and down, and is thus aware of a fish the moment it 
is secured. Although this seems a somewhat tedious 
process of fishing compared with the immense 
draughts of the net, it is found in skilful hands to be 
productive: eight men on the Doggerbank have 
taken eighty score of Cod in a day. It is a heavy 
fish: Pennant records one which weighed 78 lbs., 
but this was a giant; it was sold at Scarborough for 
one shilling! The fish are brought to the mouth of 
the Thames in stout cutters, furnished with wells, in 
which they remain alive ; hence they are sent up in 
portions to Billingsgate by the night-tide. The cutters 
lie at Gravesend; for if they were to advance any 
higher up the river, the admixture of fresh water 
would kill the fish in the wells. The hver of the Cod 


THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


81 


is not the least valuable part of its body, because it 
melts almost entirely away into a clear oil, much used 
in manufactures, and, of late years, in the medical 
treatment of pulmonary diseases. 

There is a family of fishes familiar to us, which are 
worthy of a moment’s notice, not only on account of 
their importance as objects of commercial speculation, 
but for their singular and unparalleled deviation 
from the ordinary structure. These are the Flat¬ 
fishes {Pleuronectidc^, comprising the Turbot, Plaice, 
Sole, and some others. Their form is very deep, but 
at the same time very thin, and they are not consti¬ 
tuted to swim as other fishes do, with the back upper¬ 
most, but lying on one side. They reside wholly 
upon the bottom, shuffling along by waving their 
flattened bodies, fringed with the dorsal and anal fins ; 
and as they are somewhat sluggish in them move¬ 
ments, they need concealment from enemies. This 
is afforded to them by the side which is uppermost 
being of a dusky brown hue, undistinguishable from 
the mud on which they rest; and so conscious are 
they where their safety lies, that when alarmed, they 
do not seek to escape by flight, like other fishes, but 
sink down close to the bottom, and lie perfectly 
motionless. Even the practised eye of the turbot- 
fisher, with his powers sharpened by interest, fails to 
detect a fish when thus concealed ; and he is obliged 
to have recourse to another sense, tracing lines upon 
the mud with an iron-pointed pole, that tlie touch 
may discover the latent fish. In the structure of the 
head, again, there is a peculiar and very remarkable 

provision for the wants of the creature. If the eyes 

E 3 


82 


THE OCEAN 


were placed, as in all other animals, one on each side 
of the head, it is plain that the Flat-fishes, habitually 
grovelling in the manner described, would be deprived 
of the sight of one eye, which being always buried 
in the mud, would be quite useless. To meet this 
difficulty the spine is distorted, taking, near the head, 
a sudden twist to one side ; and thus the two eyes 



TURBOT-BOAT OFF SCARBOROUGH. 


are placed on the side which is kept uppermost where 
both are available. The inferior side of a Flat-fish 
is always white. The Turbot is the most highly 
esteemed of this family, and perhaps of all our fishes, 
the flesh being of very delicate flavour. The Sole is 
also a valuable fish. Both of these species are taken 
chiefly by trawl-nets, but the former is also caught 
with the hook. 

















THE SHOEES OF BRITAIN. 


83 


The Crustaceous and Testaceous classes afford em¬ 
ployment to a considerable number of our population, 
and demand our brief attention. Of the former, the 
chief species selected for food in this country are, the 
Crab, the Lobster, the Prawn, and the Shrimp. Both 
our salt and fresh waters, however, contain multitudes 
of other species, some of which are exceedingly curious 
in structure and form. The Crustacea, like insects, 
have no internal skeleton ; but instead of it, are 
encased in a jointed framework, resembling the plate 
armour of our forefathers, of a texture between shell 
and bone. The muscles which move the body are 
attached to the interior of this crust, as our muscles 
are attached to the bones. The body consists mainly 
of two parts ; the fore-division contains the head and 
chest, covered with a large single plate, and the 
hinder, the belly covered with several smaller plates, 
joined by a tough skin, and lapping over each other. 
As this shelly covering is possessed by the animal 
from its very birth, it is natural to inquire how it can 
possibly increase in size, seeing it is enclosed in an 
unyielding prison. In the Tortoises, which are some¬ 
what similarly encased, the difficulty is met by a 
periodical addition to the anterior surface of every 
plate a little wider in diameter than the one before, 
thus enlarging the capacity of the aggregated plates, 
together with the enlargement of each plate ; and 
tills, as I have already observed, is the mode by which 
the scales of a fish grow. But from the shape and 
size of the plates on a Crab or a Lobster, and espe¬ 
cially of the great one that envelops the chest, this 
mode of growth would not answer the purposa 



THE OCEA^". 


S4: 

Another contrivance is resorted to, of a character 
perfectly unique ; one of those contrivances that meet 
us at every turn in the study of Xature, and that 
make it so interesting and instructive, as manifesting 
the infinite resources of the Mighty God. "When the 
Crustacean finds that from its increasing size it is 
bound and pressed by its shelly covering, it retires 
to some hole or cranny for protection, becomes sickly, 
and refuses to eat. After pining awhile, the softer 
parts separate from the inside of the crust, even the 
muscles becoming detached from the skeleton, and 
take up a much smaller bulk than before : a thick 
skin forms over this soft body, replacing the crust, 
and then the great shield of the chest is thrown off 
unbroken, and the other plates of the body follow. 
This seems plain : but it is not so easy to understand 
how the process is completed. Every one who has 
looked at a Crab’s claw, knows that in a healthy 
animal it is filled with flesh, that the inside is capa¬ 
cious, but that the joints are very small: now, how is 
the animal to get its flesh freed from this capacious 
boot ? One would readily say, by splitting it into 
two portions ; but on examining the cast-off claws, 
which are frequently met wuth, no split or separation 
can be discovered. Only recently has the question 
been satisfactorily solved; but, from some observa¬ 
tions of my own, I have reason to believe that 
through the wasting away of the limbs from sickness 
and fasting, they become so diminished in size as to 
be drawn even through the narrow orifices of the 
joints. Every part of the old shell being thus throvm 
off, antennae, eyes, jaws, and all, the animal fills its 





THE SHOKES OF BRITAIN. 


85 


body with water, dilating all the parts to a size much 
exceeding that of the old shel-1, which the new skin, 
yet soft and flexible, readily permits. It is necessary 
that this inflation of the body should take place when 
newly freed, because the skin immediately begins to 
grow rigid, by lime being deposited in its substance 
secreted within the body, and rapidly takes the 
texture and consistence of the shell just rejected. 
The appetite now returns, and abundance of food soon 
restores the enlarged animal to its wonted vigour. 

The Crabs, of which there are many species, have 
the shield of the chest very large and flat, and usually 
wider than long : the plates of the belly are small, 
and folded under the body out of sight. The great 
pincers or claws have considerable muscular power, 
and are covered, especially at the extremities, with a 
shell of almost stony hardness. The Crab wields 
these formidable weapons with much dexterity, and 
if he obtains a grasp, holds his opponent with perse¬ 
vering tenacity, so that he is not to be despised in 
single combat. Mr. Mudie tells an amusing anec¬ 
dote illustrative of this habit. '‘We remember,” 
says he, " an instance in which, but for timely assist¬ 
ance, the corporation of a royal borough would have 
been deprived of its head, through the retentive 
clutching of a Crab. The borough alluded to is 
situated on a rocky part of the coast, where shell-fish 
are so very abundant that they are hardly regarded 
for any other purpose than as bait for the white 
fishery. The official personage was a man of leisure ; 
and one favourite way of filling up that leisure was 
the capture of Crabs, which, after much care, he had 


86 


THE OCEAX. 


learned to do by catching them in the holes of the 
rocks, so adroitly, as to avoid their formidable pincers. 
One day he had stretched himself on the top of a 
rock, and thrusting his arm into a cre\dce below, got 
hold of a very large Crab ; so large, indeed, that he 
was unable to get it out in the position in which it 
had been taken. Shifting his position in order to 
accommodate the posture of his prey to the size of the 
aperture, he slipped his hold of the Crab, which im¬ 
mediately made reprisals by catching him by the 
thumb, and squeezing with so much violence, that he 
roared aloud. But though there be a vulgar opinion, 
of course an unfounded one, that Lobsters are apt to 
cast their claws, through fear, at the sound of thunder 
or of great guns, the thundering and shouting of the 
corporation man had no such effect upon the Crab. 
He would gladly have left it to enjoy its hole ; but it 
would not quit him, but held him as firmly as if he 
had been in a vice ; and though he rattled it as^ainst 
the rocks with all the power that he could exert, 
which, pinched as he was by the thumb, was not 
great, yet he was unable to get out of its clutches. 
But, ^ tide waits for no man,’ even though his thumb 
should be in a Crab’s claw ; and so the flood returned, 
until the greater part of the arm was in water, and 
the ripple even beginning to mount to the top of the 
rock, which, as the tides were high at that particulai 
time, was speedily to be at least a fathom under 
water . and destruction seemed inevitable. A towns¬ 
man, who had been following the same fishery with 
an iron hook at the end of a stick, fortunately came 
in sight; and by introducing that, and detaching the 




THE SHOKES OF BRITAIN 


87 


other pincer of the Crab, which is one of the common 
means of making it let go its hold, he restored the 
official personage to land and life.”* 

The fisherman, however, prefers another mode of 
taking Crabs, than by seeking them in their rocky 
retreats. He uses pots made of wicker-work, with 
an opening in the top, made by the ends of the rods, 
bent inwards, and converging towards a point; their 
elasticity allowing a Crab to enter readily enough, 



CRAE-POTS. 

but causing them to spring back to their first posh 
tion when he is in, presenting only their converged 
points when he wishes to escape ; the entrance being 
in the top of the pot, moreover, he cannot well get at 
it when once inside. Some decaying animal matter 
is put in by way of bait, which is an unfailing temp- 

* Brit. Naturalist, i. 279. 



































88 


THE OCEAIs’. 


tation to the Crab’s palate, and the pot is sunk in 
deep water by means of a heavy stone. A line 
attached to a float on the surface of the water, marks 
the situation of each pot, and prevents mistakes as 
to property. 

The Lobster is caught in the same manner as the 
Crab, and both are in great demand for the delicacy 
of their flesh. A very large proportion of those 
eaten in England are brought from Norway. At flrst 
there does not seem much in common in the form of 
these two animals, except that both are furnished 
with pincers ; but on examination, we shall And that 
. both are constructed on the same model. The sliield 
of the chest which was broad and flat in the Crab, is 
long and arched in the Lobster ; and the belly, which 
was thin, small, and folded out of sight, under the 
body, is in the latter much larger, and though bent, 
may be extended, and is terminated by fringed horny 
plates like a fin : the antennae, or horn-like processes 
of the head, are very long. Thus we perceive, and 
there are many other examples which might be ad¬ 
duced, that it has pleased God to vary the forms of 
created beings, not by making each on a separate and 
independent plan, but by creating certain forms, 
which are viewed as types or models, and vaiying the 
parts, common to many species, in detail. The one 
mode would have been as easy as the other ; there 
can be no gradations of facility in creation to Omni¬ 
potence ; but doubtless He had wise ends in view in 
thus proceeding, though we may fail, from ignorance, 
in discerning them. Probably one reason may have 
been the formation of one harmonious whole out of 


THE SHORES OF BRITAIN 


89 


the multitude of living creatures, which could not 
have been formed had every one been essentially 
different from all others. But, as it is, we see that 
deviations in structure and form are gradual, that 
one species varies but little from a certain type, 
another varies a little more, and so on ; thus connect 



ing each with each in a most beautiful order, some¬ 
thing like the manner in which the links of a chain 
hang from each other, or perhaps still more, like an 
immense number of circles, so arranged as to touch 
other circles in many parts of their circumference. 
Goldsmith flippantly asserts, that the Shrimp and 
the Prawn seem to be the first attempts which 






































































90 


THE oceans". 


Nature made when she meditated the formation of 
the Lobster.’' Such expressions as these, however, 
are no less unphilosophical than they are derogatory 
to God’s honour ; these animals being in an equal 
degree perfect in their kind, equally formed by con¬ 
summate wisdom, incapable of improvement, each 
filling its own peculiar place in its own circle, which 
the others could not fill. 

The Shrimp and Prawn, like the Lobster, have the 
extremity of the body furnished with broad overlap¬ 
ping plates, strongly fringed, which, expanding in 
the shape of a fan, constitute a powerful fin. The 
body, a little behind the middle, has a remarkable 
bend downwards, though it may be brought nearly 
straight. Their motion when swimming is very 
swift, and in a backward direction, and is performed 
by striking the water forcibly with the tail-fin, the 
body being in a bent position. ^The Lobster is said 
to project itself thus, by a single impulse, upwards 
of thirty feet, and to dart through the water with 
the fieetness of a bird upon the wing. The Shrimp 
frequents the shallows, and congregates in numerous 
shoals, which often leap from the surface. The 
capture of them is usually left to the children of the 
fishermen, who, wading in the shoal water, with a 
net fixed at the end of a pole, take them with much 
ease. 

Under the appellation of Shell-^^A are familiarly 
included animals having little connexion with each 
other, and still less with fishes. The Fish, the Crab, 
and the Oyster belong, in fact, to three of the grand 
sections into which the animal kingdom is distri- 



THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


91 


bated ; and though the last two agree in being in¬ 
vested with what is, in common parlance, called ‘‘a 
shell,” yet the crust of the one bears no analogy in 
form, structure, or composition, to the shell of the 
other. Again : those animals which, like the Oyster, 
are covered with true calcareous shells, differ greatly 
from each other: some, as the Periwinkle and the 
Whelk, being animals of much higher grade in the 
scale of development than others, as the Oyster or 
Scallop. The former crawl with ease on a broad 
fleshy disk, as we have all seen in the case of the 
garden Snail, an animal closely allied to them ; they 
have a distinct head, with tentacles, jaws, and often 
with eyes ; but the latter have no power of crawling, 
being, for the most part, confined to one spot, no 
head, and no jaws, but are shut up within their two 
shells, which can be opened only to a small extent 
during the life of the animal. Yet we must not for 
a moment suppose that these creatures are unhappy, 
or that the meanest occupant even of a bivalve shell 
is not supplied with everything that could conduce to 
its weKare. It is sin alone that is the source of 
unhappiness. I wiU just point out one or two p)ar- 
ticulars in which the Divine care for these creatures 
is manifest. All of them have the vital parts of the 
body protected by a thick fleshy coat, somewhat pro¬ 
jecting at the edges, called the mantle : the surface 
of this organ has the power of forming the shell, by 
depositing stony matter in a sort of glutinous cement, 
which soon hardens into a thin layer of shell. If a 
little piece were broken off the edge of the shell of 
a Whelk, when alive, the animal would press the 


92 


THE OCEAN. 


surface of the mantle against the fracture, and pass it 
several times over the place ; a very thin transparent 
film would then be seen to fill up the space, which iu 
the same way it would increase in thickness, until in 
a few days we could scarcely distinguish the renewed 
part from the other, or tell that the shell had been 
broken, except, perhaps, by a slight variation in 
colour. As the animal grows, it wants a larger shell; 
and the mantle affords the means of increasing its 
size : the front edge of this organ is thicker than the 
rest, and is called the collar ; and it is by thrusting 
this round the edge of the shell, wliile stony matter is 
poured out from its surface, that an addition is made 
to it. In the Bivalves, or those whose shells open 
and shut like the covers of a book, as the Oyster, the 
mantle is twofold, covering the body on each side, 
just within each shell. Instead of a collar, each leaf 
of the mantle is here fringed with a series of glands 
which secrete the exterior part of the shell, by being 
thrust out round the edge; while the whole surface 
of the mantle deposits the beautiful, rainbow-tinted, 
pearly substance with which the interior is coated. 

Instead of the fleshy belly on wliich the Univalves 
glide along, the Bivalves are furnished with a pecu¬ 
liar organ, which in some species serves the purpose 
of motion. The Oyster, however, and some other 
species, have no power of changing their position ; 
but are, as it were, cemented to the rock on which 
the spawn first chanced to fall. The Jlussel, again, 
is fastened, but in a different manner, being moored 
by a cable of silken threads, which it spins from its 
own body. But the Cockle, which is eaten by the 


THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


93 


poor on many of onr shores, is enabled to move with 
considerable rapidity by means of the organ to which 
I have just alluded. It is somewhat like a tongue, 
and can assume a great variety of shapes. The 
Cockle burrows in the mud ; having lengthened and 
stiffened its tongue or foot, it pushes it as far as it 
can reach into the mud ; then bending the tip into a 
hook, it forcibly contracts it, and thus brings its 
body, shell and all, into the hole. The Eazor-shell, 
a shell common on sandy beaches, of a long narrow 
form, has this power still more remarkably deve¬ 
loped. 

Many of the islands which stud the sea around the 
north and west coasts of Scotland are remarkable for 
the stern grandeur of their precipitous cliffs. One 
might almost imagine that the surges of the mighty 
Atlantic, dashing against them for ages with un¬ 
broken fury, had undermined their solid foundations, 
and worn for themselves numerous passages, leaving 
only columnar rocks of vast height, detached from 
one another, though of similar formation and con¬ 
struction. Such a rock is the Holm of Hoss, appa¬ 
rently severed from the Isle of Noss, from which it 
is about a hundred feet distant; but the cliffs are 
of stupendous height, and far below, in the narrow 
gorge, the raging sea boils and foams, so that the 
beholder can scarcely look downward without horror. 
But stern necessity impels men to enterprises, from 
which the boldest would otherwise shrink : to obtain 
a scanty supply of coarse food for himself and family 
the hardy inhabitant of the Orkneys dares even the 
terrors of the Holm of Hoss. In a small boat, with 


94 


THE OCEAy. 


a companion or two, he seeks the base of the cliff; 
and leaving them below, he fearlessly climbs the pre¬ 
cipice, and gains the summit. A thin stratum of 
earth is found on the top, into which he drives some 
strong stakes ; and having descended and performed 
the same operation on the opposite cliff, he stretches 
a rope from one to the other, and tightly fastens it. 
On this rope a sort of basket, called a cradle, is 
made to traverse, and the adventurous islander now 
commits himself to the frail car, and suspended 
between sea and sky, hauls himself backward and 
forward by means of a line. And do you ask what 
prize can tempt man to incur such fearful hazard, 
lavish of his life ? It is the eggs and young of a sea¬ 
bird, the fishy taste and oily smell of whose flesh 
would present little gratification to any whose senses 
were not made obtuse by necessity. The Gannets 
and Guillemots dwell in countless m}Tiads on these 
naked rocks, la}dng their eggs and rearing their 
progeny wherever the surface presents a ledge suflB- 
ciently broad to hold them. Their immense numbers 
render them an object of importance to the inhabitants 
of these barren islands, who derive from them, either 
in a fresh state or salted and dried, a considerable 
portion of their sustenance. 

In some other situations the fowlers have recourse 
to a still more hazardous mode of procedure. The 
cliffs are sometimes twelve hundred feet in height, 
and fearfully overhanging. If it is determined to 
proceed from above, the adventurer prepares a rope, 
made either of straw or of hog’s bristles, because 
these materials are less liable to be cut through by 





THE SHOKES OF BRITAIN. 


95 


the sharp edge of the rock. Having fastened the 
end of the rope round his body, he is lowered down 
by a few comrades at the top to the depth of five or 
six hundred feet. He carries a large bag affixed to 
his waist, and a pole in his hand, and wears on his 
head a thick cap, as a protection against the fragments 
of rock which the friction of the rope perpetually 
loosens ; large masses, however, occasionally fall and 
dash him to pieces. 

Having arrived at the region of birds, he proceeds 
with the utmost coolness and address ; placing his 
feet against a ledge, he will occasionally dart many 
fathoms into the air, to obtain a better view of the 
crannies in which the birds are nestling, take in all 
the details at a glance, and again shoot into their 
haunts. He takes only the eggs and young, the old 
birds being too tough to be eaten. Caverns often 
occur in the perpendicular face of the rock, which are 
favourite resorts of the fowls ; but the only access to 
such situations is by disengaging himself from the 
rope, and either holding the end in his hand, while he 
collects his booty, or fastening it round some project¬ 
ing corner. I have heard of an individual, who either 
ftom choice or necessity, was accustomed to go alone 
on these expeditions ; supplying the want of con¬ 
federates above by firmly planting a stout iron bar in 
the earth, from which he lowered himself. One day 
having found such a cavern as I have mentioned, he 
imprudently disengaged the rope from his body, and 
entered the cave with the end of it in his hand. In 
the eagerness of collecting, however, he slipped his 
hold of the rope, which immediately swung out 


96 


THE OCEAK. 


several yards beyond Ms reach. The poor man was 
struck with horror; no soul was within hearing, nor 
was it possible to make his voice heard in such a 
position; the edge of the cliff so projected, that 
he never could be seen from the top, even if any 
one were to look for him; death seemed inevitable. 



FOWLiyQ IN ORKNEY. 


and he felt the hopelessness of his situation. He 
remained many hours in a state bordering on stupe¬ 
faction ; at length he resolved to make one effort, 
which, if unsuccessful, must be fatal. Having com¬ 
mended himself to God, he rushed to the margin 






















THE SHORES OF BRITAIN. 


97 


of the cave, and, springing into the air, providentially 
succeeded in grasping the pendulous rope, and was 
saved. 

Sometimes it is thought preferable to make the 
attempt from below: in this case, several approach 
the base in a boat; and the most dexterous, bearing 
a line attached to his body, essays to climb, assisted 
by his comrades, who push him from below with a 
pole. AVhen he has gained a place where he can 
stand firmly, he draws up another with his rope, and 
then another, until all are up, except one left to 
manage the boat. They then proceed in exactly the 
same manner to gain a higher stage, the first climbing 
and then drawing up the others: and thus they 
ascend till they arrive at the level of the birds, when 
they collect and throw down their booty to the boat. 
Sometimes the party remains several days on the 
expedition, sleeping in the crannies and caverns. 
This mode is attended with peculiar hazard ; for, as a 
man often hangs suspended merely from the hands oi 
a single comrade, it occasionally happens that the 
latter cannot sustain his weight, and thus lets him 
fall, or is himself drawn over the rock, and shares in 
his companion's miserable death. 

The object of these daring adventures, which bring 
to mind the words of Shakspeare, 

Half way down 

Hangs one that gathers samphire—dreadful trade ! ” 

is chiefly the Guillemot {Uria troile)^ a bird some¬ 
what like the Penguin, but with a pointed beak. 
The Gannet {Sula hassanci) is of the Pelican tribe, 







98 


THE OCEAN 


and is confined, at least in large congregations, to 
one or two localities, of which the principal are the 
Bass Rock on the east coast of Scotland, and St. 
Silda, the most western of the Hebrides. On these 
rocky isles they assemble in such countless hosts 
that they can only be compared to a swarm of bees, 
or to a shower of snow, the air being filled with them. 
The inhabitants of the latter isle are said to consume 



GANNET AND GUILLEMOT. 


twenty-two thousand of the young birds everj^ year, 
besides eggs. They are powerful birds upon the 
wing, and pursue A\dth much eagerness the shoals of 
herrings and pilchards, on which they pounce with 
the perpendicular descent of a stone. Buchanan 
conjectures that the Gannets destroy more than one 


































THE SHORES OF BEITAIX 


99 


hundred millions of herrings annually. In flying 
over Penzance some years since, a Gannet’s attention 
was arrested by a fish lying on a board. According 
to custom, down he swooped on the prey; but his 



THE BASS ROCK. 

imprudence cost him his life ; and it was found that 
from the impetus of his descent, the bill had quite 
transfixed the board, though an inch and a quarter in 
thickness. The fishermen take advantage of this 































100 


THE OCEAN. 


habit, to allure the bird to its destruction; for they 
fix a fresh herring to a board, and draw it after a 
sailing boat with some rapidity through the waves; 
by which many are killed in the manner just 
narrated. The apparatus by which this bird is 
furnished for its aerial powers, as well as for aiding 
its arrowy descent, is very beautiful and instructive. 
Professor Owen, by inserting a tube into the wind¬ 
pipe, was enabled to inflate the whole body with air, 
and found that air-cells communicating with each 
other pervaded every part, separating even the 
muscles from each other, and isolating the very 
vessels and nerves, and penetrating the bones of the 
wing. A large air-cell was found to be placed in 
front of the forked-bone, or clavicles, which was 
furnished with muscles, whose action was instant¬ 
aneously to expel the air, and thus in a moment to 
deprive the bird of that buoyancy, so necessary for 
its flight, but equally detrimental to its swoop. 

In some interesting observations, by Colonel Mon¬ 
tagu, on the habits of this bird in captivity, the same 
fact is noticed. When the bird was placed on the 
water of a pond, nothing could induce him to attempt 
to dive, and from the manner of his putting the bill, 
and sometimes the whole head under water, as if 
searching for flsh, it appears that the prey is fre¬ 
quently so taken. It is probable more fish are caught 
in their congregated migrations, when the shoals are 
near the surface, than by the bird’s descent upon 
the wing ; for the herrings, pilchards, mackerel, and 
other gregarious fishes, cannot at that time avoid their 
enemy, who is floating in the midst of profusion. In 




THE SHOEES OF BRITAIN. 


101 


tlie act of respiration there appears to be always 
some air propelled between the skin and the body of 
this bird, as a visible expansion and contraction is 
observed about the breast; and this singular confor¬ 
mation makes the bird so buoyant that it floats high 
on the water, and does not sink beneath the surface, 
as observed in the cormorant and shag. The legs are 
not placed so far behind as in such of the feathered 
tribe as procure their subsistence by immersion ; the 
Gannet, consequently, has the centre of gravity 
placed more forward ; and, when standing, the body 
is nearly horizontal, like a goose, and not erect like a 
cormorant. 

The Gannet collects a slight heap of withered grass 
and dry sea-weeds, on which it lays and hatches its 
eggs. They perform this duty by turns, one foraging 
while the other sits. The roamer, after a predatory 
excursion, returns to his partner, with five or six 
herrings in his gorge; these she very complacently 
pulls out one by one, with much address. Marten 
says that they frequently rob each other, and thal 
one which had pillaged a nest, artfully fltiw out 
towards the sea wdth the spoil, and returned again, 
as if it had gathered the stuff from a different quarter. 
The owner, though at a distance from his nest, had 
observed the robbery, and w^aited the return of the 
thief, whom he attacked with the utmost fury. 
“ This bloody battle,” adds the narrator, '' was fought 
above our heads, and proved fatal to the thief, who 
fell dead so near our boat, that our men took him up, 
and presently dressed and ate him.” 


102 


THE AECTIC SEAS. 


Perhaps in few respects is the character of modem 
times contrasted with that of antiquity in a higher 
degree than in that enterprising spirit which prompts 
men to penetrate distant regions, submitting to un¬ 
heard-of privations, and bra^dng new difficulties and 
dangers, not only from the stimulus of expected 
gain, but often from the mere love of knowledge, 
a desire of gratifying that insatiable and laudable 
curiosity, in which all science has its origin. The 
ancient nations, bold and intelligent as they were, 
knew little of geographical research : precluded from 
venturing to the north by the dread of frost, and 
to the south by the scorching heat of the sim, both 
of which their fears so magnified that they deemed 
it physically impossible for man to exist in either 
the one or the other, their expeditions in peace 
and war seem to have been well-nigh bounded by 
the temperate zone. Thus it happened, that up to 
the fifteenth century, hardly a fourth of the habitable 
globe was known to the polished nations of Europe. 
But then a new era commenced: the discovery of 
one important law, that the magnetised needle points 
always northward, gave a precision to navigation, 
and inspired a degree of confidence in the mariner, 
which soon led to highly interesting and unexpected 
results. Tire torrid zone wais traversed; that ter- 





THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


103 


rible Cape of Storms,” * the southern point of 
Africa, was doubled; a new world was discovered 
in the western hemisphere, and commercial enter¬ 
prise led the hardy sons of western Europe to dare 
even the icy horrors of the Poles. Of these the 
Biscayans seem to have been the first, for we find 
them engaged in the northern whale fishery as early 
as the year 1575. Before the end of the sixteenth 
century, the English had engaged in the same enter¬ 
prise, fishing first on the coast of North America, 
and after a while in the vicinity of Spitzbergen. The 
Dutch soon followed, and other nations were not slow 
in prosecuting the same lucrative employment. 

Nature in these regions wears an aspect of awful 
majesty and grandeur, unrelieved by the softer and 
gentler beauties which distinguish her in the south. 
In the islands of these seas no meadows smile in 
emerald verdure, no waving corn-fields gladden the 
heaii: of man with their golden undulations; no 
songs of jocund birds usher in the morning, nor is 
the evening soothed with the indefinable murmur 
of myriads of humming insects. All is dreary soli¬ 
tude ; and the death-like silence that pervades the 
scene, inspires a feeling of involuntary awe, as if the 
hardy explorer had intruded into a region where he 
ought not to be. The most northern land known 
to exist is that of the islands of Spitzbergen, the 
extreme point of which approaches to within ten 

* This was the name given to the extreme point of Africa by its 
discoverer, Bartholomew Diaz : but, on his return to Portugal, 
King John II. considered the discovery so auspicious, that he 
changed the name to “ The Cape of Good Hope,'’ which it stiU 
retains. 





104 


THE OCEA^^ 


degrees of the Pole. The coast is generally lofty 
and precipitous, and is Ausihle in clear weather at a 
great distance, presenting the peculiar features of 
Arctic scenery in great perfection. The rocks rise 
in bold and naked giundeur, their summits shooting 
into innumerable peaks and ridges, and needles, of 
fantastic forms, reminding the beholder of the domes 
and spires of a vast cit}^ Most of these are of dark 
colours, standing out in bold relief against the sky; 
but their appearance is rendered highly picturesque 
by the vi^dd contrasts continually presented by the 
broad patches of unsullied snow capping their sum¬ 
mits, or resting on the ledges and terraces into which 
their surface is broken, as well as by the glistening 
accumulations of ice which fill the valleys nearly 
to the level of the mountain tops. In approaching 
the coast in summer, the view is often concealed by 
the dense fogs so prevalent in that season : suddenly 
the mist disperses, and these broad contrasts, shown 
out in startling distinctness beneath a cloudless sim, 
seem like the sudden creation of a magician’s wancL 
The well-defined outline and sharp edge of the hues 
of the picturesque scenerj^, render it perfectly dis¬ 
tinct at a distance at which, in a more southern 
clime, land would present but a dim and shadowy 
haze. The objects described may often be clearly 
seen and well distinguished at the distance of forty 
miles; and if, after sailing towards the land for foui 
or five hours before a smart breeze, the atmosphere 
should become slightly charged with mist, the scene 
might be apparently even more distant than at first. 
Thus a phenomenon, reported by one of the earlier 






THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


105 


Danish navigators, which caused no little astonish¬ 
ment, may be readily accounted for. He had made 
the eastern coast of Greenland, and had been sailing 
towards it for many hours with a fair wind, but 
seeing that the land seemed to be no nearer, lie 
became alarmed, and immediately shifted his course 
back to Denmark, attributing the failure of his 
voyage to the influence of loadstone rocks, hidden 
beneath the sea, which arrested the progress of his 
vessel. 

The peculiar stratification of the rocks in these 
regions often causes them to assume a walled or cas¬ 
tellated appearance, the angles being as sharp and 
clean as if cut with the mason’s tool. Some of their 
forms resemble so strongly the works of art, that one 
can scarcely believe them to be freaks of nature. A 
magnificent instance of such regularity occurs on the 
coast of Spitzbergen. Hear the head of King’s Bay, 
there are seen, far inland, three piles of rock of 
regular shape, well known to the whalers by the 
appellation of the Three Crowns. '' They rest on the 
top of the ordinary mountains, each commencing 
with a square table, or horizontal stratum of rock, 
on the top of which is another, of similar form and 
height, but of a smaller area ; this is continued by 
a third, and a fourth, and so on, each succeeding 
stratum being less than the next below it, until it 
forms a pyramid of steps, almost as regular to appear¬ 
ance as if worked by art.”* 

Tlie most prominent object in these dreary seas is 
ice. Even on the land, a large portion of the ground 


* Scoresbv. 

F 3 


J06 


THE OCEA^^ 


is concealed by perpetuaUy-accximulating ice, while 
the same substance covers to a great extent the sur¬ 
face of the ocean. There is scarcely a more beautiful 
object than one of the towering icebergs that so 
abound in these regions, and that annually come 
down upon the southern current into the temperate 
zone. I have seen numbers of these floating islands, 
of dazzling whiteness, on the coast of Newfoundland, 
whither they are brought every spring out of Baffin’s 
Bay. They do not long endure their transition, but 
soon melt away in the warm waters of the Atlantic, 
though they are sometimes seen on the coast of the 
United States, as far down as Philadelphia. In 
watching some small ice-islands, which, having drifted 
into the ports of Newfoundland, had grounded in 
shoal water, I have been surprised to obser^'e how 
very rapid is their dissolution, even in the month of 
April. Some large ones, however, are frequently 
seen in the bays of that country, even in JiBy. They 
are often of vast dimensions: one seen by Boss, in 
Baffin’s Bay, was estimated to be nearly two miles 
and a haK long, two miles wide, and fifty feet high. 
Of course, this estimate respects only that part which 
is visible above the surface of the water; but this is 
a very small portion of its actual bulk. Tlie relative 
propoifion of the part which is exposed to that which 
is submerged, varies according to the character of the 
ice. In Newfoundland, the part under water is 
usually considered to be ten times gi’eater than that 
exposed, but if the ice be porous, it is not more than 
eight times greater ; while, on the other hand, Phipps 
found that of dense ice, fourteen parts out of fifteep 




THE AKCTIC SEAS. 


107 


sunk. These floating icebergs are various in form : 
sometimes rising into pointed spires, like steeples ; 
sometimes taking the form of a conical hill; some¬ 
times that of an overhanging cliff, of most threatening 
brow. I have seen some resemble the form of a 



ICEBERG SEEN IN BAFFIN’S BAY. 


couching lion; but, perhaps, the most ordinary form 
is that of an irregular mass, higher at one end than 
at the other. In the Arctic seas they often present 
sharp edges and spiry points; but in their progress 
southward, the gradual influence of climate smooths 
their unevenness, and gives their surface a rounded 
outline. The action of the waves on the portion 
beneath the surface, undermining the sides, and wear¬ 
ing away the projections, continually alters the posi¬ 
tion of the centre of gravity ; and sometimes the 
effect of this is to cause the whole gigantic mass to 


















































108 


THE OCEAN, 


roll over with a thundering crash, making the sea 
to boil into foam, and causing a swell that is per¬ 
ceptible for miles. A^Tien a boat or even a ship is 
in immediate proximity to an iceberg in such circum¬ 
stances, the danger is imminent; but if viewed from 



SWELL AMONG ICE. 


a secure distance, the sight is a very interesting one. 
The first iceberg I ever saw, and one of large size, 
thus rolled about one-third over while I beheld it, 
entirely altering its apparent form. Sometimes the 
effect of the waves’ action is to cause a larc^e fra^- 
ment to fall off, or a crack will extend through the 
whole mass with a deafening report, or the entire 
iceberg will fall to pieces, and strew the ocean with 
the fragments, like the remnants of a wreck. Late 
in the summer they often become very brittle, and 






































THE ARCTIC SEAS 


109 

then a slight violence is sufficient to rupture them. 
Seamen avail themselves of the shelter afforded by 
ice-islands to moor the ship to them in storms, carry¬ 
ing an anchor upon the ice, and inserting the fluke 
in a hole made for the purpose. In the state just 
alluded to, such is the brittleness of the substance, 
that one blow with an axe is sometimes sufficient to 
cause the immense mass to rend asunder with fearful 
noise, one part falling one way, and another in the 
opposite, often swallowing up the ill-fated mariner, 
and crushing the gallant bark. 



I5HTP3 BESE-T IN ICE. 





















no 


THE OCEAN. 


Contact with floating icebergs, when a ship is 
under sail, is highly dangerous. From the coolness 
of the air in their immediate neighbourhood, the 
moisture of the atmosphere is condensed around 
them ; and hence they are often enveloped in fogs, 
so as to be inwsible within the length of a few 
fathoms. A momentary relaxation of vigilance on 
the part of the mariner, may bring the ship’s bows 
on the submerged part of an iceberg, whose sharp, 
needle-like points, hard as rock, instantly pierce the 
planking, and perhaps open a fatal leak. Many 
lamentable shipwrecks have resulted from this cause. 
In the long heavy swell, so common in the open sea, 
the peril of floating ice is greatly increased, as the 
hucre angular masses are rolled and ground against 

o o o o 

each other with a force that nothing can resist. 

These ice-islands are quite distinct in their nature 
from the fleld-ice, v’hich so largely overspreads the 
surface of the sea, and are believed to be entirely of 
land formation, consisting of fresh water frozen. 
The process of their formation is interesting: the 
glens and valleys in the islands of Spitzbergen are 
filled up with solid ice, which has been accumulating 
for uncounted ages ; these are the sources from 
whence the floating icebergs are supplied. Perhaps 
as long ago as the creation of man, or at least as the 
deluge, these glaciers began in the snows of winter ; 
the summer sun melted the surface of the snow, and 
the water thus produced, sinking down into that 
which remained, saturated it and increased its density. 
The ensuing winter froze this into a mass of porous 
ice, and superadded a fresh surface of snow. Tlie 


THE AECTIC SEAS. 


Ill 


same process again going on in summer, of water 
percolating tlirough the porous crystals, which in its 
turn was refrozen, soon changed the lowest stratum 
into a mass of dense and transparent ice. Centuries 
of alternate winters and summers have thus produced 
aggregations of enormous bulk.- Scoresby mentions 
one of eleven miles in length, and four hundred feet 
in height at the seaward edge, whence it slopes up¬ 
ward and backward till it attains the height of six¬ 
teen hundred feet; an inclined plane of smooth 
unsullied snow, the beauty and magnitude of which 
render it a very conspicuous landmark on that inhos¬ 
pitable shore. The upper surface of a land iceberg is 
usually somewhat hollow, and during the summer the 
concavities are filled with pools or lakes of the purest 
water, which often wears channels for itself through 
the substance, or is precipitated in the form of a 
cataract over the edge. The water freezing in fissures 
thus produced, and expanding with irresistible force, 
tears off large fragments from the outer edge, which 
are precipitated into the ocean; and high spring 
tides, lashed by storms, undermine portions of the 
base, and produce the same effect. The masses thus 
dislodged float away, and form ice-islands. When 
newly broken, the fracture is said to present a glis¬ 
tening surface of a clear greenish blue, approaching 
an emerald green; but of such as I have myself had 
an opportunity of examining in Newfoundland, the 
hollows were of the purest azure. 

On an excursion to one of the Seven Icebergs,” 
says Mr. Scoresby, '‘in July, 1818, I w^as particularly 
fortunate in witnessing one of the grandest effects 


112 


THE OCEAN. 


which these polar glaciers ever present. A strong 
norch-westerly swell having for some honrs been 
beating on the shore, had loosened a number of frag¬ 
ments attached to the iceberg, and various heaps of 
broken ice denoted recent shoots of the seaward edge. 
As we rode towards it, with a ^dew of proceeding 
close to its base, I observed a few little pieces fall 
from the top ; and while my eye was fixed upon the 
place, an immense column, probably fifty feet square, 
and one hundred and fifty feet high, began to leave 
the parent ice at the top, and leaning majestically 
forward, with an accelerated velocity fell with an 
awful crash into the sea. The water into which it 
plunged was converted into an appearance of vapour 
or smoke, like that from a furious cannonading. The 
noise was equal to that of thunder, which it nearly 
resembled. The column which fell was nearly square, 
and in magnitude resembled a church. It broke into 
thousands of pieces. This circumstance was a happy 
caution, for we might inadvertently have gone to the 
very base of the icy cliff, from whence masses of 
considerable magnitude were continually breaking.”* 

“ ’Tis sunset: to tlie firmament serene 
The Atlantic wave refiects a gorgeous scene; 

Broad in the cloudless west, a belt of gold 
Girds the blue hemisphere ; above unroll’d, 

The keen clear air grows palpable to sight, 

Embodied in a flush of crimson light, 

Through which the evening star, with milder gleam. 
Descends to meet her image in the stream. 

Far in the east, w'hat spectacle unknown 
Allures the eye to gaze on it alone ? 


* 


Arctic Regions, i. 104. 





THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


113 


—Amidst black rocks that lift on either hand 
Their countless peaks, and mark receding land; 

Amidst a tortuous labyrinth of seas 
That shine around the arctic Cyclades; 

Amidst a coast of dreariest continent, 

In many a shapeless promontory rent; 

—O’er rocks, seas, islands, promontories spread, 

The Ice-Blink rears its undulated head; 

On which the sun, beyond th’ horizon shrined, 

Hath left his richest garniture behind; 

Piled on a himdred arches, ridge by ridge, 

O’er fixed and fluid strides the Alpine bridge. 

Whose blocks of sapphire seem to mortal eye 
Hewn from cerulean quarries of the sky; 

With glacier battlements, that crowd the spheres, 

The slow creation of six thousand years, 

Amidst immensity in towers sublime, 

Winter’s eternal palace, built by Time. 

All human structures by his touch are borne 
Down to the dust; mountains themselves are worn 
With his light footstep ; here for ever grows. 

Amid the region of unmelting snows, 

A monument; where every flake that falls 
Gives adamantine firmness to the walls. 

The sun beholds no mirror, in his race. 

That shows a brighter image of his face; 

The stars, in their nocturnal vigils, rest 
Like signal fires on its illumined crest; 

The gliding moon around the ramparts wheels. 

And all its magic lights and shades reveals; 

Beneath, the tide with idle fury raves 
To undermine it through a thousand caves, 

Kent from its roof though thundering fragments oft 
Plunge to the gulf, immoveable aloft. 

From age to age, in air, o’er sea, on land. 

Its turrets heighten, and its piers expand.” * 

By far the greatest portion of the ice met with 
in navigating these seas is of marine formation, 

* Montgomery’s Greenland,” p. 61, 



114 


THE OCEAX. 


During the greater part of the year, in high lati¬ 
tudes, the process of congelation is always going 
on at the surface of the sea. If the wind is high, 
the ciystals cannot readily unite into a solid form, 
but form a spongj" mass, called sludge; when this 
has become somewhat thick, however, the wind can 
no longer act upon the water, so as to raise little 
ripples upon it, and the sludge now begins to 
catchbut the swell prevents one uniform surface 
being yet formed, and the consequence is, that small 
rounded plates of ice are produced, called ''pan¬ 
cakes,'’ the edges of which are raised slightly, by 
the constant pressure of one against another. The 
cakes in the centre of the freezing: mass now beo^in 
to adhere to each other, and thus a solid surface 
is produced, which gradually extends both its dia¬ 
meter and its depth. The indi\ddual pieces of which 
such ice is composed are distinctly to be traced, even 
when perfectly consolidated, and present an appear¬ 
ance resembling pavement. But in calm weather, a 
thin pellicle of ice is simultaneously produced over 
the whole surface of the sea, and the formation of the 
ice-field is much more direct and obvious. Single 
fields have been seen many leagues in length, and 
occupjdng an area of several hundred square miles ; 
bein^ at the same time from three to six feet hmh, 
and from ten to twenty deep. The waves produced 
by storms break up these fields into smaller pieces, 
called floes, and driving one against another with 
violence, the edge of one is often lifted upon the 
other by the force of the pressure, and hummocks or 
bilk, of various shapes and sizes, are raised upon 





THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


115 


them. Ice-fields often acquire a rotatory motion; 
and when we consider the immense weight of these 
ponderous masses, we shall have an idea of the 
irresistible impetus communicated by such a body in 
motion. Scoresby calculates one mentioned by him 
at ten thousand millions of tons: no wonder that, 
coming in contact with a vessel, her iron knees and 
oaken timbers should be crushed like a walnut, or 
that she should be lifted clean out of the water by 
the pressure, and placed high and dry upon the ice 1 
From this cause arise many of the accidents which 
give to the navigation of the Arctic sea its peculiarly 
hazardous character. 

When the temperature of the atmosphere is about 
two or three degrees above the freezing-point, a sur¬ 
face of ice, if placed in a horizontal plane, will melt, 
not by a general dissolution of its substance, but so 
as to leave a multitude of perpendicular columns, or 
needles. In the late attempt to reach the North 
Pole by boats hauled over the ice. Captain Parry 
found ice in this condition productive of no little 
inconvenience. At the very commencement of the 
journey we find it thus noticed : June 26.—A great 
deal of the ice over which we passed to-day presented 
a very curious appearance and structure, being com¬ 
posed, on its upper surface, of numberless irregular, 
needle-like crystals, placed vertically, and nearly 
close together; their length varying, in different 
pieces of ice, from five to ten inches, and their 
breadth in the middle about half an inch, but pointed 
at both ends. The upper surface of ice having this 
structure, sometimes looks like greenish velvet; a 



116 


THE OCEAN. 


vertical section of it, Tvliich frequently occurs at the 
margin of floes, resembles, while it remains compact, 
the most'beautiful satin spar; and asbestos, when 
falling to pieces. At this early part of the season, 
this kind of ice aff'orded pretty Arm footing; but as 
the summer advanced the needles became more loose 
and moveable, rendering it extremely fatiguing to 
walk over them, besides cutting our boots and feet— 
on which account the men called them penknives.’'* 
The Captain attributes this peculiar structure to the 
heavy drops of rain piercing their way downwards 
through the ice, and separating it into needles. 

There is no phenomenon that more forcibly brings 
before the mind of a stranger the novelty of his 
position, than the absence, on entering vithin the 
Arctic circle, of that constant alternation of day 
. and night, which we are accustomed to consider as 
inseparable from the constitution of our world. We 
have learned this fact in our elementary treatises on 
Geography, but yet it is difidcult to realise to the 
mind a perpetual day, an unsetting sun. Wdien the 
sun’s disk is obscured by a fog, it is no uncommon 
thing for sailors to ask each other if it be night or 
day: and Phipps, on his return voyage, thought the 
sight of a star an occurrence of sufficient moment to 
be inserted in his journal. “ August 24th.—We saw 
Jupiter: the sight of a star was now become almost 
as extraordinary a phenomenon as the sun at mid¬ 
night, when we flrst got within the Arctic Circle.” 
Our voyagers usually seek the Ai’ctic Ocean in 
spring, and leave it at the approach of autumn ; a 

* Narrative of an Attempt, &c., p. 61. 



THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


117 


winter residence there being dreaded as one of the 
direst calamities that can befal them ; and therefore, 
until lately, our knowledge of winter phenomena was 
very meagre, and mainly derived from the reports of 
a few unhappy men, by accident compelled to remain 
in a clime so inhospitable. By the experience of the 
officers and crews engaged in the recent voyages of 
discovery, we have become nearly as familiar with 
the phenomena of the long winter’s night as with 
those of the short summer’s day. In Spitzbergen the 
day is rather more than four months long : the night 
is of the same duration, and in the two months 
which intervene between the sun’s constant presence 
and his constant absence, that luminary rises and sets 
as with us. But the appearance of the sun in spring is 
accelerated, and its disappearance in autumn retarded, 
a few days by the influence of refraction: so that 
it is actually seen somewhat longer than it is in¬ 
visible. Thus Captain Parry, at Melville Island, 
saw the sun on the first of February, which was 
about four days earlier than its actual elevation 
above the horizon; in like manner it remained 
visible until the 11th of November, whereas it had 
actually sunk beneath the horizon on the 7th. Then 
the darkness of the Arctic winter is not total and 
incessant; even in the depth of the season, at Spitz¬ 
bergen, there is a faint twilight for six hours each day, 
and this is longer and brighter in proportion to the 
distance from mid-winter on either hand. The moon 
also shines in those clear skies with peculiar bril¬ 
liance, and is often visible twelve or fourteen days 
without setting. There is, moreover, a large proportion 







118 


THE OCEAN. 


of the time in which the Aurora Borealis illumines 
the heavens, and sometimes with an intensity little 
inferior to moonlight. This interesting meteor is 
occasionally seen in England, but very rarely with 



AURORA BOREALIS. 

The scene is in the vicinity of the Three Crowns on the Coast of 

Spitzbergen« See p. 105. 


that brilliance with which it shines in the Frigid 
Zone, and in the northern parts of America. In 
Newfoundland and Canada I have seen many spe¬ 
cimens of the Aurora, and some splendidly coloured 
with blue, green and red hues; sometimes the whole 
sky has been flushed with intense crimson, which, 
reflected from the snow beneath, had an awful, 
though beautiful appearance. The following details 













THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


119 


of one which I observed in Lower Canada, in 
February, 1837, will give a notion of the appear¬ 
ance of this meteor in its more usual state. “ I first 
observed it about half-past eight o’clock ; a long, low, 
irregular arch of bright yellow light extended from 
the north-east to the north-west, the lower edge 
of which was well defined ; the sky beneath this 
arch was clear, and appeared black, but it was only 
by contrast with the light, for on examination I 
could not find that it was really darker than the 
other parts of the clear sky. The upper edge of the 
arch was not defined, shooting out rays of light 
towards the zenith: one or two points in the arch 
were very brilliant, which were varying in their 
position. Over head, and towards the south, east, 
and west, flashings of light were darting from side 
to side : sometimes the sky was dark, then instantly 
lighted up with these fitful flashes, vanishing and 
changing as rapidly; sometimes a kind of crown 
would form around a point south of the zenith, con¬ 
sisting of short converging pencils. At nine o’clock, 
the upper and southern sky was filled with clouds or 
undefined patches of light, nearly stationary; the 
eastern part, near the top, being bright crimson, 
which speedily spread over the upper part of the 
northern sky. A series of long converging pencils 
was now arranged round a blank space about 15° 
south of the zenith, the northern and eastern rays 
blood-red, the southern pale yellow; the redness 
would flash about, as did the white light before, still 
not breaking the general form of the corona. In a 
few minutes all the red hue had vanished, leaving 







120 


THE OCEAN. 


the upper sky nearly unoccupied The arch also was 
now totally gone, and in its place there were only 
irregular patches of yellow light, of varjdng radiance. 
At a quarter-past nine the upper sky was again filled 
with pale flashes: in the north were perpendicular 
pillars of light, comparatively stationarj^ At half- 
past nine there was no material change, and at ten 
all had assumed a very ordinary appearance, merely 
large clouds of pale light being visible.”* The cause 
which produces these beautiful coruscations of light in 
high latitudes has not yet been satisfactorily known : 
it seems pretty certain that their origin is in general 
far above our atmosphere. 

Montgomery alludes to the Aurora in the following 
beautiful lines:— 

“ Midnight hath told his hour : the moon, yet young, 

Hangs in the ardent west, her bow unstrung : 

Larger and fairer as her lustre fades, 

Sparkle the stars amidst the deepening shades : 

Jewels more rich than night’s regalia gem, 

The distant Ice-blink’s spangled diadem ; 

Like a new mom from orient darkness there 
Phosphoric splendours kindle in mid-air, 

As though from heaven’s self-openmg portals, came 
Legions of spirits in an orb of flame,— 

Flame that from every point an arrow sends, 

Far as the concave firmament extends : 

Spun with the tissue of a million lines, 

Glistening like gossamer the welkin shines: 

The constellations in their pride look pale 
Through the quick trembling brilliance of that veil; 

Then suddenly converged, the meteors rush 
O’er the wide south; one deep vermilion blush 


* 


Canadian Naturalist, p. 47. 





THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


121 


O’erspreads Orion glaring on the flood, 

And rabid Sirius foams through fire and blood ; 

Again the circuit of the pole they range, 

Motion and figure every moment change, 

Through all the colours of the rainbow run, 

Or blaze like wrecks of a dissolving sun ; 

Wide ether burns with glory, conflict, flight. 

And the glad ocean dances in the light.” * 

This interesting meteor, occurring with more or less 
of splendour in rapid succession, added, moreover, 
to the universal reflection of what light may proceed 
from the heavens by the pure whiteness of the ice and 
snow, tends greatly to lessen the darkness of the long 
and dreary night, though these causes cannot diminish 
the cold. The latter was so intense during the late 
expeditions of discovery, that the temperature was 55° 
below zero, or eighty-seven degrees below the freezing- 
point. 

The remarkable appearances called mock suns, or 
parhelia, are extremely frequent within the Arctic 
Circle. Their usual appearance may be thus de¬ 
scribed. When the sun is not far from the horizon, 
one or more luminous circles, or halos, surround it 
at a considerable distance ; two beams of light go 
across the innermost circle, passing through the 
centre of the sun, the one horizontally, the other 
perpendicularly, so as to form a cross: where these 
beams touch the circle, the light is, as it were, con¬ 
centrated in a bright spot, sometimes scarcely in¬ 
ferior in brilliance to the sun itself; at the corre¬ 
sponding points in the outermost circle, segments of 
other circles, wholly external, ,come into contact with 

* “ Greenland,” p. 64. 

G 


122 


THE OCEA^\ 

it. It is not often that this meteor is seen in the 
perfection described : occasionally the circles are too 
faint to be visible ; and the mock suns alone are 
seen in the usual places, and sometimes but one or 
two of them. Another singular appearance, called 
the fog-bow, of great beauty and interest, is thus 
described by Mr. Scoresby: The intense fogs 



MOCK SUNS. 

The scene is the coast of Barrow’s Strait. 

which prevail in the Polar Seas, at certain seasons, 
occasionally rest upon the surface of the water, and 
reach only to an inconsiderable height. At such 
times, though objects situated on the water can 
scarcely be discerned at the distance of a hundred 























THE 4KCTIC SEAS. 


123 


yards, yet the sun will be visible and effulgent. 
Under such circumstances, on the 19 th July, 1813, 
being at the topmast head, I observed a beautiful 
circle of about 30° diameter, with bands of vivid 
colours, depicted on the fog. The centre of the circle 
was in a line drawn from the sun through the point 
of vision, until it met the visible vapour in a situa¬ 
tion exactly opposite the sun. The lower part of 
the circle descended beneath my feet to the side of 
the ship ; and although it could not be a hundred feet 
from the eye, it was perfect, and the colours distinct. 
The centre of the coloured circle was distinguished 
by my own shadow, the head of which, enveloped 
by a halo, was most conspicuously portrayed. The 
halo or glory was evidently impressed on the fog, but 
the figure appeared to be a shadow on the water, the 
different parts of which became obscure in proportion 
to their remoteness from the head, so that the lower 
extremities were not perceptible. I remained a long 
time contemplating the beautiful phenomenon before 
me. Notwithstanding the sun was brilliant and 
warm, the fog was uncommonly dense beneath. The 
sea and ice, within sixty yards of the ship, could 
scarcely be distinguished. The prospect thus cir¬ 
cumscribed served to fix the attention more closely 
on the only interesting object in sight, whose radi¬ 
ance and harmony of colouring, added to the singu¬ 
lar appearance of my own image, were productive of 
sensations of admiration and delight.”* I have 
myself had the pleasure of witnessing this beautiful 
phenomenon, precisely as described above, and in 

* Arct. Reg i. 394. 







124 


THE OCEANS 


the same circumstances : it was in the month of 
August, 1828, on the coast of Newfoundland, and 
was viewed from the shrouds of a vessel projected on 
the surface of a dense but shallow fog. Sometimes 
there are several coloured circles surrounding each 
other, vdth a co mm on centre. 

The cause of these appearances seems to be the 
unequal refraction of the rays of light by passing 



D^STORTIO^■S OF IRREGULAR REFRACTION. 


through media of varjdng density. To a similar ori¬ 
gin may be ascribed those distortions and repetitions 
of objects near the horizon, called looming^ which are 
occasionally witnessed even in this country, but in 
the northern seas are very frequent and amusingly 
fantastic. The ice around the horizon, either almost 
flat or varied only by slight irregularities of surface, 













































THE AECTIC SEAS. 


125 


will appear raised into a lofty wall, and the irregu¬ 
larities elevated into numberless spires or towers oi 
pinnacles. Ships will have their hulls magnified into 
castles ; or the hull will be diminished to a narrow 
line, and the masts and sails drawn up to a ridiculous 
length; or some of the sails will be unduly elevated, 
while others are as unnaturally fiattened. But more 
singular than this is the frequent repetition of the 
object in the sky just above it. Thus above the 
spired and turreted wall of ice will be seen on the sky 
another wall exactly corresponding to it, but upside- 
down ; spire meeting spire, and tower tower. Above 
a ship will be an inverted figure of the same ship, 
as palpable and apparently as real as the true one. 
This I once saw, in two vessels in the Gulf of St. 
Lawrence. Sometimes another image may be seen 
above the inverted one, and sometimes, but very rarely, 
even a fourth. In such cases, the third is always 
in a right position, and the fourth inverted like 
the second. An image of a vessel is sometimes seen 
projected upon the sky, when nothing corresponding 
to it is visible below, the real object being far below 
the horizon. Mr. Scoresby thus saw his father’s 
ship, the Fame, drawn upon the sky, and by the aid 
of a telescope could make her out so distinctly as to 
pronounce with confidence upon her identity, when 
by comparing notes afterwards it was found that she 
was thirty miles distant at the time, and seventeen 
miles from the extreme point of vision. Somewhat 
allied to this is the bright gleam seen by night above 
field-ice, called ice-hlinh, which is often very service¬ 
able in indicating the presence of ice below the hori- 


j26 


THE OCEA't^. 


zon; or by the dark spots and patches in it corre¬ 
sponding to the openings of water, directing the 
seamen, when beset, how to reach them, when other¬ 
wise their existence would be unknown. 

The officers engaged in the late expeditions of dis¬ 
covery have remarked the impossibility of correctly 
measuring distances by the eye when traversing a 
plain of unbroken snow or ice. Sometimes in travel¬ 
ling, they would discern what appeared to be a rock 
or a hummock of ice of considerable magnitude, and 
at a great distance ; and having set their course by it, 
rejoicing that for some time the painful straining of 
the sight in keeping the direction would be spared by 
the advantage of so conspicuous a mark, in a minute 
or two they would reach it, when it would turn out 
to be some insignificant object, scarcely larger than a 
hat. 

Some of the effects of intense cold, as witnessed 
in these northern climes, are mentioned by Mr. 
Scoresby, and are interesting, because they never 
occur in our own country. After mentio nin g a very 
sudden depression of the temperature, he says :— 
This remarkable change was attended with singular 
effects. The circulation of the blood was accelerated ; 
a sense of parched- dryness was excited in the nose; 
the mouth, or rather the lips, were contracted in all 
their dimensions, as by a sphincter, and the articula¬ 
tion of many words was rendered difficult and imper¬ 
fect ; indeed, every part of the body was more or less 
stimulated or disordered by the severity of the cold. 
A piece of metal, when applied to the tongue, in¬ 
stantly adhered to it, and could not be removed 




THE AKCTIC SEAS. 


127 


without its retaining a poHion of the skin ; iron 
became brittle, and such as was at all of inferior 
quality, might be fractured by a blow ; brandy of 
English manufacture and wholesale' strength was 
frozen; quicksilver, by a single process, might have 
been consolidated; the sea, in some places, was in 
the act of freezing, and in others appeared to smoke, 
and produced, in the formation of frost-rime^ an 
obscurity greater than that of the thickest fog. The 
subtle principle of magnetism seemed to be, in some 
way or other, influenced by the frost; for the deck- 
compasses became sluggish, or even motionless, while 
a cabin-compass traversed with celerity. The ship 
became enveloped in ice; the bows, sides, and lower 
rigging were loaded; and the rudder, if not repeat¬ 
edly freed, would in a short time have been rendered 
immoveable.’'* In winter, however, the temperature 
being much lower, the effects of intense cold are 
more manifest. Egede observes of Disco Island 
in the month of January, ‘‘The ice and hoar-frost 
reach through the chimney to the stove’s mouth, 
without being thawed by the fire in the day-time. 
Over the chimney is an arch of frost, with little 
holes, through which the smoke discharges itself. 
The doors and walls are as if they were plastered 
over with frost, and, w^hich is scarcely credible, beds 
are often frozen to the bedsteads. The linen is frozen 
in the drawers. The upper eider-down bed and the 
pillows are quite stiff with frost an inch thick, from 
the breath.”t Many of these results I have myseff 
witnessed in Newfoundland and Lower Canada, some 
♦ Arct. Reg. i. 330. + Crantz, Hist, of Greenland. 



128 


THE OCEAN. 


of wliicli I have alluded to elsewhere in the formei 
country it is not uncommon for the vapour of a 
sleeping-room, condensed on the windows and walls, 
to take the form of thin narrow blades of ice stand¬ 
ing out horizontally, very closely set together ; the 
whole making a dense coating, of more than half an 
inch in thickness, of spongy frost. In the first 
winter spent at Melville Island by Captain Parry, an 
accumulation of a similar substance was observed, 
that was really astonishing. '' The Hecla was fitted 
with double windows in her stern, the interval 
between the two sashes being about two feet; and 
vdthin these some curtains of baize had been nailed 
close in the early part of the winter. On endeavour¬ 
ing now to remove the curtains, they were found 
to be so strongly cemented to the windows by the 
frozen vapour collected between them, that it was 
necessary to cut them off, in order to open the 
windows ; and from the space between the double 
sashes we removed more than twelve large buckets 
full of ice, or frozen vapour, which had accumulated 
in the same manner.’"! 

The shooting out of crystals of beautiful forms, 
when vapour is deposited upon any very cold sub¬ 
stance, is a very pleasing phenomenon. The feather- 
like hoar-frost, so often seen in winter on stems and 
blades of grass, is of this character. But it is in the 
icy seas of the north that this beauty is seen in 
perfection. For an interesting description, we have 
again recourse to Mr. Scoresby. In the course of 
the night, the rigging of the ship was most splendidly 

* Cuijadian Naturalist, 3^0. f Parry’s First Voyage, 146. 


THE AECTIC SEAS. 


129 


decorated with a fringe of delicate crystals. The 
general form of these was that of a feather having 
half of the vane removed. Near the surface of the 
ropes was first a small direct line of very white 
particles, constituting the stem or shaft of the 
feather; and from each of these fibres, in another 
plane, proceeded a short delicate range of spiculse or 
rays, discoverable only by the help of a microscope, 
with which the elegant texture and systematic con¬ 
struction of the feather were completed. Many of 
these crystals, possessing a perfect arrangement of 
the different parts corresponding with the shaft, 
vane, and rachis of a feather, were upwards of an 
inch in length, and three-fourths of an inch in 
breadth. Some consisted of a single flake or feather; 
but many of them gave rise to other feathers, which 
sprang from the surface of the vane at the usual 
angle. There seemed to be no limit to the magni¬ 
tude of these feathers, so long as the producing cause 
continued to operate, until their weight became so 
great, or the action of the wind so forcible, that they 
were broken off, and fell in flakes to the deck of 
the ship.”* 

In our own winters we are familiar enough with 
snow; but, probably, few are aware of the exceeding 
beauty, regularity, and delicacy which mark each in¬ 
dividual crystal of this production. In our climate, 
indeed, the temperature during a fall of snow is 
• rarely low enough for the form of the ciystals to be 
perceived ; as they become slightly melted in passing 
through the air, and many crystals adhere together, 

* Arct. Reg. L 437. 

G 3 


130 


THE OCEAN. 


and form the irregular aggregations called fiahes of 
snow. The ordinarj^ form is that of a six-rayed star; 
but the rays are often furnished with minute side 
rays, like the beards of a feather, or are varied in 
almost infinite diversity. The angle, however, which 
is formed in crj^stallization, is invariably the same, 
namely, one of 60^; and hence arises their sjunmetry. 

Frost is a powerful antiseptic : as fermentation 
will not take place in a low temperature, animal 
substances may be kept without decay for an in¬ 
definite period. It is customary for the whalers to 
take out their meat unsalted, trusting to this well- 
known quality of cold. Captain Parry’s crew, fast 
locked up in the ice of Melville Island, enjoyed a 
Christmas dinner of roast beef, perfectly sweet, 
which had been put on board nine months before. 
The Mammoth which was dislodged by the falling 
of a cliff at the mouth of the river Lena, had been 
preserved from putrefaction for uncounted ages. 
And more affecting instances of this quality have 
been witnessed in the bodies of men, who, having 
died in these icy regions, had lain for years unburied 
without decay. In 1774, the uncouth form of an 
apparently-deserted ship was met with, strangely 
encumbered with ice and snow; on boarding her, a 
solitary man was found in her cabin, his fingers 
holding the pen, while before him lay the record 
which that pen had traced, beariog date twelve years 
before. No appearance of decay was manifest, save 
that a little greenish mould had accumulated on his 
forehead. A strange awe crept over the minds of 
those who thus first broke in upon his loneliness: 






THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


131 


for twelve years had that ill-fated bark navigated, 
through sun and storm, the Polar Sea; and, perhaps, 
unconsciously solving the problem that had so long 
baffled human skill and daring, had even crossed the 
Pole itself. 

But it is time that we turn from the consideration 
of inanimate nature and atmospheric phenomena, to 
inquire what are the living productions that cheer 
the loneliness of the Arctic mariner. Of the vegeta¬ 
tion of these regions we know little ; the dreary 
level shores of many of the isles are marshy, and 
densely clothed with various mosses, which, though 
frozen in winter, revive in the transient summer. The 
rocks, too, are covered with lichens of various colours; 
and a few dwarf flowering plants just risc'^bove the 
thin soil. Nothing like a tree varies the scene, but 
large trunks of trees are brought, by the currents, 
from distant regions, and washed upon the sea-beach. 
Some of the Puci which are common with us are 
found also on these shores, and doubtless many other 
species which are unknown to us. 

The most notorious of the inhabitants of these 
dreary seas are the mighty and gigantic AVhales. 
‘'There is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to 
play therein.” It is in pursuit of these immense 
creatures, and especially the Greenland species, the 
“right Whale” of the seamen {Balcena mysticetus), 
that many ships well-manned and fltted out at great 
expense, proceed every year from England, Holland, 
Prance, and other nations, into the Arctic zone. This 
valuable animal has produced to Britain 700,000Z. in 
a single year, and one cargo has been known to yield 


THK OCEAN. 


1 oo 

11,000Z. It is, therefore, well worth our considera¬ 
tion, and the more particularly, because in its struc¬ 
ture and habits there are more than ordinary e^ddences 
of that giucious forethought and contrivance, the 
tracing of which makes the study of nature so in¬ 
structive. The Greenland Whale has no affinity with 
fishes; it is as much a mammal as the ox or the 
elephant, having warm blood, breathing air, bringing 
forth living young, and suckling them with true 
milk. It inhabits the Polar Seas, beyond which 
there is no satisfactory proof that it has ever been 
seen. Its length is from fifty to sixty feet, when 
full grown ; perhaps, in extremely rare cases, seventy 
feet; all statements gkdng it a greater length than 
this, either refer to other species, such as the great 
Piorqual, or are gross exaggerations. The form is 
rather clumsy, the head being very large, and the 
mouth reaching to scarcely less than a fourth of the 
total length of the animal. The gullet is so small as 
not to admit the passage of a fish so large as a 
herring; hence its support is derived from creatures 
of very small bulk, and apparently insignificant, such 
as shrimps, sea slugs, sea blubbers, and animalcules 
still smaller, which I will presently notice. But 
how does it secure its minute and almost inffisible 
prey ? for without some express provision, these 
atoms would be quite lost in the cavity of its 
capacious mouth, unless swallowed promiscuously 
with the water, which would fill the stomach before 
a hundredth part of the meal was obtained. There 
is a very peculiar contrivance to meet this exigency ; 
the mouth has no teeth, but from each upper jaw 






THE AECTIC SEAS. 


133 


proceed more than three hundred horny plates, set 
parallel to each other, and very close ; they run 
perpendicularly downwards, are fringed on the inner 
edge with hair, and diminish in size from the 
central plate to the first and last, the central one 
being about twelve feet long. The plates are com¬ 
monly called whalebone, and their substance is well 
known to everybody ; they form an important object 
of the fishery. The lower jaw is very deep, like a 
vast spoon, and receives these depending plates, the 
use of which is this : when the Whale feeds, he 
swims rapidly just under or at the surface, with his 
mouth wide open ; the water with all its contents 
rushes into the immense cavity, and filters out at the 
sides between the plates of the whalebone, which are 
so close, and so finely fringed, that every particle of 
solid matter is retained. 

Though the Whale, like all other Mammalia, is 
formed for breathing air alone, and is therefore ne¬ 
cessitated to come to the surface of the sea at certain 
intervals, yet those intervals are occasionally of great 
length. We well know that we could not intermit 
the process of breathing for a single minute without 
great inconvenience, and the lapse of only a few 
minutes would be followed by insensibility and perhaps 
death. The Whale, however, can remain an hour 
under water, or, in an emergency, even nearly two 
hours, though it ordinarily comes up to breathe at 
interval's of eight or ten minutes, except when feeding, 
when it is sometimes a quarter of an hour, or twenty 
minutes submerged. Now the object of breathing 
is to renew the vital qualities of the blood by pre- 










134 


THE OCEA^SE 


senting it to the air, the oxygen in whicli uniting 
with the blood renders it again fit for sustaining 
life. But if more blood could be oxygenized at once 
than is wanted for immediate use, and the overplus 
deposited in a reservoir until wanted, respiration 
could be dispensed with for a while. This is actually 
what the wisdom of God has contrived in the Whale. 
The exhausted blood, which is returned by the veins, 
having been renewed by its communication with the 
air in the lungs, is carried to the heart, whence only 
a part is carried away into the system, the remainder 
being received into a great irregular reservoir, consist¬ 
ing of a complicated series of arteries, which first 
lines a large portion of the interior of the chest, then 
insinuating itseK between the ribs, forms a large 
cushion outside of them near the spine, and also 
within the spinal tube, and even within the skull. 
The blood thus reserved is poured into the system as 
it is needed, and thus prevents the necessity of frequent 
access to the surface. 

It is an object of importance that the act of breath¬ 
ing should be performed with as little effort as possible, 
and therefore the windpipe is made to terminate 
not in the mouth, nor in nostrils placed at the 
extremity of the muzzle. If this were the case it 
would require a large portion of the head and body to 
be projected from the water, or else that the animal 
should throw itself into a perpendicular position: 
either of which alternatives v^ould be inconvenient 
wnen swimming rapidly, as, lor example, endeavouring 
to escape when harpooned. The windpipe, therefore, 
communicates with the air at the very top of the 



THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


135 


head, which, by a peculiar rising or hump at that 
part, is the very highest part of the animal when 
horizontal, so that it can breathe when none of its 
body is exposed except the very orifice itself. The 
Whale often begins to breathe when a little below the 
surface, and then the force with which the air is 
expired blows up the water lying above in a jet or 
stream, which with the condensed moisture of the 
breath itself constitutes what are called '' the spout¬ 
ings,” and which are attended with a rushing noise 
that may be heard upwards of a mile. Some naturalists 
have maintained that a stream of water is ejected from 
the blow-hole in the form of an united column, mount¬ 
ing high before it falls again in a shower. But from 
my own observation on many individuals (seen in the 
Atlantic), I incline to the former conclusion ; as I 
have invariably seen the ejected matter, instead of 
forming a column, and falling in a shower, sail away 
upon the breeze like a little white cloud. These 
were, I suppose, Eorquals: but what is true of one 
species, is probably true of all. There are one or 
two other beautiful contrivances connected with the 
structure of this air-passage, that are well worth 
noticing. In the agony and terror caused by the 
blow of the harpoon, the Whale usually plunges 
directly downward into the depths of the sea, and 
that with such force that the mouth has been found 
on returning to the surface, covered with the mud of 
the bottom ; while in some instances the jaws, and in 
others the skull, have been fractured by the violence 
with which they have struck the ground. A Whale 
has been known to descend perpendicularly to the 









136 


THK OCEAX. 


depth of a mile, as measured by the length of hue 
“run out;” where the pressure of the immense body 
of water above would be equal to a ton upon every 
square inch. And ]\Ir. Scoresby mentions a case in 
which a boat that was accidentally entangled was 
carried down by the Whale, which was presently 
captured, and the boat recovered by being diuwn up 
with the line ; but from the intense pressure, the 
water had been forced into the pores of the solid 
oak, so that it was completely saturated, and sank 
like lead ; the paint came oflP in large sheets, and the 
wood thrown aside to be used as fuel, was found to 
be useless, for it would not burn. A piece of the 
lightest fir-wood, which was in the boat, came up in 
exactly the same soaked condition, having totally 
lost the power of floating. To resist such a pressure 
as tliis, the blow-holes of the Whale tribe are closed 
with a valve-like stopper of great density and elasti¬ 
city, somewhat resembling India-rubber, which, ac¬ 
curately fitting the orifice, excludes all water from the 
windpipe, becoming more tightly inserted in propor¬ 
tion to the pressure. 

But this precaution would be vain, if the structure 
of the interior of the mouth were the same as in 
other Mammalia. Usually the windpipe and gullet 
open into a hollow at the back of the mouth, and 
the passage to the nostrils proceeds from it likewisa 
The windpipe passes up in front of the gullet, and 
the food which passes over the former is prevented 
from entering it by a lid or valve, which shuts down 
during the act of swallowing, but at other times is 
erect. But if such were the construction in the 




THE AECTIC SEAS. 


137 


Whale, the force with which the water rushes into 
tlie mouth would inevitably carry a large portion of 
the fluid down upon the lungs, and the animal w^ould 
be suffocated. The windpipe is therefore carried 
upward in a conical form, with the aperture upon 
the top, and this projecting cone is received into the 
lower end of the blowing-tube, which tightly grasps 
it; and thus the communication between the lungs 
and the air is effected by a continuous tube which 
crosses the orifice of the gullet, leaving a space on 
each side for the passage of the food. 

It is doubtless to give increased power of resist^ 
ance to the eye of the Whale in the pressure of 
enormous depths, that there is a peculiar thickness 
in the sclerotic coat. This is the part which in man 
is usually called the white of the eye. ''When we 
make a section of the whole eye, cutting through the 
cornea, the sclerotic coat, which is as dense as tanned 
leather, increases in thickness towards the back part, 
and is full five times the thickness behind that it is 
at the anterior part. The fore part of the eye sus¬ 
tains the pressure from without, and requires no ad¬ 
ditional support; but were the back part to yield, the 
globe wmuld then be distended in that direction, and 
the whole interior of the eye consequently suffer de¬ 
rangement. We see, then, the necessity of the coats 
being thus remarkably thickened behind.” * 

Another no less interesting deviation from ordinary 
structure is found in the skin ; the object still being 
defence against external pressure. Everyone is pro¬ 
bably aware that the body of the Wliale is encased in 

* Paley’s ^^at. TheoL, Bell and Brougham’s edit. p. 40. 










138 


THE OCEAN. 


a thick coat of fat, denominated blubber, varjdng in 
diameter from eight inches to nearly two feet in 
different parts of the animah It has, however, been 
only recently known that this fat lies not under the 
skin, but actually in its substance. I shall describe 
this in the words of Professor Jacob, who first made 
known this interesting peculiarity :—That structure 
in which the oil is deposited, denominated blubber, 
is the true skin of the animal, modified certainly for 
the purpose of holding this fiuid oil, but still being 
the true skin. Upon close examination it is found 
to consist of an interlacement of fibres, crossing each 
other in every dhection, as in common skin, but more 
open in texture, to leave room for the oil. Taking 
the hog as an example of an animal covered with an 
external layer of fat, we find that we can raise the 
true skin without any difficulty, leaving a thick layer 
of cellular membrane, loaded with fat, of the same 
nature as that in the other parts of the body ; on the 
contrary, in the Whale it is altogether impossible to 
raise any layer of skin distinct from the rest of the 
blubber, however thick it may be ; and, m flensing a 
Whale, the operator removes this blubber or skin 
from the muscular parts beneath, merely di^dding 
with his spade the connecting cellular membrane.” * 
Such a structure as this, being firm and elastic in the 
highest degree, operates like so much India-rubber, 
possessing a density and power of resistance which 
increases with the pressure. But this thick coating 
of fat subserves other important uses. An inhabitant 
of seas where the cold is most intense, yet warm- 


* Dublin Philos. Joum. i. 356. 






THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


139 


blooded, and dependent for existence on keeping up 
the animal heat, the Whale is furnished in this thick 
wrapper with a substance which resists the abstraction 
of heat from the body as fast as it is generated, and 
thus is kept comfortably warm in the fiercest polar 
winters. Again, the oil contained in the cells of the 
skin being specifically lighter than water, adds to 
the buoyancy of the animal, and thus saves much 
muscular exertion in swimming horizontally and in 
rising to the surface ; the bones, being of a porous or 
spongy texture, have a similar infiuence. 

These few particulars in the physiology of these 
vast creatures may serve to carry our minds up in 
adoring wonder to the mercy as well as wisdom of 
the Lord God Almighty, and may give us a glimpse 
of the meaning of that glorious truth, ‘'And God 
saw everything that He had made, and behold it 
was VERY GOOD.” Many other instances of beautiful 
contrivance and design might easily be added, in 
the construction of the mouth, the eyes, the fins, the 
tail; but all would lead us to the same result: and 
these which I have adduced may be taken as a sample 
of the rich feast which the study of nature affords to 
the Christian student. 

The capture of these immense animals, from their 
vast strength, the fickle element on which it is pur¬ 
sued, and the horrors peculiar to the Arctic regions, 
is an adventure of extraordinary hazard. The ships, 
built for the purpose, and strengthened with much 
oak and iron, leave the northern parts of this country 
early in April, and by the end of the month'usually 
reach the scene of their enterprise. Arrived within 








THE OCEAN, 


140 

the limits of constant day, an unceasing watch is 
kept for Whales, by an officer stationed in a snug 
sort of pulpit, called the crow s-nest^ made of hoops 
and canvas, and well secured at the main-topmast 



CATCHING THE WHALE. 


head The boats, which combine stren^^th and lidit- 
ness, are always kept hanging over the sides and 
quarters of the ship, ready furnished for pursuit, so 




























THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


141 


that on the appearance of a Whale being announced 
from aloft, one or more boats can be despatched in 
less than a minute. Each boat carries a harpooner, 
whose station is in the bow, a steersman, and several 
rowers. In an open space in the bow of the boat 
is placed a line sometimes more than 4000 feet in 
length, coiled up with beautiful regularity and scru¬ 
pulous care. The end of this is fastened to the 
harpoon, a most important weapon, made of the 
toughest iron, somewhat in the form of an anchor, 
but brought to an edge and point. Instead of steel 
being employed, as is commonly supposed, the very 
softest iron is chosen for this important implement, 
so that it may be scraped to an edge with a knife. A 
long staff is afl6.xed to the harpoon, by which it is 
wielded. The boat is swiftly, but silently, rowed up 
to the unconscious Whale, and when within a few 
yards, the harpooner darts his weapon into its body. 
Smarting and surprised, the animal darts away into 
the depth of the ocean, but carries the harpoon 
sticking fast by the barbs, while the coiled line 
runs out with amazing velocity. A sheeve or pulley 
is provided, over which it passes ; but if by accident 
it slips out of its place, the friction is so great that 
the bow of the boat is speedily enveloped in smoke, 
and instances are not unfrequent of the gunwale 
bursting into a flame, or even of the head of the 
boat being actually sawn off by the line. To prevent 
this, a bucket of water is always kept at hand, to 
allay the friction. Accidents even still more tragic 
sometimes occur from entanglements of the line. 
‘‘A sailor belonging to the John of Greenock, in 



142 


tile ocean. 


1818, happening to slip into a coil of running rope, 
had his foot entirely cut off and was obliged to have 
the lower part of the leg amputated. A harpooner 
belonging to the Hamilton, when engaged in lancing 
a "Whale, incautiously cast a little line under his foot, 
The pain of the lance induced the WTiale to dart sud¬ 
denly downwards ; his line began to run out from 
under his feet, and in an instant caught him by a 
turn round the body. He had just time to call out, 
‘ Clear away the line.—Oh dear ! ’ when he was 
almost cut asunder, dragged overboard,- and never 
seen afterwards.” Many such-like anecdotes are on 
record. 

When a boat is ''fast” to the Whale, a little flag is 
instantly hoisted in the stern as a signal to the ship, 
and other boats are at once despatched to its assist¬ 
ance. Sometimes before their help can arrive, the 
united lines of the boats flrst sent are all run out, in 
which case the men are obliged to cut the line, and 
lose it with the WTiale, or the boat would be dragged 
under water. But generally some of the free boats 
can approach sufficiently near the animal on his 
return to the surface, to dart another harpoon into 
his body ; perhaps he again dives, but returns much 
exhausted. The men now thrust into his body long 
and slender steel lances; and, aiming at the vitals, 
these wounds soon prove fatal: blood mixed with 
water is discharged from the blow-holes, and pre¬ 
sently streams of blood alone are ejected, which 
frequently drench the boats and men, and colour 
the sea far around. Sometimes the last agony of the 
victim is marked by convulsive motions with the tail, 





THE ARCTIC SEA.S. 


143 


attended with imminent danger; but at other times, 
it yields its life quietly, turning gently over on its 
side. The flags are now struck, three hearty cheers 
resound, and the unwieldy prey is towed in triumph 
to the ship. 

So huge a mass, of course, is slowly moved 
through the water, but there are few operations that 
are more joyously performed ; it is like the harvest- 
home of the farmer. When arrived, it is secured 
alongside the ship, and somewhat stretched by tackles 
at the head and tail, and the process of fiensing com¬ 
mences. The men having shoes armed with long iron 
spikes to maintain their footing, get down on the 
huge and slippery carcass, and with very long knives 
and sharp spades make parallel cuts through the 
blubber, from the head to the tail A band of fat, 
however, is left round the neck, called the hent, to 
which hooks and ropes are attached for the purpose 
of shifting round the carcass. The long parallel 
strips are divided across into portions weighing about 
haK a ton each, and being separated from the flesh 
beneath, are hoisted on board, chopped into pieces, 
and put into casks. When the whalebone is exposed, 
it is detached by spades, &c., made for the purpose, 
and hoisted on deck in a mass; it is then split into 
junks, containing eight or ten blades each. Some¬ 
times the jaws are taken out, and being flxed in a 
perpendicular position on deck, with the extremities 
in vessels, a considerable quantity of oil gradually 
drains from them. The carcass is then cut away as 
valueless to man, though a valuable prize to bears, 
birds, and sharks. Sometimes the carcass sinks im- 













144 


THE OCEAN. 


mediately. Mr. Scoresby mentions a case in wbich 
it bad been cut adrift prematurely, one of the men 
being still upon it: it began to sink, but unfortu¬ 
nately a book in bis boot bad a firm bold of tbe 
fiesb; be convulsively grasped tbe side of tbe boat 
in wbicb bis comrades were, and tbe whole immense 
weight was suspended by bis foot. The torture was 
extreme ; it was expected every instant that bis foot 
would be rent off, or that bis body would be torn 
asunder ; but presently, by tbe merciful interposition 
of God, one of bis companions contrived to book a 
grapnel into tbe carcass, and it was drawn sufidciently 
near tbe surface for him to be extricated. 

Tbe MTiale to wbicb tbe preceding notices refer is 
by no means tbe largest of tbe tribe, as tbe Great 
Eorqual {Balcenoptera hoojys) sometimes attains 
nearly double tbe length of tbe former. Two spe¬ 
cimens have been measured of tbe length of one 
hundred and five feet, and Sir A. de Capell Brooke 
asserts, that it is occasionally seen of tbe enormous 
dimensions of a hundred and twenty feet. Tbe 
Eorqual inhabits tbe same seas as tbe “ right ” 
MTiale, but is not usually seen in company with it; 
they seem rather to avoid each other. Tbe thinness 
of its blubber, and tbe shortness of its whalebone, 
render it of far less value than tbe other species ; 
besides wbicb, its swiftness, strength, and determi¬ 
nation, render it a hazardous enemy to encounter. 
Hence it is usually avoided by tbe whalers, though 
tbe adventurous inhabitants of tbe Arctic shores of 
Europe do not hesitate to attack it. It is worthy ol 
our notice, however, on account of its affording an 


THE AECTIC SEAS. 


145 


instance of what has been called, in an examination 
of the care of Almighty God over His inferior 
creatures, the principle of compensation. When any 
organ, or set of organs that answer purposes very 
important in the economy of an animal are removed 
in a kindred species with similar habits, or are so 
modified as no longer to serve the same purpose, some 
new structure is bestowed upon it, to supply the lack 
of that which is removed. We have seen how the 
'WTiale feeds, by receiving into its mouth a large 
quantity of water, which is filtered through the whale¬ 
bone. In order to this, the mouth is made very 
capacious by the bowing over of the upper jaws in 
die form of a high arch, the blades of whalebone 
filling up the bow. But in the Eorqual the two jaws 
are nearly straight, and the blades vary little in 
length, so that thus far the cavity of the mouth is 
inconsiderable. Here comes in the compensation : 
the low^er part of the mouth (or, externally, the chin 
and throat), instead of being stretched tightly across 
the branches of the lower jaw, are wrinkled up into 
many longitudinal folds, which, when the water 
rushes into the mouth, expand and make a capacious 
pouch or bag. On shutting the mouth and contract¬ 
ing the muscles of the throat, the flesh is pursed up 
again into folds, and the water is driven, as in the 
former case, through the whalebone, which secures 
the food. 

The Whales, gigantic as they are, yet having little 
power of offence, find to their cost, in common with 
nobler creatures, that harmlessness is often no resource 
against violence. Several species of the voracious 

H 



146 


THE OCEAN. 


Sharks make the Whale the object of their peculiar 
attacks ; the Arctic Shark {Scymnus horealis) is said, 
with its serrated teeth, to scoop out hemispherical 
pieces of flesh from the Whale’s body as big as a 
man’s head, and to proceed without mercy until its 
appetite is satiated. Another Shark, often called the 
Thresher [Carcharias vulpes), which is sometimes 
upwards of twelve feet long, is said to use its mus¬ 
cular tail, that is nearly half of its whole length, to 
inflict terrible slaps on the ^Tiale ; though one would 
be apt to imagine that if this whipping were all, the 
huge creature would be more frightened than hurt. 
The Sword-flsh [Xiphias gladius), however, in the 
long and bony spear that projects from its snout, 
seems to be furnished with a weapon which may 
reasonably alarm even the leviathan of the deep, 
especially as the will to use his sword, if we may 
believe eye-witnesses, is in nowise deficient. The 
late Captain Grow relates an incident of this kind 
with much circumstantiality: '' One morning,” he 
observes, ‘'during a calm, when near the Hebrides, 
all hands were called up at 3 A.M. to witness a battle 
between several of the fish called Threshers, or Fox 
Sharks, and some Sword-fish, on one side, and an 
enormous ^Tiale on the other. It was in the middle 
of summer, and the weather being clear, and the fish 
close to the vessel, we had a fine opportunity of 
witnessing the combat. As soon as the AVhale's back 
appeared above the water, the Threshers, springing 
several yards into the air, descended with great 
\dolence upon the object of their rancour, and inflicted 
upon him the most severe slaps with their long tails, 



THE AECTIC SEAS. 


147 


' the sound of which resembled the reports of muskets 
fired at a distance. The Sword-fish, in their turn, 
attacked the distressed Whale, stabbing from below ; 
and thus beset on all sides and wounded, when the 
poor creature appeared, the water around him was 
dyed with blood. In this manner they continued 
tormenting and wounding him for many hours, until 
we lost sight of him; and I have no doubt they, in 
the end, completed his destruction."’* Some discredit 
has been thrown on this and similar accounts, on the 
ground that the fishes could have no object in per¬ 
secuting the Whale ; but the circumstance is not 
more extraordinary than the well-known custom which 
little birds have of surrounding and teasing, or 
‘‘mobbing,” as it is called, any large bird to which 
they are unaccustomed. It has been objected, that 
the Captain describes the proceedings of the Sword¬ 
fish from below, when, from the refiection of the 
surface, he could not possibly see them. But, on the 
contrary, the incident is said to have occurred “ close 
to the vesseland any one who has been at sea 
knows that in a calm, by going aloft, you can see to 
a great depth in the water. The habit here attributed 
to the Sword-fish is confirmed by the frequency wuth 
which ships are struck with great violence, most 
museums possessing fragments of the planking of 
ships in which the “ sword ” of this finny tyrant is 
imbedded. It is with reason supposed that the dark 
and bulky hull is by the fish mistaken for the body 
of a AWiale. The only resource which this gigantic 
animal has for getting rid oi his troublesome foes, is 

* Memoirs of Capt. H. Crow, p. 11. 

H 2 



14S 


THE OCEAN, 


said to be by diving to unfathomable depths, where 
their structure could not for an instant sustain the 
enormous pressure. 

Another animal has been accused of joining in 
these assaults, I suppose from ha\ing been con¬ 
founded with the Sword-fish. It is the Narwhal, or 



Sir'EAKINQ THE NARWHAL, 


Sea Unicom (^Monodon monoceros), a very different 
creature; in fact, being a first-cousin of the Whale 
himself This interesting animal, the beauty of the 
northern seas, must be acquitted of this charge, 
being as inoffensive as his great relative. It is 
a very singular creature, formed in many respects 



































THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


149 


like the AVhale, but much more graceful. The colour 
is grey above, and pure white beneath, the whole 
spotted or mottled with a blackish hue. From the 
head projects a long straight horn of solid ivory, 
in the same line as the body; sometimes, but rarely, 
there are two.. The structure and origin of this 
horn (which has given much celebrity to this hand¬ 
some creature) are very peculiar. It is, in fact, the 
tooth, and the only one it possesses in general; the 
fellow-tooth, however, exists within the bone of 
the jaw, but undeveloped, lying shut up like the 
kernel of a nut. It is usually the left tooth that 
projects. Considerable uncertainty exists about the 
use of this long and spiral tusk. Some have sup¬ 
posed that it is used to search for food, by raking 
in the mud at the bottom, or to pierce thin ice at 
the surface, to obtain access to the air; but Mr. 
Scoresby appears to have thrown considerable light 
upon it, by having met with an individual in whose 
stomach, among the remains of other fishes, was 
found a skate, almost entire, which was two feet 
three inches long, and one foot eight inches wide. 
“Now it appears remarkable,’' observes tliis gentle¬ 
man, “that the Narwhal, an animal without teeth, 
a small mouth, and with stiff lips, should be able 
to catch and swallow so large a fish as a skate, the 
breadth of which is nearly three times as great as the 
width of its own mouth. It seems probable that the 
skates had been pierced with tlie horn^ and killed 
before they were devoured ; otherwise it is difficult 
to imagine how the Narwhal could have swallowed 
them, or how a fish of any activity would have per- 






150 


THE OCEA^\ 


mitted itself to be taken, and sucked down the throat 
of a smooth-mouthed animal, without teeth to detain 
and compress it/’ 

We know but little of the true fishes that inhabit 
the Arctic Seas. It appears, however, that many of 
the more important of those which are common with 
us are common also there ; not the subjects of an 
annual migration, but widely distributed at all times. 
On the authority of a French naval officer, it would 
even seem that some species at least may undergo 
a sort of torpidity. Admiral Pleville Lepley, who 
had had his home on the ocean for half a century, 
assured M. LacepMe that in Greenland, in the 
smaller bays surrounded with rocks, so common on 
this coast, where the water is always calm, and the 
bottom generally soft mud and juice, he had seen in 
the beginning of spring myriads of Mackerel, with 
their heads sunk some inches in the mud, their tails 
elevated vertically above its level; and that the 
mass of fish was such, that at a distance it might 
be taken for a reef of rocks. The Admiral supposed 
that the Mackerel had passed the winter torpid, 
under the ice and snow, and added that, for fifteen or 
twenty days after their arrival, these fishes were 
affected with a kind of blindness, and that then many 
were taken with the net; but as they recovered their 
sight the nets would not answer, and hooks and lines 
were used.”* In illustration of the great depth to 
which the eye can penetrate in these seas, from 
the transparency of the water. Captain Wood, who 


Edin. Journal of Science. 






THE AKGTIC SEAS. 


lol 


visited Spitzbergen in 1676. observed tbat, at the 
depth of four hundred and eighty feet, the shells 
on the bottom were distinctly visible. 

The minute animals which constitute the food 
of the Whales, form a very intei'esting subject of 
contemplation. If any of my young readers have 
ever been upon the sea, though only in a boat, 9 
few miles from the shore, they cannot fail to have 
observed floating in the water some round masses ol 
transparent substance, like clear jelly, which alter¬ 
nately contract and dilate their bodies, or sometimes 



FOOD OF THE WHALE. 

1, Limacina helicina ; 2, 3, 4, Medusae; 5, Clio borealis. 

turn themselves, as it were, partly inside out. They 
are of various sizes, from that of a large plate to a 
microscopical minuteness; they are, for the most 
part, crossed by radiating lines, and are curiously 
fringed at the edge. These Medusce, or Sea-blubbers, 
as they are familiarly called, form a considerable 
portion of the Wliale's food, many species of them 
being abundant in its haunts. Another little animal 
occurs there in immense hosts, the Clio lorealis, 









152 


THE OCEA:!^. 


wliich bears some slight resemblance to a butterfly 
just emerged from the chrj^salis, before the wings 
are expanded. Xear the head there is on each side 
a large fin or ^ving, by the motions of which it 
changes its place. These motions are amusing; and 
as the little creatures are so abundant, they make 
the dreary sea quite alive with their gambols as 
they dance merrily along. In swimming, the Clio 
brings the tips of its fins almost into contact, first 
on one side, then on the other: in calm weather they 
rise to the surface in mjuiads, for the purpose of 
breathing, but scarcely have they reached it before 
they again descend into the deep. Mr. Scoresby kept 
several of them alive in a glass of sea-water for 
about a month, when they gradually wasted away 
and died. The head of one of these little creatmes 
exhibits a most astonishing display of the wisdom ol 
God in creation. Around the mouth are placed six 
tentacles, each of wliich is covered with about three 
thousand red specks, which are seen by the micro¬ 
scope to be transparent cylinders, each containing 
about twenty little suckers, capable of being thrust 
out, and adapted for seizing and holding their minute 
prey. “ Thus, therefore, there will be three hundred 
and sixty thousand of these microscopic suckers 
upon the head of one Clio ; an apparatus for pre¬ 
hension perhaps unequalled in the creation.” 

Xumerous as are the hosts of these frolicsome 
little beings, there are, however, others which vastly 
exceed them in number; which pass, indeed, beyond 
the possibility of human computation. Xavigators 
had often noticed, in certain parts of the Arctic Sea 


THE ARCTIC SEAS. 


153 


ihdt the water instead of retaining its usual trans¬ 
parency, was densely opaque, and that its hue was 
grass-green, or sometimes olive-green. It is com¬ 
monly known as the green-water,” and though 
liable to slight shiftings from the force of currents, is 
pretty constant in its position, occupying about one- 
fourth of the whole Greenland sea. Mr Scoresby 
was the first who ascertained the cause of this pecu¬ 
liar hue : on examination he found that the water 
was densely filled with very minute Medusce, for the 
most part undistinguishable without a microscope. 
He computes that within the compass of two square 
miles, supposing these animalcules to extend to the 
depth of two hundred and fifty fathoms, there would 
be congregated a number which eighty thousand 
persons, counting incessantly from the Creation until 
now, would not have enumerated, though they worked 
at the rate of a million per week! And when we 
consider that the area occupied by this green water 
in the Greenland seas is not less than twenty thou¬ 
sand square miles, what a vast idea does it give 
us of the profusion of animal life, and of the bene¬ 
ficence of Him who '^openeth His hand, and satisfieth 
the desire of every living thing !” 

Several species of minute Crabs and Shrimps 
occur also in great numbers, and constitute no small 
portion of the food of the Whale. One little crear 
ture, in particular, was found to swarm even beneath 
the ice, in the temporary sojourn of the discovery 
expeditions in winter quarters. The men had often 
noticed the shrinking of their salt meat which had 
been put to soak ; and a goose that had been frozen. 

H 3 


THE OCEAN 


154 

on being immersed to thaw, was, in the lapse of 
forty-eight horns, reduced to a perfect skeleton. The 
officers afterwards availed themselves of the ser¬ 
vices of these industrious little anatomists, to obtain 
cleaned skeletons of such small animals as they 
procured, merely taking the precaution of tying the 
specimen in a loose bag of gauze or netting, for 
the preservation of any of the smaller bones that 
might be separated by the consumption of the liga¬ 
ments. 



f 






























THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


The Atlantic is much better known to us than 
any other of the great divisions of the Ocean, be¬ 
cause, washing the shores of the principal commercial 
nations, it has been more traversed and explored. 
Its edges, on each side, are, in a greater degree than 
those of any other, hollowed into bays and harbours, 
and it is connected with the chief inland seas, such 
as the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Seas on the 
one hand, and the Gulf of Mexico and the Bays, 
or rather Seas, of Hudson and Baffin on the other. 
If, then, the importance of an Ocean is estimated by 
the length of the line of coast which borders it, the 
Atlantic takes precedency of all, exceeding even the 
Pacific in this respect, in the proportion of about 
four to three. It is remarkable that it is the north¬ 
ern half which has so winding a coast, and to which, 
also, are confined the inland seas : and it is this part 
that is bordered with nations celebrated for naviga¬ 
tion and commerce, the maritime nations of Europe 
and the United States. Unlike the Pacific, whose 
vast solitudes are rarely broken by the presence of a 
ship,* the Atlantic is continually ploughed by the 
keels, and spangled with the banners of powerful 
empires, conveying from shore to shore those diver¬ 
sified commodities, the interchange of which so greatly 

* Since this was written the discovery of the gold-fields of 
California, Australia, and British Columbia has immensely increased 
the nautical traverse of the Pacific. (Ed. 1860.) 





156 


THE OCEAN. 


promotes peace and good-will, and is, therefore, 
fraught with blessings to mankind. 

Leaving behind us the inhospitable waters of the 
north, let us take an imaginary voyage through this 
important and interesting portion of the great deep, 
still having an open eye to mark the footsteps of 
Him whose way is in the sea, and His path in the 
great waters.” The north breeze blows cheerily, 
though coldly, and the sun, daily attaining a more 
elevated position at noon, while the pole-star nightly 
approaches the horizon, tells us of our rapid progress 
southward. By and by, the shout of “ Land ho ! ” 
directs our attention to the horizon, where, with 
straining eyes, we dimly discern what appears to be 
a faint mass of cloud, of so evanescent a hue, that 
a landsman looks long in the direction of the sea¬ 
man’s finger, and yet continues dubious v^hether 
anything is really visible or not. How he says con¬ 
fidently, ''Ha! I caught a glance of it then:” but 
presently it turns out that his eye has been directed 
to a point quite wide of the indicated locality; and 
again he slowly but vainly sweeps the horizon with 
his eye, in search of what the practised vision of the 
mariner detects and recognises at a glance. Mean¬ 
while, the ship rushes on before the cheerful breeze; 
we go down to breakfast; and on again coming on 
deck, there no longer remains any doubt; there lies 
the land on the lee bow, high and blue, and pal¬ 
pable. It is one of the Azores; and as we draw 
nearer, we discern and admire the picturesque beau¬ 
ties by which they are distinguished. The lofty 
cliffs of varying hues rear their bold heads perpen- 


THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


157 


dicularly from the foaming waves, cut and seamed 
into dark chasms and ravines, through which rocky 
torrents find a noisy course, while here and there 
a little stream is poured over the very summit of the 
precipice, the cascade descending in a white narrow 
line, conspicuous against the dark rock behind, until 
the wind carries it away in feathery spray long be¬ 
fore it reaches the bottom. The sunlight throws the 
prominences and cavities of the cliffs into broad 
masses of light and shadow, which, ever changing 
as the ship rapidly alters her position, give a magic 
character to the scene. Here and there, on the sides 
of the hills farther inland, the lawns and fields of 
lively green, speckled with white villas and hamlets, 
and relieved by the rich verdure of the orange- 
groves, present a softer, but not less pleasing prospect. 
Other islands of this interesting group gradually rise 
from the horizon, all of similar character, but diverse 
in appearance from their various distance; some 
showing out in palpable distinctness, and others seen 
only in shadowy outline. But there is one which, 
from the singularity of its shape, arrests the attention. 
A mountain, of a very regularly conical form, seems 
to rise abruptly from the sea, with remarkable steep¬ 
ness, verdant almost to the summit; it is almost 
like a sugar-loaf, with a rounded top, crowned by a 
nipple-like prominence, which is often veiled by 
clouds. It is the Peak of Pico, seven thousand 
feet in height, second in celebrity, as in elevation, 
only to the Peak of Teneriffe. A visitor has thus 
described the picturesque beauty of this oceanic 
mountain:—'‘The hoary head of Pico presents a 










158 


THE 0CEA2S 



Pico. 


great variety of beauty. Odc afternoon it was lightly 
powdered with snow, so as to give it a tint of sober 
olive; with a larger quantity of frost or snow, and 
stronger and more direct sunshine, it has looked like 
dead silver ; at another time it was tipped with 
fire ; at another it was pa^dlioned in flame-coloured 
clouds ;—a few light mists would shut it entirely 
out, or, where transparent, give to it a wan and 
\dsionar}^ hue; and in the evening, when the clouds 
put on a gayer liveiy, becoming rose-coloured, or 
purple, or bronzed, the changes and flushes would 
almost remind you of the variable colours on a 
pigeon’s neck; or, as a poet has said, 

‘ Of hues that blush and glow 
Like angels’ wings.’ ” * 


* Euliar’s Azores, i. 368 



















































































THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


159 


Some curious traditions are found in the writings 
of the ancients respecting an island of very large 
size, believed to have once existed in the Atlantic. 
Plato, in the Timseus, gives the fullest account of 
this island, which was called Atlantis. It is stated 
to have been nearly two hundred miles in length, 
situated opposite the Straits of Gibraltar. It was 
fertile and populous, and some of the warlike chiefs 
among whom it was divided are said to have made 
irruptions upon the continent, and to have conquered 
a considerable part of Europe and Northern Africa. 
Several other islands are described as situated in the 
vicinity of Atlantis, beyond which lay a continent 
superior in size to all Europe and Africa. At length, 
the whole island is reported to have been swallowed 
up by the sea; after which, for a long period, that 
part of the ocean was of difficult and dangerous 
navigation, on account of the numerous rocks and 
shelves which lay beneath the surface. There are 
many circumstances which render it improbable that 
this story, marvellous as it is, is entirely a fiction. 
It has been supposed that the great island was Cuba, 
the surrounding ones the other West Indies, and the 
great continent America ; and that the cessation of 
intercourse with these regions, through the decay of 
naval enterprise, gave rise to the tradition that the 
island itself had disappeared. But this would not 
explain the matter-of-fact statement of the rocky 
shallows after the catastrophe; nor would the dis¬ 
tance of Cuba from Europe permit martial invasions 
of this continent to be readily made from it. Others 
haA^'e concluded—and this does not seem to my own 




160 


THE OCEAN. 


mind inconsistent with probability—that the state¬ 
ments of the ancients may be literally true ; that 
by the action of an earthquake, of which we have 
had instances in modern times, the island may have 
been submerged, and that the Azores are the sum¬ 
mits of the highest mountains. It seems somewhat 
to confirm this opinion, that these islands are evi¬ 
dently volcanic in their origin, and are very subject 
to earthquakes,—nay, the very phenomenon of islands 
swallowed up by the sea has repeatedly occurred here 
within historical record. It is true, that in these 
instances the island itself was small, and had been 
but recently raised by volcanic action ; but it does 
not seem necessary that in similar cases there should 
be an exact parallelism, either in size or duration. 
The last of these occurrences was so remarkable 
on other accounts as to be well worthy of a detailed 
description, which is given by an eye-witness, Captain 
Tillard, an ofl&cer of the British nav}^: '' Approaching 
the island of St. ilichaers on the 12th June, 1811, 
we occasionally observed, rising in the horizon, two 
or three columns of smoke, such as would have been 
occasioned by an action between two ships, to which 
cause we universally attributed its origin. This 
opinion was, however, in a very short time changed 
from the smoke increasing, and ascending in much 
larger bodies than could possibly have been produced 
by such an event; and having heard an account, 
prior to our sailing from Lisbon, that in the preceding 
January or Februar}^ a volcano had burst out within 
the sea near St. Michael’s, we immediately concluded 
that the smoke we saw proceeded from that cause, 




THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


161 


and on our anchoring the next morning in the road 
of Ponta del Gada, we found this conjecture correct 
as to the cause, hut not as to the time ; the eruption 
of January having totally subsided, and the present 
one having only burst forth two days prior to our 
approach, and about three miles distant from the 
one before alluded to.’^ 

The Captain having proceeded to a cliff on the 
island of St. Michaers, about three or four hundred 
feet high, from which the eruption was scarcely a 
mile distant, proceeds to describe its appearance : 
'' Imagine an immense body of smoke rising from 
the sea, the surface of which was marked by the 
silvery ripplings of the waves. In a quiescent state, 
it had the appearance of a circular cloud revolving 
on the water, like a horizontal wheel, in various and 
irregular involutions, expanding itself gradually on 
the lee side; when, suddenly, a column of the 
blackest cinders, ashes, and stones, would shoot up 
in the form of a spire, at an angle of from ten to 
twenty degrees from a perpendicular line, the angle 
of inclination being universally to windward; this 
was rapidly succeeded by a second, third, and fourth 
shower, each acquiring greater velocity, and over¬ 
topping the other, till they had attained an altitude 
as much above the level of our eye as the sea was 
below it. 

As the impetus with which the several columns 
were severally propelled diminished, and their as¬ 
cending motion had nearly ceased, they broke into 
various branches resembling a group of pines: these 
again forming themselves into festoons of white fea- 







162 


THE OCEAH 



SUBMARINE VOLCANO. 


thery smoke, in the most fanciful manner imaginable, 
intermixed with the finest particles of falling ashes, 
which at one time assumed the appearance of innu¬ 
merable plumes of black and white ostrich feathers 
surmounting each other ; at another, that of the light 
wavy branches of a weeping willow. 

'' During these bursts, the most vivid flashes of 
lightning continually issued from the densest part of 
the volcano; and the cloud of smoke now ascending 
to an altitude much above the highest point to which 
the ashes were projected, rolled off in large masses of 
fleecy clouds, gradually expanding themselves before 
the wind in a direction nearly horizontal, and draw- 






























THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


163 


ing up to them a quantity of water-spouts, which 
formed a most beautiful and striking addition to the 
general appearance of the scene.” 

In the course of a few hours, a crater had been 
thrown up by these eruptions, to the height of twenty 
feet above the sea, and apparently tliree or four 
hundred feet in diameter. Eepeated shocks of an 
earthquake accompanied the explosion. The narrator 
was obliged to leave the neighbourhood on the suc¬ 
ceeding day, at which time the volcanic eruption 
was seen from a distance to be still raging with 
undiminished fury. About three weeks afterwards 
he returned to the spot, and found all quiet, but 
the newly-formed island had increased to a mile 
in circumference, and the highest part appeared to 
have an elevation of about two hundred and forty 
feet. On landing, he found the place still smoking, 
and the larger crater nearly full of water in a boiling 
state, which was being discharged into the Ocean by 
a stream about six yards across : this stream, close to 
the edge of the sea, was so hot, as barely to admit 
the momentary immersion of the finger.* On the 
11th of October, in the same year, this island sank 
beneath the Ocean from which it had emerged, 
leaving a dangerous shoal in the neighbourhood, 
thus realizing the traditionary fate of the island of 
Atlantis. 

But let us pursue our voyage. As we follow the 
setting sun to his bed among the Indian islands of 
the west, the tedium of our way across the trackless 
waste is enlivened by those cheerful little birds, 

Trans. Roy. Soc, 1812. 




164 


THE OCEAN. 


the Petrels (Procellaria pelagica)^ the constant com¬ 
panions of the sailor, by whom they are familiarly 
named Mother Carey’s chickens. They are peculiarly 
Ocean-birds: rarely approaching the shore, except 
when they seek gloomy and inaccessible rocks for 
the purpose of breeding, they are never seen but 
m association with the boundless waste of waters. 
Scarcely larger than the swallow that darts through 
our streets, one wonders that so frail a little bird 
should brave the fuiy of the tempest; but when the 
masts are cracking, and the cordage shrieking fit¬ 
fully in the fierce blast, and when the sea is leaping 
up into mountainous waves, whose foaming crests 
are torn off in invisible mist before the violence of 
the gale, the little Petrel flits hither and thither, 
now treading the brow of the watery hill, now 
sweeping through the valley, piping its singular note 
with as much glee as if it were the very spirit of the 
storm, which the superstitious mariner, indeed, attri¬ 
butes to its evil agency. Flocks of these little birds, 
more or less numerous, accompany ships, often for 
many days successively, not, as has been asserted, 
to seek a refuge from the storm in their shelter, 
but to feed on the greasy particles which the cook 
now and then throws overboard, or the floating sub¬ 
stances which the vessel’s motion brings to the sur¬ 
face. It is a pleasing sight to see them crowd up 
close under the stern with confiding fearlessness, 
their sooty wings horizontally extended, and their 
tiny web-feet put down to feel the water, while they 
pick up with their beaks the minute atoms of food 
of which they are in search. I have been surprised 



THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


165 


to notice how very quickly a flock will collect, 
though a few moments before scarcely one could 
be seen in any direction ; and again they disperse 
as speedily. They seem to have the power of dis¬ 
pensing with sleep, at least for very long intervals. 
Wilson, one of the most accurate of observers, has 
recorded a fact illustrative of this: '' In firing at 
these birds, a quill-feather was broken in each wing 
of an individual, and hung fluttering in the wind, 
which rendered it so conspicuous among the rest, as 
to be known to all on board. This bird, notwith¬ 
standing its inconvenience, continued with us for 
nearly a loeeh, during which we sailed a distance 
of more than four hundred miles to the north.” Of 
course, if this individual had gone to sleep, the 
vessel would have sailed away, and we can hardly 
imagine that it would have again found her in her 
pathless course. I do not believe they have ever 
been known to alight on the rigging or deck of a^ 
ship. 

It is a pity that so interesting a little creature as 
this should become the object of a degrading and 
meaningless superstition. The persuasion that they 
are in some mysterious manner connected with the 
creation of storms, is so prevalent among seamen, as 
to render them, innocent and confiding as they are, 
objects of general dislike, and often even of hatred. 
I once made a voyage with a captain, who, though a 
man of much intelligence, was not proof against this 
absurd superstition, venting hearty execrations against 
these '' devil’s imps,” as he called them, in every 
gale, as if they had been the malicious authors of 


166 


THE OCEAN. 


it. If this unoffending Little bird does afford any 
indication of a coming storm, discovered by its more 
acute perceptions, which, nevertheless, I very much 
doubt, why should not those who navigate the Ocean 
receive its warning with gratitude, and make pre¬ 
parations for security, instead of following it with 
profane and impotent curses ? As well might they 
curse the midnight lighthouse that, star-like, guides 
them on their watery way, or the buoy that warns 
them of the sunken rocks below, as this harmless 
wanderer, whose manner informs them of the approach 
of the storm, and thereby enables them to prepare 
for it.” 

A frequent relief to the tedium of a long voyage 
is found in the shoals of plajfful Dolphins {Del- 
phinus delphis^ &c.), which so often perform their 
amusing gambols around us. They may be discerned 
at a great distance; as they are continually leaping 
^from the surface of the sea, an action which, as it 
seems to have no obvious object, is probably the 
mere exuberance of animal mirth. When a shoal is 
seen thus frolicking at the distance of a mile or two, 
in a few moments, having caught sight of the ship, 
down they come trooping with the velocity of the 
wind, impelled by curiosity to discover what being 
of monstrous bulk thus invades their domain. When 
arrived, they display their agility in a thousand 
graceful motions, now leaping with curved bodies 
many feet into the air, then darting through a wave 
with incredible velocity, leaving a slender w^ake of 
whitening foam imder the water; now the thin back- 
fin only is exposed, cutting the surface like a knife; 





THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


167 


then the broad and muscular tail is elevated as the 
animal plunges perpendicularly down into the depth, 
or dives beneath the keel to explore the opposite 
side. So smooth are their bodies, that their gambols 
are performed with surprisingly little disturbance of 
the water, and even when descending from their 
agile somersets they make scarcely any splash. The 
colour of the upper parts of their bodies is of a 
deep black, but by a deception of the sight, caused, 
probably, by the swiftness of their motions, and by 
the gleaming of the light from their wet and glittering 
skin, they appear in the air and under water of a 
light-greenish grey. After having taken a few rapid 
turns under and around the vessel, the whole shoal, 
consisting of a dozen or two, usually congregate 
immediately beneath the bowsprit, where they re¬ 
main sometimes for hours romping and rolling about 
as if the ship were perfectly stationary, instead of 
spanking along at the rate of seven or eight knots 
an hour, apparently making no effort to go ahead, 
and yet keeping their relative position with admir¬ 
able dexterity and precision. But they are allowed 
to remain so long undisturbed only when the duties 
of the ship demand the attention of the hands : for 
if there be a few moments of leisure, the presence 
of a shoal of Dolphins is too tempting to pass un¬ 
heeded. Some one of the crew reputed to be skil¬ 
ful in wielding the harpoon, in small vessels often 
the captain himself, goes forward, and having taken 
his station upon the bowsprit-heel, or upon one of 
the cat-heads, poises his implement of war, and waits 
a favourable moment of attack Now the bows are 






168 


THE OCEAN. 


thronged with anxious faces; the usual discipline 
of the ship is relaxed on such occasions; even the 
sooty cook leaves his caboose, and with the dirty 
cabin-boy endeavours to witness the interesting per¬ 
formance. All are there but the man at the wheel, 
and even he stands on tip-toe to catch a glimpse 
of what is going on, and neglecting his helm, '' yaws ” 
the ship about sadly. The unsuspecting visitors 
continue their romps: presently one comes within 
aim, pretty near the surface; the dart is thrown, and’ 
if the trembling anxiety of the harpooner have not 
marred his skill, strikes its object: I have known it, 
however, take effect obliquely on the side, cutting 
deeply into the flesh, but retaining no hold, in which 
case the poor wounded creature, with its bowels 
exposed and protruding, instantly shoots away, accom¬ 
panied by all its fellows, not, however, to sjunpathize 
vith it, or afford it any assistance, but, if the sailors 
may be believed, to fall upon and devour it. But 
we will suppose that the barbed weapon has trans- 
flxed the animal in the back, and, piercing through 
the superficial coat of fat, has lodged deep in the 
solid flesh. The Dolphin plunges convulsively : the 
whole herd are gone like a thought, leaving their 
unhappy comrade to his fate : the stout line stretches 
with the force, but brings him up with a jerk; the 
barbs are beneath the tough muscles, and resist all 
his endeavours for freedom : a dozen eager hands 
are thrust forth to grasp the line and haul him to 
the surface. The struggles of the desperate creat\ire 
are now tremendous: the water all around is lashed 
into boiling foam, reddened with the life-blood that 








THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


169 


IS fast ebbing from his wound. Two or three of the 
most agile now jump into the fore-chains, with the 
end of a rope formed into a running noose ; they 
hang this down into the water, and endeavour to 
get the bight over his tail; many trials are unsuccess¬ 
fully made to do this, for the frantic motions of 
the animal render it a very difficult operation; at 
length, however, it is drawn over, tightened, and the 
prey is considered secure. It is now comparatively 
easy, with the aid of a boat-hook, to pass another 
rope under the body, just behind the breast-fins, and 
then he is soon hoisted on deck. I have been as¬ 
tonished to observe how very inadequate is the notion 
one forms of the dimensions of these animals by 
seeing them only in the water; an individual that 
measures eight feet in length, appearing in water not 
more than four or five. The muscular power is very 
great, but is chiefly concentrated in the tail, and, 
therefore, when the animal is removed from its native 
element, it is almost helpless, its exertions being 
confined to the violent blows which it inflicts upon 
the deck with this broad and powerful organ. In 
all essential particulars, the Dolphin agrees with the 
Whale, already described, being of the same order; but 
it differs in having an upright fin on the back, and 
both the upper and lower jaws armed with numerous 
small, close, and pointed teeth. In one specimen 
which I saw captured, I counted one hundred and 
fifty-two in all; they are beautifully regular, and 
those of one jaw fit into the interstices of the other. 
The Dolphin differs from the Porpesse (Phoccena) by 

having the jaws lengthened out into a long and 

I 



170 


THE OCEAN. 


slender beak, almost like that of some bird: in other 
respects there is little difference between the Porpesse 
and the Dolphin. Both are very voracious, pursuing 
any prey they can master: in the stomach of one 
taken in the Atlantic, I found a number of the beaks 
of Cuttles {8e])iad(E), A century or two ago, the 
flesh of this animal was esteemed a dainty worthy 
the attention of epicures in this country; but now it 
is relished only by those whom the salt provisions of 
a long voyage have rendered less choice than they 
would be under other circumstances. Prom the 
abundance of blood, the meat is very dark in appear¬ 
ance ; but to my own taste, on one or two occasions, 
with my appetite sharpened by the privation just 
mentioned, steaks cut from it and fried have seemed 
very savoury and agreeable. 

Xow the long yellow strings of floating weed 
(^Sargcbssum vulgar which lie in parallel lines 
pointing to the wind, or the broader masses that 
resemble meadows parched by protracted drought, 
inform us that we are in that mighty current of 
tepid water, the Gulf-stream. "We hasten to the 
gangway, and having drawn a few buckets of clear 
transparent water, which we deposit in a tub, collect 
with a boat-hook a quantity of the floating weed, 
and immerse it in the tub of water to be examined, 
ilany of the stems and berrj'-like air-vessels are 
coated with a thin and delicate tissue of shelly 
substance (Flustra), of a grejdsh hue, like very 
minute network, so delicate as not at all to disflgure 
or conceal the fonn of the substance on which it 
is spread. This network is formed of a multitude 







THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


171 


of shallow cells exquisitely regular in their size, 
shape, and arrangement, which are tenanted each 
by a minute animalcule. Attached to the weed are 
groups of little Barnacles {Lepas), from the size of 
a pin’s head to half an inch in length. Wliile under 
water these are incessantly projecting and retracting 
the elegant curled apparatus of cirri with which 
they are furnished, resembling a plume of feathers; 
from which resemblance it probably was that the 
inhabitants of a species found on the Scottish coast 
were asserted to be of that nature to be finally by 
nature of seas resolved into geese.”* The purpose 
of this continual motion of the fringed arms appears 
to be twofold ; first, to make a constant eddy in the 
surrounding water, and thus bring minute animals 
within reach, and then to enclose such as are brought 
in as by the cast of a net, and convey them to the 
mouth. Crawling on the surface of the weed we 
may now and then find a nimble little Crab {Lupa), 
with the shell on each side projecting horizontally 
into a sharp spine. We are surprised at first to find 
a Crab on the surface of the Ocean, as the species 
with which we are familiar have not the power of 
swimming. On endeavouring to procure one for 
examination, however, we no sooner touch the frag¬ 
ment of weed with the boat-hook, than the watchful 
little Crab hurries off into the water, and swims 
rapidly away out of reach. If we be fortunate 
enough to secure one by skilful manoeuvring with 
the bucket or a dip-net, we shall discover a peculiar 
stiucture, by means of which these Ocean-crabs arc 

* Boece, Cosmography of Albioun. Edin. about 1541. 

I 2 






172 


THE OCEAN. 


endowed with the faculty of swimming. In the 
common Crab all the feet, except the claws, ter¬ 
minate in a sharp point, but in the present genus 
the liindmost pair have the last joint flattened out 
into a thin but broad oval plate, the edge of which 
is thickly fringed with flne hairs. This structure is 
exactly parallel to that by which the foot of a perch¬ 
ing bird is modifled into the foot of a swimming 
bird, the surface being dilated into a broad web; or 
to the wide fringe by which the hind feet of a water- 
beetle are made such powerful oars ; the flattened 
joint in the present case becoming a paddle, by the 
stroke of which a rapid motion is obtained through 
the water. These Swimming Crabs are very vora¬ 
cious, preying upon the little shrimps that are nume¬ 
rous about the weed, which they pursue and seize 
vdth their pincers. Sometimes the Crab remains at 
rest, but vigilant, until a shrimp swims within reach, 
when he grasps it with great quickness, and proceeds 
to devour it by degrees. In doing this, he holds it 
fast by one claw, while with the other he picks off 
very daintily the legs and other members of his 
prey, putting them bit by bit into his mouth, until 
nothing remains but the tail, which he rejects. 

The weed is usually the resort of several small 
species of flsh, which doubtless congregate about 
it for the sake of the minute Crustacea that are so 
abundant. Among them I have found a very in¬ 
teresting little species of Toad-flsh {Antennarius)^ 
whose pectoral and ventral flns project so far from 
the surface of the body as to expose the joint, and 
thus take the form of the feet of the quadruped. It 


THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


I h-O 
/ ») 

uses these members actually as feet, crawling and 
pushing its way among the tangled weeds by means 
of them. It has even been known to come on shore, 
and remain several days without any communica¬ 
tion with the water. On the head of this fish there 
are one or two slender horns, furnished at the tip 
with several processes resembling little worms. The 
use of these organs is very remarkable. The fish is 
not one of swift motion, and therefore cannot take 
its prey by pursuit: instead of this, it usually con¬ 
ceals itself among the mud at the bottom, or perhaps 
among the stalks of fioating weed, while it agitates 
its curious fieshy horns ; their resemblance to worms 
and their motion attract other fishes, which, coming 
within reach, are seized by the capacious mouth 
of the latent Toad-fish. The lower jaw extending 
beyond the upper, causes the mouth to open perpen¬ 
dicularly, and the eyes are so situated as to look 
in the same direction, both of which arrangements 
facilitate the capture of prey by this singular mode. 
It is not improbable that the worm-like tentacles 
attached to the mouth and chin of other fishes, as 
the Cod and Barbel, for example, answer an end 
somewhat similar to this. 

In keeping small marine animals for examination, 
we often lose the specimens through the water 
becoming speedily unfit for supporting animal life ; 
a minute Shrimp or two, or a fish of an inch in 
length, if confined in a large basin of water, will 
usually exhaust the* oxygen during the night, and 
be dead by the morning. A little living seaweed, 
however, placed with them, will prevent, or, at least. 


174 


THE OCEAN. 


delay this, as plants in a living state give out 
oxygen."^ 

Every night the pole-star is perceptible nearer the 
horizon, and every day the meridian sun reaches to 
a higher and yet a higher point, until it appears 
almost vertical. The wind gradually becomes lighter, 
until we arrive at the ‘^calm latitudes,” where we 
lie weeks without making any progress. The captain 
and crew whistle for wind with as much perseverance 
as if they had never been disappointed, and every 
one watches anxiously for the least breathings of 
a breeze. Nothing can exceed the tantalizing tedium 
of this condition ; the wearied eye gazes intently 
upon the glistening sea, and eagerly catches the 
slightest ruflding of the mirror-like smoothness, in 
hopes that it may be an indication of wind; but on 
glancing at the feather-vane upon the ship’s quarter, 
the hope fades on perceiving it hang motionless 
from its staff A still more delicate test is then 
resorted to, that of throwing a live coal overboard, 
and marking if the little cloud of white steam has 
any lateral motion ; but no! it ascends perpendi¬ 
cularly till dispersed in the air. Now and then the 
polished surface of the sea is suddenly changed to 
a blue ripple; expectation becomes strong, for there 
is no doubt of the reality of the motion ; but before 
the sails can feel the breeze, it has died away again, 
the air is as still, and the sea as glassy; as before- 
Coleridge has well described such a state in his 
'' Ancient Mariner : ”— 

* I may be permitted to call attention to the fact that this 
passage stands verbatim as it did in the first edition, which was 
published in 1844. It is the 'principle of the Marine Aquarium, 


THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 



** The sun came up upon the left, 

Out of the sea came he ; 

And he shone bright and on the right 
Went down into the sea. 
***** ^ 

Down dropp’d the breeze, the sails dropp’d down ; 

’Twas sad as sad could be : 

And we did speak only to break 
The silence of the sea. 

Day after day, day after day, 

We stuck, nor breath nor motion; 

As idle as a painted ship 
Upon a painted ocean.” 


Not a cloud tempers the fierce burning rays of 
the sun, which shoot directly on our heads; the 
deck becomes scalding hot to the feet, the melting 
pitch boils up from the seams, the tar continually 
drops from the rigging, the masts and booms display 
gaping cracks, and the flukes of the anchors are too 
hot to be touched with impunity. In vain, if we 
happen to be sailing in a small vessel, which has 
no awning ©n board to spread over the quarter¬ 
deck, we seek for refuge beneath the sails which 
hang lazily from the yards and gaffs, inviting the 
desired gales ; for so perpendicular are the fiery 
beams in the heat of the day, that very little shadow 
is afforded by the sails, and even that little is con¬ 
stantly shifting from the vessel’s change of position 

in the swell. In such circumstances I have in some 

• 

measure felt the force of tiiose similitudes in the 
Sacred Prophets, in which the blessings of the 
coming reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, after the 
long apostacy, are likened to '"the shadow of a great 




176 


THE OCEAN. 


rock in a weary land.” Thou hast been a shadow 
from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones 
is as a storm against the wall. Thou shalt bring 
down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry 
place ; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud.”* 
Yet, though day after day rolls on and leaves us 
still in the same position, there are not wanting 
many things to beguile the weariness of the time. 
The gorgeous beauty of the sun’s setting almost 
makes amends for his unmitigated heat by day. As 
his orb approaches the western horizon, the clouds, 
which have been absent during the day, begin to 
form in that quarter of the heavens ; and, as he sinks, 
assume hues of the richest purple edged with gold, 
now hiding his disc, now allowing him to flash out 
his softened effulgence through crimson openings, 
till he falls beneath the massy mountain-like bed of 
cloud that seems to lie heavily upon the surface of 
the sea. Then the whole array begins to take the 
appearance of a lovely landscape ; the clouds forming 
the land, while the open sky represents calm water. 
Sometimes we seem to see the long capes and bold 
promontories of a broken and picturesque coast, 
deeply indented with bays and creeks, and fringed 
with groups of islands; at others, silvery lakes, 
studded with little wooded islets, appear embosomed 
in mountains, or surrounded by gentle slopes, here 
and there clothed with umbrageous woods. Such 
an appearance of reality is given to these fleeting 
scenes, that it is difficult, after gazing at them for 
a few minutes, to beheve they are mere shadows. 

* Isa. xxxii. 2; xxv. 4, 5 ; iv. 6. 




THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


177 


The mind forgets the world of waters around, and, 
in the enthusiasm of the hour, goes out in busy 
imagination to that beautiful land, and roves among 
its valleys and hills in dreamy enjoyment. We are 
not, then, surprised that the imaginative Greeks 
should have sung of their Fortunate Islands, the 
habitations of the blessed, placed far away in the 
ocean of the west, and invested with more than 
earthly loveliness ; nor that the existence of isles 
of similar character, in the same mysterious because 
unknown regions, should have found a place in 
the mythology of even so remote a nation as the 
Hindoos. 

The beauteous scenes before us, however, are as 
transitory as they are lovely: night comes on with 
a rapidity startling to us accustomed to the long 
twilight of the north ; the rich hues with which the 
western sky is suffused, the crimson and ruddy gold, 
speedily change to a warm and swarthy brown, and 
one by one the stars come out, and light up the sky 
with a strange and unwonted effulgence. Humboldt 
describes in the following terms his own emotions on 
first seeing the brilliant stars of these regions :— 

‘"From the time we entered the torrid zone, we 
were never wearied with admiring, every night, the 
beauty of the southern sky, which, as we advanced 
towards the south, opened new constellations to our 
view. We feel an indescribable sensation, when, on 
approaching the equator, and particularly on passing 
from one hemisphere to the other, we see those stars 
which we have contemplated from our infancy, 

progressively sink, and finally disappear. Nothing 

i3 


178 


THE OCEAN. 


awakens in tlie traveller a livelier remembrance ol 
the immense distance by which he is separated from 
his country, than the aspect of an unknown firma¬ 
ment. The grouping of the stars of the first magni¬ 
tude, some scattered nebulae rivalling in splendour 
the milky way, and tracts of space remarkable for 
their extreme blackness, give a particular physio¬ 
gnomy to the southern sky. This sight fills with 
admiration even those who, uninstructed in the 
branches of accurate science, feel the same emotions 
of delight in the contemplation of the heavenly vault, 
as in the view of a beautiful landscape, or a majestic 
river. A traveller has no need of being a botanist 
to recognize the torrid zone on the mere aspect of its 
vegetation ; and, without having acquired any notions 
of astronomy, he feels he is not in Europe, when he 
sees the immense constellation of the Ship, or the 
phosphorescent clouds of Magellan, arise on the 
horizon. The heaven and the earth, everything in 
the equinoctial regions, assume an exotic character.”* 
But of all the constellations that stud the sky of 
the southern hemisphere, there is none that more 
strikes a stranger than the Southern Cross. Its 
beauty, as well as the singularity of its form, cannot 
fail to inspire interest; even though we be, through 
the grace of God, furnished with ideas of true and 
spiritual worship, that prevent our viewing it with 
the superstitious reverence with which it is regarded 
by the inhabitants of South America. It is not seen 
above the horizon until we are within the tropics, 
and scarcely appears to advantage until we approach 
* Personal Narrative, 1841. Vol. ii. p. 18. 





THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


179 


the equator. As the two brilliant stars which form 
the top and bottom of the Cross have nearly the 
same right ascension, they assume a perpendicular 
position when upon the meridian; and hence afford 
an accurate mode of measuring time ; as the hour of 
southing at the different seasons, varying four minutes 



NVKiuV.pa* 


THJS SOUTHERN CROSS. 


every night, is well known to the inhabitants of the 
southern hemisphere. It is very common to hear 
the peasants observe one to another, ''It is after 
midnight (or some other hour); “ the Cross begins 
to faU!"* 

* Since the above was written I have seen the Southern Cross. 
It is a much less splendid constellation than I had expected, and 
loss symmetrical. Still it is beautiful, and its associations must 
ever render it a striking object, especially to the strarger who gazes 
upon it for the first time. 











































180 


THE OCEAN. 


Alone, in the midst of the ocean, called to nightly 
watchings upon the deck, the mariner naturally 
becomes familiar with the glowing orbs which are 
revealed by the surrounding darkness ; and if he 
be a Christian, his thoughts are led out, as he lifts 
up his eyes on high, and beholds the stars marshalled 
in order, or the moon'' walking in brightness,” to Him 
that'' created these things, that bringeth out their host 
by number, and calleth them all by names.” For 
'' the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firma¬ 
ment sheweth His handywoik. Day unto day uttereth 
speech ; and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 



CORYPHENE ifioryijh(EriAi), 


There is no speech nor language, where their voice is 
not heard.” 

Between, or in the neighbourhood of the tropics, 
the ship is rarely unaccompanied by fishes of many 


























THE ATLANTIC OCEAlN. 


181 


species, which, in the clear waters of these southern 
seas, are visible many fathoms beneath her keel. 
One of the most common, and perhaps one of the 
most beautiful, is the Coryphene [CoryplicBna)^ mis¬ 
called, by seamen, the Dolphin. One is never weary 
of admiring their beauty. Their form is deep, but 
thin and somewhat flattened ; and their sides are of 
brilliant pearly white, like polished silver. In small 
companies of five or six, they usually appear and 
play around and beneath the ship, sometimes close 
to the surface, and sometimes at such a depth that 
the eye can but dimly discern their shadowy out¬ 
line. When playing at an inconsiderable depth, in 
their turnings hither and thither, the rays of the 
sun, reflected from their polished sides, as one or 
the other is exposed to the light, flash out in suddei' 
gleams, or are interrupted, in a very striking man¬ 
ner. Night and day these interesting creatures are 
sporting about, apparently unsusceptible of weariness. 
Their motion is very rapid, when their powers are 
put forth, as in pursuit of the timid little Flying-fish. 
It is to these fishes that most of the accounts of 
Dolphins, v/hich we read in voyages, must be referred, 
as owing to some mistake of identity, not easily 
accounted for, the name of Dolphin has been univers¬ 
ally misapplied by our seamen to the Coryphene, 
while they confound the true Dolphin with the 
Porpesse. From not adverting to this habitual mis¬ 
nomer some confusion has arisen : thus the following 
interesting notice has been quoted in a late valuable 
work on the Cetacea,* as illustrative of the true 

* Jardine’s Naturalist’s Library. 


182 


THE OCEAN. 


Dolphins, althougli the fair narrator herself takes care 
to inform ns that she means the CoryjplicEua hippuris: 
'' The other morning a large Dolphin, which had been 
following the ship for some distance, and was spark¬ 
ling most gloriously in the sun, suddenly detected a 
shoal of Flying-fish rising from the sea at some 
distance. With the rapidity of lightning he wheeled 
round, made one tremendous leap, and so timed Hs 
fall as to arrive fairly at the place where our little 
friends, the Flying-fish, were forced to drop into .the 
sea to refresh their weary wings. A flight of sea-gulls 
now joined in the pursuit; we gave up our proteges 
for lost, when, to our great joy, we beheld them rising 
again, for they had merely skimmed the wave, and, 
thus recruited, continued their flight. Their restless 
foe pursued them with giant strides, now cutting the 
wave, which flashed and sparkled with the reflection 
of his brilliant coat, and then giving one huge leap, 
which brought him up with his prey: they seemed 
conscious that escape was impossible; their flight 
became shorter and more flurried, whilst the Dol¬ 
phin, animated by the certain prospect of success, 
grew more vigorous in his bounds; exhausted, they 
dropped their wings, and fell one by one into the 
jaws of the Dolphin, or were snapped up by the 
vigilant Gulls.''^ 

Captain Basil Hall has described a very similar 
scene in nearly parallel terms; but, to prevent mis¬ 
understanding, he also informs his readers that ^‘the 
Dolphin” of his narrative is the Goryphoena hippuris 
of naturalists, and a true fish. 

* Mi!33 Lloyd’s Sketches of Bermuda. 










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1 




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■ 1 


'4 




PURSUIT OP FLYING-FISH BY UOLPIIINS AND BIRDS 183 
















THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


183 


Shortly after observing a cluster of Flying-fish 
rise out of the water, we discovered two or three 
Dolphins [Coryphenes] ranging past the ship, in all 
their beauty ; and watched with some anxiety to 
see one of those aquatic chases, of which our friends 
the Indiamen had been telling us such wonderful 
stories. We had not long to wait; for the ship, 
in her progress through the water, soon put u}/ 
another shoal of these little things, which, as the 
others had done, took their flight directly to wind¬ 
ward. A large Dolphin, which had been keeping 
company with us abreast of the weather gangway, 
at the depth of two or three fathoms, and, as usual, 
glistening most beautifully in the sun, no sooner 
detected our poor dear little friends take wing, than 
he turned his head towards them, and darting to the 
surface, leaped from the water with a velocity little 
short, as it seemed, of a cannon-ball. But, although 
the impetus with which he shot himself into the air 
gave him an initial velocity greatly exceeding that of 
the Flying-flsh, the start which his fated prey had got 
enabled them to keep ahead of him for a considerable 
time. 

''The length of the Dolphin’s first spring could 
not be less than ten yards; and, after he fell, we 
could see him gliding like lightning through the 
water for a moment, when he again rose and shot 
forwards with considerably greater velocity than at 
first, and, of course, to a still greater distance. In 
this manner the merciless pursuer seemed to stride 
along the sea with fearful rapidity, while his bril¬ 
liant coat sparkled and flashed in the sun quite 


184 


THE OCEAN. 


splendidly. As lie fell headlong on the water at 
the end of each huge leap, a series of circles were 
sent far over the still surface, which lay as smooth as 
a mirror. 

The group of wretched Flying-fish, thus hotly 
pursued, at length dropped into the sea; but we 
were rejoiced to observe that they merely touched 
the top of the swell, and scarcely sunk in it; at 
least, they instantly set off again in a fresh and 
even more vigorous flight. It was particularly 
interesting to observe that the direction they now 
took was quite different from the one in which 
they had set out, implying but too obviously that 
they had detected their fierce enemy, who was follow¬ 
ing them with giant steps along the waves, and 
now gaining rapidly upon them. His terrific pace, 
indeed, was two or three times as swift as theirs, 
poor little things ! 

The greedy Dolphin, however, was fully as 
quick-sighted as the Flying-fish which were trying 
to elude him ; for, whenever they varied their flight 
in the smallest degree, he lost not the tenth part of 
a second in shaping a new course, so as to cut off 
the chase ; while they, in a manner really not un¬ 
like that of the hare, doubled more than once upon 
their pursuer. But it was too’ plainly to be seen 
that the strength and confidence of the Flying-fish 
were fast ebbing. Their flights became shorter and 
shorter, and their course more fluttering and uncertain, 
while the enormous leaps of the Dolphin appeared 
to grow only more vigorous at each bound. Even¬ 
tually, indeed, we could see, or fancied that we could 




THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


185 


see, that this skilful sea-sportsman arranged all his 
springs with such an assurance of success, that he 
contrived to fall, at the end of each, just under the 
very spot on which the exhausted Flying-fish were 
about to drop! Sometimes this catastrophe took 
place at too great a distance for us to see from the 
deck exactly what happened ; but on our mounting 
high into the rigging, we may be said to have been in 
at the death; for then we could discover that the 
unfortunate little creatures, one after another, either 
popped right into the Dolphin’s jaws, as they lighted 
on the water, or were snapped up instantly afterwards. 

'' It was impossible not to take an active part with 
our pretty little friends of the weaker side, and 
accordingly we very speedily had our revenge. The 
middies and the sailors, delighted with the chance, 
rigged out a dozen or twenty lines from the jib-boom 
end and spritsail-yard-arms with hooks, baited merely 
with bits of tin, the glitter of which resembles so 
much that of the body and wings of the Flying-fish, 
that many a proud Dolphin, making sure of a delicious 
morsel, leaped in rapture at the deceitful prize.”* 

Though these and other recorded anecdotes indu¬ 
bitably refer to the bright pearly fishes just described, 
there cannot be a doubt that the same habits are 
found to mark the true Cetaceous Dolphins; while 
at the same time I confess that I do not recollect any 
instance in which such pursuit has been witnessed, in 
my own experience, or recorded in books of voyages. 
Indeed I do not conceive that the chase of the Flying- 
fish by the Coryphene has been often mtnessed, nor 
* Frag. V03". and Trav. Second Series. Vol. i. p. 224 . 


186 


THE OCEAN. 


that it can be considered as any other than a rare 
occurrence. As the aerial boundings of the Flying- 
fishj however, are of constant observation within the 
tropics, it seems but natural to conclude that they 
are but the frolicsome putting forth of superabundant 
animal energy; that they are, in fact, performed in 
sportive play, as the lamb skips and leaps upon the 
grass, or the dog pursues its own evasive tail. These 
flights, generally performed in shoals, varying in 
number from a dozen to a hundred or more, are 
extremely pleasing, and sustain our interest even long 
after they have become familiar to us. One is apt, 
at flrst sight of a flock, especially if it be unexpected, 
to mistake them for white birds flying by, till they 
are seen to alight in the water. The length of the 
bound is enormous, if it be indeed effected by a single 
impulse: but careful observations leave no doubt 
of the fact that these Ashes do, like birds, increase 
and renew their impetus by repeated strokes of their 
wings on the air. I have myself repeatedly witnessed 
this : I have observed them deviate from the uniform 
curve which they usually describe, rising and sinking 
alternately so as to keep at the same distance from 
the undulations of the surface :* and Humboldt, one 
of the most accurate of observers, speaks unhesita¬ 
tingly of their flapping the air with their long flns. 
Indeed,* it would else seem almost impossible to 
imagine that so small a flsh, not so large as a herring, 
should be able to propel itself to the height of twenty 
feet, and to the distance of more than six hundred, 
through the air. Generally, one takes his leap first, 

* See, for details, my “ Natui*alist’s Sojourn in Jamaica,” p. 9,etseq, 




THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


187 


when the whole flock follow at once, shooting in 
nearly a straight line, and skimming along a little 
above the surface; so little that they often strike the 
side of a rising wave, and go under water. 

Another visitant, who very freely gives us much of 
his company, is the White Shark {Carcarias mil- 
garis), probably the most terriflc monster that cleaves 
the waves ; certainly the most hated, and at the same 
time feared, by the sailor. The catching of flsh is at 
all times a pleasing amusement to the mariner ; but to 
catch the Shirk,’" as he is called, there is a peculiar 
avidity, in which the gratiflcation of a deep-seated 
hatred of the species, and vengeance for his murder¬ 
ous propensities, form the leading features. When 
taken, whether entrapped by the concealed hook, or 
struck by the open violence of the harpoon, and 
brought on deck, he is subjected to every indignity 
which an insane fury can heap upon an object—beat, 
stabbed, and kicked, and even reviled as if capable 
of understanding language. In truth, I have never 
seen any animal, terrestrial or aquatic, which, so to 
speak, has '' villain ” written on its countenance in as 
legible characters as the Shark. The shape of the 
head, and the form of the mouth, opening so far be¬ 
neath, are anything but prepossessing; but there is a 
peculiar malignity in the expression of the eye, that 
seems almost Satanic, and which one can never look 
upon without shuddering. The mouth is armed with 
teeth of very peculiar construction; they are trian¬ 
gular in form, thin and flat, the central part, however, 
being thicker than the edges, which are as keen as a 
lancet, and cut into fine serratures, like a saw. In 







188 


THE OCEAN. 


verj" large Sliaiks, the teeth have been found nearly 
two inches in breadth; they are placed in rows, 
sometimes to the number of six, one within another, 
lying nearly fiat when not in use, but erected in a 
moment to seize prey: and as they are so planted in 
the jaw that each tooth is capable of independent 
motion, being furnished with its own muscles, and as 
the power of the jaw is enormous, they form one of 
the most terrific and formidable apparatus existing 
for the supply of carnivorous appetite. The fatal 
voracih" of this animal is well known: instances are 

t/ 

numerous of swimmers in tropical seas hawng been 
severed in twain at one snap, or deprived of limbs, 
while, on more than one occasion, the whole body of a 
man has been taken from this living sepulchre. Yet 
this sanguinary voracity is but the result of an unerr¬ 
ing instinct implanted in the animal by God, without 
the exercise of which its life could not be sustained: 
and therefore it seems not only foolish, but even 
sinful, to entertain feelings of personal revenge against 
it, as if it were endowed with human reason, '' know¬ 
ing good and evil/’ I do not know that it is wrong 
to kill an animal so destructive and dangerous; I 
reprobate only the imputation to it of human motives, 
and the staining an useful act with unnecessary cruelty. 

The mode by which the race of these formidable 
creatures is continued, differing as it does so greatly 
from that of most other fishes, is exceedingly curious. 
The Shark, instead of depositing some millions of 
eggs in a season, like the Cod or the Herring, pro¬ 
duces two eggs, of a square or oblong form, the coat 
of which is composed of a tough horny substance; 





THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


189 


each corner is prolonged into a tendril, of which the 
two which are next the tail of the enclosed fish are 
stronger and more prehensile than the other pair. 
The nse of these tendrils appears to be their en¬ 
tanglement among the stalks of sea-weeds, and the 
consequent mooring of the egg in a situation of 
protection and comparative security. Near tlie head 
there is a slit in the egg-skin through which the 
water enters for respiration, and another at the oppo¬ 
site extremity by which it is discharged. That part 
of the skin which is near the head is weaker and 
more easily ruptured than any other part; a provi¬ 
sion for the easy exclusion of the animal, which takes 
place before the entire absorption of the vitellus or 
yolk of the egg, the remainder being attached to the 
body of the young fish, enclosed in a capsule, which 
for a while it carries about. The position of the 
animal, while within the egg, is with the head doubled 
back towards the tail, one very unfavourable for the 
process of breathing by internal gills, and hence there 
is an interesting provision made to meet the emer¬ 
gency. On each side a filament of the substance 
of the gills projects from the gill-opening, containing 
vessels in which the blood is exposed to the action of 
the water. These processes are gradually absorbed 
after the fish is excluded, until which the internal gills 
are scarcely capable of respiration. How curious an 
analogy we here discover with the Erogs and Newts 
among the Eeptiles; and how impressively do we 
learn the Divine benevolence, when we find that 
the object of so much contrivance and care is the 
dreaded and hated Shark ! 




190 


THE OCEAN, 


In these latitudes the Hammer-headed Shark 
{Zygoena malleus)^ a fish of singular construction, 
attains a large size. In most particulars it closely 
resembles the species just noticed, but the head is 
widened out on each side into an oblong projection, 
at each extremity of which is placed the eye. The 
whole of this part has the form of a double-headed 
hammer or maul. Undoubtedly one result of this 
remarkable structure is a vast increase of the sphere 
of vision ; but why a fish so formidably armed, and 
endowed with such powers of motion, should be thus 
favoured, we are not sufficiently accquainted with its 
habits to determine. 



HAMiiER'SHARK {ZygcsTia malleui)^ a>T) saw-fish {Prutie antiquoruin). 








































































































































THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


191 


Another singular deviation from the general struc¬ 
ture is found in the Saw-fish {Pristis antiquorum)y 
which is a shark with the head prolonged into a flat 
bony sword, each edge of which is armed-with sharp 
bony spines, resembling teeth, pointing backwards : 
there are about twenty of these in each row. The 
body also is covered on the upper surface with hard 
sharp tubercles, the points of which turn backwards. 
In this respect it resembles some of the Eay or Skate 
tribe, as it does also in the flattened form of its body, 
and in other respects. Its colour is a dark grey on 
the upper parts, gradually softening into white 
beneath. This species was known to the ancients, 
being found in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as in 
the Ocean, but it is in the tropical seas that it acquires 
its most gigantic dimensions. It seems to be an animal 
of scarcely less ferocity, though far less frequently 
met with, than the Common Shark: to the Whales it 
is a formidable antagonist, and though the form of its 
saw-like sword does not seem most adapted for pene¬ 
trating a resisting body, such is the vigour of its attack, 
that it will bury its weapon to the root in the flesh of 
the Whale ; and instances are not infrequent in which 
it has been found firmly imbedded in the hull of a 
ship. The following interesting narrative, by Captain 
Wilson of the Halifax packet, gives us an idea of the 
powers of this monster :— 

'' Being in the Gulf of Paria, in the ship's cutter, 
on the 15th of April, 1839, I fell in with a Spanish 
canoe, manned by two men, then in great distress, 
who requested me to save their lives and canoe, with 
which request I immediately complied ; and going 

K 









\[)2 


THE OCEA:t^. 


alongside for that purpose, I discovered that they 
had got a large Saw-fish entangled in their turtle- 
net, which was towing them out to sea, and Imt for 
my assistance they must have lost either their canoe 
or their net, or perhaps both, which were their only 
means of subsistence. Having only two boys with me 
in the boat at the time, I desired them to cut the fish 
away, which they refused to do ; I then took the 
bight of the net from them, and with the joint en¬ 
deavours of themselves and my boat’s crew, we suc¬ 
ceeded in hauling up the net, and to our astonish¬ 
ment, after great exertions, we raised the saw of the 
fish about eight feet above the surface of the sea. It 
was a fortunate circumstance that the fish came up 
with the belly towards the boat, or it would have cut 
the boat in two. 

I had abandoned all idea of taking the fish, until, 
by great good luck, it made towards the land, when 
I made another, attempt, and having about fifty 
fathom of rope in the boat, we succeeded in making 
a running bowline-knot round the saw of the fish, and 
this we fortunately made fast on shore. T\Tien the 
fish found itself secured, it plunged so violently, that 
I could not prevail on any one to go near it: the ap¬ 
pearance it presented was truly awful. I immediately 
went alongside the Lima packet, Capt. Singleton, 
and got the assistance of all his ship’s crew. By the 
time they arrived the fish was rather less violent; 
we hauled upon the net again, in which it was still 
entangled, and got another fifty fathoms of line made 
fast to the saw, and attempted to haul it towards the 
shore ; but although mustering thirty hands, we could 




THE ATLANTTO OCEAN. 


193 


not move it an inch. By this time the negroes be¬ 
longing to Mr. Danglad’s estate came flocking to onr 
assistance, making together with the Spaniards about 
one hundred in number: we then hauled on both 
ropes for nearly the whole of the day, before the 
fish became exhausted. On endeavouring to raise 
the fish it became most desperate, sweeping with its 
saw from side to side, so that we were compelled to 
get strong guy-ropes to prevent it from cutting us to 
pieces. After that, one of the Spaniards got on its 
back, and at great risk cut through the joint of the 
tail, when animation was completely suspended: it 
was then measured, and found to be 22 feet long 
and 8 feet broad, and weighed nearly 5 tons.”* 

Other monstrous creatures, of unpleasing forms 
and formidable powers, rove at will through these 
waters. I shall mention only the Horned Eay 
{Cephaloptera). Imagine a Thornback or Skate, of 
the length of twenty-five feet, with the side-fins 
greatly lengthened out, so as to make the total width 
upwards of thirty feet: -these side-fins, instead of 
meeting in a point in front of the head, projecting on 
each side into a curved point, like a horn. Such is 
the Cephaloptera; and it is powerful and voracious 
in proportion to its size. Col. Hamilton Smith, in the 
neighbourhood of Trinidad, had the pain of witness¬ 
ing a fellow-creature involved in the horrible embrace 
of one of these monsters. It was at early dawn that 
a soldier was endeavouring to desert from the ship by 
swimming on shore. A sailor from aloft, seeing the 
approach of one of these terrific fishes, alarmed the 

* Mag. Nat. Hist. 1839, p. 519. 

k2 







194 


THE OCEAN. 


swimmer, who endeavoured to return ; but in sight 
of his comrades was presently overtaken, the crea¬ 
ture throwing over him one of its huge fins, and thus 
carrying him down. In the following record, which 
was inserted in a late Barbadoes paper, though the 
description is not drawn up exactly as a Naturalist 
would have done it, one has no difficulty in recognis¬ 
ing an enormous Cephalojptera :—On the 22nd of 
August [1843], the Brig Eowena was lying in La 
Guayra Eoads, the weather perfectly calm : I dis¬ 
covered the vessel moving about among the shipping 
I could not conceive what could be the matter. 1 
gave orders to heave in, and see if the anchor was 
gone, but it was not: but to my surprise, I found a 
tremendous monster entangled fast in the buoy-rope, 
and moving the anchor slowly along the bottom. I 
then had the fish towed on shore. It was of a flat- 
tish shape, something like a devil-fish, but very 
curious shape, being wider than it was long, and 
having two tusks, one on each, side of the mouth, 
and a very small tail in proportion to the fish, and 
exactly like a bat's tail. The tail can be seen on 
board the Brig Eowena. Dimensions of the hsh 
were as follows:—length from end of tail to end of 
tusks, 18 feet; from wing to wing, 20 feet; the 
mouth, 4 feet wide ; and its weight, 3,502 lbs.” 

Every one may imagine how much the tedium of 
a long voyage is relieved by the company of other 
vessels, or even by the speaking of a passing ship ; 
but few who have only seen vessels lying in tiers, 
side by side, at quays, or wharfs, are at all aware of, 
or can readily understand, the anxious care with 


THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


195 


which commanders guard against two ships on the 
hisfh sea cominc^ within even a considerable distance 
of each other. I have often been amused by hearing 
the wishes expressed by passengers on their first 
voyage, when a vessel is speaking at what they think 
a most uncivil distance, that she would but come 
nearer, particularly if the wind is light, as '' there 
can be no danger then.” Little do they think that 
in a perfect calm the danger of contact is even 
greatest, as, if there be wind enough to give the vessel 
steerage w^ay, she is under control, and the evil may 
be avoided. On this subject, and on the motions of 
ships in calms, an unexceptionable authority, Captain 
Basil Hall, thus speaks :— 

How it happens I do not know, but on occasions 
of perfect calm, or such as appear to be perfect calm, 
the ships of a fleet generally drift away from one 
another, so that, at the end of a few hours, the whole 
circle bounded by the horizon is speckled over with 
these unmanageable hulks, as they may for the time 
be considered. It will occasionally happen, indeed, 
that two ships draw so near in a calm as to incur 
some risk of falling on board one another. I need 
scarcely mention that even in the smoothest water 
ever found in the open sea, two large ships coming 
into actual contact must prove a formidable en¬ 
counter. As long as they are apart their gentle and 
rather gi'aceful movements are fit subjects of admi¬ 
ration ; and I have often seen people gaze for an hour 
at a time at the ships of a becalmed fleet, slowly 
twisting round, changing their position, and rolling 
from side to side as silently as if they had been 





196 


TKE OCEAX. 


in harbour, or accompanied only by the faint rippling 
soimd tripping along the water-Kne, as the copper 
below the bends alternately sunk into the sea, or rose 
out of it, dripping wet, -and shining as bright and 
clean as a new coin, from the constant friction of 
the Ocean during the previous rapid passage across 
the Trade-winds. 

‘'But all this picturesque admiration changes to 
alarm when ships come so close as to risk a contact: 
for these motions, which appear so slow and gentle 
to the eye, are irresistible in their force; and as the 
chances are against the two vessels moving exactly in 
the same directiou at the same moment, they must 
speedily grind or tear one another to pieces. Sup¬ 
posing them to come in contact side by side, the first 
roll would probably tear away the fore and main 
channels of both ships; the next roll, by interlacing 
the lower yards, and entangling the spars of one ship 
with the shrouds and backstays of the other, would, 
in all likelihood, bring down all three masts of both 
ships, not piecemeal, as the poet hath it, but in one 
furious crash. Beneath the ruins of the spars, the 
coils of rigging, and the enormous folds of canvas, 
might lie crushed many of the best hands, who, from 
being always the foremost to spring forward in-such 
seasons of danger, are surest to be sacrificed. After 
this first catastrophe, the ships would probably drift 
away from one another for a little while, only to 
tumble together again and again, till they had ground 
one another to the water s edge, and one, or both of 
them, would fill, and go down. In such encounters 
it is impossible to stop the mischief; and oak and 




THE ATT.ANTIC OCEAN. 


197 


iron break and crumble in pieces like sealing-wax 
and pie-crust. Many instances of such accidents are 
on record, but I never witnessed one. 

To prevent these frightful rencontres, care is 
always taken to hoist out the boats in good time, 
if need be, to tow the ships apart, or, what is gene¬ 
rally sufficient, to tow the ships’ heads in opposite 
directions. I scarcely know why this should have 
the effect; but certainly it appears that, be the calm 
ever so complete, or dead^ as the term is, a vessel 
generally aliead^ or steals along imperceptibly 

in the direction she is looking to ; possibly from the 
conformation of the hull.” * 

But there are indications of our patience being 
at length rewarded by a breeze from the eastward ; 
and now it comes, rippling the surface as it ap¬ 
proaches, turning that into a deep uniform blue 
which has so long borne a glassy brightness reflected 
from the sky. The seamen are joyous and alert, 
for they know that this is no '' cat’s-paw,” but the 
regular trade.” Now it strikes the ship ; the sails, 
gracefully swelling, receive the unwonted impulse; 
and the lengthened wake, where the water coils 
and frets in the newly-cut furrow, tells that the 
vessel makes way once more. The breeze freshens ; 
the little waves become larger, and, arching over 
each other, break with patches of whitening foam ; 
every sail is speedily set that will draw; and we 
run gaily along towards the west, under an eight- 
knot breeze. We can scarcely stop to notice the 
amity that subsists between the Shark and the 

* Frag. Voy. and Trav., 2nd Series, i. p. 226. 






198 


THE OCEAN. 


Pilot-fisli (Naucrates ductor)^ a beautiful little crea¬ 
ture, about the size of a herring, the back striped 
transversely with broad alternate bands of brown 
and bright azure; nor the three or four pretty little 
Eudder-fishes {Perea saltatrix, Linn.), which have 
been following and accompanying us for several days 
past. These are amusing little creatures. They 
are about six inches long, yellowish brown, with 
pale spots : they keep close to the stern, in the angle 
formed by the rudder and the counter of the ship, 
the '' dead water,” as it is called by seamen. Hence 
they occasionally dart out after any little atom of 
floating or sinking substance which promises to be 
eatable, and then, having either seized or rejected it, 
scuttle back again to their corner, remaining there 
day and night without rest. Xor can we do more 
than glance at the Sucking-fishes {Echeneis) that 
are swimming around, or have attached themselves 
to the side of the rudder by means of the singular 
oval disk on the head. As this organ is of singular 
construction, so its use in the economy of the animal 
is involved in entire obscurity. The theorj^ of the 
fish being a very slow swimmer, and needing to be 
carried along by others, must have been formed by 
persons who never had an opportunity of seeing the 
Eemora alive. I have seen many, and could detect 
no inferiority in their powers of swimming to those 
of a young Shark of the same size, which they much 
resemble in general appearance and motion when in 
the water. There seems to be a perfect vacuum 
formed by the adhesion of the disk, and the external 
pressure, when under water, is of course gi’eat As 







THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


199 


the mouth opens upon the upper surface of the 
muzzle, owing to the projection of the lower jaw, it 
is possible that this habit may be connected with 
taking food: there are many little creatures, such 
as Crustacea, Barnacles, &c., that are parasitical on 
the bodies of marine animals, or attach themselves 
to any submerged substance. If the EcJieneis feeds 
on these, there is an obvious reason why the head 
should be affixed to the surface during the dis^ 
lodgement of the adhering prey, in order to acquire 
greater steadiness, as well as a leverage by which 
to act more effectively. At all events, we know 
that it is not a useless habit; we trace enough of 
manifest design and contrivance in what we do 
know of the animal creation, to warrant our con¬ 
fident conclusion, when we find any instinct, the 
intention of which is not obvious, that it also is 
the production of infinite wisdom and goodness, and 
that it could not have been spared without injury 
to the animal. 

Borne on the wings of the welcome breeze we 
rapidly approach that archipelago of lovely islands 
that gladdened the heart and rewarded the zeal of 
the chivalric Woeld-findee, the first fruits of the 
vast continent which the genius and daring of one 
master-mind opened to astonished Europe. The 
joyful sound of ''Land in sight!” resounds through 
the ship, and yonder, upon the bow, is discovered, 
rising out of the blue sea, the beautiful island of 
Antigua. As we draw near we are struck with its 
loveliness ; the coast is low, but the land rises behind 

into rounded hills of moderate elevation, whose 

K 3 







200 


THE OCEAN. 


swelling eminences and gentle slopes assume some¬ 
what of the appearance of the chalk hills and downs 
of our own sweet England. But there are features 
which effectually distinguish this island from our 
own, and fail not to remind us that we are beholding 
the gorgeousness of the tropics. The summits of 
the hills are clothed with magnificent forest-trees of 
strange forms and foliage ; the graceful palms wave 
their feathery crowns against the deep-blue sky : 
leafless cacti, thick and cylindrical, project from the 
rocks, or take the shape of enormous candelabra: the 
gTeat American aloe, with its thick and spiny leaves, 
shoots up its glorious head of yellow blossoms to the 
height of twenty feet: the clusters of golden fruit 
depend from the plantain and banana, whose gigantic 
fronds are cut by the winds into ragged segments; 
while the whole array is bound and matted together 
by strong rope-like climbing plants, which, crossing 
each other in every direction, and twisting around the 
forest-trees and around each other, like huge cables, 
present an immense net of vegetation, impenetrable 
except by the axe of the woodman. Tree-ferns, 
possessing all the grace and elegance of those with 
which we are familiar, but growing to a giant size, 
shoot up from the clefts of the rocks, or from the 
branches of the loftier trees, their rich brown stalks 
contrasting with the vivid green of their fan-shaped 
fronds. The sides of the hills are clothed with lux¬ 
uriant plantations of Indian corn, or the still more 
rich and beautiful sugar-cane ; and here and there 
a walk of cocoa-trees is rendered conspicuous by the 
glowing scarlet blossoms of the coral trees, by whose 



THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


20 ] 


shadow they are sheltered from the veidical sun. 
The coast is broken into numerous little bays and 
coves, some penetrating far into the island, like 
canals among the plantations. A multitude of little 
islets are scattered around on the surface of the sea, 
on many of which the cattle are grazing on the rich 
and succulent pasture. Some of them, however, 
are little more than accumulations of sand, formed 
of powdered coral and sea-shells, and affording sup¬ 
port only to some coarse sedges, and to mangrove- 
trees. The latter, indeed, delights in such situations, 
flourishing at the very edge of the sea, and even 
where the ground is continually liable to inundation. 
The contorted roots of this tree grow to a consider¬ 
able extent above the soil, so that the base of the 
trunk is elevated on a cone of matted roots, through 
which the water washes, while from the branches 
young twigs are perpetually shooting downward, till, 
reaching the soil, they take root, and send forth 
other shoots : thus, in a few years, a single plant will 
spread into a grove, and cover a large space of land. 
As we sail with tortuous course through these delight¬ 
ful groups of ever-verdant isles, fresh scenes of beauty 
are continually rising before us. Now a conical hill, 
of regular form, arrests the attention, clothed with 
thick foliage from the water’s edge to the summit, 
where the white clouds appear to rest: then we 
admire the irregular surface of another isle, whose 
dark ravines seem to acquire additional gloom from 
the glowing sunlight that plays upon the surrounding 
eminences : here a little islet of bright green looks in 
the blue sea like an emerald set in sapphire; there 







202 


THE OCEAN. 


the bold cliffs and black precipices of a larger island 
announce a very different formation. Now and then 
we open a small but deep and beautiful bay. '' A 
pretty little village or plantation appears at the 
bottom of the cove: the sandy beach stretches like 
a line of silver round the blue water, and the cane- 
fields form a broad belt of vivid green in the back¬ 
ground. Behind this, the mountains rise in the most 
fantastic shapes, here cloven into deep chasms, there 
darting into arrowy points, and everywhere shrouded 
and swathed, as it were, in wood, which the hand of 
man will probably never lay low. The clouds, which 
within the tropics are infallibly attracted by any 
woody eminences, contribute greatly to the wildness 
of the scene ; sometimes they are so dense as to bury 
the mountains in darkness, at other times they float 
transparently like a silken veil; frequently the flaws 
from the guUeys perforate the vapours, and make 
windows in the smoky mass ; and then, again, the 
wind and the sun will cause the whole to be drawn 
upwards majestically, like the curtain of a gorgeous 
theatre.'' 

Around these islands the water is frequently shal¬ 
low, a fact made sufficiently obvious by its colour : 
instead of the deep-blue tint which marks the un¬ 
fathomed Ocean, the water on these shoals becomes 
of a bright pea-green, caused by the nearness of the 
yellow sands at the bottom ; and, the shallower the 
water, the paler is the tint. The light thrown up¬ 
wards by reflection upon the under part of the 
swollen sails, transfers the same hue to them, giving 
them a singular aspect; but once I observed a still 





THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


203 


more curious appearance, arising from the same 
cause. Being becalmed off one of the little Keys of 
the Florida Eeef, the crew had been amusing them¬ 
selves with fishing, in which they had been very suc¬ 
cessful An Osprey {Haldetus ossifragus), attracted, 
doubtless, by the fish that lay in profusion about the 
decks, was slowly sailing around, occasionally alight¬ 
ing on the ropes and spars. As he hovered overhead, 
turning his head from side to side, every feather was 
distinctly seen; but from the reflection of the water 
beneath, all his under parts, which are pure white, 
appeared of a flne pea-green, and it was only on 
catching a side-glance at him, that I discovered his 
true colour, and identifled the species. It is very 
pleasing to peer down into the varying depths, 
especially in the clear waters of these seas, and look 
at the many-coloured bottom ; sometimes a bright 
pearly sand, spotted with shells and corals ; then a 
large patch of brown rock, whose gaping clefts and 
fissures are but half hidden by the waving tangles of 
purple weed; where multitudes of strange creatures 
revel and riot undisturbed. 

Come down, come down from the tall ship’s side; 

What a marvellous sight is here ! 

Look ! purple rocks and crimson trees, 

Down in the deep so clear ! 

See ! where those shoals of dolphins go, 

A glad and glorious band; 

Sporting amidst the day-bright woods 
Of a coral fairy land. 

“ See ! on the violet sands beneath, 

How the gorgeous shells do glide I 


204 


THE OCEAE'. 


0 sea ! old sea ! who yet knows half 
Of thy wonders and thy pride ? 

‘‘ Look how the sea-plants trembling float 
All like a mermaid’s locks, 

Waving in thread of ruby red, 

Over those nether rocks. 

Heaving and sinking, soft and fair, 

Here hyacinth —there green,— 

With many a stem of golden growth, 
And starry flowers between. 

But away ! away ! to upper day ! 

For monstrous shapes are here ; 
Monsters of dark and wallowing bulk, 
And horny eyeballs drear : 

“ The tusked mouth and the spiny fln. 
Speckled and wanted back, 

The glittering swift and flabby slow, 
Eamp through this deep sea track. 

Away ! away ! to upper day ! 

To glance o’er the breezy brine. 

And see the nautilus gladly sail. 

The flying-flsh leap and shine ! ” 


While pursuing our pleasant course amidst these 
sandy keys, we may often observe the Green Turtle 



( Clielonia 


swimming or floating at the sur¬ 


face. In general it is difficult to approach them 
within less than a few yards, as they are very wary, 
and dive with great rapidity. The shoals and reefs 
surrounding the islands, where the sun penetrates 
and warms the water, are favourite resorts of these 
marine Reptilia; and here, too, grow in abundance 



THE ATLAJNTIC OCEAN. 


205 


the sea-plants {Zostera, &-c.) on which they feed. 
At night, the females land on the low sandy beaches, 
and after examining the place with great caution 
and circumspection, lay their eggs in holes, which 
they scoop out with their fin-like feet. The work 
being accomplished, the sand is again scraped back 
over the eggs, and the surface made smooth as before. 
The sun soon hatches the eggs, and the little Turtles 
crawling forth from the sand betake themselves to 
the sea. The usefulness of this animal as an article 
of luxurious food is well known ; but its real value 
can only be appreciated, when we view it as afford¬ 
ing an immediate relief from the horrors of scurvy, 
which, arising from the constant use of salted pro¬ 
visions, has often proved so terrible a scourge in 
long voyages. There is a peculiarity in the structure 
of the heart of this and kindred animals, which is 
worthy of notice. In man and other warm-blooded 
animals, the blood is brought by the veins to the 
heart, and poured into a chamber called the right 
auricle ; a communication exists between this and 
a second chamber, called the right ventricle ; from 
the latter the blood is forced through a large artery 
to the lungs, to be renewed by exposure to the air; 
from the lungs it is sent through veins to a third 
chamber of the heart called the left auricle, and 
thence into a fourth, called the left ventricle, from 
which the great artery, called the aorta, carries it 
again into the whole body. Thus, no particle of 
the blood can be conveyed again into the system 
without having passed through the lungs ; but in the 
Turtle the case is different. All the four cham- 



206 


THE OCEAN. 


bers of the heart are present, but there is a commu¬ 
nication open between the left and right ventricles ; 
and the aorta and pulmonary artery both originate 
from the right ventricle. In consequence, a part 
only of the blood is sent thence to the lungs, which, 
returning through the left auricle and ventricle, is 
thro^yn into the right ventricle, and mixed with that 
which is just brought from the body; the mixed 
blood being partly returned to the body through the 
aorta, and partly sent to the lungs. But this is the 
course only when the animal is breathing ; and as a 
large part of its life is passed under water, this con¬ 
trivance enables the circulation to go on under cir¬ 
cumstances when breathing necessarily ceases. For 
if no air enters the lungs, the blood cannot pass 
through them; therefore, when under water, the 
blood passing through the right auricle and ventricle 
is immediately sent by the aorta into the body with¬ 
out any exposure to the air. Of course, as the blood 
thus unrenewed would become more and more im¬ 
pure, this could not proceed very long without loss of 
life, and hence there is a limit to the period during 
which the breathing may be suspended, when the 
animal must come to the surface or die. 

Many of the fishes of these seas partake of the 
brilliancy of colour with which the birds and insects 
of the same sunny region are so lavishly adorned. 
I have seen some of great beauty readily captured 
with a hook from the deck of a vessel in shallow 
water; the Yellow-fin has its body marked with 
longitudinal bands of delicate pink and yellow alter¬ 
nately ; the fins are bright yellow, and the tail fine 



THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


207 


pale crimson. The Yellow-tail is pale azure on the 
back, and pearly-white below, with a broad band 
along each side of richest yellow ; the dorsal and 
caudal fins are clear yellow. A larger species, which 
the seamen denominated the Market-fish, is all over 
of a silvery tint with a ruddy glow, the fins and tail 
bright crimson ; this species has very large scales. 
Others come under the appellation of Grunts ; these 
are marked with oblique parallel lines of gold on a 
silver or metallic azure ground, with delicately tinted 
fins, and in some cases spots of peculiarly intense 
lustre; the whole inside of the mouth in these 
Grunts, of which there are several distinct species, is 
generally of the richest vermilion. Then there are 
the Hog-fishes. These are of singular beauty, shaped 
somewhat like a perch, with flesh highly valued for 
its excellent flavour. One sort has the scales yellow 
with red edges. The head is purple above, the jaws 
a clear blue, on orange with red wavy lines. The fins 
are yellow, spotted with scarlet, and the tail fin is 
half black, with a yellow band. Altogether this is a 
most gorgeous fish. Another kind has silvery grey 
scales; the head marked all over with streaks of 
brilliant violet blue, fantastically arranged, somewhat 
like the stripes upon the head of the Zebra. These 
last, as also the Market-fish, belong to the family 
Labridce or Wrasses : the Grunts are species of the 
genus Hcemulon: the others belong to Mesoprion^ in the 
great Perch family. Still, however, even here there 
is some deformity; at least, everything does not 
accord with our habitual ideas of comeliness ; these 
beauties are set off, as by a foil, by the visage of the 




208 


THE OCEA2S. 


Cat-fish, a broad-faced creature of remarkably hideous 
aspect, but which is esteemed as food. 

In some of the quiet nooks and sheltered bays of 
these lovely islands, where the vegetation is green 
and luxuriant to the water’s edge, we may catch a 
sight of a herd of Manatees, or Sea-cows. These 
animals are usually classed with the MTiales, but 
they seem, indeed, to be much more intimately con¬ 
nected with the Padiydermata, an order that contains 
the Elephant and Hippopotamus. The form is long 
and tapering, but plump, and has been compared to 
that of a filled wine-skin or leather bottle. The 
hinder feet are altogether wanting, but the fore limbs 
assume the appearance of broad flat fins, or flippers, 
the fingers of which are not separated externally, but 
can be distinctly felt through the skin ; and the nails 
or claws by which the paw is terminated, sufiSiciently 
indicate their presence. These creatures are perfectly 
inoffensive in their manners, timid, and retiring ; they 
delight in secluded places, shallow creeks, and par¬ 
ticularly the mouths of the great South American 
rivers, often proceeding many miles up the country. 
For such situations they are peculiarly adapted; the 
broad valleys of these regions, parched up to barren¬ 
ness in the dry season, and then inundated, so as to 
resemble seas during the periodical rains, would not 
be suited to the capacities of a terrestrial ruminant; 
but the aquatic habits of the iManatee enable it to 
avail itseff of the rich and abundant vegetation of 
the watery expanse as well as to range the coast 
when it is parched up by the returning drought. 
Being exclusively herbivorous, the flesh is highly 







THE ATLANTIC OCEAN. 


209 


esteemed; its flavour is thought to resemble that of 
excellent pork, though by some it has been rather 
compared to beef. Hunting this animal is a favourite 
amusement in the countries of its resort; a party 
proceed in a small boat to its haunt, furnished with a 
harpoon, to which is attached a stout line; when the 
weapon is infixed, the creature dives; in the mean¬ 
while the boat is rowed ashore, and the Manatee, 
exhausted by its efforts to escape, is drawn on land 
by the cord, and despatched. Many of its habits are 
. exceedingly interesting; it is fond of sporting in the 
water, and leaping from the surface in the manner of 
the true Cetacea, Such is the attachment evinced by 
these animals for each other, that it is said, when one 
is harpooned, the rest of the herd will assemble, and 
endeavour to drag out the harpoon with their teeth. 
When basking on the shore, the young are collected 
into the centre of the group for protection, and if a 
calf has been killed, the mother will suffer herself to 
be secured without effort; while, on the other hand, 
if the dam be taken, the young v/ill follow the boat 
to the shore. 


210 


THE OCEAN. 


THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


When the astonishing sagacity and enterprise of the 
Genoese had discovered the confines of a new world 
across the trackless Atlantic, it was without hesitation 
concluded, not only by himself, but by all Europe, 
that the new land formed the extreme eastern shore 
of Asia; and hence the name of Indies, by this 
mistake, was given to these islands, which has been 
perpetuated even to the present time. Aware of the 
round form of the earth, the geographers of that age 
could well conceive the possibility of reaching India 
by a westerly course ; but, ignorant of the magnitude 
of the globe, they had formed a very inadequate idea 
of its existence, being totally unaware of the vast 
continent, and still vaster ocean, which separated 
Asia from the Atlantic. But as, impelled by an 
insatiable thirst for gold, the unprincipled Spaniards 
pushed their career of robbery and murder farther 
and farther into the continent, they began to hear 
tidings of a boundless sea, which stretched away to the 
south and west, beyond the horizon of the setting sun. 
Balboa, one of the reckless spirits who sought fortune 
and fame at all hazards in the newly-found regions, 
boldly determined to seek the sea of which the 
Indians spake. At the head of a little band of 






THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


211 


men, guided by a Mexican, lie succeeded, after severe 
privations and imminent dangers, in crossing the 
isthmus that connects the northern and southern 
portions of the continent. They had arrived at the 
foot of a hill, from the top of which the Indian 
assured him he would obtain a sight of the wished- 
for sea; when, in the enthusiasm of the moment, 
leaving his companions behind, the Spanish chief ran 
to the summit, and beheld a limitless Ocean sleeping 
in its immensity at his feet. With the spurious piety 
common to the times—a piety that could consist with 
the grossest injustice, the blackest perjury, and the 
most barbarous cruelty—he knelt down and gave 
thanks aloud to God for such a termination of his 
toils; then, having descended the cliffs to the shore 
of the Ocean, he bathed in its mighty waters, taking 
possession of it by the name of the Great South Sea, 
on behalf of the King of Spain. This was in the 
year 1513 ; but it was not till seven years afterwards 
that its surface was ruffled by an European keel 
Then Magalhaens or Magellan, a Portuguese navi¬ 
gator of great ability, in the service of Spain, having 
run down the coast of South America, discovered the 
straits which have since borne his name, through 
which he sailed, and emerging from them on the 
28th November, 1520, first launched out upon the 
broad bosom of the South Sea. For three months 
and twenty days he sailed across it, during which 
long period its surface was never ruffled by a storm; 
and from this circumstance he gave to the Ocean the 
appellation of the Pacific, which it still retains. The 
immediate vicinity of the Straits, however, has been 





212 


THE OCEAN. 


considered peculiarly subject to tempests; while the 
almost continual prevalence of westerly winds, joined 
to the severity of the climate, has always given a 
character of difficulty and hazard to the passage from 
the one Ocean to the other. 

In approaching the extreme point of South America, 
na'sdgators have been struck with the extraordinary 
size of a floating seaweed, the Macrocystes pyrifera of 
botanists. It consists of a smooth round stem, com¬ 
monly from 500 to 1,000 feet in length : Foster 
mentions one which was 800 feet, and some speci- ' 
mens are reported even to attain the enormous 
dimensions of 1,500 feet. From the stem grow a 
great number of pear-shaped air-vessels, which end 
in long, flat, vuinkled fronds of a semi-transparent 
brown hue. I have abeady spoken of the Gulf-weed 
{Sargassum vulgar^, as being met with in particular 
parts of the Atlantic: similar collections of it occur 
also in these and other seas, and much mystery seems 
to lie about its origin and mode of growth. From 
specimens having been found with roots, it appears 
ceidain that in a living state it is attached to the 
bottom, whence it is not impossible that it may be 
detached spontaneously at a certain period of its 
growth, that the seed-vessels may be perfected by 
exposure to light and air. Near the shores sea-weeds 
are found so uniformly growing to rocks as to form a 
very valuable indication of the presence of hidden 
dangers. Tliese appear to be chiefly of the former 
kind. 

To these remote and inhospitable seas many vessels 
are annually despatched from this country, as well as 


THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


213 


from the United States, in pursuit of various species 
of Seals, and of the Sperm Whale. To obtain the 
fonner, they resort to any of the small islands which 
are scattered over the southern part of the Atlantic 
and Pacific, but particularly those which lie around 
Cape Horn. These animals yield two valuable pro¬ 
ducts, oil and fur; but not indiscriminately, the oil 
being afforded by the Elephant Seal {Macrorhinus 
proboscideus), a singular animal, of large size; being 
often seen thirty feet long, and eighteen round at the 
thickest part. A very remarkable formation of the 
snout has given the distinctive name to this species. 
At a certain season of the year, in the adult males, 
the skin of the tip of the nose, which covers a 
number of cells ordinarily empty, becomes enlarged 
and lengthened by the blood that the animal has the 
power of forcing into the cells. This projection is 
now a foot in length; but it appears to be nothing 
more than a mere appendage, somewhat resembling, 
in more respects than one, the fleshy wattle on the 
head of the turkey, which can be similarly inflated. 
In the spring, that is, in these latitudes, the months 
of August and September, the Elephant Seals betake 
themselves to the rocky shores in large herds; at this 
time they are exceedingly fat, and a single male will 
sometimes yield a butt of oil. They remain on shore 
antil the middle of summer, when the young, which 
have been born in the meantime, are fit to take the 
water and provide for themselves. As the old ones 
have taken no food during the whole of this period, 
they are become very lean and weak, but soon re¬ 
cruit their powers. Though furnished with large and 


I 




214 


THE OCEAN. 


powerful tusks, and endowed with sufficient strength 
to use them, the Sea Elephant is a most mild and 
inoffensive creature, suffering the seamen not only to 
walk among them uninjured, but even to bathe in 
the midst of the herd when swimming, with perfect 
impunity. In self-defence, however, or in defence 
of their young, their resistance becomes formidable. 
One of Anson’s men having killed a young one, had 



ELEPHANT SEALS, FIGHTING. 


the cruelty and rashness to skin it in the presence of 
its mother: but she, coming beliind him, got the 
sailor’s head into her mouth, and so scored and 
notched his skull with her sharp teeth, that he 
died in a day or two afterwards. 

Among themselves, however, the males are accus¬ 
tomed to fight at certain periods with great fern- 






























THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


215 


city. ‘‘ Tlieir mode of battle is very singular. The 
two ^val giant knights waddle heavily along ; they 
meet and join snout to snout; then they raise the 
fore part of the body as far as the fore paws, and 
open their immense mouths ; their eyes are inflamed 
with rage, and they dash against each other with the 
greatest violence in their power : now they tumble 
one over the other, teeth crash with teeth, and jaws 
with jaws; they wound each other deeply, some¬ 
times knocking out each other’s eyes, and more fre¬ 
quently their tusks; the blood flows abundantly ; 
but these raging foes, without ever seeming to ob¬ 
serve it, prosecute the combat till their strength is 
completely exhausted. It is seldom that either is 
left dead on the field, and the wounds they inflict, 
however deep, heal with inconceivable rapidity. The 
object of these encounters is to obtain the lordship 
of a herd of females, by which a male is always 
accompanied, and over which he rules with undi¬ 
vided empire.” 

While on land, the motions of these animals are 
slow and unwieldy, and apparently productive of 
much fatigue. Their gait is described as singular: 
as they crawl along, the vast body trembles like a 
great bag of jelly, owing to the mass of blubber by 
which the whole animal is invested, and which is as 
thick as it is in a whale. After having proceeded 
thus for fifteen or twenty yards, they halt to rest; 
and if forced to go forward by repeated blows, their 
appearance presently manifests the distress to Avhich 
they are subjected by the increased exertion. It is 

remarkable that, in these circumstances, the pupil of 

L 








216 


THE OCEAN. 


the eye, which ordinarily is bluish-green, becomes 
blood-red. They do not, therefore, commonly wander 
far from the sea, but generally choose low sandy 
shores, or the mouths of rivers, for their haunts ; 
though they have been known to ascend hills of 
twenty feet elevation, in search of some pools of 
water. They appear to be incommoded by the 
direct beams of the sun ; and, to shelter themselves 
from its influence, they have the habit of scooping 
up the wet sand with their forepaws, and throwing 
it over their bodies, until they are entirely enveloped 
by it. 

It is for the oil which is produced by this species 
of Seal that many vessels are sent to the islands of 
the Pacifl.c, and to the icy regions of the Antarctic 
Ocean. Its skin, though serviceable as leather for 
harness, &c., yields no fur, being clothed only with 
coarse hair. The oil, however, is of very superior 
quality ; it is clear and limpid, without any smell, 
and never becomes rancid; it burns slowly, and 
without smoke or disagreeable odour. The hunters 
destroy the animals with long lances: watching the 
instant when the Seal raises the left forepaw to ad¬ 
vance, they plunge the lance into its heart, when it 
immediately dies. The fat is then peeled from the 
carcase, and cut up and packed in casks in a similar 
manner to that of the ^\Tiale. 

The soft yellow fur, with a changeable gloss, which 
a few years ago was so much made into caps, is 
another product of a South Sea voyage. It is the 
covering of more than one species of Seal, belonging 
to a tribe called Otaries, because their heads are 





THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


217 


furnished with external ears, of which the others are 
deprived. That which is by eminence called the 
Fur-Seal {Otaria Falklandicd) is clothed externally 
with long hair of a grey hue; but when this hair is 
pulled out, there is seen a thick fur of great softness, 
curly or wavy, and of a fine yellowish brown. The 
habits of this animal are in general similar to those 
of the Sea-Elephant just described: it is, however, 
much more active on land, often escaping from a 
man running. Its history affords us an instance of 
change of instincts produced by experience. When 
the Seals of South Shetland were first visited, they 
had no apprehension of danger from man : but would 
unsuspectingly remain while their fellows were slain 
and skinned ; but latterly they have learned to guard 
against the new dangers, by placing themselves on 
insulated rocks, from which they can in a moment 
throw themselves into the water. We may form a 
notion of the zeal with which this commercial enter¬ 
prise was prosecuted, as well as of its valuable 
character if it had been pursued with prudent re¬ 
strictions, from the fact that in the years 1821 and 
1822, there were taken from the South Shetland Isles, 
320,000 skins of Fur Seals, and 940 tuns of Sea- 
elephant oil. The former valuable animal might, 
by proper precautions, have been made to produce 
100,000 skins annually for a long time to come. 
‘'This would have followed from not killing the 
mothers till the young were able to take the water; 
and even then, only those which appeared to be old, 
together with a proportion of the males, thereby 
diminishing their total number, but in slow progres- 


218 


THE OCEAN. 


sion. The system of extermination was practised, 
however, at South Shetland ; for whenever a Seal 
reached the beach, of whatever denomination, he was 
immediately killed, and his skin taken; and by this 
means, at the end of the second year, the animals 
became nearly extinct; the young, having lost their 
mothers when only three or four days old, of course 
all died, which, at the lowest calculation, exceeded 
100 , 000 .’’^ 

Other species of Otaries, which frequent these 
seas, have large heads, clothed with long shaggy han, 
which, falling down on the neck, assumes the ap¬ 
pearance of a mane, and hence they are frequently 
called Sea-lions. Of some of these animals which 
Captain Cook met with, he says, It is not at all 
dangerous to go among them, for they either fled or 
lay still The only danger was in going between 
them and the sea; for if they took fright at any¬ 
thing, they would come down in such numbers, that 
if you could not get out of their way, you would be 
run over. When we came suddenly upon them, or 
waked them out of their sleep (for they are sluggish, 
sleepy animals), they would raise up their heads, 
snort or snarl, and look fierce, as if they meant to 
devour us; but as we advanced upon them, they 
alwuys ran away, so that they are downright bullies.'’ 
Like the Sea-elephant, however, they are quarrelsome 
among themselves. They often seize each other with 
a degree of rage which is not to be described; and 
many of them are seen with deep gashes on their 
backs, which they had received in these wars. Others 

♦ Weddell’s Voyage, p. 141. 







THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


219 


of tlie eared Seals are fierce and fearless towards man 
himself. Woodes Eogers describes one which he met 
with at the Galapagos, which he calls a Sea-bear, 
probably of a species {Otaria ursind) common in the 
seas of which I am speaking. He says, “A very 
large one made at me three several times; and if ] 
had not happened to have a pikestaff headed with 
iron he might have killed me. I was on the level 
sand when he came open-mouthed at me from the 
water, as fierce and quick as an angry dog let loose. 
All the three times he made at me, I struck the pike 
into his breast, which at last forced him to retire into 
the water, snarling with an ugly noise, and showing 
Iiis long teeth.” * 

• Dividing the dominion of these inhospitable islands 
with the Seals, may be seen myriads of Penguins; 
curious birds, which seem to be the link which 
connects the feathered with the finny race. Their 
little wings, destitute of quills, but covered with 
stiff scaly feathers, hang down by their sides, per¬ 
fectly incompetent to lift them from the ground, 
resembling in shape the fins of a fish, or still more 
the flippers of a turtle. But see the Penguin in 
the water; the deficiency of flight is abundantly 
compensated by the power and agility it possesses 
in this element: it dashes along over the surface in 
gallant style; or diving, shoots through the water 
with, the rapidity of a fish, urging its course by 
the united action of its finny wings and its broad 
webbed feet; then, coming again to the top, leaps 
over any obstacle in its course, many feet at a bound, 

^ Kerr’s Voyages, x. 374. 



220 


THE OCEAN. 


and pursues its way. On the sandy shores or flat 
rocks in the Southern Ocean, the Penguins, of several 
species, assemble in innumerable multitudes, for the 
purpose of hatching their eggs and rearing their 
young. The feet are placed very far back on the 
body, so that the bird assumes an erect position 
when resting or walking on land; and from their 
posture, their colours, their numbers, and their orderly 
aiTangement, they have been compared, when seen at 
a distance, to an army of disciplined soldiers. One 
voyager likens them to a troop of little children 
standing up in white aprons, from their white bellies 
contrasting with their blue backs. The presence of 
these birds is described as greatly increasing the 
dreary character of these desolate regions; their per¬ 
fect indifference to man conveying an almost awful 
impression of their loneliness. The intrusion of 
seamen even into the very midst of them causes no 
alarm, no resistance is offered, no escape is attempted; 
the birds immediately gaze around with a sidelong 
glance at the ^dsitors, but they move not from their 
eggs, standing quietly while their companions are 
one by one knocked on the head, and waiting with¬ 
out dread till their own turn comes. We can scarcely 
form an adequate idea of one of these camps or 
towns, as they have been appropriately called. A 
space of ground, covering three or four acres, is laid 
out and levelled, and then divided into squares for 
the nests, as accurately as if done by a surveyor: 
between these compartments they march and coun¬ 
termarch with an order and regularity that remind 
one of soldiers on parade. But what shall we say to a 



THE PACIFIC OCEAK 


221 



colony of these birds, the King Penguin {Aptenodytes 
patachonicd), which was seen by Mr. G. Bennett, on 
Macquarie Island? It covered thirty or forty acres ; 
and though no conjecture could possibly be formed 
of the number of birds composing the town, yet 
some notion of its amazing amount may be given 


Penguins. 

from the fact, that during the whole day and night 
30,000 or 40,000 were continually landing, and as 
many going to sea. There are three principal species, 
which inhabit the southern portion of the globe, 
which bear great resemblance to each other in 
manners, and generally are found in company. These 

















































222 


THE OCEAX. 


are the one just mentioned, the Crested Penguin (A. 
ckrysocome), and the Jackass PengTiin [A, deinersa). 
The latter has obtained its title from its nightly 
habit of emitting discordant sounds, which have 
been likened to the effusions of our humble sonorous 
friend of the common. This species seems to deviate 
from the general manner of breeding, as it burrows 
on the sandy hills, and is more sensible of injury 
than its fellows. For Foster describes the ground as 
everywhere so much bored, that a person in walking 
often sinks up to the knees; and if the Penguin 
chance to be in her hole, she revenges herseff on the 
passenger by fastening on his legs, which she bites 
very hard. 

The following notices of these singular birds, by 
those who have seen them in their haunts, are 
interesting, as illustrative of their economy :—'' One 
day,” says Mr. Darwin, having placed myself 
between a Penguin and the water, I was much 
amused by watching its habits. It was a brave 
bird; and, till reaching the sea, it regularly fought 
and drove me backwards. Nothing less than heavy 
blows would have stopped him; every inch gained 
he firmly kept, standing close before me, erect and 
determined. When thus opposed, he continually 
rolled his head from side to side in a very odd 
manner, as if the power of vision lay only in tlie 
anterior and basal part of each eye. This bird is 
commonly called the Jackass Penguin, from its habit, 
while on shore, of throwing its head backwards, and 
making a loud strange noise, very like the braying 
of that animal; but while at sea and undisturbed. 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


223 


its note is very deep and solemn, and is often heard 
in the night-time. In diving, its little plumeless 
wings are used as fins ; hut on the land as front legs. 
When crawling (it may he said on four legs) through 
the tussocks, or on the side of a grassy cliff, it moved 
so very quickly that it might readily have heen 
mistaken for a quadruped. When at sea and fishing, 
it comes to the surface for the purpose of breathing, 
with such a spring, and dives again so instantane¬ 
ously, that I defy any one at first sight to he sure 
that it is not a fish leaping for sport.”* Of the same 
species, apparently. Captain Fitzroy thus speaks:— 
Multitudes of Penguins were swarming together in 
some parts of the island [Hoir Island], among the 
hushes and tussocks near the shore, having gone 
there for the purposes of moulting and rearing their 
young. They were very valiant in self-defence, and 
ran, .open-mouthed, hy dozens, at any one who in¬ 
vaded their territory, little knowing how soon a stick 
could scatter them on the ground. The young were 
good eating, hut the others proved to he hlack and 
tough when cooked. The manner in which they 
feed their young is curious, and rather amusing : the 
old hird gets on a little eminence, and makes a great 
noise, between quacking and braying, holding its 
head up in the air, as if it were haranguing the 
penguinnery, while the young one stands close to it, 
hut a little lower. The old bird having continued 
its clatter for about a minute, puts its head down, 
and opens its mouth widely, into which the young 
one thi'usts its head, and then appears to suck from 

* Voyages of Adventure and Beagle, iii. 256, 

L 3 




224 


THE OOTAX. 


the throat of its mother for a minute oi two, aftei 
which the clatter is repeated, and the young one 
is again fed: this continues for about ten minutes. 
I observed some that were moulting make the same 
noise, and then apparently swallow what they thus 
supplied themselves with; so, in this way, I suppose, 
they are furnished with subsistence during the time 
they cannot seek it in the water.”* IMr. Weddell 
observes of the King Penguins:—In pride these 
birds are perhaps not surpassed even by the peacock, 
to which, in beauty of plumage, they are indeed 
very little inferior. During the time of moulting, 
they seem to repel each other with disgust, on 
account of the ragged state of their coats; but as 
they arrive at the maximum of splendour, they re¬ 
assemble, and no one who has not completed his 
plumage is allowed to enter the community. Their 
frequently looking down their front and sides in 
order to contemplate the perfection of their exterior 
brilliancy, and to remove any speck which might 
sully it, is truly amusing to an observer. 

“About the beginning of January they pair and 
lay their eggs. During the time of hatching, the 
male is remarkably assiduous, so that when the hen 
has occasion to go off to feed and wash, the egg is 
transported to him; which is done by placing their 
toes together, and rolling it from the one to the 
other, using their beaks to place it properly. As 
they have no nest, it is to be remarked that the egg 
is carried between the tail and legs, where the female, 
in particular, has a cavity for the purpose. 

* Voyages of Adventure and Beagle, i. 387. 














THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


225 


The hen keeps charge of her young nearly a 
twelvemonth, during which time they change and 
complete their plumage; and in teaching them to 
swim, the mother has frequently to use some artifice ; 
for when the young one refuses to take the water, 
she entices it to the side of a rock and cunningly 
pushes it in; and this is repeated until it takes the 
sea of its own accord.’’* All the species are arrant 
thieves, each losing no opportunity of stealing mate¬ 
rials during nest-building time, and even the eggs 
from each other, if they are left unguarded. They 
are usually thought, when seen at sea, to indicate 
that land is at no great distance; but this indication 
is not always correct, for they are occasionally seen 
very far from any shore, and, indeed, with their 
swimming powers, one can readily imagine that the 
space of a few leagues would be no object of concern, 
The Crested Penguin, in particular, lives in open 
sea; it has been seen some hundreds of miles from 
land, voyaging in pairs, male and female. 

The chief object of commercial speculation in the 
Pacific is the pursuit of the Sperm Whale, than 
which the whole wide range of human enterprise 
affords no occupation of more daring adventure, or 
more romantic interest. A crew of thirty or forty 
hardy fellows leave their native land, and boldly 
steer away to the most distant parts of the globe. 
The tempestuous sea of Cape Horn soon finds them 
hotly engaged in striking their giant game; or, if 
they find it not here, they do not hesitate to stretch 
away to the shores of New Zealand, or even to seek 

* Voyage towards the South Pole, p. 55. 





226 


THE OCEAN. 


the leviathan of the deep five thousand miles farther, 
in the distant seas of China and Japan. Now they 
are braving the horrors of the Antarctic sea, thread¬ 
ing an intricate and perilous course through fields 
and bergs of fioating ice, ‘‘ under the frozen serpent 
of the south; ” anon they are upon the equator, 
toiling with undaunted spirit beneath the rays of a 
vertical sun. The bleak and barren rocks of the 
Horn, tenanted by Penguins, are forsaken for the 
sunny isles of Polynesia, and these, again, for the in¬ 
hospitable shores of Kamschatka. Peculiar dangers 
attend them in their protracted voyage; if they 
escape unscathed from the storms of the south, it is 
to enter an ocean strewn with innumerable reefs of 
stony coral, whose positions are but imperfectly indi¬ 
cated in charts, to touch one of which would be 
inevitable destruction; if these are safely passed, it 
is to penetrate into a sea vexed with the most terrible 
of tempests, the typhoon. The duration of the voyage 
is protracted to a length which would justify our 
calling it an exile ; this is no summer’s trip; three 
and even four years are the ordinary periods allotted 
to this enterprise. The object of the pursuit, gigantic 
in size and power, seems to demand no ordinary 
courage in its assailant; and more especially in his 
o^vn element, when he is “making the sea to boil 
like a pot of ointment,” to venture to the battle in 
a frail boat, needs a hardihood of more than common 
calibre. The moment of victory is frequently the 
moment of danger; the dying struggles of the lanced 
^Vhale are of fearful impetuosity; the huge and 
muscular tail lashes the Ocean into foam, and the 



THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


227 


long and powerful lower jaw, serried with teeth, 
snaps convulsively in every direction. Timid as this 
mighty animal usually is, instances are not infre¬ 
quent, in which a consciousness of strength has been 
accompanied by the will to use it. The destruction 
of the ship Essex, an American whaler, affords a 
remarkable instance of the ferocity and determina¬ 
tion, as well as of the power, of the Sperm Whale. 
This vessel was whaling in the vicinity of the Society 
Islands, when one of these animals, having grazed 
its back in passing beneath the vessel’s keel, became 
enraged, and after swimming to some distance, sud¬ 
denly turned, and rushed with amazing force against 
the ship. The helmsman vainly endeavoured to 
avoid the blow, and the animal repeating the attack, 
stove in the ship’s bows, when she speedily filled 
and went down, barely allowing the hands on board 
time to take to the boat. Those who were out in 
pursuit, seeing, to their astonishment, their vessel 
sink without any apparent cause, hastened to the 
spot, and the whole crew found themselves in open 
boats, three thousand miles from the coast of Chili, 
to which they determined to proceed, but where 
three or four only arrived after painful and pro¬ 
tracted sufferings. 

The Sperm Whale {Physeter macrocejolialus) attains 
a greater length than the Greenland Whale, from 
^ which it is at once distinguished by the remarkable 
form of the head. As in the latter, the head occupies 
about one-third of the entire length, but it is of the 
same thickness throughout, appearing as if it had 
been suddenly cut off at the muzzle; so that the 







228 


THE OCEAN. 


head bears no small resemblance to a huge box. 
There is no whalebone; but the lower jaw, which is 
narrow, and fits into the upper, is armed with a 
series of sharp teeth, which are received into hollows 
in the upper gums. The blow-hole is placed at the 
front angle of the head; the eye is just above the 
inner corner of the mouth, and over this, where the 
head joins the body, there is a hunch called the 
bunch of the neck; from hence the body is nearly 
straight to within one-third of its length from the 
tail, where there is a larger prominence called the 
hump; it now rapidly tapers away to the tail: the 
whalers distinguish this tapering part by the name of 
'‘the small,” and the broad horizontal tail, as "the 
flukes.” The whole of the upper portion of the 
square and bluff head is occupied by a cavity, tech¬ 
nically termed "the case,’' which is not covered by 
bone, but by a thick, tendinous, elastic skin, and 
lined with a beautiful glistening membrane. This 
cavity is filled with a clear oil, which, after death, 
cools into the substance well known as spermaceti. 
Some idea may be formed of the capacity of the case, 
from the fact that, in a large Whale, it will frequently 
be found to contain ten large barrels of this valuable 
product. Immediately beneath the case is placed 
"the junk,” a thick triangular mass of tough elastic 
substance, which also yields a considerable quantity 
of spermaceti. The fins are comparatively small, and 
are situated a little behind the mouth; they do not 
appear to be used in giving motion, which is effected 
by the tail, but in balancing the body, and supporting 
the young. 


THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 




The general colour of the animal is very dark grey, 
nearly black on the upper parts, but more silvery 
beneath. Old males usually have a large spot of pale 
grey on the front of the head, when they are said to 
be grey-headed. The motions of these enormous 
creatures are exceedingly curious : when moving per¬ 
fectly at leisure, the Whale swims slowly along, just 
below the surface of the water, effecting his progress 
by gently moving his tail from side to side obliquely. 
The bunch and hump may be seen above the water, 
and by the disturbance which they cause in cutting 
the fluid, some foam is produced, by which an expe¬ 
rienced whaler can judge, even at some miles’ distance, 
how fast the animal is going. AVhen disturbed, how¬ 
ever, or from any cause inclined to increase his 
velocity, he uses a very different mode of progression. 
The broad tail now strikes the water upward and 
downward alternately with great force ; at every 
blow downward the fore, part sinks down several 
yards into the water, while by the force of the up¬ 
ward blow the head is thrust entirely out of the 
water. A Whale can swim in this manner, the head 
alternately appearing and disappearing, which the 
seamen call ''going head-out,” at the rate of twelve 
miles an hour. It may appear surprising that so 
bulky a portion of the animal as the enormous head, 
should be so easily thrust into the air, the head being 
usually the heaviest part of an animal: but here we 
trace the beneficent hand of God in creation, the 
volume of the head being occupied not with dense 
bone, but, as we have seen, with an oil which is 
considerably lighter than water, and which renders 



230 


THE OCEAN. 


this part the most buoyant of the whole body. 
And when we consider that the breathing aperture 
or blow-hole must be projected from the water 
for the reception of air, we see the reason of this 
buoyancy.* 

EYer}d:hing connected with the breathing of the 
Sperm Whale is performed with a regularity that 
is very remarkable. The length of time he remains 
at the surface, the number of '' spoutings ” made at 
each time, the length of interval between the spouts, 
the time he remains below the surface before again 
rising to breathe, are all, when he is undisturbed, as 
regular in succession and duration as it is possible 
to imagine. This is a circumstance of the greatest 
value to the whaler; for though there is considerable 
variation in these particulars in different animals, yet 
such is the precision with which each maintains his 
own rates of movement, that when the periods of any 
particular ^^Tiale have been observed, the whaler can 
calculate, even to a minute, when he will reappear, 
and how long he will continue at the surface. A large 
male, called '' a bull whale,” usually remains at the 
surface about ten minutes, during which he spouts 
sixty or seventy times; then, to use the nautical 
phrase, ''his spoutings are out,” the head giudually 
sinks, the "small” is projected from the water, and 
presently the " flukes ” of the tail are raised high in 
the air, and the animal descends perpendicularly to 
an unknown depth, remaining below from an hour to 

* For most of the particulars of the history and pursuit of this 
animal I am indebted to Mr. Beale’s valuable w-'ork on the Sperm 
WTiale. 









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SPEllM WHALE ATTACKED I5Y SWOKD-FISII. 













THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


231 


an hour and twenty minutes, when he comes up to 
respire again. 

The regular recurrence of these motions can be 
depended on only when the Whale is perfectly at 
ease; for, if alarmed, he dives immediately, rising, 
however, soon again to complete his spoutings. 
When ’ going head-out,” also, he spouts at every 
projection of the head, and much more hurriedly 
than usual. One would be apt to suppose that a 
creature so huge and powerful would be little the 
subject of fear or alarm; but, in truth, it is a re¬ 
markably timid animal; the approach even of a 
boat causing him to descend with precipitation. It 
is graciously ordained, that the creatures which are 
formed to contribute to man’s comfort or sustenance, 
though many of them are more powerful than he, 
should be impressed with such a fear of him, as 
in general to be incapable of using their superior 
strength to his disadvantage. And the fear of you, 
and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of 
the earth, and upon every fowl of the air; upon all 
that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes 
of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.”* 
But this huge animal has other enemies than man: 
equally with the Greenland Whale, it is subject to 
the assaults of some of the larger predaceous fishes; 
the Swordfish and the Sawfish plunge into his body 
their formidable snouts, and the “Thresher” leaps 
upon him from above. Mr. Beale records the follow¬ 
ing incident, as reported to him by an eye-witness, 
a gentleman on whose veracity he could rely. “ He 

* Gen. ix. 2. 


232 


THE OCEAX. 


stated that he had been ohsendng a Sperm ^Vhale 
during the time it had remained at the surface to 
breathe, which afterwards went through the evolution 
of peaking its flukes in the usual manner, and dis¬ 
appeared As it was a large Whale, and as he knew 
it was likely to remain under water for a considerable 
time, he scarcely expected to see it again. However, 
in this he was mistaken; for after it had disappeared 
only for a few minutes, it again rose, apparently 
in great trepidation, and as it reared with great 
velocity, haK of its huge body projected out of the 
water. Gaining, however, in a few seconds the hori¬ 
zontal position, it went on at its utmost speed, going 
head-out; the moment after which he saw a flsh, 
somewhat resembling a Conger-eel in flgure, but 
rather more bulky, and to all appearance about six 
or eight feet in length, fljung itseK high out of the 
water after the ^Miale, and fall clumsily on its back, 
which caused still more alarm to the immense but 
timid animal, so that it beat the water with its tail, 
and reared its enormous head so ^dolentlv, that 
sounds from the former could be heard at a great 
distance : it still, however, contiuued its rapid career, 
receiving every few minutes the unwelcome ^usits 
of its galling adversary. My informant had good 
reason to believe that some other animal was at the 
same time attacking it from below; for on more 
than one occasion, he saw some animal dart at times 
to the surface ^vith amazing quickness, us if engaged 
with gi’eat fmj in the contest; and which, he 
supposes, prevented the MTiale from descending, in 
which he had the power, no doubt, if he had not 








THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


235 


teen thus prevented, of leaving his antagonists tar 
behind. The attack was continued for a considerable 
time, during which the Whale had got a great dis¬ 
tance from the ship, when it twice threw itself 
completely out of its native element, no doubt 
endeavouring to escape from its tormenting adver¬ 
saries by this act of ' breaching,’ and which I have 
myself seen him do, after having been unsuccessfully 
chased by the boats.”* 

A Whale will occasionally place himself perpen¬ 
dicularly in the water, his whole head being visible, 
presenting a most extraordinary appearance, like a 
black rock in the Ocean: the object of this posture 
is to take a rapid and comprehensive glance around 
him, when he is apprehensive of danger. Some¬ 
times, when attacked by boats, he will carefully 
sweep his tail from side to side upon the surface, 
as if to discover by feeling, the object of his dread. 
At other times, he amuses himself by lashing the 
water with the same organ, in the most violent 
manner; covering the sea with foam, while the 
strokes resound on every side. Breaching, or leaping 
bodily into the air, is alluded to in the above 
extract. 

The food of the Sperm Whale consists of different 
species of cuttle or squid, occasionally varied with 
small fish : to obtain these, Mr. Beale supposes, ^vith 
much probability, that he descends to a considerable 
depth, and remaining as quiet as possible, allows 
his narrow lower jaw to hang down perpendicularly 
at right angles with his body. The whole inside 

* Beale’s Sperm Whale, p. 49. 






234 


THE OCEAN. 


of Ms mouth, and particularly the teeth, being of a 
glistening white hue, the squid are attracted to visit 
it, and when a sufficient number are within, the 
mouth is supposed to be closed. That the prey is 
obtained in some other way than by pursuit is 
proved by the fact, that "Whales are often found 
blind, and others with the lower jaw distorted, which 
yet are in as good condition as others. These dis¬ 
tortions arise from battles between old ''bull whales:” 
they rush upon each other with great fury, their 
mouths wide open, each endeavouring to seize his 
adversary by the lower jaw. In this manner they 
often become locked together by the jaws, and then 
struggling with all their gigantic power, the contest 
frequently terminates in the dislocation or fracture of 
the jaw. The teeth are not used for chewing, the 
prey being swallowed entire. 

In the chase and capture of tMs iffimense creature, 
as might be expected from the peculiarities of its 
habits, there are several circumstances that distin¬ 
guish it from the Greenland whale-fishery, while, 
at the same time, there is a general resemblance. 
Ships of three or four hundred tons are selected 
for the voyage, strongly built, manned with a crew 
of about thirty hands, and provisioned for four years. 
A watch is stationed aloft immediately on leaving 
the Channel, although the Sperm Whale is rarely 
seen in the Atlantic north of the equator. The look¬ 
out on the mast-head is never interrupted during the 
voyage, or until the cargo is completed, the men on 
this duty being relieved in succession. On a Sperm 
Whale being perceived, the intelligence is communi- 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


235 


cated by the watch calling out aloud in a peculiar 
tone, ''There she spouts!’' a cry which fails not to 
produce a general rush on deck of all hands. The 
captain eagerly asks, "Whereaway?” The position 
of the prey is pointed out, while at every fresh 
spouting the watch, accompanied by every individual 
on board who has caught sight of the object, vocife¬ 
rates, "There again 1” When the spoutings are out, 
and the Whale descends, the elevation of the tail 
into the air is announced in the same manner by 
" There goes flukes 1” The reason of these announce¬ 
ments appears to be, that the times of the animal’s 
motions may be accurately marked by the proper 
officers, though they may not see them themselves, 
as affording an unfailing criterion by which to judge 
of his future movements. On the first signal being 
given, the boats, which are always kept in complete 
readiness at the ship’s side, are lowered, and the men 
take their places with joyous alacrity. If not too 
far off, they strain every nerve to arrive at the 
animal before his spoutings are out, which in a large 
bull Whale may be about ten minutes. Should they 
be unable, however, to effect this, they endeavour to 
mark his direction of diving, and station themselves 
near the spot where they expect he will break water. 
On his reappearance, the boats are rowed up as 
silently as possible, and the foremost harpooner darts 
his weapon with all his force into its side. The 
instant this is done he cries, "Stern all!” and the 
boat is withdrawn with precipitation. The Whale, 
writhing with the agony, dives perpendicularly, 
drawing the line of the harpoon swiftly through its 










236 


THE OCEAN. 


groove: the other boats are ready to bend on their 
lines, each of which is two hundred fathoms long; 
for sometimes a Whale will drag after him four lines, 
descending to the depth of 4,800 feet. Presently he 
is seen approaching the surface : '' The gurgling and 
bubbling water, which rises before, also proclaims 
that he is near; his nose starts from the sea; the 
rushing spout is projected high and suddenly, from 
his agitation.'' 

On Iris reaching the surface, the other boats infix 
their harpoons, while at the same instant the former 
harpooner thimsts deeply his steel lance into the 
body, and “ Stern all! " again resounds. 

Xow comes the most dangerous part of the busi¬ 
ness ; the Whale is in his flurry," or last agony; 
he dashes hither and thither, snaps convulsively with 
his huge jaws, rolls over and over, coiling the line 
around his body, or leaps completely out of the 
water. The boats are often upset, sometimes broken 
into fragments, and the men wounded or drowned. 
Now the crimson blood is spouted from the blow¬ 
hole, and falls in showers around ; the poor animal 
whirls rapidly round in unconsciousness, in a por¬ 
tion of a circle, rolls over on its side, and is still in 
death. 

The huge body is now towed to the ship; a hole 
is cut into the blubber near the head, into which 
a strong hook is inserted: a difficult and dangerous 
operation. A strong tension is then applied to this 
hook, and by it the blul^ber is hoisted up, as it is 
gradually cut by the spades in a spiral strip, going 
round and round the body. As this strip or band of 





THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


237 


bliiLber is pulled off, the body of course revolves, 
until the stripping reaches the small,” when it will 
turn no more. The head, which at the commence¬ 
ment of the process was cut off and secured astern, 
is now hoisted into a perpendicular position, the 
front of the muzzle opened, and the spermaceti 
dipped out of the '' case ” by a bucket at the end of 
a pole. The ''junk” is then cut into oblong pieces, 
and the remainder of the head, with the carcass, cut 
adrift. The oil is afterwards extracted from the 
blubber and junk by exposing them to the action of 
fire in large pots, the skinny portions which remain 
serving for fuel: and the spermaceti is purified in 
the same manner. The products are then stowed 
away in barrels in the vessel's hold. 

The following narrative, from the interesting work 
of ]\Ir. Beale, gives us a vivid picture of this exciting 
pursuit: '' At daybreak, one fine morning in August, 
as our first mate was going aloft to look out for 
Whales, he discovered no less than three ships 
within a mile of us ; but they were situated in 
various directions. We soon discovered them to be 
whalers, who, like ourselves, were cruising after the 
Spermaceti Whale, and, therefore, their appearance 
only had the effect of redoubling our vigilance in 
the look-out, so that we might, if possible, be the 
first to obtain the best chance, if one of those crea¬ 
tures hove in sight. And it was not long before a 
very large Whale made his appearance right in 
among the ships. The water was smooth at the 
time, for we had but a light air of wind stirring, 
so that our boats were instantly lowered without 







238 


THE OCEAN. 


the loss of time of bringing the ship to. But 
although we managed matters as quietly and secretly 
as possible, we found the moment our boats quitted 
the ship's side, that all the others had been as vigi¬ 
lant as ourselves, and had also lowered their boats 
after the "^Miale. The whole of them immediately 
began the chase, nine boats in all, being three from 
each ship. They all exerted themselves to the 
utmost, and, as we expected, in vain; for before any 
of the boats had got even near him, the enormous 
animal lifted his widely-expanded flukes, and de¬ 
scended perpendicularly into the depths of the Ocean 
to feed. Those in the boats, however, having noticed 
his course, proceeded onwards, thinking the Whale 
would continue to pursue the same direction under 
water; but, as he was going slowly at the time he 
was up, they did not proceed more than a mile from 
the place at which he descended, before they sepa¬ 
rated about a hundred yards from each other, and 
then, neaking their oars, all the men in each boat 
stood up, looking in different directions, so as to 
catch the flrst appearance of the spout, when the 
Whale again rose to breathe. AATien an hour after 
his descent had expired, the excitement among us 
who were on board the ship, became wound up to its 
highest pitch. The captain, who had remained on 
board, ascended to the fore-top-gallant-yard to watch 
the manoeuvres of the boats, and for the purpose of 
the better ordering the signals to them, or working 
of the ship. All those who were down after the 
Whale appeared as feverish with anxiety as ourselves, 
for every now and then they were to be seen shifting 


THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


239 


tlieir position a little, thinking to do so with advan¬ 
tage ; then they would cease rowing, and stand up 
on the seats of the boats, and look all round over 
the smooth surface of the Ocean with ardent gaze. 
But one hour and ten minutes expired before the 
monster of the deep thought proper to break cover ; 
and when he did, then a rattling chase commenced 
with the whole of the boats, and they really flew 
along in flne style, some of them appearing to be 
actually lifted quite on the surface of the water, from 
the great power of the rowers ; and we had the 
satisfaction of observing, that our boats were quite 
equal to the others in the speed with which they 
were propelled. But it was again a useless task, as 
the A^Trale had outwitted those in the boats, by 
having gone, while under water, much further than 
any of his pursuers had anticipated, and they again 
had the mortification of witnessing the turning of 
his flukes, as he once more descended into the depths 
of his vast domain. We now knew to a minute the 
time that he would remain below, while the people 
in the boats continued to row slowly onwards the 
whole time. A fine breeze now sprang up, so that 
we were enabled to keep company with the boats, 
keeping a little to windward of them, as the Whale 
was going ^ on a wind,’ as a seaman would say, mean¬ 
ing that it was blowing across him. 

When the hour and ten minutes had again nearly 
passed, the nine boats were nearly abreast of each 
other, and not much separated, so that the success 
of first striking the Whale depended very much 

upon the swiftest boat, especially if the Whale came 

M 2 








240 


THE OCEAN. 


up aliead. . We had now all the boats on our lee- 
beam, while tlie ships were all astern of us, the most 
distant not being more than half a mile, so that we 
enjoyed an excellent view of this most exciting and 
animated scene. True to his time, the leviathan at 
length arose right ahead of the bouts, and at not 
more than a quarter of a mile distant from them. 
The excitement among the crews of the various 
boats, when they saw his first spout, was tremen¬ 
dous ; they did not shout, but we could hear an 
agitated murmur from their united voices reverbe¬ 
rating along the surface of the deep. They flew over 
the limpid waves at a rapid rate: the mates of the 
various boats cheered their respective crews by 
various urgent exclamations. ‘ Swing on your oars, 
my boys, for the honour of the Henrietta! ’ cried 
one ; ‘ Spring away, hearties ! ’ shouted another ; and 
yet scarcely able to breathe from anxiety and exer¬ 
tion ; ‘ It’s our fish !’ vociferated a third, as he passed 
the rest of his opponents by a trifling distance. ‘ Lay 
on, my boys ! ’ cried young Clark, our first mate, as 
he steered the boat with one hand and pressed down 
the after oar with the other ; ' she’ll be ours yet; 
let’s have a strong pull, a long pull, and a pull all 
together !’ he exclaimed, as he paused from his exer¬ 
tions at the after oar, which soon brought up his boat 
quite abreast of the foremost. 

'' But the giant of the ocean, who was only a short 
distance before them, now appeared rather ' gallied,’ 
or frightened, having probably seen or heard the 
boats, and as he puffed up his spout to a great height, 
and reared his enormous head, he increased his speed, 


THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


241 


and went along quite as fast as the boats, but foi 
only two or three minutes, when he appeared to get 
perfectly quiet again, while the boats gained rapidly 
upon him, and were soon close in his wake. ‘ Stand 
up!’ cried young Clark to the harpooner, who is 
also the bow-oarsman ; while the same order w^as 
instantly given by his opponent, whose boat was 
abreast of our mate’s, with the rest close to their 
sterns. The orders were instantly obeyed, for in a 
second of time both boat-steerers stood in the bows 
of their respective boats, with their harpoons held 
above their heads ready for the dart; but they both 
panted to be a few yards nearer to the AVhale, to do 
so with success. The monster plunged through the 
main quickly, but the boats gained upon him every 
moment, when the agitation of all parties became 
intense, and a general cry of ^ Dart! dart 1 ’ broke 
from the hindermost boats, who each urged theii 
friends, fearful of delay. The uproar became exces¬ 
sive, and while the tumult of voices and the working 
and splashing of the oars rolled along the surface 
of the deep, both the harpooners darted their weapons 
together, which, if they had both struck the Whale, 
would have originated a contention between them 
regarding their claims. But, as it happened, neithei 
of them had that good fortune; for, at the moment 
of their darting the Whale descended like a shot, and 
avoided their infliction, leaving nothing but a white 
and green-looking vortex in the disturbed blue Ocean, 
to mark the spot where his monstrous form so lately 
floated. A general huzza burst from the sternmost 
boats, when they saw the issue of tliis chase, thinking, 




242 


THE OCEAN. 


now, that another chance awaited them on the next 
rising of the "Whale, and they soon began to separate 
themselves a little, and to row onwards again in the 
course which they thought he had taken. Our cap¬ 
tain, feeling irritated at the ill-success of the mate, 
now ordered his own boat to be lowered, intending to 
make one in the chase himself; but, just as he had 
parted from the ship, going down a little to leeward, 
a tremendous shout arose from the people in our own 
boats, joined with a loud murmuring from the rest 
of the boats’ crews; for the Whtale, not having had 
all its spoutings out, had now risen again to finish 
them, and was coming to windward at a quick rate, 
right towards our ship. The captain saw his favour¬ 
able situation in a moment, and passing quickly to 
the bows of the boat, he stood to waylay him as he 
came careering along, throwing his enormous head 
completely out of the water, for he was now quite 
‘ gallied.’ He soon came, and caught a sight of the 
boat just as he got within dart; the vast animal 
rolled himself over in an agony of fear, to alter his 
course ; but it was too late; the harpoon was hurled 
with excellent aim, and was plunged deeply into his 
side, near the fin. 

As the immense creature almost flew out of the 
water from the blow, throwing tons of spray high 
into the air, showing that he was ' fast,’ a triumphant 
cheering arose from those in our own boats, as well 
as from those in the ship, accompanied by exclama¬ 
tions loud and deep, and not of the most favourable 
kind to us, from all the rest. But onwards they all 
came, and soon cheerfully rendered assistance to 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


243 


complete its destruction; but which was not done, 
however, without considerable difficulty, the Whale 
continuing to descend the moment either of the boats 
got nearly within dart of him. But after an hour’s 
exertion in this way, six out of the ten boats which 
were now engaged got fast to him by their harpoons, 
but not one of them could get near enough to give 
tiim a fatal lance. He towed them all in various 
directions for some time, taking care to descend 
below the surface the moment a boat drew up over 
his flukes, or otherwise drew near, which rendered it 
almost impossible to strike him in the body, even 
when the lance was darted, although the after part of 
his ‘ small ’ was perforated in a hundred places ; from 
these wounds the blood gushed in considerable quan¬ 
tities, and as the poor animal moved along, towing 
the boats, he left a long ensanguined stain in the 
Ocean. At last, becoming weak from his numerous 
and deep wounds, he became less capable of avoiding 
his foes, which gave an opportunity for one of them 
to pierce liim to the life ! Dreadful was, that moment, 
the acute pain which the leviathan experienced, and 
which roused the dormant energies of his gigantic 
frame. As the life-blood gurgled thick through the 
nostril, the immense creature went into his ‘ flurry ’ 
with excessive fury ; the boats were speedily sterned 
ofl*, while he beat the water in his dying convulsions 
with a force that appeared to shake the firm founda¬ 
tion of the Ocean.”* 

Few occurrences in a long voyage are more gene¬ 
rally interesting and exciting than the sight, and 

* Hist, of Sperm Wbale, p. 176. 




244 


THE OCEA>^ 


particularly the speaking, of another ship. Even in 
crossing the Atlantic this is the case ; bnt how much 
more in a voyage to the Pacific, where many months 
may elapse without the appearance of a vessel! The 
call of ''Sail ho!” has an electric effect: all the 
telescopes on board are soon pointed towards her ; 
her rig, her canvas, her direction, the force of wind 
she has, the tack she is on, if "by the wind,” are 
all carefully scrutinized and commented on. If the 
courses of the two vessels, and their positions, are 
such that they will approach very near to each other, 
they will " speak,” as a matter of course; but there 
are few commanders so churlish as not to submit 
to a shght deviation of their course in order to com¬ 
municate with another. Perhaps the stranger is seen 
directly astern, following right in the wake, a circum¬ 
stance which, as far as my own observation extends, 
commonly excites a slight feeling of uneasiness, 
and a more than usual attention to her appearance, 
powers of sailing, &c. Though the reason assures 
one that the occurrence of a ship in that particular 
direction, is as likely as in any other quarter, yet 
the mind will recur to the idea of pursuit, and 
thoughts of walking the plank, or hanging at the 
yard-arm, will crowd up to the imagination, especially 
if the locality happen to be the West Indies, or the 
Spanish Main, or any other sea habitually infested 
with pirates. But as she gains a greater nearness, 
her hull and rig indicate her to be a peaceful trader, 
and presently the bunting is run up to the peak, and 
the folds of England’s fair ensign fiow out upon the 
breeze. The approach of a vessel is always a pleasing 






THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


245 


sight; her graceful movements, as she bounds over 
the waves, the white foam rolling up under her bows, 
her taper masts and spars, the elegant curves which 
the breeze gives to her running rigging, the white, 
plump sails, bellying from the wind, are all beautiful; 
if she is to windward, her clean white decks are 
visible as she lies over, the crew collected in the 
waist or about the bows, the officers and passengers 
assembled on the quarter-deck, gazing with equal 
curiosity to our own, upon our appearance; the 
captain standing with his speaking-trumpet in his 
hand ready to seize the moment of nearest approach. 
He raises his trumpet to his mouth—''Ship ahoy!’' 
"Hilloa!” "What ship is that, pray? Where are 
you from ? AVhere are you bound ? How long are 
you out? What’s your longitude?” These and 
similar questions are mutually asked and answered, 
each reply being acknowledged by a slight motion of 
the trumpet in the air. If there be opportunity, the 
prevailing character of the winds with each, the 
prospects of the voyage, the state of the respective 
crews, and other nautical subjects, are interchanged; 
but usually the time afforded for speaking by the 
vessels remaining within hail, is very brief, and they 
again diverge, and soon are lost to each other below 
the horizon. Very often, from the sighing of the 
wind among the cordage, the working of the ship, 
the ripple and splash at her side, as well as from 
distance, while the questions from being so much in 
course are perfectly intelligible, the answers are 
almost inaudible, and can sometimes only be guessed 
at, the consonants being entirely lost, and the vowel- 

M 3 


246 


THE OCEAN. 


sounds alone heard. This will explain a laughable 
incident which took place a few years ago, on the 
Homeward passage of the John Bull transport, from 
Eio Janeiro. 

One fine starlight evening, about half-past eight 
o’clock, the oflhcer on deck came into the cabin, and 
announced that a ship was hailing. All hands im¬ 
mediately came on deck, and the captain asked the 
position of the stranger. At that moment, “ Ship 
ahoy!” was heard, the voice apparently being to 
windward. A lantern was put over the gangway, 
the mainsail was hauled up, and the mainyard 
backed, to stop the vessel’s way. Xo ship was to be 
seen. ‘^Silence, fore and aft!” ordered the captain, 
for the decks were now crowded, soldiers, sailors, 
women, children, all were up. Ship ahoy ! ” again 
came over the waves, and ''Hilloa!” answers the 
captain at the top of his voice. Every one now 
listened with breathless attention for the next ques¬ 
tion, expecting the name of the ship would be 
demanded, as usual: ^'Ship ahoy*” again resounded, 
and several together answered “ Hilloa !” louder than 
before: but no notice was taken of the reply, and 
no sail was in sight ''It is very strange!” ex¬ 
claimed the captain; "where can she be?” One 
thought she might have passed them; others sug¬ 
gested that it might be a pirate-boat about to board. 
The captain took the hint, put the troops under arms, 
cleared away the guns ready for action, and double- 
shotted them. Silence being again obtained, "Ship 
ahoy !” was heard agam, and the voice still seemed to 
come from the windward. The chief mate then 






THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


247 


suggested the possibility of some person being on a 
raft, and volunteered to go in a boat to ascertain. 
The boat was lowered, and the two mates, with the 
boat’s crew, each armed with sword and pistol, rowed 
at some distance round the ship. 

On the officers’ return, they reported that they 
could neither hear nor see anything. Silence pre¬ 
vailed while they reported this to the captain, every 
one being desirous to know the issue of the search. 
Instantly, the same Ship ahoy!” was heard, though 
much less audibly, and, apparently, at a greater 
distance than before. The next moment it was heard 
much louder and closer. A feeling of intense ex¬ 
citement now prevailed in each of the crowd of 
persons on board the transport. More than an hour 
had passed since the ship was hove to; every one 
had repeatedly heard the stranger’s hail, coming 
through the darkness, but nothing had been seen 
of him, and no further question or answer could be 
elicited. The screams of the women and children, 
and the muttering of the men, showed that super¬ 
stitious dread of something supernatural and un- 
eartlily was creeping over every one. The captain 
issued orders to shoulder arms and to make ready 
the guns. 

Just at this crisis, one of the cabin-boys, who had 
been standing near the mainmast, stepped aft to the 
chief mate, and said It’s a fowl in the hencoop, 
sir, that’s a-making that ’ere noise.” Tliat officer 
indignantly bestowed. on him a sound box on the 
ear for his information, but immediately recollecting 
that he was an intelligent lad, accompanied him to 



248 


THE OCEAN. 


1 


the hencoop with a lantern; where he saw a fowl 
lying on its side. He took it out and placed it on 
the capstan; and there, in the sight of the whole 
company, was beheld a poor hen dying of the cronp, 
occasionally emitting a sound ee-a-aw,” which re¬ 
sembled the words Ship ahoy!” coming from a 
distance, as closely as any hail that was ever heard.* 

* Naut, Mag. 1842, p. 409. 



i 

j 

j 





























THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


CONTINtJED. 

A EEMAEKABLE feature in the Pacific Ocean, and one 
that distinguishes it from every other sea, is the 
immense assemblage of small islands with which it 
is crowded, particularly in the portion situated 
between the tropics. For about three thousand miles 
from the coast of South America, the sea is almost 
entirely free from islands ; but thence to the great 
isles of India, an immense belt of Ocean, nearly five 
thousand miles in length, and fifteen hundred in 
breadth, is so studded with them as almost to be one 
continuous archipelago. The term Polynesia, by 
which this division of the globe is now distinguished, 
is compounded of two Greek words, signifying many 
islands. Very few of these gems of the Ocean are 
more than a few miles in extent, though Tahiti, and 
some in the more western groups, are of rather larger 
dimensions; while Hawaii, the largest island in 
* Polynesia, is about the size of Yorkshire. 

The isles, which in such vast numbers thus stud 
the bosom of the Pacific, are of three distinct forms, 
the Coral, the Crystal, and the Volcanic. Of these, 
the first formation greatly predominates ; but the 
largest islands are of the last description; of the 
crystal formation but few specimens are known. 


250 


THE OCEA2s\ 


Imagine a belt of land in the ^\dde Ocean, not 
more than half a mile in breadth, but extending, in 
an irregnlar cni^’e, to the length of ten or twenty 
miles or more : the height above the water not more 
than a vard or two at most, but clothed with a mass 
of the richest and most verdant vegetation. Here 
and there, above the general bed of luxuriant foliage, 
rises a grove of cocoa-nut trees, wa^dng their feathery 
plumes high in the air, and gracefully bending their 
tall and slender stems to the breathing of the plea¬ 
sant trade-wind. The grove is bordered by a narrow 
beach on each side, of the most glittering whiteness, 
contrasting with the beautiful azure waters by which 
it is emdroned From end to end of the curved isles 
stretches, in a straight line, forming, as it were, the 
cord of the bow, a narrow beach, of the same snowj^ 
whiteness, almost level with the sea at the lowest 
tide, enclosing a semicircular space of water between 
it and the island, called the lagoon. Over this line 
of beach, which occupies the leeward side, the curve 
being to windward, the sea is breaking with sublime 
majesty; the long unbroken swell of the Ocean, 
hitherto unbridled through a course of thousands of 
miles, is met by this rampart, when the huge billows, 
rearing themselves upwards many yards above its 
level, and bending their foaming crests, 'Horm a 
graceful liquid arch, glittering in the rays of a tro¬ 
pical sun as if studded with brilliants. But, before 
the eyes of the spectator can foUow the splendid 
aqueous gallery which they appear to have reared, 
with loud and hollow roar they faU, in magnificent 
desolation, and spread the gigantic fabric in froth 










THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


251 


and spray upon the horizontal and gently broken 
surface.” Contrasting strongly with the tumult and 
confusion of the hoary billows without, the water 
within the lagoon exliibits the serene placidity of a 
mill-pond. Extending downwards to a depth varying 
from a few feet to fifty fathoms, the waters possess 
the lively green hue common to soundings on a white 
or yellow ground; while the surface, unruffled by a 
wave, reflects with accurate distinctness the mast of 
the canoe that sleeps upon its bosom, and the tufts of 
the cocoa-nut plumes that rise from the beach above 
it. Such is a Coral Island, and if its appearance is 
one of singular loveliness, as all who have seen it 
testify, its structure, on examination, is found to be 
no less interesting and wonderful. The beach of 
white sand, which opposes the whole force of the 
Ocean, is found to be the summit of a rock which 
rises abruptly from an unknown depth, like a per¬ 
pendicular wall. The whole of this rampart, as far 
as our senses can take cognizance of it, is composed 
of living coral,* and the same substance forms the 
foundation of the curved and more elevated side 
which is smiling in the luxuriance and beauty of 
tropical vegetation. The elevation of the coral to 
the surface is not always abruptly perpendicular ; 
sometimes reefs of varying depths extend to a con¬ 
siderable distance in the form of successive platforms 
or terraces. In these regions may be seen islands in 
every stage of their formation : some presenting 
little more than a point or summit of a branching 
coralline pyramid, at a depth scarcely discernible 
through the transparent waters; others spreading, 


252 


THE OCEAN. 


like submarine gardens or slirubberies, beneath the 
surface; or presenting here and there a little bank of 
broken coral and sand, over which the rolling wave 
occasionally breaks while others exist in the more 
advanced state that I have just described, the main 
bank suflBLciently elevated to be permanently pro¬ 
tected from the waves, and already clothed with 
verdure, and the lagoon enclosed by the narrow 
bulwark of the coral reef Though the rampart thus 
reared is suflScient to preseiwe the inner waters in a 
peaceful and mirror-like calmness, it must not be 
supposed that all access to them from the sea is 
excluded. It almost invariably happens that in the 
line of reef, one or more openings occur, which, 
though sometimes narrow and intricate, so as scarcely 
to allow the passage of a native canoe, are not un- 
frequently of sufficient width and depth to permit 
the free ingress of large ships. This is a very re¬ 
markable instance of the Divine care over the little 
creatures which rear these solid structures ; they 
appear to be endowed with an instinctive knowledge, 
that if the reef were carried uninterruptedly along 
from one point to another, so as completely to shut 
in the lagoon, the water within would soon become 
unfit to support their existence, and would ultimately 
be dried up. The advantage to man of these 
openings is very great; without them the islands 
might smile inffitingly, but in vain; no access could 
be obtained to them by shipping, through the tremen¬ 
dous smf by which their shores are lashed; but 
by these entrances the lovely lagoons are converted 
into the most q^uiet, safe and commodious havens 









THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


253 


imaginable, where ships may lie, and wood and 
water, and refresh their crews, in security, though 
the tempest howl without. It is a scarcely less bene¬ 
ficent provision that the position of the openings 
is in most cases indicated so as to be visible at a 
great distance. Had there been merely an opening 
in the coral rock, it could not have been detected 
from the sea, except by the. diminution of the foaming 
surf just at that spot; a circumstance that could 
scarcely be visible, unless the observer were opposite 
the aperture. But, in general, there is on each side 
of the passage a little islet, raised on the points of the 
reef, which, being commonly tufted with cocoa-nut 
trees, is perceptible as far off as the island itseK, and 
forms a most convenient landmark. 

Notwithstanding that the highest point of these 
narrow islets is rarely more than a yard above the 
tide, it is a remarkable fact that fresh water is fre¬ 
quently found in them. It is probable that the coral 
rock acts as a filter, allowing the sea-water to perco¬ 
late through its porous substance, but excluding all 
its saline particles held in solution. 

Though I have described the two parts of a Coral 
Island, or Atoll, as it is called, as distinct, yet the 
difference is only in appearance; the foundation on 
every side is the same, a coral reef rising to the sur¬ 
face ; but the side most exposed to the action of the 
waves driven in by the trade-winds is invariably the 
first to be projected, and attains a higher elevation 
than the leeward side. Neither must it be supposed 
that the belt to windward is always continuous, 
though the interruptions are comparatively few. 







254 


THE OCEAH. 


A close inspection will likewise show that the outline 
of the whole reef possesses much less regularity of 
form than its aspect from a distance indicated. The 
form, however, is invariably a more or less close 
approach to a circle. Sometimes the land is con¬ 
tinuous through the whole circumference, with the 
exception of a channel or two into the lagoon, which 
presents the appearance of a circular pond with a 
verdant border surrounding it; again, another atoU 
will be found which has brought its ring of reef 
scarcely to the surface, exposing, perhaps, a single 
bare spot on the windward edge at the lowest ebb of 
spring tide. 

Captain Basil Hall, in his Voyage to Loo-Choo, has 
recorded some pleasing observations on this singular 
formation. He says— 

'' The examination of a coral reef during the dif¬ 
ferent stages of one tide, is particularly interesting. 
When the sea has left it for some time it becomes 
dry, and appears to be a compact rock, exceedingly 
hard and rugged; but no sooner does the tide rise 
again, and the waves begin to wash over it, than 
millions of coral worms protrude themselves from 
holes on the surface, which were before quite in¬ 
visible. These animals are of a great variety of 
shapes and sizes, and in such prodigious numbers 
that in a short time the whole surface of the rock 
appears to be alive and in motion. The most com¬ 
mon of the worms at Loo-Choo was in the form of a 
star, with arms from four to six inches long, which 
it moved about with a rapid motion in all directions, 
probably in search of food. Others were so sluggish 







THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


255 


that they were often mistaken for pieces of the rock ; 
these were generally of a dark colour, and from four 
to five inches long, and two or three round. When 
the rock was broken from a spot near the level of 
high-water, it was found to be a hard, solid stone; 
but if any part of it were detached at a level to 
which the tide reached every day, it was discovered 
to be full of worms all of different lengths and 
colours, some being as fine as a thread, and several 
feet long, generally of a very bright yellow, and 
sometimes of a blue colour; while others resembled 
snails, and some were not unlike lobsters or prawns 
in shape, but soft, and not above two inches long.”* 
The animals thus described by the Captain, were 
doubtless intruders that had sought shelter or food 
in the interstices of the corah I have myseK observed 
the number and variety of creatures,—Star-fishes, 
Sea-cucumbers, Annelides, Crustacea, • and minute 
Fishes, that crowd about the broken coral of a tro¬ 
pical reef The true architects of these wonderful 
structures are polypes of minute size, which, though 
of many varying species, and even genera, agree in 
the simplicity of their form and structure. They 
consist of a little oblong bag of jelly, closed at one 
end, but having the other extremity open, and sur¬ 
rounded by tentacles, usually six or eight in number, 
set like the rays of a star. Multitudes of these tiny 
creatures are associated in the secretion of a common 
stony skeleton, the coral or madrepore ; in the minute 
orifices of which they reside, protruding their mouths 
and tentacles when under water, but withdrawing 
* Voyage to Loo-Choo, p. 75 . (Constable’s edit.) 



256 


THE OCEAN. 


themselves by sudden contraction into their holes 
the moment they are molested. 

It was for a long time supposed that all the islands 
of Coral formation were reared from their bases, 
fathomless depths in the Ocean, by the unaided 
efforts of these minute creatures; and from ex¬ 
aggerated notions of the rapidity with which the 
process was going ou, anticipations were frequently 
uttered that a large portion of the Pacific might at no 
very distant period be occupied by the spreading struc¬ 
tures united into a vast coral continent. More accu¬ 
rate observations have, however, satisfactorily proved 
that the living animals cannot exist at a greater depth 
than twenty or thirty fathoms, so that the whole of 
these animal secretions must have been deposited 
within that distance from the surface. At the same 
time it is no less true that the water in the immediate 
vicinitj^ of the islands is fathomless, and that the 
descent of their outer edge is remarkably abrupt 
and precipitous. The only satisfactory explanation of 
the phenomenon appears to be the one proposed and 
ably supported by Mr. Darwin, in his elaborate 
treatise on Coral reefs. Many islands of the com¬ 
mon rock formation are found in the Pacific, on the 
shehdng sides of which, a few fathoms below water, 
the coral animals have fixed their stony habitations, 
forming what is called a fringing reef, distinguished 
from others by being immediately attached to the 
land, without the inter\'ention of any lagoon or 
channel of water. Mr. Darwin supposes that every 
island in the Pacific originally presented this struc¬ 
ture, but that wherever a variation at present exists, 





THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


257 


the solid rock has been gradually, and perhaps very 
slowly, subsiding to a lower level. Now, let us 
assume this state of things for a moment, and look at 
the results. We must, however, mention two well- 
ascertained instincts of the Polype : the one is, that 
it works up towards the light; the other, that its 
proceedings are most vigorous at the outer edge, 
where it is washed by the beating waves. Let A in 
tlie following diagram represent the section of a 
rocky island ; B, B, the level of low-water; and D, 
the reef of coral fringing the coast. After the lapse 
of time, during which it has been subsiding, the 
water-level stands at J, h ; the coral at D has died 
from the too great depth, but the animals have been 
working upwards upon the dead matter, so that 
living coral is still near the surface ; the superior 
vigour of the species inhabiting the seaward edge, 
however, has caused that edge to be more elevated 



SECTION OF CORAL ISLAND. 


than the interior, as at d, d; so that the appearance 
is now that of a rocky isle, diminished in extent, 
surrounded by a reef at some distance, separated by 
the intervention of a shallow channel, e, e: this is 
exactly the appearance of Tahiti and the larger 

f 

islands generally, as I shall mention more fully when 





























































































































































258 


THE OCEAN. 


I come to the volcanic formation. The subsidence 
still goes on ; and, after a while, the water, yS, /S, is 
level with the summit of the island, which, of course, 
is now an island no longer; the growth of the coral 
has kept pace with the depression, and it is still at 
the surface, as at S, S; the more slowly growing 
species of the interior are still overflowed, and, as the 
island is submerged in the centre, the water, 6, 6, is 
no longer an annular channel, but a round lagoon; 
and thus we have an atoll, as at first described. The 
subsequent process of elevating and clothing the new 
islets is a rapid one. Chamisso observes, “As soon 
as it has reached such a height that it remains 
almost dry at low-water at the time of ebb, the 
corals leave off building higher; sea-shells, frag¬ 
ments of coral, sea-hedgehog shells, and their broken- 
off prickles, are united by the burning sun, through 
the medium of the cementing calcareous sand, which 
has arisen from the pulverization of the above-men¬ 
tioned shells, into one whole or solid stone, which, 
strengthened by the continual throwing up of new 
materials, gradually increases in thickness, till it at 
last becomes so high that it is covered only during 
some seasons of the year by the spring-tides. The 
heat of the sun so penetrates the mass of stone when 
it is dry, that it splits in many places, and breaks off 
in flakes. These flakes, so separated, are raised one 
upon another by the waves, at the time of high- 
water. The always-active surf throws blocks of coral 
(frequently of a fathom in length, and three or four 
feet thick), and shells of marine animals, between 
and upon the foundation stones. After this the cal- 







THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


259 


careoiis sand lies undisturbed, and offers to the seeds 
of trees and plants cast upon it by the waves, a soil 
upon which they rapidly grow, to overshadow its 
dazzling white surface. Entire trunks of trees, 
which are carried by the rivers from other countries 
and islands, find here, at length, a resting-place, after 
their long wanderings; with these come some small 
animals, such as lizards and insects, as the first inha¬ 
bitants. Even before the trees form a wood, the real 
sea-birds nestle there ; strayed land-birds take refuge 
in the bushes; and at a much later period, when 
the work has been long since completed, man also, 
appears, builds his hut on the fruitful soil formed 
by the corruption of the leaves of the trees, and 
calls himself lord and proprietor of this new crea¬ 
tion.’’ * 

The species of Polypes which contribute to the 
formation of coral structures are very numerous, 
and differ greatly from each other in the forms of 
their respective habitations. Some form large rounded 
masses, with numerous winding depressions, as the 
Brainstones {Meandrina ); some are studded with holes, 
filled with thin shelly plates placed perpendicularly, 
and converging to a point in the centre, as 
Astrcea; some assume the appearance of a mush¬ 
room, as Agaricia; but the most general form is 
that of an irregular, branching shrub. The various 
kinds are not found scattered indiscriminately over 
the whole edifice, but each occupying its own zone 
and position, each performing its own part, assigned 
by God, in carrying up the wondrous architecture. 

* Kotzebue’s Voyage. 






260 


THE OCEAN. 


The principal and most important place is filled by 
the genus Porites, which occupies the outside of the 
reef, at the exposed edge, constructing large rounded 
masses. The next in importance is the Millepora 
comjplanata^ which forms thick vertical plates, unit¬ 
ing at different angles by their edges, so as to pre¬ 
sent the appearance of a honeycomb : the marginal 
plates only being alive. These two kinds alone 
are able to endure the intermitting exposure to 
which the upper edge is subject, in being conti¬ 
nually washed over by the surf; other species are 
found a few fathoms down. Inside the lagoon, 
there are quite distinct sorts, generally brittle, and 
thinly branched ; while great round Brainstones 
[Meandrina), and flower-like Caryophyllioe occupy 
the bottom. In the shallow hollows of the reef, 
Pocillopora verrucosa^ a species having short waved 
plates or branches, is found: when alive it is a beau¬ 
tiful object, being of a delicate pale crimson hue. 

Conflicting statements have been made respect¬ 
ing the activity of the building processes going on 
in the present age; some affirming that the reefs 
have acquired no perceptible addition, either to their 
height or extent, since they have been known; others 
anticipating a speedy filling up of the Pacific from 
their rapid growth. The truth seems to be, that 
while in some localities no change in extent can be 
traced through many years, in others very rapid 
enlargements are made. As shelving the rate at 
which coral grows under favourable circumstances, 
Mr. Darwin mentions two or three interesting cases. 
In the lagoon of Keeling Atoll, a channel was dug 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


261 


for the passage of a schooner built upon the island, 
through the reef into the sea ; in ten years after¬ 
wards, when it was examined, it was found almost 
choked up with living coral. Dr. Allan at Mada¬ 
gascar placed several masses of coral, of different 
species, each weighing ten pounds, in the sea three 
feet beneath the surface, where they were secured 
from removal by stakes. This was in December; 
and in the month of July following, they were found 
nearly extending to the surface, immovably fixed to 
the rock, and grown to several feet in length. A 
ship in the Persian Gulf, in the course of twenty 
months, had her copper encased with living coral to 
the thickness of two feet. 

It may excite surprise, that the openings in the 
reefs are not gradually filled up in those cases where 
no stream of fresh water flows into the sea. But it 
appears, that the presence of any sediment is so 
annoying to the animals, as to prevent their acting 
with energy. This may be produced in various 
modes. There are many animals which feed on the 
living coral. Mr. Darwin observed two Parrot-fishes 
{Scarus)y one outside and the other inside the reef, 
both engaged in devouring it: many small MoUusca 
penetrate into it, and the Sea-cucumbers {Holothuria), 
which are very numerous and large, are continually 
nibbling at it. The rolling of dead masses by the 
surf must also chafe away particles continually, and 
the presence of the deposited sand thus formed is 
doubtless one reason why the coral grows languidly 
within the lagoon; whereas the abraded atoms on the 
outside are at once washed off by the waves, and 






262 


THE OCEAN. 


sink to the bottom of the Ocean. Now, the water 
which is continually thrown into the lagoon by the 
surf breaking over the reef, can find an outlet only 
through the openings of which I am speaking; and 
thus a constant current is maintained through them, 
and particularly at the sides, where the opposing 
waves offer less resistance, carrying out some of the 
sediment, and depositing it in its course on the coral 
margins of the aperture. The coral sand made by 
these abraded fragments is quickly cemented by the 
influence of the sun into a solid mass, where exposed 
to the air; and it is, perhaps, owing to this property, 
that the numberless little islets are formed along the 
reef, even where there is no aperture. The surf in 
violent gales can roll up upon the reef masses of 
torn-off coral, weighing many hundredweights; such 
a mass, once lodged, would be the nucleus of an islet; 
the sand would speedily accumulate around it, which 
the sun would soon cement into a mass, and then 
the islet would be ready for vegetation. 

The following lines are beautifully descriptive 
of the formation of an atoll, though the author 
seems to hold the erroneous notion of the whole 
structure being elevated from the bottom by the 
coral poljq)es:— 

“ Millions of millions thus, from age to age, 

W^ith simplest skill, and toil unweaiiable, 

No moment and no movement unimproved, 

Laid line on line, on terrace terrace spread, 

To swell the heightening, brightening, gradual mound, 

By marvellous structure climbing tow’rds the day. 

Each wrought alone, yet all together wrought; 

Unconscious, not unworthy, instruments, 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


263 


By which a Hand invisible was rearing 
A new creation in the secret deep. 

Omnipotence wrought in them, with them, by them; 
Hence what Omnipotence alone could do 
Worms did. ****** 

Atom by atom thus the burthen grew, 

Even like an infant in the womb, till Time 
Deliver’d Ocean of that monstrous birth, 

A Coral Island, stretching east and west, 

In God’s own language to its parent saying, 

‘ Thus far, no farther, shalt thou go ; and here 
Shall thy proud waves be stayed : ’—A point at first 
It peer’d above those waves ; a point so small, 

I just perceived it, fix’d where all was floating; 

And when a bubble cross’d it, the blue film 
Expanded like a sky above the speck ; 

That speck became a hand-breadth ; day and night 
It spread, accumulated, and ere long 
Presented to my view a dazzling plain, 

White as the moon amid the sapphire sea; 

Bare at low water, and as still as death; 

But when the tide came gurgling o’er the surface, 
’Twas like a resurrection of the dead ; 

PVom graves innumerable, punctures fine 
In the close coral, capillary swarms 
Of reptiles, horrent as Medusa’s snakes, 

Cover’d the bald-pate reef; then all was life. 

And indefatigable industry; 

The artizans were twisting to and fro, 

In idle-seeming convolutions; yet 
They ever vanish’d with the ebbing surge. 

Till pellicle on pellicle, and layer 
On layer, was added to the growing mass. 

Ere long the reef o’ertopp’d the spring-flood’s height, 
And mock’d the billows when they leap’d upon it, 
Unable to maintain their slippery hold, 

And falling down in foam-wreaths round its verge. 
Steep were the flanks, with precipices sharp, 
Descending to their base in ocean-gloom ; 

Chasms few, and narrow, and irregular, 

N 2 


264 


THE OCEAN. 


Form’d harbours, safe at once and perilous— 
Safe for defence, but perilous to enter. 

A sea-lake shone amidst the fossil isle, 
Reflecting in a ring its cliffs a,nd caverns, 
With heaven itself seen like a lake below.” * 


The islands of the second class seem to have been 
originally of the same stmctnre as those already 
noticed, but have been elevated to the height of 
one hundred to five hundred feet, by some unknown 
agency. The character of their vegetation resem¬ 
bles that of the volcanic isles, of which I shall pre¬ 
sently speak, but they do not possess their sub- 



crystal island. 


lime grandeur, nor the peculiar loveliness of the 
atolls. The rocks are crystallized carbonate of lime, 
supposed to have been originally coral, ‘'but, by 

* Montgomery’s Pelican Island. 







































THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


265 


exposure to the action of the atmospheric air, to¬ 
gether with that of the water percolating through 
them, the loose particles of calcareous matter have 
been washed away, and the whole mass has become 
harder and brighter.'’ In the islands named Atiu 
and Mauke, the latter of which was discovered by 
Mr. Williams in 1823, that gentleman found seve¬ 
ral extensive caverns, having a stratum of crystal¬ 
lized coral, fifteen feet in thickness, as a roof. In 
one of these exquisitely beautiful caverns he walked 
about for two hours, and found no termination to its 
windings. This circumstance, together with the 
absence of scoria, lava, and other volcanic products, 
in these islands, has led him to the conclusion that 
they have been elevated by some expansive power, 
or volcanic agency, without eruption.* 

In one of the Tonga Isles there is a very curious 
submarine cavern, connected with an interesting 
legend. Mr. Mariner, who describes it, informs us 
that being in the vicinity one day, a chief proposed 
to visit this cave. One after another of the young 
men dived into the water without rising again, and 
at length the narrator followed one of them, and 
guided by the hght reflected from his heels, entered 
a large opening in the rock, and presently emerged 
in a cavern. The entrance is at least a fathom 
beneath the surface of the sea at low water, in the' 
side of a rock upwards of sixty feet in height; and 
leads into a grotto about forty feet wide, and of about 
the same height, branching off into two chambers. 
As it is apparently closed on every side, there is no 

* Williams’ Missionary Enterprises, p. 28. 


266 


THF. OCEAN. 


light but the feeble ray transmitted through the sea ; 
yet this was found sufficient, after the eye had been 
a few minutes accustomed to the obscurity, to show 
objects with some little distinctness. Mr. Mariner, 
however, desirous of better light, dived out again, 
procured his pistol, and after carefully wrapping it 
up, as well as a torch, re-entered the cavern as 
speedily as possible. Both the pistol and torch, on 
being unwrapped, were found perfectly dry, and by 
flashing the powder of the priming, the latter was 
lighted, and the beautiful grotto illuminated. The 
roof was hung with stalactites in fantastic forms, 
bearing some resemblance to the Gothic arches and 
carved ornaments of some old church. After having 
examined the curiosities of the place, the parties sat 
down to drink cava, while an old chief communicated 
some interesting particulars in the history of the 
grotto. 

In former times there lived a governor of one of 
the neighbouring islands, who exercised his authority 
with the most grinding tyranny and injustice. A 
conspiracy against his life was formed by a sub¬ 
ordinate chief, which was discovered, and he himself 
condemned to death with his family. One of his 
daughters, however, a beautiful girl, was reserved for 
a more hateful destiny, that of becoming the ^VLfe of 
'the ciiiel t}u*ant. It happened that another young 
chief, who had long loved this maiden, had a little 
while before accidentally discovered the submarine 
cavern, when diving in pursuit of turtle. He had 
kept his discovery a profound secret, reserving it as 
a safe retreat for Iiimself, in case he should be un- 










THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


267 


successful in a plan of revolt, which he also had in 
view. No sooner, however, were the tyrant’s deci¬ 
sions known, than he hastened to the damsel, and 
acquainting her mth her danger, besought her to 
escape with him. The emergency was great; little 
solicitation sufficed to obtain her consent; the woods 
concealed her until evening, when her lover brought 
liis canoe to a lonely part of the beach, in which she 
embarked with him. As he paddled her across the 
rippling waves, he made known to her his discovery 
of the grotto, in wliich he proposed to conceal her 
until they could find an opportunity for escape to a 
distant island. Arrived at the cliff, he conducted her 
through the waters to her new abode, where they 
rested awhile from their fears and fatigue, partaking 
of some refreshment, which he had previously stored 
there for himself. Early in the morning he returned 
home to avoid suspicion ; but failed not, in the course 
of the day, to repair again to the place which held 
all that was dear to him: he brought her mats to lie 
on, the finest gnatoo for a change of dress, the best of 
food for her support, sandal-wood oil, cocoa-nuts, and 
everything he could think of to render her life as 
comfortable as possible. He gave her as 'much of 
his company as prudence would allow, and at the 
most appropriate times, lest the prying eye of 
curiosity should find out his retreat. 

But, though happy in each other’s affections, 
during their sojourn in this secluded cave, the length 
of time he found it necessary to be absent from liis 
bride, to prevent suspicion and detection, was a gi’eat 
source of discomfort; and he longed for an opportunity 


268 


THE OCEAX. 


to arrive, v^hen he might without hazard acknowledge 
her as his chosen wife, and restore her to liberty and 
security. At length he proposed to his vassals an 
emigration to the Feejee Islands, and requested them 
to accompany him. They complied, but asked him 
respectfully, if he would not take a Tonga wife with 
him. He laughingly replied, no ; but that he might 
possibly find one by the way. Ha^fing put to sea, he 
steered by the cliffs of Hoonga, the isle of the grotto ; 
and suddenly bidding his crew wait while he fetched 
his wife, dived, to their astonishment, beneath the 
wave. They waited awhile in the greatest suspense 
and wonder; and at length, when they had despaired 
of seeing him more, how was their astonishment 
increased to see him suddenly appear, accompanied 
by a lovely female ! Soon, however, they recognised 
her features as those of one whom they had believed 
to have been slain, in the general' massacre of her 
family ; but having been briefiy informed by the 
chief of the events that had transpired, they jo}ffiilly 
congratulated him on his happiness. At length they 
arrived at Feejee, where they resided under the pro¬ 
tection of a chief two years ; when, hearing of the 
death of the tyrant from whose persecutions they had 
fled, the young chief returned with his wife to their 
native island, and lived long in peace and happiness. 

The only point of difficulty in this pleasing story 
is the time which the young bride is said to have 
spent in the cavern; viz., two or three months; as 
it is not easy to understand how the air could have 
remained so long fit for the support of life, if un¬ 
renewed by communication with the atmosphere. 







THE PACIFIC OCEAH 


269 


However, it is quite probable, that there might have 
been clefts in the ceiling, which might admit air 
without admitting light; although Mr. Mariner could 
discover none, even by swimming up each of the 
chambers with the torch in his hand. He, however, 
bears testimony, expressly, to the purity of the air 
during his visit, to the retreat, so that we will not 
reject the narrative on that account. 



VOLCANIC ISLANDS. 


The islands of the third class differ greatly in 
appearance and structure from those of either of 
the preceding. Abundant traces of their volcanic 
origin show that they have been elevated from the 
bed of the Ocean by the resistless energy of fire, 
which has given a bold and irregular form to their 
rocky mountains that greatly increases the romantic 

N 3 




































































270 


THE OCEAN. 


beauty of their scenery. Every visitor to the South 
Seas has spoken in eulogy of these lovely islands. 
The highly-wrought descriptions given in Cook’s 
voyages are declared by recent writers to be no 
whit beyond the reality. Instead of the long low 
coral island, with its grove of cocoa-nut trees almost 
springing from the water’s edge, these islands rise 
up from the sea in tall cliffs, or gentle slopes, while 
the towering mountains of the interior, wooded to 
their summits, pierce the clouds. “The mountains 
frequently diverge in short ranges from the interior 
towards the shore, though some rise like pyramids 
with pointed summits, and others present a conical 
or sugar-loaf form, while the outline of several is 
regular, and almost circular.” In some places the 
mountain ranges terminate in abrupt precipices frown¬ 
ing over the Pacific, that frets and foams below; in 
others, there is a broad belt of level land, of the most 
fertile character, and rich in the various productions 
of a tropical region. To these are now added charms 
of another character. 'WTien visited by Cook, there 
was the loveliness and magnificence of Nature, but 
that was all; man was e^dl; plunged in the grossest 
idolatry, cruelty, and licentiousness, he strangely con¬ 
trasted with the scenes around him: but, now that 
the glad tidings of salvation through the Lord Jesus 
Christ have been, by the grace of God, made known 
to them, how incomparably is the scene enhanced I 
The wretched hut is exchanged for the neat and 
picturesque cottage; cultivated fields and pleasant 
gardens chequer the mountain sides; the sound of 
the axe and hammer has replaced the savage war- 






THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


271 


cry, and the peaceful people flock to the worship of 
the true God, instead of a licentious dance before a 
hideous idol. 0, how far does the moral beauty of 
such a change as this exceed the beauty of mere 
natural scenery, though it be lovely as is that of 
Tahiti! Captain Gambier has thus described his 
emotions on visiting these scenes :—After passing 
the reef of coral which forms the harbour, astonish¬ 
ment and delight kept us silent for some moments, 
and were succeeded by a burst of unqualified appro¬ 
bation at the scene before us. We were in an excellent 
harbour, upon whose shores industry and comfort were 
plainly perceptible; for in every direction, white cot¬ 
tages, precisely English,were seen peeping from amongst 
the rich foliage which everywhere clothes the lowland 
in these islands. Upon various little elevations beyond 
these, were others, which gave extent and animation 
to the whole. The point on the left, in going in,* is 
low, and covered with wood, with several cottages 
along the shore. On the right, the high land of the 
interior slopes down with gentle, gradual descent, and 
terminates in an elevated point, which juts out into 
the harbour, forming two little bays. The principal 
and largest is to the left, viewing them from seaward ; 
in this, and extending up the valley, the village is 
situated. The other, which is small, has only a few 
houses; but so quiet, so retired, that it seems the 
abode of peace and perfect content. Industry flourishes 
here. The chiefs take a pride in building their own 
houses, which are now all after the European manner ; 

* The captain is speaking of the harbour of Fa-re in the island 
of Huaheine. 


272 


THE OCEAIN. 


and think meanly of themselves, if they do not excel 
the lower classes in the arts necessary for their con¬ 
struction. Their wives, also, surpass their inferiors 
in making cloth. The queen and her daughter-in- 
law, dressed in the English fashion, received us in 
their neat little cottage. 

'‘The sound of industry was music to my ears. 
Hammers, saws, and adzes, were heard in every 
direction. Houses in frame met the eye in all parts, 
in different stages of forwardness. Many boats, after 
our manner, were building, and lime burning for 
cement and whitewasbing. 

"I walked out to the point forming the dmsion 
between the two bays. When I had reached it I sat 
down to enjoy the sensations created by the lovely 
scene before me. I cannot describe it; but it pos¬ 
sessed charms independent of beautiful scenery and 
rich vegetation. The blessings of Christianity were 
diffused among the fine people who inhabited it; a 
taste for industrious employment had taken deep 
root; a praiseworthy emulation to excel in the arts 
which contribute to their welfare and comfort had 
seized upon all, and in consequence civilization was 
advancing with rapid strides.” 

The volcanic islands, like the first-described class, 
are protected from the fury of the tempestuous Ocean 
by the natural rampart of a coral reef The reef is 
often a mile and a half or two miles from the beach, 
though sometimes it approaches so close as to be con¬ 
nected with it, interrupting in that part the continuity 
of the lagoon. The usual width of the coral rock is 
from five to twenty or thirty yards; yet over tliis the 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN, 


273 


waves usually break, and when rolling in upon an 
unbroken line of reef, perhaps two miles in length, 
the spectacle is one of surpassing grandeur and 
beauty. The island of Bolabola, however, is sur¬ 
rounded by a ring of land almost unbroken, on 



BOLADOLA. 


which are growing groves of cocoa-nuts; the reef 
being wholly elevated above the sea. 

The openings in the reefs in the larger islands are 
almost invariably placed opposite the mouth of a 
river. One can readily understand, that a current 















































274 


THE OCEAN. 


of fresh water would be detrimental to the health 
of a polype formed for li\dng in the sea, and there¬ 
fore the openings here might have been expected. 
But this effect is increased by the sediment deposited 
as has already been observed in speaking of the 
coral islands. The little green wooded islets, which 
serve as gateways here as in the former case, are 
susceptible of ready explanation. Where a river 
empties itself, a great quantity of vegetable matter, 
rubbish, and earth, is perpetually carried down, and 
this would naturally be deposited at the shallows on 
either side, where the stream met the boiling waves 
of the Ocean. The heap would very soon be raised, 
by accumulations, above the surface of the tide, 
decomposition would take place, seeds washed down 
would spring up, and, under a tropical climate, the 
young soil would speedily be clothed with trees and 
shrubs. In the small islets where there is no efflux 
of fresh water, the process would be more protracted, 
but not essentially different: the current driven in 
through the aperture would bring sea-weeds, and the 
floating matters washed off the land, and when the 
soil was once raised above the surface, though com¬ 
posed of but sand and pulverised coral, the cocoa- 
nut would grow and thrive. It is remarkable to see 
this graceful palm rising from the very sea-sand, 
where its roots are daily wet with salt water, yet 
towering to the height of seventy feet, throwing out 
its elegant plumose fronds, and producing its clusters 
of flowers and fruit, as luxuriantly as if it were 
growing in the rich alluvial valleys of the interior. 
These httle fairy islets, so useful as well as 












THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


275 


ornamental, give a very peculiar character to the 
prospects from the land. Detached from the large 
islands, and viewed in connexion with the Ocean 
rolling through the channel on the one side, or the 
foaming billows dashing, and roaring, and breaking 
over the reef on the other, they appear like emerald 
gems of the Ocean, contrasting their solitude and 
verdant beauty with the agitated element sporting in 
grandeur around.” 

Upon the mind of a European, the sailing in a 
small vessel through one of these sheltered lagoons 
has a most novel and interesting effect. The shore, 
on the one hand, presenting its shifting aspects 
of beauty, as the boat skims past; the convolvulus 
and other brilliant creeping plants entwined about 
the dark rocks, or trailing in unrestrained wildness 
over the sands ; the solemn groves, now revealing 
their sombre and shady retreats, now projecting 
their massy foliage in full sun-light; the valuable 
bread-fruit {Artocarpus), the light and elegant aito 
{Casuarind), the magnificent tamanu {CallophylluTri), 
with its glossy evergreen leaves, the hutu {Barring- 
tonia) of giant height, adorned with large flowers 
of white and pink, are relieved by the coral-tree 
{Erythrma\ with its. light-green waving leaves and 
bunches of scarlet blossoms, and the hoary foliage of 
the candle-nut {Alurites). The cocoa-nut, always 
beautiful, whether growing alone or in groves, but 
particularly pleasing when seen planted around a 
neat white-washed cottage, in company with the 
broad leaved plantain or banana ; the light tree-ferns 
displaying their elegant tracery against the sky, the 


276 


THE OCEA]^ 


native chestnut {Tuscarpus), rearing its stately head 
above its fellows, and marking the position of a 
running stream;—these and many other trees of 
beauty and usefulness strike the eye of a stranger. 
Seaward, there is the long line of the reef; a low but 
impregnable barrier, with the surging wave foaming 
over it; and, beyond, the boundless Pacific, unbroken 
by any object, save the white-sailed canoe in the 
distance, scarcely distinguishable from the crest of 
a ^vave, but perhaps freighted with the humble native 
missionary, bearing to some neighbouring island that 
gospel of Christ which he has found to be ''the power 
of God unto [his] salvation.” Beneath and around 
is the placid and lake-like lagoon, the progress of 
the boat alone dimpling its smooth face. So trans¬ 
parent is the water, that the varied bottom is dis¬ 
tinctly visible many fathoms down, showing the 
growth of living coral branching in fantastic imitation 
of the shrubs and trees on the shore, and repre¬ 
senting to the charmed imagination an extensive 
submarine shrubbery of many hues. Even the 
irregular movements of the spined urchins {Echini) 
are clearly seen as they crawl upon the sands, and 
the multitudes of playful little rock-fishes {Labri)^ 
of every rich and growing tint, gliding with easy 
and graceful motion among the branches, rivet the 
spectator’s attention. 

Mr. Ellis thus describes his feelings in a similar 
situation, walking on the lonely sea-beach by moon¬ 
light : " The evening was fair, the moon shone 
brightly, and her mild beams, silvering the foliage 
of the shrubs that grew near the shore, and playing 



THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


277 


on the rippled and undulating wave of the Ocean, 
added a charm to the singularity of the prospect, 
and enlivened the loneliness of our situation. The 
scene was unusually impressive. On one side, the 
mountains of the interior, having their outline edged, 
as it were, with silver from the rays of the moon, 
rose in lofty magnificence, while the indistinct form, 
rich and diversified verdure, of the shrubs and trees, 
increased the effect of the scene. On the other hand 
was the illimitable sea, rolling in solemn majesty 
its swelling waves over the rocks which defended 
the spot on which we stood. The most profound 
silence prevailed, and we might have fancied that 
we were the only beings in existence ; for no sound 
was heard, excepting the gentle rustling of the leaves 
of the cocoa-nut tree, as the light breeze from the 
mountain swept through them; or the hollow roar 
of the surf, and the rolling of the foaming wave, as 
it broke over the distant reef, and the splashing of 
the paddle of our canoe, as it approached the shore. 
It was impossible, at such a season, to behold this 
scene, exhibiting impressively the grandeur of creation 
and the insignificance of man, without experiencmg 
emotions of adoring wonder and elevated devotion, and 
exclaiming with the Psalmist, ‘ When I consider thy 
heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the 
stars which thou hast ordained ; what is man, that 
thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that 
thou visitest him V* 

The same pleasing writer has given us a vivid 
picture of the emotions awakened by passing a night 

* Polynesian Researches, 2d ed. vol. ii. p 245. 


278 


THE OCEAN. 


upon the open sea in a small boat. He was pro¬ 
ceeding from the island of Eimeo to Huaheine: 

Nothing can exceed the solemn stillness of a night 
at sea within the tropics, when the wind is light, 
and the water comparatively smooth. Few periods 
and situations, amid the diversified circumstances 
of human life, are equally adapted to excite contem¬ 
plation, or to impart more elevated conceptions of 
the Divine Being, and more just impressions of the 
insignificancy and dependence of man. In order to 
avoid the vertical rays of a tropical sun, and the 
painful effects of the reflection of the water, many 
of my voyages among the Georgian and Society 
Islands have been made during the night. At these 
periods I have often been involuntarily brought 
under the influence of a train of thought and feeling 
peculiar to the season and the situation, but never 
more powerfully so than on the present occasion. 

'' The night was moonless, but not dark. The 
stars increased in number and variety as the evening 
advanced, until the whole firmament was overspread 
with luminaries of every magnitude and brilliancy. 
The agitation of the sea had subsided, and the 
waters around us appeared to unite with the in¬ 
distinct, though visible, horizon. In the heaven and 
the ocean, all powers of vision were lost; wliile tlie 
brilliant lights in the one being reflected from the 
surface of the other, gave a correspondence to the 
appearance of both, and almost forced the illusion 
on the mind, that our little bark was suspended in 
the centre of two united hemispheres. 

“The perfect quietude that surrounded us was 





THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


279 


equally impressive. No objects were visible but the 
lamps of heaven and the luminous appearances of the 
deep. The silence was only broken by the murmurs 
of the breeze passing through our matting sails, or 
the dashing of the spray from the bows of our boat, 
excepting at times, when we heard, or fancied we 
heard, the blowing of a shoal of porpoises, or the 
more alarming, sounds of a spouting whale. 

At a season such as this, when I have reflected 
on our actual situation, so far removed, in the 
event of any casualty, from human observation and 
assistance, and preserved from certain death only by 
a few feet of thin board, which my own unskilful 
hands had nailed together, a sense of the wakeful 
care of the Almighty has alone afforded composure. 

The contemplation of the heavenly bodies, 
although they exhibit the wisdom and majesty of 
God, who ' bringeth out their hosts by number, and 
calleth them all by names, by the greatness of His 
might,' impressed at'the same time the conviction 
that I was far from home, and those scenes which 
in memory were associated with a starlight evening 
in the land I had left. Many of the stars which 
I had beheld in England were visible here : the 
constellations of the zodiac, the splendours of Orion, 
and the mild twinkling of the Pleiades, were seen; 
but the northern pole-star, the steady beacon of 
juvenile astronomical observation, the Great Bear, 
and much that was peculiar to a northern sky, were 
wanting. The effect of mental associations, con¬ 
nected with the appearance of the heavens is singular 
and impressive. During a voyage which I subse- 


280 


THE OCEAN. 


quently made to the Sandwich Islands, many a 
pleasant hour was spent in watching the rising of 
those luminaries of heaven, which we had been 
accustomed to behold in our native land, but which 
for many years had been invisible. When the polar 
star rose above the horizon, and Ursa Major, with 
other familiar constellations appeared, we hailed them 
as long absent friends; and could not but feel that 
we were nearer England than when we left Tahiti, 
simply from beholding the stars that had enlivened 
our evening excursions at home.” * 

A stranger is forcibly struck with the remarkable 
fearlessness which the natives of these islands have 
of the sea. They appear almost as amphibious as 
seals, sporting about in the deep sea for many hours, 
sometimes for nearly a whole day together. ISTo 
sooner does a ship approach a large island, than the 
inhabitants swim off to welcome her; and long before 
she begins to take in sail, she is surrounded by human 
beings of both sexes, apparently as much at home in 
the Ocean as the fishes themselves. The children are 
taken to the water when but a day or two old, and 
many are able to swim as soon as they are able to 
walk. In coasting along the shore, it is a rare thing 
to pass a group of cottages, at any hour of the day, 
without seeing one or more bands of children joyously 
playing in the sea. They have several distinct games 
which are played in the water, and which are followed 
with exceeding avidity, not only by children, but by 
the adult population. One of these is the fastening 
of a long board or pole on a sort of stage, where the 

♦ Poly. Res. iiL 164. 


I 





THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


281 


Fv'^cks are abrupt, in such a manner that it shall 
project far over the water : then they chase one 
another along the board, each in turn leaping from 
the end into the sea. They are also fond of diving 
from the yard-arms or bowsprit of a ship. But the 
most favourite pastime of all, and one in which all 
classes and ages, and both sexes, engage with peculiar 
delight, is swimming in the surf. Mr. Ellis has seen 
some of the highest chiefs, between fifty and sixty 
years of age, large and corpulent men, engage in this 
game with as much interest as children. A board 
about six feet long, and a foot wide, slightly thinner 
at the edges than at the middle, is prepared for this 
amusement, stained and polished, and preserved 
with great care by being constantly oiled, and hung 
up in their dwellings. With this in his hand, which 
he calls the wave-sliding board, each native repairs 
to the reef, particularly when the sea is running high, 
and the surf is dashing in with more than ordinary 
violence, as on such occasions the pleasure is the 
greater. They choose a place where the rocks are 
twenty or thirty feet under water, and shelve for a 
quarter of a mile or more out to sea. The waves 
break at this distance, and the whole space between 
it and the shore is one mass of boiling foam. Each 
person now swims, pushing his board before him, out 
to sea, diving under the waves as they curl and break, 
until he is arrived outside the rocks. He now lays 
himseK flat on his breast along his board, and waits 
the approach of a huge billow; when it comes, he 
adroitly balances himself on its summit, and, paddling 
with his hands, is borne on the crest of the advancing 


282 


THE OCEAN. 


vrave, amidst the foam and spray, until within a yard 
or two of the shore or rocks. Then, when a stranger 
expects to see him the next moment dashed to death, 
he slides off his board, and, catching it by the middle, 
dives seaward under the wave, and comes up behind, 
laughing and whooping, again to swim out as before. 
The utmost skill is required, in coming in, to keep 
the position on the top of the wave; for, if the board 
get too forward, the swimmer will be overturned and 
thrown upon the beach; and, if it fall behind, he 
will be buiied beneath the succeeding wave : yet 
some of the natives are so expert as to sit, and even 
to stand upright upon their board, while it is thus 
riding in the foam. 

Their sport is, however, not unfrequently disturbed 
by the appearance of a shark. This terrific animal is 
particularly abundant among the South Sea Islands, 
and remarkably bold and ferocious. The cry of 
A Shark !” among the surf swimmers will instantly 
set them in the utmost terror, and generally they fly 
with precipitation to the shore ; though sometimes 
they unite and endeavour to frighten him away with 
their shouting and splashing. Often, however, the 
animal is too determined lightly to give up his prey, 
as was the case in the following instance recorded by 
]Mr. Eichards of the Sandwich Islands :— 

‘‘At nine o’clock in the morning of June 14th, 
1826, while sitting at my writing-desk, I heard 
a simultaneous scream from multitudes of people, 
‘ Pau i ka mano ! ’ (Destroyed by the shark !) The 
beach wais instantly lined by hundreds of persons, 
and a few of the most resolute threw a large canoe 
















THE PACIFIC OCEAN 


283 


into the water, and, alike regardless of the Shark and 
the high rolling surf, sprang to the relief of their 
companion. It was too late ; the Shark had already 
seized his prey. The affecting sight was only a few 
yards from my door, and, while I stood watching, a 
large wave almost filled the canoe, and at the same 



WHITE SHARK, 

THE ATTITUDE OF THE FISH IN TAKING ITS PREY. 


instant a part of the mangled body was seen at the 
bow of the canoe, and the Shark swimming towards 
it at her stern. When the swell had rolled by, the 
water was too shallow for the Shark to swim. The 
remains, therefore, were taken into the canoe, and 



























































































284 


THE OCEAJS. 


brought ashore. The water was so much stained by 
the blood, that we discovered a red tinge in all the 
foaming billows, as they approached the beach. 

The unhappy sufferer was an active lad about 
fourteen years old, who left my door only about half 
an hour previous to the fatal accident. I saw his 
mother, in the extremity of her anguish, plunge into 
the water, and swim towards the bloody spot, entirely 
forgetful of the power of her former god* 

A number of people, perhaps a hundred, were at 
this time plajdng in the surf, which was higher than 
usual. Those who were nearest to the victim, heard 
him shriek, perceived him to strike with his right 
hand, and at the same instant saw a Shark seize his 
arm. Then followed the cry which I heard, which 
echoed from one end of Latraina to the other. All 
who were playing in the water made the utmost 
speed to the shore, and those who were standing on 
the beach saw the surf-board of the unhappy sufferer 
floating on the water, without any one to guide it. 
When the canoe reached the spot they saw nothing 
but the blood with which the water was stained for 
a considerable distance, and by which they traced 
the remains whither they had been carried by the 
Shark or driven by the swell. The body was cut in 
two by the Shark, just above the hips; and the lower 
part, together with the right arm, was gone.”"f- 

A dreadful instance of the voracity of these for¬ 
midable animals occurred a few years ago among the 
Society Islands. Upwards of thirty natives were 

* The Shark was formerly worshipped in the Sandwich Islands. 

f American Missionary Herald, 












THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


285 


passing from one island to another, in a large double 
canoe, which consists of two canoes fastened together, 
side by side, by strong horizontal beams, lashed to 
the gunwales by cordage. Being overtaken by a 
storm, the canoes were torn apart, and were in¬ 
capable, singly, of floating upright. In vain the 
' crew attempted to balance them, they were every 
moment overturned. Their only resource was to 
form a hasty raft of such loose boards and spars as 
were in the craft, on which they hoped to drift 
ashore. But it happened, from the small size of 
their raft, and their aggregated weight, that they 
were so deep in the water, that the waves washed 
above their knees. Tossed about thus, they soon 
became exhausted with hunger and fatigue; when 
the Sharks began to collect around them, and soon 
had the boldness to seize one and another from the 
raft, who, being destitute of any weapon of defence, 
became an easy prey. The number and audacity 
of these monsters every moment increased, and the 
forlorn wretches were one by one torn off, until, but 
two or three remaining, the raft at length, lightened 
of its load, rose to the surface, and placed the sur¬ 
vivors beyond the reach of their terrible assailants. 
The tide at length bore them to one of the islands, 
a melancholy remnant, to tell the sad fate of their 
companions. 

With such simple vessels as were used by these 
people, it is surprising that such accidents did not 
more frequently occur. When we consider that, 
before their intercourse with Europeans, they pos¬ 
sessed no metal tools, that their work was performed 

0 


286 


THE OCEAX. 


wholly by the eye, without line, rule, or square, 
and that the seams were closed merely by, as it 
were, tying the planks to each other with cinet, 
it does seem surprising that their canoes could even 
live in a sea. Yet they were strong and secure, 
and many of them remarkably dry and comfortable, 
leaking very little, for they were accustomed to 
insert between the seams the cocoa-nut husk, which 
always swells when wetted ; and the expansion of 
this substance closed the crevices neatly. Their 
craft, though varying much in size and minor 
points, according to the purposes for which they 
were intended, were built nearly on the same model; 
the stem and stern generally being curved upwards, 
so as to project out of water. As they were much 
higher than wide, they needed some contrivance 
to obtain uprightness; and this they secured, either 
by lashing two together by cross-beams, making 
the double canoe just now alluded to, or by means 
of an outrigger, which is a stout plank or spar, 
parallel to the side of the canoe, and fixed at some 
distance from the larboard side, by two horizontal 
poles, which connect it with the vessel The out¬ 
rigger fioats on the water, and while it remains fast, 
there is no possibility of capsizing. They were 
furnished with masts, sails made of the leaves of 
the pandanus, woven into a sort of matting, and 
rigging made of cocoa-nut fibre, which makes good 
rope. 

The mode in which these scattered isles were 
peopled is a subject of interesting discussion, as 
the physical character of the inhabitants, their Ian- 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


287 


guage, and many peculiarities in their customs, seem 
to indicate their Asiatic origin; while, on the other 
hand, it was deemed highly improbable that the 
progress should have been made in a direction 
opposed to that of the trade-wind, and in such 
feeble craft as they possessed. But the trade-wind 
is occasionally exchanged for violent and continued 
gales in other directions ; and instances have come 
to our knowledge, in which voyages of several 
hundred miles have been performed by native 
canoes, directly to windward. Thus, Captain Beechy 
found at Byam Martin Island a native of Tahiti, 
named Tuwarri, who, with a few companions, had 
sailed from Chain Island on a voyage to Tahiti; 
but after being out some time, he was met by a 
violent storm, which drove him far out of his course 
and knowledge. At length, after very severe pri¬ 
vations and sufferings, he arrived at Byam Martin, 
four hundred and twenty miles distant in a wind¬ 
ward direction from the point of embarkation.* 
Such involuntary emigTations as this, when we con¬ 
sider how intimately the various groups are con¬ 
nected with each other, and with the Indian Archi¬ 
pelago, seem sufficient to warrant the conclusion, 
that the tide of population has flowed in a direction 
from west to east. 

In the transparent ’ waters of the lagoons and 
sheltered bays. Ashes of great variety and beauty 
are seen; and as many of them are of large size, 
and of exquisite flavour, the obtaining of them forms 
no small part of the occupation of the Polynesians. 

• Voyage to the Pacific, See. 

0 2 


2S8 


THE OCEAN. 


Some of tlieir modes of fishing are highly curious 
and ingenious. One, which is very successful, 
reminds us of a wire mouse-trap. A circular space 
in the lagoon, of about three or four yards in 
diameter, is enclosed by building up a wall from 
the bottom to the surface, in a part where it is 
not very deep. In one part of the top an opening 
is left a foot or two wide, and five or six inches 
deep. From each side of this aperture another 
stone wall, likewise reaching to the surface, is 
built to the length of fifty or a hundred yards 
in a diverging direction, so as to include a large 
space of water, which is open at one end, but, be¬ 
coming narrower and narrower, leads into the cir¬ 
cular pen. Fishes are usually found in these traps 
every morning, which are either taken out with a 
hand-net, or allowed to remain till wanted, as in a 
preserve. 

Many fishes, which have the habit of springing 
out of water when alarmed, are taken by means 
of rafts. These are from fifteen to twenty feet 
long, and six or eight feet wide, built of light wood 
such as the native hibiscus. Along one side a fence 
or screen is raised to the height of four or five 
feet, by fixing a row of upright stakes in the raft, 
to which slender poles are attached horizontally, one 
above another. A large party of men proceed with 
twenty or thirty of these rafts to a shallow part of 
the lagoon, and then arrange themselves in a circle, 
enclosing a considerable space of water. They then 
gradually narrow the circle by approaching each 
other, keeping the fenced edge of the raft on the 



THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


289 


outside. At this juncture a few persons go into the 
circle with a canoe, and beat the surface of the water 
violently with long white sticks, making as much 
commotion as possible. The fish, alarmed, dart away 
toward the rafts, and leaping out of water endea¬ 
vour to clear them ; but, striking against the per¬ 
pendicular fence, they fall on the raft, and are 
gathered into baskets, or into canoes prepared on 
the outside of the circle. 

From the seeds of some of the native plants, a 
liquor is prepared, which has the property of in¬ 
toxicating fishes, and rendering them insensible. 
The mixture is frequently poured into the water 
in narrow places near the shore, or upon the reef; 
soon after which, the fish come out of their retreats, 
and fioat in considerable numbers on the surface 
as if dead, when they are caught without resist¬ 
ance. 

Sometimes the long leaves of the cocoa-nut are 
tied up in bunches, and afi&xed along a line, which 
being carried out and dropped into the water, the 
two ends are towed in two canoes towards the shore. 
Tliis rude apology for a net drives many fishes 
into the shallows, whence they are taken out with 
hand-nets, or speared. Nets, however, made on 
the same principle as our own, are manufactured 
by them, and are exceedingly well made. They 
are of various kinds: a casting-net is used with 
much dexterity, being thrown from the hand over 
a shoal of small fishes, as the fisherman walks alon^^ 
the shore. Salmon-nets are made forty fathoms long, 
and are very effective ; stones tied in bags of matting 


290 


THE OCEAN. 


being used instead of leads, and floats of light wood 
for corks. 

Fishing with the barbed spear is a favourite amuse¬ 
ment in these islands. Before the introduction of 
iron, the implement was made of hard wood; ten or 
twelve pointed pieces being fastened to the end of 
a pole eight feet long; but now iron heads are 
usually employed, barbed on one side. With these 
spears the natives proceed to the reef, and wade 
into the sea as high as their waists, their feet being 
defended from the sharp points of the coral and 
the spines of the sea-urchins by sandals made of 
tough bark, twisted into cords. Stationing them¬ 
selves near an opening in the rocks, they watch the 
motions of the fishes as they shoot to and fro, and 
dart the spear, sometimes with one hand, but more 
commonly with both, frequently striking their prey 
with great dexterity. 

The fishermen often pursue their avocation by 
night; sometimes in the dark, sometimes by moon¬ 
light, but more usually by torchlight. Their torches 
are either large bunches of dried reeds firmly tied 
together, or else are made of the candle-nut {Aleu¬ 
rites triloba), which the natives use to light their 
houses. These nuts are heart-shaped, about as 
large as a walnut, and enclosed in a very hard 
shell After being slightly baked in an oven, the 
shell is removed, a hole bored through the kernel, 
and a rush passed through the hole, when they are 
hung up in strings for use. Torches are made by 
enclosing four or five strings of the nuts in the leaves 
of the screw-pine {PandaniLs), which not only keep 







THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


291 


them together, but increase the brilliancy of the 
light. 

These nocturnal fishing expeditions are described 
as producing a most picturesque effect. Large parties 
of men proceed to the reef, when the sea is compara¬ 
tively smooth, and hunt the totara, or hedgehog-fish, 
probably a species of Diodon : and it is a beautiful 
and interesting spectacle to behold a long line of 
reef illuminated by the flaming torches, the light 
from which glares redly upon the foaming surf 
without, and the calm lagoon within. Each fisher¬ 
man holds his torch in his left hand high above 
his head, while he poises his spear in his right, 
and stands with statue-like stillness, watching the 
approach of the fish. 

A similar mode of fishing is practised in the rivers, 
and though the circumstances are different, the effect 
is not inferior. 'Tew scenes,’’ says Mr. Ellis, "pre¬ 
sent a more striking and singular effect, than a band 
of natives walking along the shallow parts of the 
rocky sides of a river, elevating a torch with one 
hand, and a spear in the other : while the glare of 
their torches is thrown upon the overhanging boughs, 
and reflected from the agitated surface of the stream. 
Their own bronze-coloured and lightly-clothed forms, 
partially illuminated, standing like figures in relief; 
while the whole scene appears in bright contrast with 
the dark and almost midnight gloom that envelopes 
every other object.”* 

Another mode of fishing by torclilight is described 
by the late Mr. Williams, who accompanied some 

* PoIy. Res. i. 150. 


292 


THE OCEAN. 

natives of Atiu on an excursion. The object of the 
pursuit was the Flying-fish, which is only taken by 
night. Double canoes were used, which, having 
been dragged from the rocks, thirty feet above the 
level of the water, down a broad sloping ladder, were 
launched over the surf. A torch was lighted, and 
the principal fisherman took his station on the fore 
part of the canoe, bearing a ring-net attached to a 



FISHING BY TORCHLIGHT. 


light pole twelve or fifteen feet long. The rowel's 
now commence paddling with all their might, while 
the headsman produced a great noise by stamping on 
the hollow box of the canoe. The Flying-fish, which 
were securely feeding at the outer edge of the reef, 
terrified by the noise and splashing of the oars, 










THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


293 


darted out to sea. Tlie torch answered a double 
purpose ; enabling the headsman to discern his prey, 
and dazzle the eyes of the fishes ; and as they dashed 
past the canoe, on the surface of the water, he thrust 
forward his net, and turned it over upon them. 
Many of the natives have acquired great skill in 
this exercise, and the quickness of their sight and 
the celerity of their movements are astonishing; so 
that sometimes vast quantities of fish are taken in 
this manner.* 

A large number of fishes are taken with the hook, 
as by more cultivated nations; and with all the 
superiority in art, and all the advantage of metals 
possessed by Europeans, the native-made hooks are 
preferred, as far more effective than ours. Many 
of them are really beautiful productions, and, when 
we consider their total want of metallic tools, excite 
our astonishment at the skill and ingenuity of the 
manufacturers. Our hooks are all made on one 
pattern, however varying in size; but the forms 
of theirs are exceedingly various, and made of dif¬ 
ferent substances, viz., wood, shell, and bone. '' The 
hooks made with wood are curious; some are ex¬ 
ceedingly small, not more than two or three inches 
in length, but remarkably strong; others are large. 
The wooden hooks are never barbed, but simply 
pointed, usually curved inwards at the point, but 
sometimes standing out very wide, and occasionally 
armed at the point with a piece of bone. The best 
are hooks ingeniously made with the small roots of 
the aito-tree, or iron-wood {Casuarina), In selecting 

* Missionary Enterprises, p. 270. 

0 3 


•294 


THE OCEA^i 


a root for this purpose, they choose one partially 
exposed, and gi'owing by the side of a bank, prefer¬ 
ring such as are free from knots and other excres¬ 
cences. The root is twisted into the shape they 
wish the future hook to assume, and allowed to grow 
bill it has reached a sise large enough to allow of the 
outside or soft parts being removed, and a sufficiency 



POLY>’ESIAN FISHING-TACKLE. 

remaining to form the hook. Some hooks thus pre¬ 
pared are not much thicker than a quill, and perhaps 
three or four inches in length. Those used in taking 
sharks are formidable-looking weapons ; some are a 
foot or fifteen inches long, exclusive of the curvatures, 
and not less than an inch in diameter. They are 
such frightful things, that no fish less voracious than 






















































THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


295 


a shark would approach them. In some the marks 
of the sharks’ teeth are numerous and deep, and 
indicate the effect with which they have been 
used.* 

The most curious, as well as most serviceable 
hooks, are made of the inner part of the shell of the 
pearl-oyster, or other large bivalves, the interior of 
which is pearly, called mother-of-pearl. These have 
great care and pains bestowed upon them : the smaller 
ones are cut almost circular, and made to resemble a 
worm, thus answering the purpose of bait as well as 
hook. A much larger kind is that used for the capture 
of the albacore, bonito, and coryphene. The shank 
is about six inches in length, and nearly an inch in 
width, cut out of pearl-shell, in the shape of a small 
fish, and finely polished. The barb is formed sepa¬ 
rately ; it is an inch and a half in length, and is 
firmly bound in its place by a bandage of fine flax. 
The line is fastened to this, and braided all along 
the curve of the hook, and again fastened at the 
head. Sometimes a number of long bristles are 
attached to the shell to mimic the appearance of the 
Flying-fish. 

The line is aflSx:ed to the end of a long bamboo 
rod ; and the anglers, sitting in the stern of a light 
single canoe, are rowed briskly over the waves. The 
rod is held so that the hook shall just skim the 
tops of the billows ; the albacore or bonito, deceived 
by the resemblance, leaps after the fancied Flying- 
fish, and finds itself a prey. Twenty or thirty large 


* Ellis. 


296 


TEE OCEAl^. 


fishes are occasionally taken by two men in this 
manner, in the course of a morning. 

A still more ingenious mode of deception is prac¬ 
tised upon these large fishes, by employing a swift 
double canoe, from the bows of which projects into 
the air a long curved pole resembling a crane. At 
some distance from the end this divides into two 



ANGLIXO IN A DOUBLE OAHOE 

branches, which diverge from each other. The foot 
is secured in a sort of socket between the two canoes, 
and is so managed that the ends of the pole are 
capable of being lowered or elevated by a rope which 
proceeds from the fork. A man sits in the high 
stern, holding this rope in his hand, and watching 
the capture of the fishes. From the end of the pro- 





















































THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


297 


jecting arms depends the line, with the pearl-hook 
fashioned to resemble the Flying-fish. To increase 
the deception, bunches of feathers are fastened to 
the tips of the arms, to represent those aquatic 
.birds which habitually follow the Flying-fish in its 
course, to seize it in the air. The presence of these 
birds is so sure an indication of the position of the 
fish, that the fishermen hasten to the spot where they 
are seen hovering in the air. The canoe skims rapidly 
along, rising and falling on the waves, by which a 
similar motion is communicated to the hook, which 
skips along, sometimes out and sometimes in the 
water, while the plumes of feathers fiutter imme¬ 
diately above. The artifice rarely fails to succeed ; 
if the Bonito perceives the hook, he instantly engages 
in pursuit, and if he misses his grasp, perseveres 
until he has seized it. The moment the man in the 
stern perceives the capture he hoists the crane, and 
the fish is dragged in, and thrown into a sort of long 
basket, suspended between the two canoes. The 
crane is then lowered again, and all is ready for 
another candidate. 

Yet another mode of fishing, not wanting in in¬ 
genuity, is adopted by the inhabitants of the Samoa 
group. A number of hollow fioats, about eight 
inches in height, and the same in diameter, are 
fastened to a stout cord, a short distance apart. To 
each of them a line is attached, about a foot in 
length, to the end of which a piece of fish-bone is 
suspended by the middle. This bone is ground 
exceedingly sharp at each end, so that when it is 
seized by the fish, the points enter the mouth in 


298 


THE OCEAN. 


contrary directions, and secure it. The floats answer 
other purposes besides the obvious one of regulating 
the depth of the snare; they attract the fish by the 
whiteness of their surface, and also show by theii 
motion when the prey is taken. 

Xot only in the smooth waters of the lagoon 
channels is the hook and line used, but in the open 
Ocean; as notwithstanding the frail character of their 
vessels, the barbarous natives of these oceanic isles 
are skiKul and fearless in navigation. Even the 
terrific shark is attacked in his own element; some¬ 
times involved in a net, when frequently he makes 
havoc among the fishermen before he can be trans- 
fixed by their spears ; and sometimes caught as inti¬ 
mated above, with the insidious hook. The most 
daring young men, usually the chiefs, are the first 
to assault the monster; while the elders watch the 
proceedings in their canoes from a distance, partakers 
of the excitement, though no longer sharers of the 
heroism. The eagerness with which these expeditions 
are set on foot, and the ardour with which they are 
prosecuted, are only equalled by the excited feelings 
of those who, in other countries, pursue the more 
noble objects of the chase. 

The fishes of these seas are, many of them, interest¬ 
ing ; some of them have been already named. The 
Albacore and the Bonito are common in the tropical 
parts of the Pacific, and are both members of the 
Mackerel family. They are of considerable size, but 
the Albacore {Scoher Germo) is the larger, sometimes 
being found six feet in length. Like its relative, our 
own Mackerel, it is a fish of much elegance, and its 



THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


299 


colours are beautiful. The back is bright azure, with 
a golden tint; the belly and sides silvery, with rain¬ 
bow reflections, like mother-of-pearl, and the same 
notched fins near the tail are bright yellow. In 
slight winds, when the motion of a ship is slow, 
these fishes are usually to be seen around her; if 
she be becalmed, and consequently motionless, they 
remain at some little distance, when the most tempt¬ 
ing bait is ineffectual; but if she be sailing rapidly 
before a brisk breeze they pertinaciously keep her 
company, keeping close alongside, and seizing the 
hook with avidity. The Albacore, as already hinted, 
is one of the hunters of the little Flying-fish. It is 
said to be highly interesting to watch one of these 
fishes keenly engaged in pursuit of its volatile prey: 
to mark the precision with which it keeps exactly 
beneath during the aerial leaps of the victim, keeping 
it steadily in sight, prepared to snap it up, on the 
instant of its submersion. The Flying-fish, however, 
by its exceeding agility, darting again into the air in 
a moment, sometimes contrives to escape the fearful 
jaws of its adversary. 

The Albacore, in its turn, has occasion to exercise 
cunning and contrivance, to evade the attacks of a 
still mightier foe. ]\Ir. F. D. Bennett mentions that, 
on one occasion, ''The Albacore around the ship 
afforded us an extraordinary spectacle; they w'ere 
collected close to the keel of the vessel, in one dense 
mass, of extraordinary depth and breadth, and swam 
with an appearance of trepidation and watchfulness. 
The cause of this unusual commotion was visible in 
a sword-fish lurking astern, awaiting a favourable 


800 


THE OCEAN. 


opportunity to msli upon bis prey when they should 
be unconscious of danger, or away from the protec¬ 
tion of the ship. The assembled Albacore continued, 
in the meantime, to pass under the keel of the vessel, 
from one side to the other, often turning simulta¬ 
neously on their side to look for the enemy: their 
abdomens glittering in the sun as a wide expanse 
of dazzling silver. It was evident that the Sword¬ 
fish desired but a clear field for his exertions; 
and in the course of the day we observed him 
make several dashes amongst the shoal, with a 
velocity which produced a loud rushing sound in the 
sea; his body, which, when tranquil, was of a 
dull brown colour, assuming at these times an azure 
hue.'’ * 

Mr. Bennett conjectures with much probability, 
that it is as a protection against the attacks of the 
Sword-fish, that Albacore and other fishes so often 
attach themselves to a ship, or the body of a whale; 
the vicinity of so large a body being sufficient to 
deter the former from making his impetuous thrusts 
among the shoal, lest his bony weapon being driven 
into the solid substance by the violence of his assault, 
he might not be able to retract it. Instances are not 
rare, however, in w'hich the Sword-fish, perhaps for¬ 
getting his usual caution, (for he is reputed a very 
cautious fish,) has Jeft his sword in the hull of a ship. 
The Foxhound, a South-Sea whaler, was cruising in 
the Pacific in 1817, when one day, when most of the 
crew were below at dinner, a loud splashing was 

* Whaling Voyage, yol. i. p. 270. 






THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


301 


suddenly heard in the sea by a New Zealander on 
deck, who, on looking over the side, saw a large dark 
body sinking, and immediately gave the alarm of a 
man overboard. The crew, however, were found to 
be complete, and the occurrence passed over. Soon 
after, one of the men observed a rugged object pro¬ 
jecting from the vessel’s side, which, on examination, 
proved to be the snout of a Sword-fish, with part of 
the head attached, broken off by the fracture of the 
skull. On the vessel’s arriving at Sydney, the pro¬ 
jecting part was sawn off, after vain endeavours to 
extract the weapon; and at the conclusion of the 
voyage, the pierced wood was taken out and placed 
in the British Museum. 

It is worthy of observation that, with very few 
exceptions, the immense population of the Ocean 
is carnivorous. The principal circumstance that 
regulates the choice of diet among fishes seems to 
be the power of mastery. Of terrestrial creatures, 
a very large number are peaceful, never, under 
ordinary circumstances, willingly taking the life of 
even the most helpless around them; but the sea 
is a vast slaughter-house, where nearly every inha¬ 
bitant dies a violent death, and finds a grave in the 
maw of his fellow. We have just seen the Sword¬ 
fish preying upon the Albacore, and the Albacore 
upon the Flying-fish; while the Flying-fish itself, 
though so general a favourite, is the greedy devourer 
of other fishes smaller than itself Yet, let us not 
arraign the providence of God, as if it were cruel 
and unkind: a sudden termination of existence is 
the most merciful mode, as far as we can conceive, 


302 


THE OCEA?<. 


by wliich the overflow of animal life could be 
checked. 

Harsh seems the ordinance, that life bv life 
Should be sustain’d; and yet when all must die, 

And be like water spilt upon the ground, 

Which none can gather up,—the speediest fate. 

Though violent and terrible, is best. 

0, with what horrors would creation grcan. 

What agonies would ever be before us,— 

Famine and pestilence, disease, despair, 

Anguish and pain in every hideous shape. 

Had all to wait the slow decay of Nature ! 

Life were a martyrdom of sympathy; 

Death, lingering, raging, writhing, shrieking tortui'e; 

The grave would be abolished; this gay world 
A valley of dry bones, a Golgotha, 

In which the living stumbled o’er the dead, 

Till they could fall no more, and blind perdition 
Swept frail mortality away for ever. 

’Twas wisdom, mercy, goodness that ordain’d 
Life in such infinite profusion,—Death 
So sure, so prompt, so multiform to those 
That never sinn’d, that know not guilt, that fear 
No wrath to come, and have no heaven to lose.” * 

Before we leave these charming regions, we will for 
a moment notice a few other of the various tribes of 
living beings that make the sea their home. A curious 
example of instinctive stratagem occurs in a little 

crab [Hyas - ?) which is common upon the shore- 

reefs. It is about six inches in circumference, of a 
dull-brown hue, the body and legs entirely covered 
with stiff, curved bristles. It covers itself with 
decajdng vegetable rubbish, mud, sand, &c., and 

♦ 


Pelican Island. 




THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


303 


thus lies in ambush for its passing prey. Thus 
masked, it maintains its assumed character by the 
most sluggish movements, as if the little heap were 
slightly moved by the tide; but, when taken into 
the hand, or otherwise alarmed, it can be suEficiently 
active. The spines upon its body to retain the 
rubbish, the short but strong claws easily concealed, 
the eyes placed at the end of long footstalks, curving 
upwards and thus raised above the mass, show 
beautiful adaptations of its structure to its economy. 

Another crab of the reef {Galappa tuberculata) 
makes use of another artifice for concealment. It is 
heart-shaped, with the margin of its shell projecting 
broadly. When alarmed, it draws its feet under the 
margin, and folds them close to its side, claps its 
broad flat claws upon its head, and lies motionless, 
in which state it may be handled without manifesting 
any sign of life. A sailor seeing one of these little 
crabs on the shore, picked it up, and after admiring 
it awhile, put it into his pocket as a curious stone;’' 
he was presently astonished by the efforts of his prize 
to escape from durance vile. 

Dn the barrier reefs are found elegant animal- 
flowers {Diazond) expanding their numerous tenta¬ 
cles of pink and white, which form a wide circular 
disk, at the summit of a round fleshy stem. If 
touched, or otherwise alarmed, they rapidly fold in¬ 
wards their beautiful tentacles, and sink to the rock, 
contracting to a very diminutive size, so as easily 
to elude observation. The same reefs are enlivened 
also by numbers of another species of Sea-anemone 
{Zoantlius), which cover large surfaces of tne rock, 


304 


THE OCEAN. 


like beautiful carpets or mats of wide expanse. 
When opened beneath the water, under the beams 
of the sun, they display a series of squares with 
elevated margins, the interior being of a bright 
green, the exterior of a fawn colour. These, also, 
contract instantly on the slightest touch ; and thus 
entire fields of them, being connected together by 
a common fieshy disk upon the rock, are changed 
in a moment, as if by magic, from brilliant green 
to dull brown, which again, as they recover from 
their alarm, is soon replaced by the verdant hue. 

Numerous species of Squid and Cuttle are ob¬ 
served in the Pacific, several of which have the 
power of making long leaps out of the water, even 
to the same height and distance as the Flying-fish, 
whence these kinds are denominated by seamen. 
Flying Squid. One of these, which appears to have 
been an OnychoteutMs, is described by Mr. F. D. 
Bennett, as having fallen, in one of its leaps, upon 
the deck of the ship in which he was sailing. The 
whole class to which these animals belong is re¬ 
markable for the powerful apparatus with which the 
animals are endowed for seizing prey, in the numer¬ 
ous long and fiexible arms, furnished with cuplike 
suckers, which forcibly adhere to any object at the 
will of the creature. But the genus just mentioned 
is favoured above its fellows; for, in addition to the 
usual structure, there is placed in each sucker-cup of 
the long feet a sharp projecting hook. On the 
smooth and glossy scales of fishes lubricated with 
slime, it might not be always easy at once to create 
a vacuum; but these hooks are plunged by the 







THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 305 

action of the sucker into the flesh of the struggling 
victim, whereby a Arm hold is obtained, and the prey 
is dragged to the powerful beak. 

Some of these animals frequent the crevices and 
holes of the rocks, whence they protrude their long 
arms for the capture of prey. They form an ac¬ 
ceptable article of food to the South-Sea islanders, 
who have exercised their ingenuity in devising a 
mode of entrapping them. The instrument employed 
for this purpose is described as a straight piece of 
hard W'ood, a foot long, round, and polished, and not 
half an inch in diameter. Near one end of this, a 
number of the most beautiful pieces of the cowry, or 
tiger-shell, are fastened one over another like the 
scales of a flsh or the plates of a piece of armour, until 
it is about the size of a turkey’s egg, and resembles 
the cowry. It is suspended in a horizontal position, 
by a strong line, and lowered by the flsherman from 
a small canoe, until it nearly reaches the bottom. 
The flsherman then gently jerks the line, causing the 
shell to move as if inhabited by an animal. The 
Cuttle, deceived by the appearance of the supposed 
cowry (for no bait is used), darts out one of its arms, 
which it -winds around the shell, adhering fast by its 
suckers. The flsherman continues jerking the line, 
and the Cuttle strengthens its hold by afiSxing more 
of its arms, until its adhesion is very strong, when, 
rather than quit its prey, it permits itself to be 
dragged from its retreat to the surface of the water, 
and captured.* 

There are certain species of oceanic birds which 

* Elli.v. 


806 


THE OCEAN. 


it is difficult to identify with any particular region, 
as they are true cosmopolites. The Tropic-birds, 
Albatrosses, Terns, Petrels, and Boobies, are of this 
extended character, following and attending the 
voyager for many thousands of miles, and even from 
one ocean into another. Yet there are certain, 
though somewhat indefinite, limits to their range; 
limits governed, however, by climate, rather than by 
physical boundaries. Thus the Dusky Albatross 
{Diomedea fvliginosa') was observed by Captain 
Beechy to be numerous in the Atlantic from the 
Eio de la Plata to the latitude of 51° south; when 
it suddenly disappeared; but after rounding Cape 
Horn, the species again occurred at the very’ same 
latitude of 51°, and continued numerous all up the 
coast of Chili. 

The Tropic-birds [Phaeton) in like manner, as 
their name imports, chiefiy frequent the Ocean 
within the tropics ; and according to the statements 
of all voyagers, are very rarely seen beyond the parallel 
of 35°. Elevated in the air, far above the mast¬ 
head, the long projecting tail-feathers looking like 
a single slender shaft, while it turns its head to 
and fro, as on suspended wing it examines the vessel 
below, it is not liable to be confounded with any 
other ocean-bird. The seamen have given it the 
name of ''boatswain;'^ perhaps on account of its 
shrlLl whistling note, like the official call of that 
authoritative personage; or because it carries a 
marlin-spike. The species which is seen in the 
Atlantic is P. cethereus; which has the feathers of 






THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


307 


the tail white, hut the Pacific species (P. phoenicurus) 
is much more handsome, the tail being scarlet. They 
are thoroughly ocean-birds, rarely approaching the 
land except to lay and hatch their eggs. The red¬ 
tailed Phaeton excavates a hollow in the sand for 
this purpose, beneath the shade of bushes, where 
she lays one egg: the islanders frequently take the 
old birds from the nest, for the tail-feathers, which 
are highly esteemed. 

The Albatrosses are large birds, being but little 
inferior to a swan in size. The floating carcase of a 
whale affords a rich feast to many sea-birds, among 
which these are pre-eminent, now swooping in the 
air, now alighting on the' body, now swimming and 
feeding on the fragments of oily fat that escape; 
now screaming harshly as they quarrel for the offaL 
They are powerfully endued for flight, and make 
vast excursions from land, ranging through the whole 
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 

I have already alluded to the singular manner in 
which the body of a sea-bird is penetrated by air. 
Mr. Bennett records a very curious circumstance 
resulting from this structure, in the case of a bird 
allied to the Albatross, taken in the Pacific Ocean. 
It ‘'was shot in the wing, and brought on board 
alive, fighting savagely with its beak and feet. 
With a view to preserve its plumage uninjured, I 
endeavoured to destroy the bird by compressing its 
windpipe; but found that as the breathing became 
laborious, a loud whistling sound was emitted from 
some part of the body; and upon close investigation 


808 


THE OCEAN. 


traced it to tlie bone of the which was frac¬ 

tured across, and projected through the skin, and 
admitted within its tube a forcible current of air, 
whenever the lungs made an effort at respiration: 
the bird was, in fact, breathing through its broken 
wing; and so sufficient was the supply of air the 
lungs received through this novel channel, that I was 
wearied by my attempts to suffocate my prize, and 
was compelled to destroy it in another manner.’’* 
Everj’ one who has read the romantic narratives of 
the old voyagers, is familiar with the name of the 
Booby {Sula fused), so named by seamen from its 
apparent stupidity and familiarity, suffering itself to 
be knocked down with a stick or taken with the 
hand when it alights, as it often does, on the spars 
or shrouds of a vessel. This habit seems quite 

unaccountable : many other birds have manifested a 
similar fearlessness of man when first discovered, but 
have soon learned the necessity of precaution; but 
the Booby will manifest the same unnatural tameness 
after being long accustomed to the cruelty of man. 
It does not arise from helplessness, as it is a bird of 
powerful wing, like its relative the common Gannet; 
neither is it a sufficient explanation to affirm, as is 
sometimes done, that it arises from a peculiar difficulty 
in rising to flight after alighting, because it is not 
unfrequently caught in the air by the hand ; so 
incautiously does it approach man. Notwithstanding 
this apparent stupidity, the Booby is a dexterous 


* AVhaling Voyage, i. 260. 








THE PACIFIC OCEAN. 


309 


fisher : hovering over a shoal of fishes, he eagerly 
watches their motions, turning his head from side to 
side in a very ludicrous manner ; he presently sees 
one of the unwary group approach the surface, down 
he pounces like a stone, plunging into the wave, 
which boils into foam with the shock. Nor fails he 
to seize the scaly victim, with which he emerges into 
the air, and soon it is lodged whole in his capacious 
stomach. But the Frigate-bird [Tachypetes aquilus) 
has watched the proceeding, and instantly betakes 
himself to the pursuit; flight is vain from the 
swiftest ranger of the Ocean, whose extended wings 
measure a width of seven feet. The Frigate-bird 
swooping down upon the unfortunate Booby, compels 
him to disgorge the flsh which he has just swallowed, 
and which, long ere it can reach the water, is seized, 
and again devoured by the oppressor. 

The Frigate-bird neither swims nor dives; the 
seamen fully believe that it even sleeps upon the 
wing: whether this be so or not, there is good 
evidence that the same individuals will remain in 
the air for several successive days : they are nevei 
known to alight on a vessel. In Jamaica, however, 
I have repeatedly shot it from its resting place on an 
overhanging tree of the sea-cliff. Though the chase 
of the Booby is so usual as to be considered one of 
its constant means of dependence, yet it also fishes 
for itself: precluded, however, from plunging into 
the sea, it can take only such as, like the Flying-fish, 
leap into another element. With such success, how¬ 
ever, does it attack these, that it has been seen to snap 

p 


310 


THE OCEAN. 


up three in succession in the course of a few minutea 
If, after having captured a fish, it is awkwardly 
placed in the beak, it hesitates not to drop it, secure 
of seizing it again in the descent. 

To the immense congregations of aquatic birds, for 
the purpose of hatching and rearing their young in 
places congenial to their habits, allusion has already 
been made ; and the following picture, vividly drawn 
by the pen of an accomplished naturalist, is probably 
not overcharged. 

Le. Vaillant, on visiting the tomb of a Danish 
captain at Saldanha Bay, near the Cape of Good 
Hope, beheld, after wading through the surf, and 
clambering up the rocks, such a spectacle as he 
supposed had never appeared to the eye of mortal. 

All of a sudden, there arose from the whole surface 
of the island an impenetrable cloud, which formed, 
at the distance of forty feet above our heads, an im¬ 
mense canopy, or rather a sky, composed of birds 
of every species, and of all colours;—cormorants, 
sea-gulls, sea-swallows, pelicans, and, I believe, the 
whole winged tribe of that part of Africa was here 
assembled. All their voices mingled together, and 
modified according to their different kinds, formed 
such a horrid music, that I was every moment obliged 
to cover my head to give a little relief to my ears. 
The alarm which we spread was so much the more 
general among these innumerable legions of birds, as 
we principally disturbed the females which were then 
sitting. They had nests, eggs, and young to defend. 
They were hke furious harpies let loose against us, 






THE PACIFIC OCEAN, 


811 


and their cries rendered us almost deaf. They often 
flew so near us, that they flapped their wings in our 
faces, and though we fired our pieces repeatedly, we 
were not able to frighten them : it seemed almost 
impossible to disperse this cloud.” 



p 2 


f 
























THE IXDIAX OCEAH. 


The remaining great division of tlie waters of our 
globe is considerably less extensive than either of 
the others, but is scarcely less important, inasmuch 
as it is the pathway of the richest commerce of the 
world, the high road on which are borne the gems, 
and gold, and spices of the gorgeous East. It is 
separated from the Pacific by that grand assemblage 
of islands known as the Oriental Archipelago, which, 

• for their immense size, the teeming luxuriance of 
their vegetation, and the valuable character of many 
of their productions, have no rivals. The isles of 
New Guinea, Borneo, and Sumatra, are the largest 
in the world: their soil possesses a fertility that 
seems inexhaustible ; their produce consists of the 
nutmeg, the clove, and other costly spices ; frankin¬ 
cense, camphor, and other odoriferous gums; dia¬ 
monds, rubies, and other precious stones ; gold, silver, 
silks, tortoise-shell, pearls, sandal-wood, and drugs, 
the most valuable of earthly things. 

It is a singular fact, that at the very same point 
of time when the genius and daring of Columbus 
was leading Spain into the possession of a new world 
in the west, Portuguese enterprise was laying open 
the still more splendid and gorgeous regions of Asia 
in the east. It was in 1497 that Vasco de Gama 








THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


313 


rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and penetrated to 
climes which had hitherto been invested with all the 
romance of mystery and fable; then commencing a 
commerce which has poure'd incalculable wealth into 
the lap of Europe. 

This immense archipelago, which occupies a tract 
of the Ocean four thousand miles in length, and 
fourteen hundred in breadth, is an assemblage of 
islands perfectly unique. The multitudinous islets 
of the Pacific, if all united, would not together form 
a third-rate island of this group. The land, though 
broken with countless thousands of isles, so equally 
divides the space with the sea, that one is at a loss 
to say which predominates. A large majority of the 
smaller isles and reefs are of the same structure as 
the coral atolls of Polynesia, and present a similar 
character in their zoology and botany ; but the larger 
tracts of land, almost a continent in their dimensions, 
are of the old formations. The widely-scattered 
groups of small islands on the northern boundary, 
indeed,—the Ladrones, the Carolines, the Pelews, &c., 
we are at a loss to distinguish: they are usually 
arranged in the Indian Archipelago, while they are 
decidedly Polynesian in their characters. 

The boats which are used by the natives of these 
islands, from their very peculiar construction, as well 
as from their unrivalled powers of sailing, demand 
a moment’s notice. Lord Anson, who first met with 
them at the Ladrone Islands, and who calls them 
flying proas, considers them so singular and extra¬ 
ordinary an invention, that it would do honour to 
any nation, however dexterous and acute. Since, 


314 


THE OCEAN. 


if we consider the aptitude of this proa to the navi¬ 
gation of these islands, which, lying all of them 
nearly under the same meridian, and within the 
limits of the trade-wind, requires the vessels made 
use of in passing from one to the other to be 
peculiarly fitted for sailing with the wind upon the 
beam; or, if we examine the uncommon simplicity 
and ingenuity of its fabric and contriv^ance, or the 
extraordinary velocity with which it moves, we shall 
in each of these particulars find it worthy of our 
admiration, and deserving a place amongst the 
mechanical productions of the most civilized nations, 
where arts and sciences have most eminently fiou- 
rished.” ^ 

In direct contradiction to the practice of civilized 
nations, the proa is built with the two ends alihe, 
but the two sides different. It is intended never 
to turn, but always to present the same side to the 
wind ; the bow becoming the stern, and the stern 
the bow, at pleasure. The ends of the boat are 
high, and project much above the water ; the wind¬ 
ward side is rounded, as in other vessels ; but the 
lee side is flat, and almost perpendicular. As the 
depth greatly exceeds the breadth, it would, of 
course, instantly fall over on the leeward side, but 
for an ingenious contrivance already alluded to as 
used in the Polynesian islands. A light but strong 
frame is run out horizontally to wdndward, to the 
end of which is fastened a hollow log, fashioned into 
the shape of a small boat, which floats upon the 


Anson’s Voyage, p. 339. 


* 




THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


315 



water, preventing the capsizing of the proa in that 
direction; while the weight of the apparatus, called 
an outrigger, prevents the same accident on the 
other. A mast rises perpendicularly from the wind¬ 
ward edge of the proa, fastened to the heel of the 
outrigger; a bamboo yard is slung near the mast- 


PROAS OF THE LADRONES. 

head, so that its foot shall come into the boat in 
a diagonal direction near the head, there being a 
socket at each end to receive the foot of the yard, 
according as the proa is on either tack. The sail 
attached is made of matting, and is triangular, the 
lower side being fastened to a boom running hori¬ 
zontally from the foot of the yard over the stern. 
When it is intended to alter the course by going 
upon another tack, the foot of the yard is lifted 
trom the one socket, carried round to leeward, and 
















316 


THE OCEAN. 


placed in the other, while the fast sheet being let 
fly, and the loose sheet hauled in, the boat is imme¬ 
diately trimmed again, without loss by lee-way. 
From their extraordinary power of lying near the 
wind, that is, of sailing nearly towards the point 
from which the wind is blowing, as well as from 
their extreme narrowness cutting the water with 
little resistance, these boats are the fleetest vessels 
known. Anson afhrms that they will run nearly 
twenty miles an hour, which, though greatly short 
of what the Spaniards report of them, is yet a pro¬ 
digious degree of swiftness. In more modern voyages, 
we find the native boats called by the names of prows 
and praJius ; as they seem, however, to refer to vessels 
of the same construction as those described by 
Anson, they are probably to be considered as some¬ 
what closer approximations to the true pronunciation 
of the native name. 

The navigation of these seas is rendered peculiarly 
unsafe by the swarms of Malay pirates by which 
they are infested. Voyagers continually allude to 
the alarm which every collection of native boats 
inspires, as being so exceedingly swift, and the 
men merciless and daring. Whole colonies of these 
desperate adveutureis proceed from Magindanao to 
the coast of Borneo, where they seek some con¬ 
venient, but retired, harbour, in which they make 
their home; not living, however, upon the land but 
on board their 'praJius (or proas), which are fre¬ 
quently of sixty tons’ burthen. During the south¬ 
east monsoon they cruise about near the entrance 
of the Straits of Malacca, ready to pounce upon 


THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


317 


tlie native traders resorting to Singapore; when 
about to return home, they surprise some defence¬ 
less native village, and carry off the whole of the 
inhabitants to be sold into slavery. During the 
absence of the pirates, their wives and children 
remain in the harbour, to take charge of the booty 
that may be brought in ; and as these are scarcely 
less warlike than the men, no other guard is neces¬ 
sary against the inoffensive natives of Borneo. 
\\dien the band has acquired a considerable amount 
of plunder, they return to their own island, and 
others supply their place. Even in the neighbour¬ 
hood of Singapore, although a British dependency, 
the Malay pirates absolutely swarm. The numberless 
little islands in the Straits, divided by channels 
known only to themselves, are like so many impregna¬ 
ble fastnesses, into which they drag their unfortunate 
victims, and plunder them at their leisure, defying 
pursuit. The occupation has acquired all the form 
and regularity of a system. A chief of some petty 
Malay state, whose fortunes have been rendered 
desperate by gambling, collects around him a few 
adventurous and restless spirits, and sails to some 
retired island. A village is formed, as a depot for 
the booty, and the armed prahus lie in wait or prowl 
about. If the adventure prove successful, the chief 
soon gains accessions ; the village grows into a town; 
and the fleet separates into squadrons, which scour 
the seas of different localities. They usually sail 
in company, the fleets consisting of three to twenty 
prahus, each of which carries large and small guns, 

and from fifteen to forty men. The captured vessels 

p 3 


318 


THE OCEAN. 


are burnt at the depot, and tbe goods put on 
board prabus disguised like traders, and sold at 
Singapore. Tbe captives are sold into slavery at 
Sumatra, to work on tbe pepper plantations of tbe 
Malays. 

Tbougb tbeir assaults are generally upon tbe 
native trading-boats, yet occasionally they venture to 
attack square-rigged craft. 

“An English merchant, who bad resided several 
years in Java, embarked at Batavia on board one 
of bis own vessels, a large brig, taking with him 
a considerable sum of money for tbe purchase of 
tbe produce of tbe eastern districts. These facts 
having reached tbe ears of a famous piratical chief, 
be determined to waylay tbe vessel, and accordingly, 
mustering a sufiScient number of prabus, cruised 
about, and meeting with tbe brig as be bad expected, 
commenced an attack upon her. Tbe crew of the 
latter vessel consisted of two Englishmen, tbe captain 
and tbe chief officer, and about thirty Javanese 
seamen, who, together with tbe owner, defended 
the vessel for some time. Towards the evening 
however tbe unfortunate merchant was killed by a 
spear fired from a musket, and tbe pirates, taking 
advantage of tbe confusion produced by this event, 
immediately boarded. Tbe two remaining Engbsb- 
men, being well aware that certain death awaited 
them should they remain, threw themselves into tbe 
sea, and succeeded in reaching a bamboo fishing- 
buoy. Tbe pirates, too busily employed in plunder¬ 
ing their prize to think of anything else, did not 
perceive tbeir place of refuge, and the vessels soon 







THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


319 


drifted away out of sight. The condition of the 
persons who had thus escaped had altered very little 
for the better; they were immersed to the neck in 
water, dreading every moment the attack of sharks : 
nor had either during the whole of the night the 
comfort of knowing that his companion was still in 
existence. Soon after daylight some fishermen ap¬ 
peared, by whom they were perceived; but instead of 
rescuing them immediately from their perilous situa¬ 
tion, the Javanese consulted together for a few 
minutes, and then approached the sufferers, and 
demanded who they were. On being told they were 
Englishmen, whose vessel had been attacked and 
captured by pirates, they were taken on board, 
treated kindly, and conveyed to the Dutch Settlement 
at Indramayo. Had they belonged to one of the 
Dutch cruisers, their fate would probably have been 
different; for the fishermen are on bad terms with 
the officers of the government prahus, whom they 
accuse of robbing them of their fish.* 

The pirates who thus infest the Indian Archipe¬ 
lago are invariably Mahometans; none of the Pagan 
natives ever being known to engage in these mur¬ 
derous expeditions. They show no mercy : the Euro¬ 
peans that fall into their hands are murdered, and the 
native seamen sold into slavery. 

We have reason to hope, however, that the days of 
this wicked system of piracy are numbered ; and that 
a brighter day has dawned for the inhabitants of these 
gorgeous islands. In 1842 the government of Sara¬ 
wak, a considerable province on the western side of 

* Eai'Ts Eastern Seas, p. 38. 


320 


THE OCEAN. 


Borneo, was made over to Mr. (now Sir) James Brooke, 
and his heirs for ever. The English Eajali immedi¬ 
ately entered upon his government, treating the 
natives with justice and kindness, and gradually 
winning their confidence, and at the same time 
making strenuous efforts to root out and destroy the 
nests of pirates with which almost every cove and 
creek was swarming. 

In July, 1849, a grand expedition of British ships 
of war, with a number of boats manned by friendly 
natives, under the control of Eajah Brooke, was des¬ 
patched against the pirates. They fell in with a 
grand war-fieet of a hundred and fifty prahus return¬ 
ing from a foray with plunder, and captives, and 
human heads. Five hundred of the pirates were 
killed sword in hand; the remainder, about two 
thousand five hundred, escaped to the forests ; their 
boats were destroyed or captured. It would have been 
easy to surround the region to which the pirates had 
fled, so that not a man could have left it alive. But 
the Eajah refused to push the matter to such an ex¬ 
tremity ; believing that the lesson they had learned 
would be sufficiently severe to fulfil his purpose. Xor 
has the result shown that his policy was less wise 
than generous. 

A Christian mission has been established under 
the Eajah’s auspices in Borneo, which will prove, we 
may fairly hope, a blessed centre of light to many 
who have hitherto sat in darkness and the shadow of 
death. 

The larger islands of the archipelago do not pre¬ 
sent a very interesting appearance from the sea. 






THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


321 


Though clothed from the tops of the mountains 
down to the very water’s edge with the most lux¬ 
uriant vegetation, it is too uniform to be agreeable. 
The eye seeks in vain for some variation, some break 
in the vast forest; all is rich massy foliage, like 
enormous heaps of green velvet. The solemn silence 
that prevails, joined with this gorgeous uniformity, 
creates an oppressive feeling of awe and loneliness. 
And when the dews of evening descend, and the 
gentle breeze blows off the land, it comes loaded 
with what have been described- as spicy odours, but 
which are, in sober reality, but the sickly sweats 
produced by immense masses of vegetation in decom¬ 
position. The breeze bears, in fact, the pestilence 
upon its wings. 

But while this is the general character of the great 
islands, there are exceptions. Java, settled by the 
Dutch, contrasts with Sumatra and Borneo ; the 
gloom of the forest is • enlivened here and there by 
verdant fields and lawns, while the white villas of 
the Europeans chequer the hills, and give a peaceful 
and inviting air to the landscape. The smaller isles 
are said to be exquisitely lovely. 

“The sea near Batavia is covered with innumerable 
little islets, all of which are clothed with luxuriant 
vegetation. Native prahus, with their yellow mat- 
sails, are occasionally seen to shoot from behind one 
of them, to be shielded from view immediately after¬ 
wards by the green foliage of another ; and over the 
tops of the trees may often be descried the white 
sails of some stately ship, threading the mazes of this 
little archipelago. One group, appropriately named 


322 


THE OCEAlv, 


the Thousand Isles, has never yet been explored, and 
its intricacies afford concealment to petty pirates who 
prey upon the small prahus and fishing-boats. * * * 
A number of large fishing-boats were coming in from 
sea, and standing with us into the roads; and 
although we were running at the rate of seven 
knots an hour, they passed us with great rapidity. 
They had a most graceful appearance ; many of them 
were fourteen or fifteen tons’ burthen, and each boat 
carried one immense square-sail. As the breeze was 
strong, a thick plank was thrust out to windward for 
an outrigger, on which several of the numerous crew 
sat, or stood, to prevent the press of sail they were 
carrying from capsizing the boat. They were occa¬ 
sionally hidden from our view by their passing be¬ 
hind some of the small islets; but in a few seconds 
they would appear on the other side, having shot 
past so rapidly, that we could scarcely fancy we had 
lost sight of them at all.” * 

In sailing amongst the numberless islands of the 
Indian Archipelago, the voyager is struck with the 
frequent appearance of towns or villages built 
actually over the sea. The houses are constructed on 
stout piles, which are firmly driven into the ground. 
A flat place is selected, where the tide ebbs and 
flows, that all dirt and filth from their habitations 
may be regularly carried away without trouble, and 
that they may be free from the presence of unplea¬ 
sant and venomous reptiles. The houses are chiefly 
of split bamboo, thatched with leaves: the windows 
are made of the transparent inner shell of the pearl 

* Earl’s Easteru Seas, p. 11. 




r 








(UlINKSK JUNKS. I'..m 






















































































































THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


:^23 

oyster : they are arranged in rows or streets, with 
walks three or four feet wide reaching to the land, 
but all heavy goods are transported by canoes, which 
pass under the houses. The mode of driving the 
piles, which are inserted into the bottom to the 
depth of six feet, is curious and ingenious. A canoe 
loaded with stones to the weight of two or three 
tons is lashed on each side of a pile at high water, 
which, as the tide falls, are suspended from it; a 
heavy piece of timber is then made successively to 
fall upon the head, which, conjointly with the great 
weight of the canoes, sinks it to the bottom rapidly. 
Towns covering a square mile may be seen formed in 
tins manner. 

The harbours and straits are crowded during the 
season with Chinese junks; which fail not to strike 
an eye accustomed to the elegant proportions and 
graceful tracery of an European ship, as ludicrously 
monstrous. Mr. Crawfurd says “ The appearance 
of a Chinese junk is remarkably grotesque and sin¬ 
gular. The deck presents the figure of a crescent. 
The extremities of the vessel are dispropoifionately 
high and unwieldy, conveying an idea that any 
sudden gust of wind would not fail to upset her. At 
each side of the bow there is a large white spot or 
circle to imitate eyes. These vessels, except before 
the wind, are bad sailers, and very unmanageable. 
They require a numerous crew to navigate them: 
^f one of the largest size, it often takes fifty men 
to manage the helm alone.” The high stern and 
bow are alike flat, the latter having nothing answer¬ 
ing to a cut-water. There are from two to foui 


THE OCEAN 


masts, the main-mast being disproportionately larger 
than the others ; each of which carries a single huge 
square-sail made of mats of split' bamboo, extended 
by horizontal rods of bamboo, on which the sail 
is rolled up when reefing is necessary. The largest, 
though sometimes of twelve hundred tons, have but 
one deck, but the immense hold is divided into com¬ 
partments, allotted to the several adventurers and 
their goods. ]\Ir. Earl describes one which he met 
with in Banca Straits, in somewhat unfavourable 
stvle. '^"^Yhile wind-bound,” he observes, ''a Chinese 
junk passed close by us. A considerable number 
of the crew were standing on the high thatched 
habitation erected on their quarter-deck, and per¬ 
ceiving a Chinese passenger whom we had on board, 
they all hailed together to demand the state of the 
markets; but they asked so many questions at once, 
that our friend became quite bewildered, and the 
junk passed astern before he could decide to which 
he should first reply. Even if he had spoken, the 
junk-people could not have profited by his efforts, 
for they continued bawliag until quite out of hearing. 
This junk, which was about two hundred tons’ bur¬ 
then, carried two immense mat-sails, with a number 
of small yards extending along them, giving them 
the appearance of bats’ wings. She passed us quickly, 
on account of the current being in her favour; but 
although the breeze was strong, she went slowly 
through the water, and might be deemed little better 
than an unwieldy hulk.”*—The inflated ideas which 
the Chmese maintain of their own perfection are 

* Lasbem Seas, p. 129. 







THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


S25 


adverse to any improvement in these singular struc¬ 
tures ; indeed, an attempt at innovation, some years 
ago, in their form, bringing them nearer to the model 
of an European ship, was so severely reprehended in 
high quarters, that it was found prudent to desist 
from the indiscreet improvement. At the same time 
it must be confessed, that, compared with the vessels 
of their immediate neighbours, the junk, as a com¬ 
mercial vessel, has a vast superiority: and in the 
seas which they navigate, so regular are the monsoons, 
that they get on tolerably well. 

Occasionally, however, they must encounter those 
terrific tempests called typhoons, which are peculiar 
to these seas, and which, with the hurricanes of the 



SHIP UNDER BARE POLis. 


opposite hemisphere, are the most furious storms 
that blow. They rise with fearful rapidity, often 





























326 


THE OCEA^^ 


coming on suddenly from a calm ; and before the 
canvas can be secured, the gale is howling shrilly 
through the spars and rigging, and the crests of the 
waves are torn off, and driven in sheets of spray 
across the decks. The lightning is terrible : at very 
short intervals the whole space between heaven and 
earth is filled with vivid flame, showing every rope 
and spar in the darkest night as distinctly as in the 
broadest sunshine, and then leaving the sight ob¬ 
scured in pitchy darkness for several seconds after 
each flash;—darkness the most intense and absolute ; 
not that of the night, but the efi‘ect of the blinding 
glare upon the eye. The thunder, too, peals now 
in loud sharp startling explosions, now in long mut¬ 
tered growls all around the horizon. In the height of 
the gale, curious electrical lights, called St. Ulmo’s 
fires, are seen on the projecting points of the masts 
and upper spars, appearing from the deck like dim 
stars. Soon after their appearance the gale abates, 
and presently clears away with a rapidity equal to 
that which marks its approach. 

The storms are found, by carefully comparing 
the directions of the wind at 4:he same time in dif¬ 
ferent places, or successively at the same place, to 
blow in a vast circle arorCnd a centre : a fact of the 
utmost importance, as an acquaintance with this 
law will frequently enable the mariner so to deter¬ 
mine the course of his ship, as to steer out of the 
circle, and consequently out of the danger; when, 
in ignorance, he might have sustained the whole 
fury of the tempest. The course of the circle is the 
opposite of that taken by the hands of a watch, and 




THE IIn^DIAN ocean. 


327 


is the same with that of the still more striking phe¬ 
nomena, waterspouts. These are, perhaps, the most 
majestic of all those ''works of the Lord, and His 
wonders in the deep,’’ which they behold, who " go 
down to the sea in ships.” They frequently appear 
as perpendicular columns, apparently of many hun¬ 
dred feet in height, and three feet or more in dia¬ 
meter, reaching from the surface of the sea to the 
clouds. The edge of the pillar is perfectly clean 
and well-defined, and the effect has been compared 



to a column of frosted glass. A series of spiral lines 
run around it, and the whole has a rapid spiral 
motion, which is very apparent, though it is not 
always easy to determine whether it is an ascending 






328 


THE OCEAN. 


or descending line. Generally, the body of clouds 
above descend below the common level, joining the 
pillar in the form of a funnel, but sometimes the 
summit is invisible, from its becoming gi'adually 
more rare. Much more constant is the presence of 
a visible foot; the sea being raised in a great heap, 
with a V hirling and bubbling motion, the upper part 
of which is lost in the mass of spray and foam which 
is driven rapidly round. The column, or columns, 
for there are frequently more than one, move slowly 
forward with a stately and majestic step, sometimes 
inclining from the perpendicular, now becoming 
curved, and now taking a twisted form. Sometimes 
the mass becomes more and more transparent, and 
gradually vanishes ; at others, it separates, the base 
subsiding, and the upper portion shortening with a 
whii'ling motion, till lost in the clouds. The pillar 
is not always cylindrical: a very frequent form is 
that of a slender funnel depending from the sky, 
which sometimes retains that appearance without 
alteration, or, at others, lengthens its tube towards 
the sea, which at the same time begins to boil and 
rise in a hill to meet it, and soon the two unite and 
form a slender column, as first described. 

When these sublime appearances are viewed from 
a short distance, they are attended with a rushing 
noise, somewhat like the roar of a cataract. The 
phenomenon is doubtless the effect of a whirlwind, 
or current of air revolving with great rapidity and 
violence; and the lines which are seen are probably 
drops of water ascending in the cloudy column. 
They are esteemed highly dangerous : instances have 





THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


329 


been known, in which vessels that have been crossed 
by them have been instantly dismasted, and left a 
total ^vreck. It is supposed that any sudden shock 
will cause a rupture in the mass, and destroy it; and 
hence it is customary for ships to fire a cannon at 
such as, from their proximity, of course, there is any 
reason to dread. They are seen in all parts of the 
world, but are most frequent in the Pacific and Indian 
Oceans. 

That a Chinese junk, so clumsily rigged and so 
unwieldy, must be ill adapted to sustain the fury of a 
typhoon, or to evade the rush of a waterspout, we may 
well imagine ; and, doubtless, many are wrecked from 
these causes. The following affecting narrative of a 
crew under such painful circumstances will be read 
with interest:— 

The dark sullen waters of the China Sea never 
looked less friendly nor more portentous than on 
the morning of the 12th of January, 1837 ; tempes¬ 
tuous weather, and a sea rising in mountains around 
and over the ship’s side, hurled her rapidly on her 
passage homewards, when suddenly a wreck was dis¬ 
covered to the westward. The order to shorten sail 
was as promptly obeyed as given, and the vessel was 
hauled towards what was discovered to be a China 
junk without masts or rudder, having many persons 
on deck vehemently imploring assistance. The exhi¬ 
bition of their joy, as they beheld our approach, 
was of the most wild and extravagant nature ; but 
it was doomed to be transient, the violence of the 
elements driving the ship swiftly past the wreck. It 
became necessary to put her on the other tack, a 


830 


THE OCEAN. 


manceuvre which they construed into abandonment, 
and the air rang with the most agonizing shrieks of 
misery. Hope appeared to have been rekindled at the 
eleventh hour, bnt to render despair more desperate, 
and death more frightful. 

The excitement on board was intense. A boat 
was immediately lowered, in which the hawser was 
placed, with a small line attached to it, as a mes¬ 
senger, and was thrown to the wreck for the pur¬ 
pose of towing her to the ship ; but this intention 
was frustrated by the breaking of the windlass to 
which it was fastened. The anxiety of these unfor¬ 
tunate people to quit their perilous position was 
so great, that it became dangerous to approach 
them : one man, in a paroxysm of despair, jumped 
overboard after the hawser, as the windlass broke, in 
the vain hope of reaching the boat; he was an 
expert swimmer, but no human power could prevail 
against that sea ; the furious ocean mocked his 
efforts; he rose and sunk upon the swelling billows 
until nature was exhausted : he was lost in sight of 
his companions in misfortune, and of the persons 
sent to their aid, without any being able to afford 
him relief 

Fears were entertained for the boat and her 
crew, as seen from the ship contending with the 
violence of the element in which she floated, and 
a moment of doubt passed the mind as to the expe¬ 
diency of permitting another attempt. It was only 
for a moment; the piercing cries borne upon the 
hollow blast, fell upon the sense with such terrific 
horror, that indecision seemed a crime ; directions 





THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


331 


were then issued to keep the boat away, and a 
rope with a bowline-knot at one end, was thrown 
to the jnnk, into which signs were made for each 
man to place himself, and then plunge into the 
water, whence he was dragged into the boat, and 
eventually, in like manner, to the ship. Thus were 
eighteen persons rescued from the very grasp of 
death at a moment when every ray of hope appeared 
to be utterly extinguished. Their gratitude was 
boundless: they almost worshipped the officers, the 
crew, and the vessel; prostrated themselves, kissed 
the feet of the former, and the very planks of the 
latter. * * * * 

‘‘After being on board five days, we made Pulo 
Aor, where we took in water, and so desirous were 
those simple-hearted people of testifying their gra¬ 
titude, that they would not permit the men to carry 
it, but filled the casks themselves; and at parting, 
knelt down and kissed each man’s feet with the fer¬ 
vour of devotion. Here we separated from seven¬ 
teen men who had been nine days at sea upon a 
miserable wreck, water-logged, without water to 
drink, and scarcely food to eat. One of them, an old 
man, died on the preceding evening, from the effects 
of fatigue and exhaustion; the others, I doubt not, 
have long ere this time reached their homes, and 
taught their friends and children to bless the English¬ 
men and the English ship, which, under Providence, 
snatched them from a watery grave, and returned 
them to the objects of their afl'ections.”* 

The principal object of commercial enterprise with 
* Unit. Serv. Journ. 1837, iii. 512. 


332 


THE OCEAX. • 


the Chinese, in their annual visits to the Oriental 
Isles, and, by consequence, that which forms the chief 
lading of the returning junks, is the edible birds’-nest; 
the production of several species of Swallow belonging 
to the genus Collocalia; of which, as it seems to be 
an oceanic production, I shall give a short account. 
For many ages the nests have been in use in China, 
and it is a remarkable instance of the fictitious value 
often attached by fashion to things of little moment 
in themselves, but procured from a distance with 
much expense, difficulty, and danger. From the 
accounts of travellers, which differ much in detail, 
we gather, that certain large caverns in the interior 
of the island, as well as on the coast, are frequented 
by immense numbers-of these birds, of which there 
seem to be at least two species, one being, accord¬ 
ing to many observers, smaller than a wren; the 
other, according to Sir E. Home, who dissected some 
brought home by Sir Stamford Piaffies, '' double the 
size of our common swallow.” M. Poivre, who, in 
1711, visited the Straits of Sunda, observed these 
birds in a little island called the little Tocque. A 
party having landed to shoot green pigeons, this 
gentleman, accompanied by a sailor, walked along the 
beach in search of shells and jointed corals, which 
were very abundant. After having walked some 
distance, he was called by his companion, who had 
discovered a deep cavern. M. Pohue, hastening to 
the spot, found the entrance darkened by an immense 
cloud of small birds, pouriag out in swarms. He 
entered, and with ease knocked down many of the 
little birds, with which he was at that time un 






THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


383 


acquainted. As he proceeded, he found the roof of 
the cave entirely covered with small nests, shaped 
‘‘ like holy-water pots.” Each of the nests contained 
two or three eggs or young, which lay softly on 
feathers, such as clothed the breast of the parents 
They were found to be glued firmly to the rock, but 
having detached several, and brought them on board, 
they were recognised to be the same with those 
which form so valuable an article of merchandize in 
China. The sailor, profiting by this information, 
preserved his portion, which he afterwards sold well 
at Canton. The intelligent traveller, on the other 
hand, took coloured drawings of his captures, and 
speculated concerning the nature of the nest. He 
conjectures that it is composed of a gluey substance 
often seen fioating in these seas, which he considers 
to be fish-spawn. 

More recent accounts agree generally with this. 
In a little island on the coast of Java, called the Cap, 
Sir George Staunton found some caverns running 
horizontally into the side of the rock, in which were 
numbers of these birds’-nests. '' They seemed to be 
composed of fine filaments, cemented together by a 
transparent viscous matter, not unlike what is left 
by the foam of the sea upon stones alternately 
covered by the tide, or those gelatinous animal sub¬ 
stances found floating on every coast. The nests 
adhere to each other, and to the sides of the cavern, 
mostly in rows without any break or interruption. 
The birds that build these nests are small grey swal¬ 
lows, with bellies of a dirty white. They were flying 

about in considerable numbers; but they were so 

Q 2 


334 


THE OCEAN. 


small, and their flight so quick, that they escaped the 
shots fired at them. The same nests are said also to 
be found in deep caverns at the foot of the highest 
mountains in the middle of Java, and at a distance 
from the sea. * * * The nests are placed in horizon¬ 
tal rows at different depths, from fifty to five hundred 
feet. Their value is chiefly determined by the 
uniform fineness and delicacy of their texture ; those 
that are white and transparent being most esteemed, 
and fetching often in China their weight in silver. 
These nests are a considerable object of traffic among 
the Javanese ; and many are employed in it from 
their infancy. The birds, having spent near two 
months in preparing their nests, lay each two eggs, 
which are hatched in about fifteen days. When the 
young birds become fledged, it is thought time to 
seize upon their nests, which is done regularly thrice 
a year, and is effected by means of ladders of bamboo 
and reeds, by which the people descend into the 
cavern : but when it is very deep, rope ladders are 
preferred. This operation is attended with much 
danger, and several break their necks in the 
attempt.” ^ 

Some of the caves on the coast of Java are only 
to be reached by a perpendicular descent of many 
hundred feet, on these frail ladders of cane, while 
the sea rages with fury far beneath the feet. When 
attained, the cavern must be explored by torchlight, 
the adventurous fowler securing a precarious footing 
over the damp and slippeiy surface of the irregular 
recesses, where a false step would plunge him down 

* Embassy to Cbiua i. 287, 




THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


835 


into the boiling surf, or impale him upon the sharp 
processes of the rocks. The best nests are obtained 
from such gloomy caves as these; for there are 
several qualities, the best being white, or nearly 
transparent, as if composed of threads of isinglass; 
others, which are inferior, are coarser in texture, 
darker in colour, streaked with blood, or mixed with 
feathers, or defiled with the food and ordure of the 
young. When procured, they are simply dried in 
the shade, and packed in boxes, each containing a 
Viculy equal to about one hundred and thirty-three 
pounds. In the Chinese markets they fetch prices 
varying, according to the quality, from 250Z. up to 
above 900Z. sterling picul ; the latter price being 
at the rate of nearly seven pounds sterling per pound, 
and consequently almost equal to double the weight 
of the article in silver! The amount shipped from 
the archipelago is estimated by Mr. Crawfurd at 
1818 piculs, 242,400 lbs., worth to the sellers at 
the islands,. 284,290Z. In defenceless and remote 
situations, exposed to lawless plunder, the caverns 
are of little value : but in other more favourable 
localities, the clear profit is very great; for it is 
computed that the whole expense of collecting, dry¬ 
ing, and packing, does not much exceed one-tenth 
part of the whole amount. 

The nests are used in China, by the luxurious, 
in thickening rich soups; but though considered by 
them a great delicacy, have been but little esteemed 
by Europeans, who have tasted the preparations at * 
Chinese tables. The substance of which they are 
composed is now generally agreed to be a sea-weed 


336 


THE OCEAN. 


which floats on the Indian waters, a species of 
Qelidiuniy which can be reduced, by boiling or soak¬ 
ing in water, almost entirely into a clear jelly. It 
is probable, however, that the substance undergoes 
some preparation in the stomach of the bird before 
it is applied, or else that the filaments are cemented 
by a glutinous saliva. 

Iso inconsiderable part of the cargoes of the 
return junks is made up of a sea-weed called 
agai\ collected upon the coasts of Malacca. Boats 
go out to procure it from the reefs on which it 
grows, when it is well washed in the rivers, dried, 
and packed in baskets. It grows in small bunches, 
with long and narrow fronds resembling shreds, of 
a light-yellow hue. The flnest portions are used 
in China to make a clear, tasteless jelly ; while the 
coarser parts are boiled down into a strong and sub¬ 
stantial glue, used in the manufacture of furniture 
and lacquered ware. A size is also produced from 
it, for stiffening paper and silk. In Canton, this 
substance produces from twenty to thirty-five shil¬ 
lings per hundredweight. It is, however, light in 
proportion to its bulk. It is probable that this is 
the species described by botanists by the name of 
Gracillaria tenax, of which 27,000 pounds are said 
to be annually imported into China, and of which 
windows are made. 

Another important article of traffic with the Chi¬ 
nese, is the animal called by them trepang, the beche 
de mer {Holothurid), There are many species of 
these animals, which are curious creatures, and 
several are found on our own shores. Generalithey 









THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


387 


have some resemblance in form to a encumber, 
whence they are sometimes termed Sea-cucumbers ; in 
the water, however, the body is often greatly length- 



SEA-cucuMBERS {Holothurice), 


ened, and, on being touched, is suddenly contracted 
so as completely to alter the form. The mouth is at 
one end of the animal, furnished with shelly teeth 
converging to a centre, as in the Sea-urchins, and 
surrounded by numerous tentacles. Mr. Crawfurd 
describes it as '' an unseemly-looking substance, of a 
dirty-brown colour, hard, rigid, scarcely possessing 
any power of locomotion, nor appearance of anima¬ 
tion.” The usual length is eight or nine inches, the 
diameter about an inch, but some are two feet in 
length, and seven or eight inches in girth. They fre¬ 
quent the shallow waters, on reefs and in lagoons: 
often exposed on the rock, but sometimes nearly 
buried in the coral-sand, their feathered tentacles 
alone appearing and floating loosely in the water. 



























338 


THE OCEAN. 


The large kinds are often ohtained by spearing them 
upon the rocks in shallow water; but the ordinary 
mode of obtaining them is by diving in from three to 
five fathoms, and collecting them by hand. A man 
will bring up thus eight or ten at a time. They are 
prepared for the market by being split down one 
side, boiled, and pressed flat with stones: then, being 
stretched on bamboo slips, they are dried in the sun, 
and afterwards in smoke, and packed away in bags. 
In this state the trepang is put on board the junks, 
and is in great demand' in China for the composition 
of nutritious soups, in which that singular people so 
much delight. The quantity of this article of food 
annually sent to China from Macassar, amounts to 
8,383 hundredweight; the price of which varies, 
according to the quality, (for there are upwards of 
thirty varieties distinguished in the market,) from 
thirty shillings sterling to upwards of twenty guineas 
per hundredweight. The extent of the traffic may be 
inferred from the number of vessels employed in it: 
Captain Tlinders was informed, when near the north 
coast of Xew Holland, that a fleet of sixty proas, 
carrying a thousand men, had left Macassar for that 
coast two months before, in search of this sea-slug; 
and Captain King was informed that two hundred 
proas annually leave Macassar for this flshery. They 
sail in January, coasting from island to island, till 
they reach Timor, and thence steer for Kew Holland, 
when they scatter themselves in small fleets, and 
having Ashed along the coast, return about the end of 
May, when the westerly monsoon breaks up. 

The periodical change of the direction of the 






THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


339 


wind in tlie northern part of the Indian Ocean, by 
which the north-east trade wind is exchanged for 
one directly opposite, commonly called the setting in 
of the south-west monsoon, is attended with very 
remarkable effects on the weather. It is the com¬ 
mencement of the rainy season, which is ushered in 
by storms of thunder, lightning, and rain, of such 
violence, as those acquainted only with a temperate 
climate have no conception of Mr. Elphinstone thus 
describes the scene on the coast of India: The ap¬ 
proach of the monsoon is announced by vast masses 
of clouds that rise from the Indian Ocean, and 
advance towards the north-east, gathering and thick¬ 
ening as they approach the land. After some threat¬ 
ening days, the sky assumes a troubled appearance 
in the evenings, and the monsoon in general sets in 
during the night. It is attended by such a thunder¬ 
storm as can hardly be imagined by those who have 
only seen that phenomenon in a temperate climate. 
It generally begins with violent blasts of wind, which 
are succeeded by floods of rain. For some hours 
lightning is seen almost without intermission; some¬ 
times it only illumines the sky, and shows the clouds 
near the horizon ; at other times it discovers the dis¬ 
tant hills, and again leaves all in darkness: when 
in an instant it reappears in vmd and successive 
flashes, and exhibits the nearest objects in the bright¬ 
ness of day. During all this time the distant thun-- 
der never ceases to roll, and is only silenced by some 
nearer peal which bursts on the ear with such a 
sudden and tremendous crash as can scarcely fail to 
strike the most insensible heart with awe. At length 

Q 3 


340 


THE OCEAN. 


the thunder ceases, and nothing is heard but the 
continued pouring of the rain, and the rushing of 
rising streams. The next day pre'sents a gloomy 
spectacle : the rain still descends in torrents, and 
scarcely allows a view of the blackened fields ; the 
rivers are swollen and discoloured, and sweep dovm 
along mth them the hedges, the huts, and the 
remains of the cultivation which was carried on 
during the dry season in their beds.’'* 

The effect upon the sea is graphically depicted by 
Mr. Forbes: ‘^At Anjengo,” observes this author, 
'Hhe monsoon commences with great severity, and 
presents an awful spectacle : the inclement weather 
continues, with more or less violence, from May 
to October. During that period the tempestuous 
ocean rolls from a black horizon, literally of ' dark¬ 
ness visible,’ a series of fioating mountains heaving 
under hoary summits, until they approach the shore; 
when their stupendous accumulations flow in suc¬ 
cessive surges, and break upon the beach; every 
ninth wave is observed to be generally more tre¬ 
mendous than the rest, and threatens to overwhelm 
the settlement. The noise of these billows equals 
that of the loudest cannon, and, with the thunder 
and lightning so frequent in the rainy season, is truly 
awful. During the tedious monsoon I passed at 
Anjengo, T often stood upon the trembling sand-bank 
• to contemplate the solemn scene, and derive a comfort 
from that sublime and omnipotent decree, 'Hitherto 
shalt thou come, but no further; and, here shall thy 
proud waves be stayed !’”*(- 

* Account of Caubul, p. 126. f Oriental Memoirs, 





THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


34 ] 


An effect, scarcely less' sublimely magnificent, is 
produced by the coming in of the periodical spring- 
tide at the mouth of some of the large rivers of 
India, which is called the Bore. The rising flood 
conflned by the narrowing coasts of a deep estuary, 
takes the form of an immense wave, which comes 
majestically rolling along, like an advancing cataract, 
bearing everything before it. So rapid is its march, 
that its progress from Hooghly Point to Hooghly 
Town, a distance of seventy miles, occupies but four 
hours. At Calcutta the wave is flve feet high; but 
in the channels formed by the numerous islands in 
the Burhampooter, its height is twelve feet; and so 
terriflc is it, that no boat dares to navigate the river 
at the time of spring-tide. As the middle of the 
river, however, is comparatively free from the in¬ 
fluence, and only one side, usually, is subject to its 
greatest violence, the boats and larger craft hasten, on 
its approach, into the open water of the current; but 
if unhappily overtaken, they are inevitably overturned 
or swamped, while even large ships, that present 
their broadsides to its advance, are rolled so violently, 
that their yard-arms are dipped in the wave. 

The multitudes of Ashes, of brilliant hues and fan¬ 
tastic shapes, that play in the tepid waters of these 
regions of the sun, are incalculable. Numerous 
bands of Parrot-fishes {Scarus) and Eock-vT?asses 
[Labrus) sport about the reefs, whose bodies are , 
ornamented with crimson, yellow, and silvery tints, 
often arranged in the form of bands or stripes ; Gur¬ 
nards {Trigld), whose large fins resemble in their 
form and delicate pencillings the wings of a butterfly, 


842 


THE OCEAX. 


take momentary flights above the surface; and the 
pretty tribe of Clicetodom, several of which are noted 
for the singular habit of shooting flies with a drop of 
water projected from their beak-like mouths, fear¬ 
lessly approach the hand immersed in the water. 
But none of these are more curious than the Toad- 
fishes, or Anglers {Antennarius), whose pectoral and 
ventral fins have much of the form and also the 
functions of the feet of a quadruped, enabling them 
to crawl out of the water, and travel over the land. 
The head is armed with hom-like projections, termi¬ 
nating in shining filaments, which play freely in the 
water, and attract small fishes within the reach of its 
enormous mouth; a very remarkable instance of the 
superintending care exercised by the beneficent 
Creator over the well-being of His creatui’es. The 
form of the fish is clumsy, and its motions slow and 
heavy, and without this provision for the attraction 
of its prey, it would probably fare but poorly. 

It is doubtless a species of Antennarius that is 
thus described by ]\Ir. Earl, as observed on the coast 
of Borneo: '' Large tracts of mud had been left 
uncovered by the receding tide, and flocks of gulls 
and other birds were feeding on the worms and small 
fish. Vast numbers of little amphibious creatures 
were running about in the mud, and they appeared 
to be sought after by some of the larger birds. 
They were from two to eight inches long, resem¬ 
bling a fish in shape, of a light-brown colour, and 
could run and jump by means of two strong pectoral 
fins. On the approach of an enemy, they buried 
themselves in the mud with inconceivable rapidity 






THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


343 


so that their sudden disappearance seemed to be the 
work of magic. One of the Malays was employed 
in catching them, as they are considered to be a 
great delicacy. He used for the purpose a thin 
plank, four feet long, and one foot broad ; on one 
evad of which were fixed several sharp-pointed nails, 
the points projecting beyond the end of the plank. 
He placed the plank flat upon the mud, and with 
the right knee resting on it, and kicking the mud 
with the left foot, he shot along the surface with 
great rapidity, the sharp-pointed nails transfixing 
the little creatures before they could succeed in 
burying themselves sufficiently deep to avoid them. 
This is a dangerous sport, and requires great skill 
in the fisherman to prevent accidents; for should he 
lose his plank, death would be almost inevitable, 
the mud not having sufficient consistence to support 
him without the aid of this simple contrivance.'’ * 
Numberless creatures of the inferior classes, some 
of which are of exquisite delicacy and beauty, float 
on the surface of the Indian Ocean; often in such 
immense hosts as to cover the sea for miles around. 
The Violet-snail {Jantliina fragilis) is one of these, 
whose shell much resembles that of our garden-snail 
in form and size, but is of a pearly white above, 
and ben^th violet. When alive it is covered with 
a slippery membrane. A singular floating apparatus 
projects horizontally from the aperture of the shell, 
resembling a collection of air-bubbles, but composed 
of a delicate white membrane, inflated, and puckered 
on the surface into the bubble-like divisions alluded 

* Eastern Seas, p. 213. 


344 


THE OCFAX. 


to ; it is oblong, about an inch in length. The buoy¬ 
ancy of this float supports the animal at the surface, 
Trhere it lies with the convexity of the shell down¬ 
ward. Three or four drops of a blue liquid are 
contained in the body, which has been supposed to 
answer the purpose of concealment in time of danger, 
by imparting an obscurity to the water ; but it is 
hardly sufficient for this purpose, as the whole 
quantity secreted by one animal will not discolour 
half a pint of water. Beneath the float, at certain 
seasons, the eggs are suspended by pearly threads; 
and as the floats are frequently foucd in great 
numbers with eggs thus attached, but separate from 
the original animals, it is thought that they have the 
power of throwing off* this appendage and forming a 
new one; in which case it serves the purpose of 
sustaining the eggs, and probably the young, within 
the reach of the light and heat of the sun. 

The Portuguese Man-of-war {PJiysalis ^elagica), 
numerous in the warm parts of the Atlantic, is still 
more abirndant in the seas of which I am writing. 
It is a beautiful little creature, though of ver}^ simple 
structure, consisting merely of a semi-transparent 
membranous bag, round at one end, and pointed at 
the other, along one side of which runs a wide mem¬ 
brane, puckered into perpendicular folds, and capable 
of being contracted and dilated; while from the 
opposite side depends a thick fringe of blue tentacles, 
among which are some of a great length, and of a 
crimson and purple hue. The tentacles have the 
faculty of severely stinging the hand that touches 
them, though ever so slightly; and it is probable 






THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


345 


that this power is in some way connected with the 
sustenance of the animal, as minute fishes are 
frequently found in a benumbed state attached to 
these processes. The little creature, as it floats upon 
the broad billows, bears a very striking resemblance 
to a small ship, of which the bladder is the hull, and 
the puckered membrane the sail; and as the edge of 
the sail is a beautiful pink hue, and the lower part 
of the hull deep blue, a fleet of them, floating and 
rolling in a calm upon the long glassy swell of the 
sea, presents a scene of striking novelty and elegance. 

Another creature much resembling this in appear¬ 
ance is found in the same regions in equal numbers. 
It is called by sailors the Sallee-man (Velella mutica) ; 
and consists of an internal cartilage, of a semi-pel¬ 
lucid white hue, enclosed in soft parts, of a purplish 
green. A broad oval base floats on the water, across 
which runs obliquely an arched crest or sail: beneath 
are placed the brown viscera, covered with a thick 
mat of colourless tubular papilloe: the edge of the 
oval base is fringed with slender blue tentacles. No 
part of this animal seems to have the power of 
stinging, so formidable in the preceding. 

It will be remembered, that in the description of 
the Arctic Seas, a little animal {Clio horealis) was 
mentioned as forming a large portion of the food 
of the whale. Its place is supplied in the Pacific 
and Indian Oceans by two or three species nearly 
allied to it in structure, but furnished with a glassy 
shell. One of these is named Hyalea tridentata; 
its shell is small and somewhat globular, resembling 
a bivalve without a hinge; the hinder part being 


346 


THE OCEAN. 


consolidated and armed with three spines: the sides 
have a narrow fissure through which a semi-trans¬ 
parent membrane protrudes. The animal is furnished 



GLASS SHELLS. {Hyalca tridentata, and Cleodora 'pyramidata.) 


with a wing or fin on each side, which it uses as oars. 
A kindred species {^Cleodora cuspidatd) is of extreme 
delicacy and beauty. The shell is glassy and colour¬ 
less, very fragile, nearly in the form of a triangular 
pyramid, with an aperture at its base, from which 
proceeds a long and slender glassy spine; and a 
similar spine projects from each side of the middle 
of the shell. The animal is like the preceding; but 
the hinder part is globular and pellucid, and in the 
dark vividly luminous, presenting a singularly striking 
appearance, as it shines through its perfectly trans¬ 
parent lantern. Both of these are found floating in 
great numbers on the surface of the sea. 

Among the sea-shells which attain a large size in 
these seas, the Giant Clamp {Tridacene gig as) stands 
pre-eminent. It is found in abundance on the coasts 
of Sumatra, as well as of other islands, attached to 
the rocks by a strong cable. This, which is called 
byssus, is formed of many tough threads, but shghtly 
elastic, spun by the animal, or rather, cast in a 















THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


347 


mould thread by thread ; a glutinous fluid being 
secreted in a long groove or canal formed by the 
foot, which in the air rapidly acquires solidity. 
When complete, the united threads form, as observed 
above, a cable, projecting through an opening in 
the back of the shell, and adhering by the other 
extremity to the rock so firmly as to resist the 
agitation of the sea, and so tough as to be severed 
only by an axe. Marsden mentions one which was 
more than three feet three inches long, and two 
feet one inch wide : and specimens have been seen 
which had attained the enormous length of four feet. 
They are sometimes taken, when not adhering, by 
thrusting a long bamboo between the open valves, 
which immediately close firmly, and they are dragged 
out. The substance of the shell is perfectly white, 
several inches thick ; it is worked by the natives 
into arm-rings, and by European artists is made to 
receive a polish equal to the finest statuary marble. 

Pearls, whose exquisite beauty has made them 
celebrated from the earliest ages, are well known to 
be marine productions ; and as the shores of the 
Indian Ocean yield the finest specimens, I may here 
say a word of the fishery for them. Many bivalve 
shells produce pearls of greater or less perfection ; 
but what is known as the Pearl Oyster is the Avicula 
margaritifera of conchologists. The interior surface 
of the shell is covered with very thin plates, or 
lamdl(B, which are furrowed with microscopically 
minute and close parallel grooves, and in this struc¬ 
ture lies the property of reflecting opaline tints; 
a property which has been communicated to other 


348 


THE OCEAX. 


substances by mechanically impressing the surface 
with similar grooves. In some diseased states of 
the animal, or when the shell has received a trifling 
injury, or some foreign body—a grain of sand, for 
example—has found its way within the mantle, the 
pearly secretion is poured out in great abundance 
around the part, and, layer being imposed upon 
layer, produces a pearl, either attached to the inner 
surface of the shell, or loose and held merely in the 
folds of the mantle. 

The most productive fishery is in the Persian 
Gulf, and the finest pearls* are found there: above 
90,000Z. sterling are sometimes realized from this 
source in the course of two months. Those with 
which we are most acquainted are carried on on 
the coasts of Coromandel and of Ceylon; the former 
being in the hands of the East India Company, the 
latter in those of the British Government. The 
Ceylon fishery has been well described by Captain 
Percival, the Count de Xoe, and lately by Mr. 
Bennett. As the banks would soon be exhausted if 
fished every year, portions only are selected in turn, 
while the rest remains untouched, to be recruited. 
In the month of Xovember, the Government ap¬ 
points an inspection of the state of the banks, and 
those selected as fit for fishing are advertised ac¬ 
cordingly, the fishery for the ensuing season being 
offered for sale. In January, the boats begin to 
assemble, and the adventurers from all parts of 
India congregate on a narrow spot of barren sand 
which is deserted for the greatest portion of the 
year, but now presents the life and gaiety of a fair. 








THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


349 


“There is, perhaps, no spectacle,” says Captain 
Percival, ''which the Island of Ceylon affords more 
striking to an European than the bay of Condatchy 
during the season of the pearl-fishery. This desert 
and barren spot is at that time converted into a 
scene which exceeds in novelty and variety almost 
anything I ever witnessed; several thousands of 
people of different colours, countries, castes* and 
occupations, continually passing and repassing in a 
busy crowd; the vast nunbers of small tents and 
huts erected on the shore, with the bazaar or market¬ 
place before each ; the multitude of boats returning 
in the afternoon from the pearl banks, some of them 
laden with riches; the anxious expecting counte¬ 
nances of the boat-owners, while the boats are 
approaching the shore, and the eagerness and avidity 
with which they run to them when arrived, in hopes 
of a rich cargo; the vast numbers of jewellers, 
brokers, merchants, of all colours and all descriptions, 
both natives and foreigners, who are occupied in some 
way or other with the pearls, some separating and 
assorting them, others weighing and ascertaining 
their number and value, while others are hawking 
them about, or drilling and boring them for future 
use ;—all these circumstances tend to impress the 
mind with the value and importance of that object 
which can of itself create this scene.” 

The actual fishery begins in February and con¬ 
tinues during six weeks, or at most two months. 
The boats being prepared, each carrying twelve or 
fourteen hands and ten divers, leave the shore at 


* Percival’s Ceylon, p. 59. 


350 


THE OCEAN. 


the signal gun of the Government officer, and arrive 
at the bank before daylight. At sunrise diving com¬ 
mences, and the divers, divided into two parties, 
descend alternately, the one set breathing while the 
other is below. To expedite his descent, each man 
has a conical piece of granite, through a hole in 
which a rope is passed ; he grasps the rope with 
the toes of his right foot, which he uses with nearly 
the same pliancy as the fingers of his hands, and 
taking in his left a net like an angler’s landing-net, 
seizes another rope in his right hand, and closes his 
nostrils with his left thumb and finger. The weight 
of the stone causes him to descend rapidly, and he 
loses no time, but hastily fills his net with the oysters 
he finds around. ^Tien he can retain his breath 
no longer, he jerks the second rope, and is instantly 
hauled to the surface by Ills fellows, lea^dng the stone 
to be pulled up afterwards. Generally, from a 
minute and a half to two minutes is as long as a 
diver can remain under water ; but Captain Percival 
records a case in which a man absolutely remained 
under water full six minutes.” The effects of so 
long a submersion as even ordinarily takes place, are 
severe, and manifest themselves by gushings of 
water from the ears, mouth, and nose, and some¬ 
times by discharges of blood. Yet they are ready 
to take their turn again, frequently making forty 
or fifty plunges a day, and bringing up at each turn 
about a hundred oysters. 

The greatest danger to these adventurous men 
arises from the sharks, to whose rapacity allusion 
has before been made. But against them the poor 











THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


Sol 


people believe that they possess an inviolable defence 
in the charms sold to them by pretended conjurors, 
whose impudence and address secure their hold on 
their deluded votaries, even in spite of the frequent 
evidence of their fallibility. It is probable, the 
constant bustle and noise, and the frequent splash- 
ings of the divers, deter the sharks in a great 
measure from approaching the scene. 

As soon as the oysters are landed, they are 
placed in pits on the shore, and left to undergo 
decomposition; in which state they diffuse an into¬ 
lerable odour, but to which habit speedily recon¬ 
ciles the people. When the flesh is decayed under 
that burning sun, the shells are opened with ease 
and minutely examined for pearls: some, however, 
elude the utmost vigilance, to obtain which numbers 
of people continue to search the sands for months 
after the merchants have departed, and they are now 
and then rewarded by a pearl of value. In 1797, 
a common fellow, of the lowest class, thus got by 
accident the most valuable pearl seen that season, 
and sold it for a large sum.” 

In the Straits of Sunda and the adjacent seas, 
there are found several floating sea-weeds, which 
have a general resemblance to the Gulf-weed of the 
Atlantic, but possess a much more striking similarity 
to terrestrial plants. Two species in particular, 
named from this resemblance Sargassum aquifolium 
and S, ilicifoUum^ so closely imitate our common 
holly in their branches, berries, and twisted spinous 
leaves, as to induce a belief, at the first glance, that 
they are no other than sprigs of that familiar plant. 


S52 


THE OCEAN. 


Another species, found in the same locality, is called 
S, taxifolium^ from its likeness to the yew. The 
former are highly interesting on another account: 
they afford a remarkable illustration of the fact, 
that the seed-receptacles of some sea-plants are 
metamorphosed after the discharge of their seeds 
into leaves and air-vessels. Few would suspect that 
the round air-cells, that look like green hemes, and 
the curled and thorny leaves, were alike the slender 
processes containing the seed, only in another stage of 
development; yet specimens are often found in which 
the process is actually going on, both the one and the 
other being but partially transformed. The pores with 
which the surface of the leaves are studded, are but 
the orifices through which the seeds escaped. 

As we approach the Cape of Good Hope, the sea¬ 
birds peculiar to high latitudes again appear, and 
the sea and air are enlivened by myriads of gulls, 
terns, petrels, frigate-birds, and albatrosses. But we 
have yet to notice one pre-eminent among them, a 
master-fisher, which, for its extraordinary powers of 
consuming the finny prey, is, perhaps, unrivalled. 
It is the Pelican {Pelecanus onocrotalus)^ which 
abounds all around the shores of the Indian Ocean, 
ranginR to the distance of several hundred miles 
from the coasts. This bird has great powers of 
flight, the extended wings covering a space of twelve 
feet. The throat is dilated into a capacious bag, 
which can be wrinkled up when not in use, but 
when the animal is fishing forms a convenient pouch, 
in which the prey is stored as it is caught, until it 
is filled, when the booty is borne to shore, to feed 







THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


353 


the callow young, or to be eaten at leisure. The 
pouch of a full-grown Pelican, when distended, will 
contain ten quarts of water. They fly to a long 
distance, and at a lofty elevation, and remain un¬ 
tired on the wing for a protracted period. A flock 
of Pelicans beating for prey is a splendid spectacle. 
Sometimes the whole troop soars upwards to an im¬ 
mense height, and then suddenly swoops down with 
arrowy velocity, splashing the sea in every direc¬ 
tion ; presently they emerge, and again soar on high 
till again they simultaneously dash down upon the 
shoals; and thus the flock perform their evolutions 
in concert, ranging over a wide bay, or a given space 
of water, with perfect order and regularity, and with 
astonishing rapidity. At other times they fly al¬ 
most at the very surface, beating the water with 
their wings, till the whole sea is one undistinguish- 
able mass of foam. 

In the beautiful poem of Montgomery,'' The Pelican 
Island,” which I have before quoted, the manners of 
these interesting birds are ably described :— 

** Eager for food, their searching eyes they fix’d 
On ocean’s unroll’d volume, from a height 
That brought immensity within their scope; 

Yet with such power of vision look’d they down, 

As though they watch’d the shell-fish slowly gliding 
O’er sunken rocks, or climbing trees of coral. 

On indefatigable wing upheld, 

Breath, pulse, existence, seem’d suspended in them : 

They were as pictures painted on the sky; 

Till, suddenly, aslant, away they shot. 

Like meteors changed from stars to gleams of lightning, 

And struck upon the deep; where, in wild play, 

Their quarry fiounder’d, unsuspecting harm; 


354 


THE OCEAN. 


With terrible voracity, they plunged 

Their heads among th’ affrighted shoals, and beat 

A tempest on the surges with their wings. 

Till flashing clouds of foam and spray conceal’d them. 
Nimbly they seized and secreted their prey, 

Alive and wriggling in the elastic net, 

Which Nature hung beneath their grasping beaks; 

Till swoU’n with captures, the unwieldy burthen 
Clogg’d their slow flight, as heavily to land 
These mighty hunters of the deep return’d. 

There on the cragged cliffs they perch’d at ease. 

Gorging their hapless victims one by one; 

Then, full and weary, side by side they slept. 

Till evening roused them to the chase again.” 

1 have reserved till the last of these g1 earnings from 
the Ocean, one of the most curious of its phenomena, 
and one that, while it vividly strikes the fancy of the 
voyager when he beholds it for the first time, fails 
not to maintain its power to interest after years of 
observation have made it familiar. I have reserved it 
until the last, because it is peculiar to no sea, but 
common to all, being observable in the frozen ocean 
of either pole, and under the burning line ; in the 
Atlantic and in the Pacific. Still there seem to be 
greater intensity and brilliance in the display of the 
phenomenon in the tropical seas than in colder 
climates. 'No sooner has night descended over the 
ocean, than the whole surface is seen to be, as it were, 
composed of light, assuming, however, various forms 
and aspects. The most usual appearances, as far as 
they have fallen under my own observation in the 
Atlantic,. are as follow: On looking over the stern, 
when the ship has steerage-way, her track is visible 
by a line or belt of light, not a bright glare, but a 




THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


355 


soft subdued yellowish light, which immediately 
under the eye resembles milk, or looks as though the 
keel stirred up a sediment of chalk which diffuses 
itself in opaque clouds through the neighbouring 
water, only that it is light and not whiteness. 
Scattered about this cloudiness, and particularly 
where the water whirls and eddies with the motion 
of the rudder, are seen innumerable sparks of light 
distinctly traced above the mass by their brilliancy, 
some of which vanish and others appear, while others 
seem to remain visible for some time. Generally 
speaking, both these phenomena are excited by the 
action of the vessel through the waves, though a few 
sparks may be observed on the surface of the waves 
around. But now and then, when a short sea is run¬ 
ning without breaking waves, there are seen broad 
flashes of light from the surface of a wave, coming 
and going like sudden fitful flashes of lightning 
These may be traced as far as the sight can reach, 
and in their intermittent gleams are very beautiful; 
they have no connexion with the motion of the ship. 
In a voyage to the Gulf of Mexico I saw the water 
in those seas more splendidly luminous than I had 
ever observed before. It was indeed a mamificent 

O 

sight to stand in the fore-part of the vessel and 
watch her breasting the waves. The mass of water 
rolled from her bows as white as milk, studded with 
those innumerable sparkles of blue light. The 
nebulosity instantly separated into small masses, 
curdled like the clouds of marble, leaving the water 
between of its own clear blackness; the clouds soon 
subsided, but the sparks remained. Sometimes, cne 

R 


S56 


THE OCEAN. 


of these points, of greater size and brilliancy than 
the rest, would suddenly burst into a small cloud of 
superior whiteness to the mass, and be then lost 
in it. The curdling of the milky appearance into 
clouds and masses, and its quick subsidence, were 
what I had never observed elsewhere. 

Many very interesting observations have been made 
on these luminous appearances, and there seems no 
doubt that to a very large extent they are produced 
by living animals; but as many species, varying 
greatly from each other, and belonging even to differ¬ 
ent classes of the animal kingdom, have been recog¬ 
nised as contributing to the luminousness, we need 
the less wonder that there should be variations in its 
aspects. Dr. Baird, in some quotations from a jour¬ 
nal kept during a voyage to India, furnishes some 
interesting notes of the origin of the light. The 
writer speaks of the broad bright flash, vivid enough 
to illuminate the sea for some distance round, while 
the most splendid globes of Are were seen wheeling 
and careering in the midst of it, and by their bril¬ 
liancy outshining the general light.’' On drawing a 
bucket-full of water the narrator “ allowed it to re¬ 
main quiet for some time, when, upon looking into it 
in a dark place, the animals could be distinctly seen 
emitting a bright speck of light. Sometimes this 
was like a sudden flash, at others appearing like an 
oblong or round luminous point, which continued 
bright for a short time, like a lamp lit beneath the 
water, and moving through it, still possessing its defi¬ 
nite shape, and then suddenly disappearing. ^^Tien 
the bucket was sharply struck on the outside, there 









THE INDIAN OCEAN. 


357 


would appear at once a great number of these lumi¬ 
nous bodies, which retained their brilliant appearance 
for a few seconds, and then all was dark again. 
They evidently appeared to have it under their own 
will, giving out their light frequently at various 
depths in the water, without any agitation being 
given to the bucket. At times might be seen mi¬ 
nute but pretty bright specks of light, darting across 
a piece of water, and then vanishing; the motion of 
the light being exactly that of the Cyclops through 
the water. Upon removing a tumbler-full from the 
bucket, and taking it to the light, a number of Cy¬ 
clopes were accordingly found swimming and darting 
about in it.” * Dr. Baird concludes from these facts 
that the bright globes were large Sea-blubbers 
{Medusa), and that the sparks were minute Entomo- 
straca, somewhat similar in form to those figured in 
the former part of this volume. 

In some highly interesting observations made 
during a series of years by M. Ehrenberg, chiefly in 
the Eed Sea, we find many minute animals mentioned 
as luminous; but it is remarkable that after manv 
trials he could not detect the slightest light from any 
species of the EMtomostraca. The water was found 
to be very full of small slimy particles without any 
definite form, which gave out light when the water 
was stirred. These were probably Medusae, torn but 
yet living, as in some cases fragments of these ani¬ 
mals are very tenacious of life. Several minute Mcr- 
duscB of various species gave out light, which seemed 
to be more vivid on any extraordinary excitement of 

* Zoologist, 1843, p. 55. 


358 


THE OCEAX. 


tlie animals. A drop of snlpliuric acid being put 
into a glass of water, several bright flashes of light 
were seen. One of the little animals was taken up in 
a drop of water on the point of a pen; on a drop of 
acid being added, it gave out a momentary spark and 
instantly died. Several new species of luminous 
animals were discovered by thus mingling acid with 
quantities of sea-water. The light of different spe¬ 
cies is found to vaiy in character ; some of the sparks 
being yellow and dull, others clearer and whiter, and 
more lasting. The creature which produces the 
brightest light of all is a kind of sea-worm (Nereis 
cirrigerd ); it lives in groups or large masses, among 
the branches of sea-weed ; and when portions of this 
are thrown on shore by the waves, the animals sur- 
^dve and continue to shine very brilliantly for several 
days. In our own seas, a great deal of the light is 
owing to the presence of a minute animal (Noctiluca 
miliaris), which does not exceed of an inch in 
diameter. It consists of a transparent globose body, 
with a cleft down one side, as we often see in a 
peach, or as if two globes had been fused into one. 
"WTiere the stalk would be, supposing it were a fruit, 
a slender tentacle projects, which is endowed with 
the power of slow and feeble motion. Just below 
this tentacle there is a minute oriflce which serves 
as a mouth, leading to an oval granular stomach, 
whence branched flbres proceed in ii'regular pencils 
to all parts of the circumference, resembling threads 
of a very glutinous fluid. 

This little animalcule, to which, in these seas, so 
much of our marine luminosity is owing, may be 









XHE INDIAN OCEAN, 


359 


veiy easily obtained for microscopic examination 
It occurs by millions on the surface of the summer 
sea—more abundantly in some seasons than in 
others—and may be easily scooped up with a basin. 



NOCTILUOA MiLiARis, magnified. 


The animals will be found, when the vessel is at 
rest, accumulated at the surface, especially around 
the edge, where they frequently form a layer of five 
or six deep. With care they may be preserved for 
above a week without changing their sea-water. 

Several species of fishes are undoubtedly lumi¬ 
nous: the Sun-fish [Gephalus mold), when seen at a 
considerable distance below the surface in a dark 
night, is said to glow like a cannon-ball heated to 
whiteness. Ehrenberg found that the whole skeleton 
of an Egyptian fish {Heterotis Nilotica) emitted such 
a vivid light as he never saw equalled by any other 







360 


THE OCEAN. 


fish, alive or dead. And Mr. F. D. Bennett discovered 
a new species of Shark, which he named Squalus 
falgens, from the whole surface of whose body pro¬ 
ceeded a greenish light, which rendered the animal 
the most ghastly object imaginable. But there can 
be no doubt that the main source of oceanic efful¬ 
gence is to be found in the countless millions of 
minute animals which throng the sea, but which are 
invisible without the aid of high microscopic powers. 
And, truly, when from a lofty station on board a ship 
we survey a space of many square miles, and see 
every portion of its surface gleaming and flashing in 
living light; or mark the pathway of the vessel 
ploughing up from fathoms deep her radiant furrow, 
so filled with luminous points, that, like the milk y 
way in the heavens, all individuality is lost in the 
general blaze, and reflect that wherever on the broad 
sea that furrow happened to be traced, the result 
would be the same ; one can scarcely conceive a more 
magnificent idea of the grandeur, the unimaginable 
immensity of the Creation of God. 


0 Lord, how manifold are thy works ! in wisdom 
hast thou made them all. The earth is full of thy 
riches: so is this great and wide sea, wherein are 
things creeping innumerable, both small and great 
beasts. There go the ships : there is that leviathan, 
whom thou hast made to play therein. These wait 
all upon thee ; that thou mayst give them their meat 
in due season. That thou givest them, they gather ; 
thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.” 









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