Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/June 1893/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

SIR: On page 424 of the January number (1893) of The Popular Science Monthly is given a precis of the log of the ship Savannah, which is correct; but the heading, The First Transatlantic Steamer, is totally wrong.

The Savannah was not the first transatlantic steamer, but a sailer, with propelling contrivances to be used in smooth water; moreover, she did not carry fuel enough to take her across to England by steam, and she proved a failure as far as transatlantic steam navigation was concerned. All this is proved by her log. The transportation of a steam engine and paddles by a sailing ship does not constitute her a steamer in the true sense of the word.

The first genuine pioneer steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean by steam alone, and the first complete success in steam navigation, was the steamship Royal William, built at Quebec, Canada, through the enterprise of Canadian merchants, by Canadian ship-builders, and with Canadian money. It was sent across the Atlantic Ocean in 1833, and proved to be the origin of the Cunard line of steamers. It was sold to the Spanish Government for a man-of-war and called the Isabela Segunda, being the first war steamer in the world, and was engaged in action against the Carlists. Some years later she went to Bordeaux, France, for repairs, but her hull was condemned and a new vessel was built on her model, in which the old engines were placed. This vessel went into service under the same name, but was wrecked in 1860 on the coast of Algeria, where no doubt the Royal William's engines may now be found.

I send you our Transaction, No. 20, containing the whole attested account of the Royal William, which is incontrovertible proof of what I say, and proves that the honor of first transatlantic steam navigation belongs to Canada and Quebec city, and not to the United States at all.

The Savannah was a fraud, a veritable sailing ship, built as such, subsequently took on an engine and propelling contrivances which could only be used in smooth water; with these she steamed out of port, then sailed to England, steaming only eighty hours, not consecutively, out of a passage of twenty-nine days and a half, but took good care to let down her paddles on coming into port, making believe that she steamed the whole way across the Atlantic, and, moreover, repeated this performance at every port she visited. The Royal William was the first veritable transatlantic ocean steamship.

F. C. Wurtele,
Librarian of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec.
Quebec, March 25, 1893.

[All that Mr. Wurtele says of the defects of the Savannah appears on the face of the article we published. The title, if not strictly accurate, reflects current speech on the subject. We are glad to give our Canadian neighbors the credit that is their due in the matter of the Royal William.—Ed.]


Editor Popular Science Monthly.

Sir: In your February number, Mr. Alfred G. Mayer, in speaking of the habits of the garter snake, says that he is not aware of their eating birds or mice. They will, when kept in captivity, at least, eat the latter animals. I once kept one under observation for a considerable time, and its only food was mice. These it ate with apparent relish and in greater numbers than I supposed at first would be eaten. Its mode of capturing and killing a mouse was also different from that by which the snakes secure frogs. It lay quietly coiled, with its head slightly elevated, for a little time after the mouse was put into the box. The latter ran to and fro over the coils of the snake, as though utterly unaware of the presence of an enemy. Presently the snake darted forward, seized the mouse in its jaws, and with lightning-like rapidity coiled itself around its body—the head of the snake and the mouse being invisible from without the coil. The quickness of the movement was decidedly startling. After about one minute the coils began to slacken, and the mouse rolled out, completely crushed and quite dead. The snake moved away, but within an hour devoured it. This snake was Eutænia sirtalis. I have not found any one else who has seen it take its food in this way, and can not account for the actions of this particular specimen. A full-grown copperhead, under similar conditions, behaves very differently. With marvelous rapidity it would shoot its head forward, apparently merely touching its victim. The mouse would give a faint squeak, and in thirty seconds would be dead and perfectly stiff. His snakeship then devoured it at his leisure.

Wilbur S. Jackman.
Cook County Normal School, Chicago, Ill.