Слике страница

ideality of the Greeks. It does not strengthen the distinctive features of Balder's history to derive it from the Syrian myth of Thammuz and Adonis, or to compare him with the Persian hero Ispandier. It profits little that one compares Asgard to Olympus, seeing that there is another ready to identify it with Troy, and a third is prepared to prove that the whole is a phase of Buddhism. The Olympian comparison has, however, unfortunately taken a hold, Odin being Mercury; Thor, Jupiter; and Friggia, Venus: and this has been stamped by the highest authority, in our country at least, the usage of Parliament, in the votes and proceedings of which Wednesday is dies Mercurii, Thursday dies Jovis, and Friday dies Veneris. But there are protesters against even

this, who find that Thor and Odin came from a still remoter distance, being in reality the Vishnu and Siva of Hindostan; and again others, who find the system of the Eddas in the Persian Zend Avesta. Besides their being so conformable to the spirit of the people and the place, the northern nations laid a stronger hold upon the Eddas as peculiarly their own, for the tribes and great families professed to be descended of the frequenters of Asgard. They brought this proud pedigree with them in their wanderings; and when the chronicles supplied a leader for the Saxons in Britain, calling him Hengest, they likewise provided for him an Asgard pedigree, making him sixth in descent from Odin.



ABOUT the middle of May, H. M. S. Challenger visited Hali

fax harbor, and remained there for nine or ten days, taking in stores, refitting, repairing machinery, and preparing for a prolonged cruise, first via Bermuda to Madeira, and then to proceed to the North Pacific. We had the pleasure of visiting the Challenger, viewing her arrangements, and her varied and wonderful apparatus, and receiving from the distinguished gentlemen in charge an outline of her cruise and her discoveries hitherto, and of what is intended for the next three years. The readers of the MARITIME MONTHLY will thank us if we lay before them, very briefly and in the plainest, unscientific terms, the facts which we have gathered up.

The Challenger left England on the 21st December, 1872, for the coast of Portugal. She is a war steamer of two thousand tons burden, and accustomed to carry eighteen heavy guns. Of these guns she retains only two, for service among possible pirates or any other rough customers in out-of-the-way places. She has a considerable supply of revolvers and other small arms, so as to be ready for emergencies; for she is to be for months, if not years, in regions where the "struggle for existence," or some other equally diabolical principle, leads men to do things that are not exactly up to Anglo-Saxon ideas of the sacredness of human life. The places of the sixteen absent war-dogs are occupied by scientific appliances appropriate to the work in hand-laboratories, photographic apparatus, photometers, thermometers, dredges and machinery for sounding and trawling. In this noble "man-ofscience" you could hardly recognize a "man-of-war."

The mission of the Challenger is the latest and the best equipped of several expeditions of the same nature organized by the British Admiralty in the interest of science. The ship furnishes ample accommodation, and every facility for the work which she is intended to do. She is to take part in watching the transit of Venus next year. She has to map the sea-bottom wherever she goes, with a view, partly at least, to gather information for guidance in laying telegraphic cables, and selecting the best route for them. Investigations are constantly made as to the depth of the sea, the character of the bottom, the fauna and flora, the temperature, the currents, the pressure, the winds, etc., etc. Every fact worth noting is treasured up and noted down in its appropriate department. This course is to be pursued for the next three years. The annual cost of the expedition is not less than £60,000 sterling, a considerable sum out of John Bull's tight pocket, seeing that Robert Lowe is guardian of the aforesaid pocket. The ship, with the hydrographic part of the expedition, is under the charge of Captain Nares, a highly cultivated English gentleman-a perfect seaman, who also thoroughly sympathizes with all the objects of the cruise. The more strictly scientific work is under Dr. Wyville Thomson, Professor of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh, a gentleman who knows more about the sea and its mysteries than, probably, any one living. Professor Murray has charge of the Botanic section. Dr. Thomson has an accomplished assistant in Rudolf von Suhm, Zoological Professor of the Univer

sity of Munich. M. Wilde, a clever Swiss, is Secretary, and he is equally expert with brush, pencil and pen.

After leaving England last winter, the Challenger steamed south to the coast of Portugal. There she commenced sounding, dredging and trawling, with satisfactory results, both as regards the action of her apparatus and the discoveries made. The dredge used is thus described by Professor Huxley: "Imagine a large bag, the mouth of which has the shape of an elongated parallelogram, and is fastened to an iron frame of the same shape, the two long sides of this rim being fashioned into scrapers. Chains attach the ends of the frame to a stout rope, so that when the bag is dragged along by the rope the edge of one of the scrapers rests on the ground and scrapes whatever it touches into the bag." This is the sort of machine that has been used from time immemorial by oyster-dredgers- the same in kind, but, of course, vastly different in strength and capacity. Dredging in comparatively shallow water is easy; but to dredge at great depths requires enormously strong tackle, and a vast expenditure of steam or muscle power. The Challenger brought up a granite boulder from a depth of a mile and a half—the boulder weighing four hundred and ninety pounds. This happened a hundred and thirty miles south of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia. The boulder has been identified by Dr. Honeyman with the Shelburne granite of Nova Scotia ; and the Doctor promises to tell us some day the "story" of that "rolling stone." The seamen and the donkey-engine of the Challenger had no blessing for it after the long strong pull by which they dragged it from its home in the caverns of the deep. It is now-minus a chip or two-on its travels to the tropics.

The trawl is a sort of large net with its mouth fastened to a beam of wood of the same length. The two ends of the beam of wood are supported by curved pieces of iron, which raise the wood and the lip of the net attached to it, a few inches from the ground. The lower "lip" drags along the ground, rouses all sorts of living creatures which it touches, and they naturally rush into the pouch of the net behind, and are kept there as close prisoners till they reach the upper air. The Challenger has used the trawl at depths of nearly three thousand fathoms-an achievement unheard of before. "Tangles," and "swabs" of coarse hempen yarn, are also attached to the dredge, and are found of great service in gathering up organisms that might escape the other apparatus.

It is difficult to give any adequate idea of the sounding apparatus, without the aid of pictorial illustrations. The sounding line is invariably weighted by a one hundred or one hundred and fifty pound shot, which becomes disengaged whenever it strikes bottom. One of these shot is left at the bottom every time the line is let out; so that there must be a considerable store of them in reserve, to serve during a three years' cruise. Self-registering thermometers are sent down to the greatest depths, and the glass in them is often crushed to minute particles by the pressure of the water. The barometer is also used at immense depths. The resources of science are taxed to the utmost to cope with the difficulties of extracting her profound secrets from nature, hidden four miles below the surface of the sea.


The Challenger occupied a full month in crossing the Atlantic from off the African coast to St. Thomas in the West Indies. They sounded, dredged or trawled all day, and proceeded on their voyage all night. The depths of the sea varied from five hundred to four thousand fathoms. Two sub-marine mountain ranges were crossed. The greatest depth was reached close to St. Thomas, and this was three thousand eight hundred and seventy-five fathoms, or over four miles! Life was found even here,- foraminefera, globigerina, nummilia, protozoa of all sorts. Or to speak in plain terms, little round shells that appear to the naked eye no larger than a small grain of sand, but which the glass shows to be beautifully ornamented, fretted and furrowed, and full of little holes, microscopic windows. There are also little shells shaped like horns of all sorts; some like ammonites; some like old Roman coins. All these are from depths till recently supposed to be barren of all life. The finish, the elegance, the exquisite tracery of these minute creatures is perfectly wonderful.

Among the spoils exhibited by Dr. Thomson were sponges and crustaceans of various sorts trawled from very great depths, some transparent as glass, but eyeless; some pure white; some rich purple. None were brought to the surface alive owing to the change of pressure. They are made for the dark, still, cold depths; they cannot live a minute in the bright, warm, expansive altitudes occupied by ordinary fish,-much less can they live a moment in the open air.

It was found that the depths of the sea are altogether void of vegetable existence. The cold is intense: the thermometer never

registering more than thirty-nine, and going often several degrees below that. The pressure is enormous. Said Dr. Thomson: "A man at that depth (four miles) would have upon him the weight of two iron-clads."

It used to be said that the depths of the sea were barren of life; that nothing could exist in the darkness and under the full pressure of the ocean. These latest explorations show that the limit of life has not yet, at any rate, been reached. Oddly enough, the organizations found at the greatest depths, though extremely simple, are highly finished, and are the same as those that geologists have discovered in the earliest life-bearing rock-formations. The dawn of geologic life strangely corresponds with the darkness of the loneliest sea-bottom. Life has been found in abundance and great variety at a depth of 2,500 fathoms, and it is not a-wanting at 4,000 fathoms. Analogy would lead us to conclude that no lifeless waste is to be found on sea, any more than on land. Dr. Thomson, in a work recently published-" Depths of the Sea"-states that fishes came from a depth of 600 to 1,000 fathoms, all in a peculiar condition from the expansion of the air contained in their bodies, and with their eyes protruding, like great globes, from their sockets. The most abundant creatures at the greatest depths are starfishes, sea-urchins, zoophytes, sponges and protozoa such as we mentioned above. There are organizations at work in the Atlantic at the present day of the same kind as those that formed the chalk of England. New chalk is thus being formed by the same old agency, and probably under similar circumstances.

Another subject on which the Challenger will gather light is the circulation of ocean currents. Already the old theory of the "Gulf Stream" has received its death wound, and many of the beautiful generalizations of Maury have been exploded. Time will tell what next.

We must close our story with the following pathetic incident which occurred near St. Thomas:


Shortly after commencing to heave in the dredge, the span for securing one of the iron leading blocks for the dredge-rope was carried away, at the same time striking William Stokes, boy of the first-class, very severely, and jamming him against the ship's side. He was much injured, and concussion of the brain ensued, from which he never rallied, death putting an end to his sufferings a few hours afterward. This sad event cast a gloom over the whole

« ПретходнаНастави »