Изображения страниц

The World of Water.

UT of the crowd of London we must get, if it be only



sparkles; the warm sun has caused all parasols to open from their bud, and with raised stalks they blossom gorgeously. For the last ten minutes a stout gentleman's head has floated like a black buoy on the surface of the tide. There is a fish-woman;-do you know what fish is in season? Fish, no doubt, get tired of the monotony of sea, and co me to the coast-side at their own fashionable times, when they are netted now and then by fishermen. We also go to the sea-side, and accept the bait of indefatigable fishers after men, the lodging-house proprietors;-for families of fish in their season, or of Londoners in theirs, alike are skinned and dished. Some of the fish must travel many miles to get a sniff of shore air, and they surely have no railways in the ocean. All the land in the world, I have been told at school, would barely cover the Pacific. Twentyseven miles of water in the world, for every ten miles of land. What a wilderness that is for a sprat to lose his way in!

Wilderness?-not at all. We talk about the watery

waste, as if it were just a salt desert,-very useful as a highway to the nations, but in itself a barren surface of salt water, playing pitch and toss with ships, to the distress of passengers. The fact is, that not only does the bed of the sea consist of hills and dales, springs, mountains and volcanoes, differing from our own only in the character of their abundant vegetation,-not only are these hills and plains peopled with forms innumerable, but, in the great flood above, zone over zone of water teems with life. One set of marine animals peoples the region between high and low water mark, and declines to mix with the creatures of the sphere immediately below, which again keep up their position in an equally exclusive manner. So there are en such zones to pass before you touch ground in deep water, just as in a thoroughly enlightened county town there may be ten sets, each to itself a world, between the squire with his right foot on the carriage step, and the laborer with his right foot on a spade. If the expanse of the sea be vast, vast also is the variety of its inhabitants; fishes, crustaceans, mollusca, polyps, and yet more, classes, genera, and species, each individual almost incredibly fecund. The spawn of a single adult, dyster will supply twelve thousand barrels. In the Arctic Sea the water is for hundreds of miles colored olive green by little entomostraca, the whale's food. Scoresby calculated that there were twenty-three thousand, eight hundred and eighty-eight million million of them in a cubic mile; of course their zone, however, is not a mile deep. Life in "the ocean wave" is gayer when we come between the tropics. In the narrative of the exploring "Voyage of the Fly" among the coral reefs northeast of Australia, there is a quaint illustration of this, not less quaint to the unscientific reader for the number of strange names with which he is perplexed: "A block of coral rock,

[ocr errors]

that was brought up by a fish-hook from the bottom at one of our anchorages, was interesting from the vast variety and abundance of animal life there was about it. It was a mere worn dead fragment, but its surface was covered with brown, crimson, and yellow nullipora, many small actiniæ, and soft branching corallines, sheets of flustra and eschara, and delicate reteporæ, looking like beautiful lace-work carved in ivory. There was several small sponges and alcyonia, seaweeds, of two or three species, two species of comatula, and one of ophiura of the most delecate colors and markings, and many small, flat, round corals, something like nummulites in external appearance. On breaking into the block, boring-shells of several species were found buried in it; tubes formed by annelida pierced it in all directions, many still containing their inhabitants, while two or three worms, or nereis, lay twisted in and out among its hollows and recesses, in which, likewise, were three small species of crabs." What do you say to that? A London lodging-house during the height of the Exhibition season is not by a quarter so well crammed. "This block," says Mr. Jukes, "was not above a foot in diameter, and was a perfect museum in itself, while its outside glared with beauty from the many sprightly and variously colored animals and plants. It was by no means a solitary instance; every block that could be procured from the bottom, in from ten to twenty fathoms, was like it." The blocks themselves, too, it must be remembered, were in the first instance built by little members of the vast and industrious community which swarms within the crystal palace of the sea.

An argument to the stomach is at all times so satisfactory, that one has only to remind the rich of callipash and callipee as sea-begotten; to allude to turbot, one has only to suggest to humbler appetites,

“The periwinkle, prawn, the cockle and the shrimp."


One has only to say to the collective hunger of the nation, Oyster ! lobster!" and at once the sea is acknowledged to be, not a desert, but appears green and refreshing in all eyes, and will bear description as a highly valuable tract of pasture-ground. We were in the neighborhood of Australia just now. As we are on the way, perhaps you will not object to step down to the South Pole for a minute, or at least to the vicinity of the great Southern Continent, visited lately by our Phantom Ship. Cold water is to be found in perfection near that great refrigerator, and from thence it flows in a vast ocean river towards the Equator. Now starting from the icy shores of South Victoria, let us, like good, quiet beings, travel with the stream.

What causes the stream, though? That is soon told. Water at the Poles is cold enough to ice Champagne, and at the Equator it is nearly warm enough for shaving. Water expands when warmed; our pots boil over; and although the ocean certainly is nowhere hot enough to boil a leg of mutton, the great mass of water rises under influence of tropic heat above the common level, and runs over towards the Poles, leaving its place empty for cold water to rush in and occupy. Precisely in the same way, air, which is another ocean, swells at the Equator, and pours out its deluge north and south over the colder current which runs in to take advantage of the vacancy, and warm itself. When warm, it will also get up. That is one fact: another modifies it. The earth rolls on its axis. If you stick a knitting-needle through the centre of an orange, and rotate the orange on the needle, then you see a model of the earth rotating on its axis. The needle comes out of the north pole above, and out of the south pole below; and, if you scratch a line all round the orange, half-way between pole and pole, that is the imagined line called the Equator. Now, take two little

pins; stick one of them on the equator, and another in the neighborhood of either pole; set the orange now revolving like the globe itself, from west to east, and make precisely one revolution. In the same space of time one pin has travelled through a great space, you perceive; all around the orange as it were: while the pin near the pole has had a very tiny journey to perform, and on the pole itself would absolutely not revolve at all. So, then, upon this world of ours, every thing on or near the equator, spins round in the twenty-four hours far more rapidly than any thing placed near the Poles. But every thing partakes in the movement; as you share in your body the movement of a railway train, let the train stop suddenly, your body travels on and throws you violently forward. So air and water, flowing from the Equator in great currents, because they cannot at once accommodate themselves to the slower movement of the earth as they approach the Poles, retain their go-ahead propensity, and shoot on eastward still, as well as north and south. The slow trains coming up from the Poles are outstripped by the rapid movement of the earth below, and, being unable to accommodate themselves to it readily, they lag behind and fall into a westward course. By this movement of the earth, therefore, a transverse direction is communicated to the great equatorial and polar currents, whether of air or of water. Furthermore, local peculiarities, arrangements of islands and continents, plain and mountain, land and water, cause local variations of temperature, and every such variation modifies or makes a current. In the air, we all know how many shiftings of the wind will be peculiar to a mountain hamlet, where a lake, a valley, and a mountain cause a constant oscillation, and a sudden burst of sunshine is enough to raise the wind. Mechanical obstructions, such as mountain peaks in the bed of the great ocean of air,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »