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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/706

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lake we found a boat belonging to William Albury, one of our guides, and pulled away for the western shore. The lake, or lagoon, is here about five feet deep, the bottom soft, and covered with slimy weed. Albury, who is a keen old sportsman, informed us that the wild pigeon breeds about the lake, and in the season he shoots large numbers of them. If, however, they fall into the water, there is an end of them, as the lagoon is infested by numbers of small sharks, which not only snap up the birds, but are particularly bold—so much so that to swim for the pigeons would probably result in a serious bite, if not worse. I confess that I received this information with a certain amount of reserve, my experience being that sharks are very cowardly in these waters, so that even large ones rarely attack men. However, about two hours later, when we had pulled to the other side, where the waters were so shallow that all hands were obliged to wade, and drag the boat over the sharp rocks, covered with small univalve shell-fish, on which the flamingoes feed, I had ocular demonstration of their boldness. We had observed the ripple caused by a shoal of bonefish, when suddenly a small shark by which they were being chased turned and came straight for the bare, black legs of Edgar Archer, our second guide. He flung an oar at it, which missed it, but caused it to sheer off. The fish was only about two and a half feet long, but the determination to try the flavor of Archer's legs was unmistakable.

Hauling the boat high and dry, we started for the nests. By this time the sun was very strong, and, as the soft marl banks, sparsely clothed with dwarf mangrove and button-wood, afforded no shade, the walking was decidedly hot. The banks are penetrated in every direction with the arms of the lagoon, now almost dry, but after south-westerly winds they fill so that a boat will float in them. The nests are always built in these lagoons or on their brink, so that when the water rises the nests are almost awash. Indeed, in rough weather the eggs are sometimes washed out of them. The birds can thus feed while sitting.

A walk of about an hour brought us to a small clump of trees, from behind which we carefully reconnoitred, and there, within half a mile, we saw the birds. Very lovely the pink mass looked in the bright sunlight. There were three separate clusters of nests, every one of which was occupied, while the male birds stood around, their heads raised high, as they evidently suspected mischief. As I could not clearly make out with my glasses the position of the legs of the sitting birds, there was nothing for it but a long stalk over the intervening slob, and with the blazing sun now almost vertical. The first quarter of a mile was comparatively easy, as we could creep on our hands and knees; but then we came to a point where nothing but vermicular motion could avail us, and for real hard work let me recommend it to those who are content with very active exercise without attaining a high rate of progression. The tropical sun beat down upon