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NE brisk March morning, in the year 1848, the brave Steam-Ship, Hibernia, rolled about in the most intoxicated fashion on the broad Atlantic, in north latitude fiftyone, and west longitude thirty-eight, fifty-the wind blowing a hard gale from the west-south-west. To most of the passengers the grandeur of the waters was a mockery, the fine bearing of the ship only a delusion and a snare. Every thing was made tight on deck; if any passenger had left a toothpick on one of the seats, he would assuredly have found it lashed to a near railing. Rope was coiled about every imaginable item; and water dripped from every spar of the gallant vessel. Now it seemed as though she were travelling along through a brilliant gallery, flanked on either side by glittering walls of water; now she climbed one of the crested walls, and an abyss, dark and terrible as the famous Maelstrom, which can't be found anywhere, yawned to receive her. The snorts of the engine seemed to defy the angry waters; and occasionally when a monster wave coiled about the ship, and thundered against her, she staggered for a moment, only to renew the battle with fresh energy.
The cooks and stewards went placidly through their several daily avocations on board this rolling, fighting, shaking craft. If they had been Belgravian servants, or clubhouse waiters, they could not have performed their duties with more profound unconcern. Their coolness appeared nothing less than heroic to the poor tumbled heaps of clothes with human beings inside, who were scattered about the cabins below. An unhappy wight who had never before been five miles from Boston, was anxiously inquiring of the chief steward the precise time in the course of that evening that the vessel might be expected to founder; while another steward, with provoking pertinacity, was asking how many would dine in the saloon at six, with the same business-like unconcern, as if the ship were gliding along on glass. So tremendous was the tossing; so extreme the apparent uncertainty of any event except a watery terminus to all expectation, that this sort of coolness appeared almost wicked.
Then there was a monster in British form actually on deck-not braving, it was said, but tempting the storm to sweep him into eternity. He astonished even the ship's officers. The cook did not hesitate to venture a strong opinion against the sanity of a man who might, if he chose, be snugly ensconced in the cabin out of harm's way, but who would remain upon deck, in momentary danger of being blown overboard. The cook's theory was not ill suported by the subject of it; for he was continually placing himself in all manner of odd places and grotesque postures. Sometimes he scrambled up on the cuddy-roof; then he rolled down again on the saloon-deck; now he got himself blown up on the paddle-box; that was not high enough for him, for when the vessel sunk into the trough of the sea, he stood on tip-toe, trying to look over the nearest wave, A consul
tation was held in the caddy, and a resolution was unanimously passed that the amateur of wind and water (which burst over him every minute) was either an escaped lunatic or-a College Professor.
It was resolved nem. con. that he was the latter; and from that moment nobody was surprised at any thing he might choose to do, even while the Hibernia was laboring in what the mate was pleased to call the most "lively" manner. The Professor, however, to the disgust of the sufferers below, who thought that it was enough to feel the height of the waves, without going to the trouble of measuring them, pursued his observations in the face of the contempt of the official conclave above mentioned. He took up his position on the cuddy-roof, which was exactly twentythree feet three inches above the ship's line of flotation, and there watched the mighty mountains that sported with the brave vessel. He was anxious to ascertain the height of these majestic waves, but he found that the crests rose so far above the horizon from the point where he was standing, that it was utterly impossible, without gaining a greater height for observation, that he could arrive at any just estimate on the subject. His observations from the cuddy-roof proved, however, beyond a doubt, that the majority of these rolling masses of water attained a height of considerably more than twenty-four feet, measuring from the trough of the sea to the crests of the waves. But the Professor was not satisfied with this negative proof; and in the pursuit of his interesting inquiry, did not feel inclined to be baffled. It is impossible to know what the secret thoughts of the men at the wheel were, when the valiant observer announced his intention of making the best of his way from the cuddyroof to the larboard paddle-box. Now he was to be seen tumbling about with the motion of the ship; at one moment
clinging to a chain-box; at the next, throwing himself into the arms of the second mate. Now he is buried in spray, and a few minutes afterwards his spare form is seen clinging to the rails which connect the paddle-boxes.
Despite the storm without, a calm mathematical process is going on within the mind of that ardent observer. The Professor knew that he was standing at a height of twentyfour feet nine inches above the flotation mark of the ship; and allowing five feet six inches as the height of his eye, he found the elevation he had obtained to be altogether thirty feet three inches. He now waited till the vessel subsided fairly for a few minutes into the trough of the sea in an even and upright position, while the nearest approaching wave had its maximum altitude. Here he found also, that at least one-half part of the wave intercepted by a considerable elevation his view of the horizon. He declared that he frequently observed long ranges extending one hundred yards on one or both sides of the ship—the sea then coming right aft—which rose so high above the visible horizon, as to form an angle estimated at two to three degrees when the distance of the wave's crest was about a hundred yards off. This distance would add about thirteen feet to the level of the eye. This immense elevation occurred about every sixth wave. Now and then, when the course of a gigantic wave was impertinently interfered with by another liquid giant, and they thundered together, their breaking crests would shoot upward at least ten or fifteen feet higher-— about half the height of the monument—and then pour down a mighty flood upon the poor Professor in revenge for his attempt to measure their majesties. No quantity of salt water, however, could wash him from his post, till he had satisfactorily proved, by accurate observation, that the average wave which passed the vessel was fully equal to the
height of his eye-or thirty feet three inches-and that the mean highest waves, not including the fighting or broken waves, were about forty-three feet above the level of the hollow occupied at the moment by the ship.
Satisfied at length of the truth of his observations, the Professor, half-pickled by the salt water, and looking, it must be confessed, very cold and miserable, descended to the cabin. Throughout dinner-time a conversation was kept up between the Professor and the Captain-the latter appearing to be about the only individual on board who took any interest whatever in these scientific proceedings. The ladies, one and all, vowed that the Professor was a monster, only doing "all this stuff" in mockery of their sufferings. Towards night the wind increased to a hurricane; the ship trembled like a frightened child before the terrible combat of the elements. Night, with her pall, closed in the scene:-it was a wild and solemn time. Towards morning the wind abated. For thirty hours a violent northwest gale had swept over the heaving bosom of the broad Atlantic.
This reflection hastened the dressing and breakfasting operations of the Professor, who tumbled up on deck at about ten o'clock in the morning. The storm had been subdued for several hours, and there was a visible decrease in the height of the waves. He took up his old position on the cuddy-roof, and soon observed, that, even then, when the sea was comparatively quiet, ten waves overtook the vessel in succession, which all rose above the apparent horizon; consequently they must have been more than twenty-three feet -probably about twenty-six feet from ridge to hollow. From the larboard paddle-box, to which the Professor once more scrambled, he observed that occasionally four or five