Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/95

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REDONDA AND ITS PHOSPHATES.

closed at the other by a piece of plain glass. The box was slung over the side of the boat, with the glass end submerged; and on putting one's face at the open end a new world was revealed below the surface. From two to five fathoms below us the rocks were covered with sponges and corals, and strange fishes swam calmly among them. One large fish was a beautiful creation of purple and silver, and there were many of the red and gold fish so often seen in an aquarium. These latter were the principal food fish of the region. The anchors and chains to which the tram wires were moored were covered with a dense growth of seaweed, which looked very pretty in the sunlight streaming down through the water.

The third day was spent upon the eastern side of the island and upon the summit. Two gorges ran down the slope, beginning nearly at the top. One was covered over much of its surface with fragments of whitish rock, and ended in a cliff a hundred feet in height. The other was the widest and steepest gorge about the island, and extended to the sea; however, it was impracticable of ascent, because of its steepness and its situation on the windward side of the island. The sea was steadily carving away the slope, and had made a deep bay with cliffs on either side three hundred feet high.

The climb from the cliffs at the edge of the island to the summit was very fatiguing on account of the steep ascent. In shaded spots among the rocks beautiful gold and silver ferns grew abundantly, and there were occasional holes where rain had settled which afforded water for the wild goats and sheep. Almost at the summit was the remnant of a deposit of guano. The deposit was never a large one, but it led to the discovery of the mineral phosphate. A few air plants, a species of Tillandsia, clung to the projections of the rocks and formed almost the sole vegetation at the extreme summit. The apex did not consist of a solid mass of rock, but was a pile of huge bowlders without the phosphatic cement of the lower slopes. Looking down the almost vertical western wall, it seemed as though one could leap into the sea one thousand feet below. From this point could be seen Nevis, to the north and near by; while in the distance was St. Kitts with its cloud-capped Mount Misery.

One of the drawbacks to exploring the island was a variety of cactus which the workmen spoke of as "suckers." It resembled the prickly pear in form and had a yellow blossom. Its joints or sections were thickly covered with thorns or spines, which were from three fourths of an inch to an inch and a half in length and barbed at the tip. The joints were easily broken off, and clung to anything upon which their spines could catch. The animals about the place were almost always seen with from one