Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/675

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

supporters of the belief that the sea is still possessed of some descendants of the enormous fish-like reptiles which Inhabited it in early geological periods. A fair picture but poor description of an octopus is given by Victor Hugo in his "Toilers of the Sea." He, in the course of his description, becomes very much confused, mixing devil-fish with polyp, and describing an animal possessed of habits belonging to each of these two widely separated groups. The confusion apparently arises from the fact that a common name for the octopus is poulp, but this etymological resemblance to the polyp, or sea-anemone, is the only one. He also confounds the name Cephalopoda with Cephaloptera, a gigantic ray or skate, also called devil-fish, and this causes new confusion in the description. There are gigantic octopi in the Southern waters, and these furnish food for the toothed sperm whale. Our Northern devil-fish is not a true octopus, but a squid, for it has ten arms instead of eight.

A sword-fish captured during the voyage was found to have in its stomach over thirty eyes and twenty beaks of the small cuttlefish, together with a few partly digested individuals. Swordfishes and sharks are natural enemies, always fighting when they meet, and there are accounts of fierce and deadly encounters between them. An ugly sword-fish is a bad enemy to encounter, using its weapon, as it does, with such ease and force. One will often drive its sword through the bottom of a boat, and, if it succeeds in withdrawing it without breaking it off, the boat rapidly fills with water, and the occupants, driven into the sea, are savagely attacked and badly wounded by the furious fish. At times they are abundant on all sides, lying near the surface, with their dorsal fin projecting above.

A sailor speared a dolphin one day, much to our surprise, for they seldom came near enough to reach. For several days there had been a school around, probably attracted by the refuse thrown overboard, by the brilliant light at night, and by the cuttle-fish which kept near the vessel. They usually remained many feet below the surface, and, viewed through the deep azure-blue water of the Gulf Stream, the different colors of their bodies reflected in the sunlight, and again in the electric light, were beautiful in an extreme degree. At last one, coming too near the surface, received a fatal wound, and was successfully brought on deck. I had often heard of the changing colors of a dying dolphin, and now I was to witness them for the first time. No one can exaggerate the weird beauty of the sight as the fish in its last struggles changes through all its various hues. One can see the colors disappear, to be followed by others. Beginning with the head, they seem to sweep as a wave over the body. Blue gives place to white, then a light yellow, which in turn changes to a