Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/108

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
80
THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

which force themselves on the calculations of the seaman under penalty of shipwreck. The day that navigation, now a routine, shall become a branch of mathematics; the day we shall, for instance, seek to know why it is that hot winds sometimes come from the north, and cold winds from the south; the day when we shall understand that diminutions of temperature are proportionate to oceanic depths; the day when we shall realize that the globe is a vast load-stone polarized in immensity, with two axes (an axis of rotation, and an axis of effluvium, intersecting each other at the centre of the earth), and that the magnetic poles turn the geographical poles; when those who risk life will choose to risk it scientifically; when the captain shall be a meteorologist, and the pilot a chemist,—then will many catastrophes be avoided. The sea is as magnetic as it is aquatic; a host of unknown forces float in its liquid waves. To behold in the sea only a mass of water is not to behold it at all. The sea is an ebb and flow of fluid, complicated by magnetic and capillary attractions even more than by hurricanes. Molecular adhesion manifested among other phenomena by capillary attraction, although microscopic, takes in the ocean its place in the grandeur of immensity; and the wave of effluvium sometimes aids, sometimes counteracts, the wave of the air and the wave of the waters. He who is ignorant of electric law is ignorant of hydraulic law; for the one intermixes with the other. It is true there is no study more difficult nor more obscure; it verges on empiricism, just as astronomy verges on astrology; and yet without this study there is no such thing as real navigation. Having said this much, we will pass on.

One of the most dangerous components of the sea is the snow-storm. The snow-storm is above all things magnetic; the pole produces it as it produces the aurora