Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/77

This page has been validated.
69
NATURE AT SEA.

NATURE AT SEA.
By FRANCIS H. HERRICK,

PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY IN ADELBERT COLLEGE.

IN crossing the seas, as in walking through the fields, there is always the anticipation of making some new discovery. To-day Nature may reveal to us some long-withheld secret. This illusive bird or wild flower which we hitherto missed we now meet face to face. So it is in traversing the great blue fields of the ocean. On this voyage hardly a living object may be seen. The sea-serpent lies low. The captain complains of meeting few sail. Again, on the same track, the winds are fair, the ship makes her course, and the storm cloud no longer baffles the navigator. The inhabitants of the sea show themselves at the surface, and the long days lose their monotony. The voyage is a memorable one in the sailor's calendar.

A good traveler and genuine lover of Nature has the advantage often of turning the rubbish heaps of another to the best account. He finds gold where his companion sees only sand. We can hardly imagine Agassiz or Thoreau (the one representing the scientific, the other the poetic naturalist) at a loss to turn Nature to account anywhere under the sun. Thoreau delves in his Concord meadow and brings up some precious nugget, while Agassiz studies the waterworn pebbles and finds them more interesting than arrowheads. Yet our good observer is, no doubt, put to a severe test at sea, where he may often have occasion to repeat with feeling those familiar lines:

"Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean."

I left Nassau, New Providence, the 1st of July, on a sailing vessel bound for New York. Our boat was a trim schooner of a hundred and fifty tons burden, clean and well ordered, and did credit to this kind of craft. We sailed out of the harbor and crossed the coral bar at high water under a steady southwest breeze which soon drove us out of sight of land and wafted us many miles away in the night.

The Bahaman capital shows to best advantage from the water. Its peak-roofed, chimneyless houses and stuccoed walls of coral stone make a strong contrast with their deep green setting of tropical foliage, the ever-encroaching bush which comes up to the threshold of the town on all sides, and covers these rocky islands with a perpetual mantle of vivid green. The impenetrable maze