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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 3.djvu/539

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MISCELLANY.

horizontally, is the only propelling instrument possessed by the animal. Even when the creature is in rapid motion, the front fins hang straight down from the sides, and come into play only when it wishes to change its course, or to rise to the surface for the purpose of "blowing." For the latter object, both fins are raised toward an horizontal position, the action of the tail is stopped, and, with the impetus previously gained, the porpoise soars gently to the surface; there, the valve of the blow-hole opens, the breath escapes with a sound between a deep sigh and a quiet puff, and, without the slightest pause, the animal descends again.

The new porpoise at Brighton is four feet six inches in length. The tank in which it is kept is 102 feet long, so that the beast has a very fair opportunity to exhibit its paces. The whole of the first day it cantered incessantly from end to end of the tank, keeping usually at a depth of about three feet, and rising to blow every 15 or 20 seconds. It was very timid, shying at every movement among the spectators. At night, it showed a partiality for gas-light, restricting its movements to the end of the tank that was illuminated. The second day the creature was so tame that it would take food from the hand, dart off with it, and come back for more. When it catches a fish, it seizes it by the middle of the body, holds it there for a second, as if pressing its teeth into it, to make it flexible, and then swallows it at a gulp, without any effort to bolt it head-foremost. "The pretty creature," continues Mr. Lee, "has a nice, good-natured face, in which I fancy I can often read an expression of pleasure and animation, and is as full of fun and frolic as a Newfoundland pup, galloping along something like a dog after a stick, and tossing up its tail with a romping kick, as a skittish colt throws up its heels in play. If it lives, as I hope it will, it will probably become as tame and docile as a seal; for the porpoise is a very intelligent animal. It has a large brain, and acute sensibility."

 

Persistence of Cholera in Central Europe.—It would appear as if Asiatic cholera had become naturalized in Central Europe. For a few years past the disease has prevailed to a greater or less extent in the Austrian dominions, and the following notes, taken from the London Times, will show its movements since the beginning of the present year. At that time the disease existed in numerous localities of Galicia and Silesia, and in a few places in Moravia and Hungary. It was increasing in the city of Lemberg, and, though declining in Buda-Pesth, had not disappeared. During the month of January it invaded several new localities in Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, and Bohemia. During February the disease still continued in the districts just referred to, and lingered in Buda. The garrison of the latter city suffered from a serious outbreak during the last week of January and the first week of February.

The cessation of cholera on the Upper Nile is reported. Its ravages during the last half of 1872 extended over the entire region bounded east and west by the Red Sea and the Desert, and between Kassala, in the north, and Korosko, in the south. The questions of the internal sanitary condition of Persia, and the recent prevalence of plague and frequently-recurring epidemic of cholera in that country, are about to be submitted to a sanitary commission appointed by the European powers, Persia, and Turkey. It is admitted that, so long as the sanitary condition of Persia remains what it is, Europe will continue to be visited by this scourge. The recent outbreak of plague in the Shah's dominions seriously endangered the Ottoman provinces of Asia, and it is at the instance of the Porte that the European powers now demand that the internal sanitary state of Persia be improved. This is a matter that very nearly concerns us, even on this side of the Atlantic, and it is to be hoped that the commission will perform its work thoroughly. Religious scruples and antiquated customs will make resistance, as a matter of course; but the civilized world cannot afford to see its population decimated, simply because unwashed devotees will insist on making their unwholesome pilgrimages. In a country where only a few years ago the government put a stop to corpse-caravans, the commission is sure to have enough to do. It was only in 1867 that a stop was put to the popular custom of transporting, on the backs of camels and mules, one or two hun-