Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/229

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THE EXPERIENCES OF A DIVER.

ralists would be. We recognize their excuse. It is, that means of observing marine animals in life, aquariums, and especially the diving-dress, are not within everybody's reach. They cost considerable sums. The student needs a diving-jacket, a boat of considerable tonnage, and a crew of competent men, all to himself and under his orders; for freedom is a great element of success in all scientific investigation.

The diving-jacket is a more ingenious and more useful invention than many that make more noise. It is dangerous or safe according to the way it is used. It has come into extensive use. Every seaport, every war-vessel, and every large steamer has a diving dress and apparatus. Even sponge-fishers have recourse to it. Science, however, could derive no profit from the reports of professional divers; their veracity is below everything that could be imagined, and then they look without seeing. Although inhabited by millions of negroes, Africa remained unknown till educated white men succeeded in crossing it; the bottom of the sea will never be known till good observers have gone down there.

Students should descend themselves; but, unfortunately for science, persons are rare who have gone to see in place the animals concerning which they have written large books. They might have been spared many errors. Some have not the means; others are afraid; and still others have once gone down two or three metres, and then hurried to fill the press with the creations of their imagination; for the first plunge which one makes is of no value for the observation of things that are outside of himself. He sees thirty-six colors, and that is all.

This first plunge leaves no agreeable memories. They dress you as if you had to endure the cold of Siberia, a precaution which I have found useless in the Mediterranean. With knit woolen hose, cap, and shirt, I have never felt the cold. Then comes the ample coat, which we get into through the neck-hole, and the casque, which resounds as if one had his head in a kettle. Then they put on you a belt with a dagger, shoes with leaded soles, and lead at your breast and back. Now you are so loaded that you could hardly stand straight if the boat should tip—then you go down into the water where all the weight is no longer felt.

Now a different feeling begins. At the command, "Pump!" some one rapidly screws down the glass in front of your casque, and you hear a noise to which you have to accustom yourself—pah! pah! pah!—accompanied by a hissing of the air. Little whiffs of air come to you, scented with machine oil and caoutchouc. The beginner fails to manage the escape, and his coat and sleeves become inflated, so that, when he wants to go down, he floats like those frogs we used to blow up when we were boys, and then