Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/35

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must haw been near at hand and easily accessible, with available and safe landings, even in winter, when the eggs were sought. Gurnet Rock does not fulfill any of these conditions. It is several miles from St. George's, then the chief settlement and capital; it stands isolated outside all the other islands, so that it is exposed to the full force of the sea on all sides and in December and January the sea is always boisterous in these waters; it has no place where a boat can safely land, unless in nearly calm weather and by daylight; its sides are nearly perpendicular, exceeding rough, high cliffs, which can hardly be scaled without risk of loss of life or limbs, unless by means of ropes and ladders. Moreover the top is of very small area and almost destitute of soil. So that there is no possible chance for a bird like the cahow to burrow there. The writer, with two companions, visited this island about the first of May of this year, on a day when the sea was not very rough, and the tide was low. We found it impossible to land except by stepping out upon a narrow, slippery and treacherous reef of rotten rock and corallines, covered with sea-weeds, exposed only at low tide, and standing a little away from the shore, with deep water between. The sea was breaking over this reef, and it was difficult to wade ashore except at one place, on account of the depth of water. With the aid of a long pole I climbed partly up the side of the rock, at the only available place, and though I did not reach the summit, I could, from my highest position, see that there is no soil on the top, but only a few seaside shrubs and herbaceous plants, growing from crevices of the rock. This was sufficient to convince me that the cahow never bred on this rock, and, if it had, the early settlers would never have gone there in the winter and at night to get the eggs or birds.

It is far more probable that one of its breeding places was on Goat Island, which is a larger, uninhabited island about half a mile inside of Gurnet Rock, and with a beach of shell-sand on the inner side, where boats can safely land. Moreover on this island, in early times, there was a deep deposit of sand and soil, which was subsequently used as a burial place for soldiers who died in the old fortifications on this and the adjacent Castle Island and Southampton Island. Indeed we found two ancient human skeletons partly exposed in this bank of sand, where it had been recently undermined by the sea. Evidently a large amount of this sandy deposit, which contains fossil land snails, has been washed away since the time when the old 'Charles Fort' was built upon this island, about 1615. This old ruined fort was of small size and apparently has been abandoned since about 1630. It has the same size and form shown on Norwood's chart, published in 1626. Norwood mentions, in 1663, that it had then 'fallen into decay.' Probably the cahow may have bred also on Castle Island, which is a larger island a short distance inside Goat Island, and on Southampton Island,