Page images

out of the sea to the south, with its long breakwater and that wondrous barrier, the Chesil Beach; there are, indeed, rocks and caves, bays and beaches, all more or less worthy of exploration, from Whitenose to Church-Hope, and from Saint Oldham's Head to the Bill.

One of the first things to be done in founding an Aquarium is to collect sea-weeds:

The first point to be attended to, is the procuring of living sea-weeds, the vegetable element in the combination which is displayed in an Aquarium. And this must naturally be the first thing, whether we are stocking a permanent tank, or merely collecting specimens for temporary examination, as we cannot preserve the animals in health for a single day, except by the help of plants to re-oxygenate the exhausted water. By their means, however, nothing is easier than to have an Aquarium on almost as small a scale as we please; and any visitor to the sea-side, though there for ever so brief a stay, may enjoy with the least possible trouble, the amenities of zoological study in a soup-plate, or even in a tumbler. It is easy to knock off with a hammer, or even to dislodge with a strong clasp-knife, a fragment of rock on which a minute sea-weed is growing, proportioning the surface of leaf to the volume of water,-and you have an Aquarium. A wide-mouthed phial,--such, for instance, as those in which sulphate of quinine is commonly sold by the chemists,-affords a capital opportunity for studying the minute Zoophytes, Bryozoa, Nudibranch Mollusca, &c., as they may be examined through the clear glass sides with perfect ease, by the aid of a pocket-lens. The influence of light should be allowed to operate on the sea-weed, to promote the elaboration of oxygen, but at the same time, if the weather be warm, care must be taken that the subjects be not killed by the sun's heat.

Let me describe my ordinary mode of obtaining the sea-weeds which I transmitted to London.

Suppose the time to be the first or second day after full or new moon, when the tide recedes to its greatest extent, laying bare large tracts of surface that are ordinarily covered by the sea. This is the most suitable time for procuring sea-weeds, for these must be taken in a growing state; and hence the specimens which are washed on shore, and which serve very well for laying out on paper, are utterly useless for our purpose.

With a large covered collecting basket, a couple of wide-mouthed stone jars, a similar one of glass, two or three smaller phials, a couple of strong hammers, and the same number of what are technically termed “cold chisels," tipped with steel, I proceed with an attendant to some one of the ledges of black rock that project like long slender tongues into the sea." An unpractised foot would find the walking precarious and dangerous, for the rocks are rough and sharp, and the dense matting of black bladder-weed with which they are covered, conceals many abrupt and deep clefts beneath its slimy drapery. These fissures, however, are valuable to us. We lift up the hanging mass of olive weed (Fucus) from the edge, and find the sides of the clefts often fringed with the most delicate and lovely forms of sea-weed; such, for example, as the winged Delesseria (D. alata), which grows in thin, muchcut leaves of the richest crimson hue, and the feathery Ptilota (P. plumosa) of a duller red. Beneath the shadow of the coarser weeds delights also to grow the Chondrus, in the form of little leafy bushes, each leaf widening to a flattened tip. When viewed growing in its native element this plant is particularly beautiful; for its numerous leaves glow with refulgent reflections of azure, resembling the colour of tempered steel. This weed when dried is useful for making jellies, and constitutes the Carrageen Moss of the shops.

We may observe among the sea-weeds many tufts of a small species, whose leaves are much and deeply cut, with the divisions rounded, and the general outline of the leaf pointed. Some specimens are of a dull purple, others of a rich yellow hue; and I refer to the species as an interesting example of the influence of light on the colour of marine plants. The yellow specimens are exposed to the sun's rays, the purple ones are such as have grown in deep shadow. The species is the Laurencia pinnatifida of botanists.

Turning from the hidden clefts, we explore the deep pools that lie between the ledges. High wading-boots are necessary for this purpose, as we have to work in the water. The great Oar-weeds and Tangles (Laminaria) are growing here, large olive sea-weeds that wave to and fro with the undulations of the sea ; the former a long narrow puckered frond of brown colour; the latter a broad smooth leathery expanse of deeper colour on a slender stalk, splitting with age into a number of lengthened fingers or ribbons, and hence called the fingered Tangle (Laminaria digitata). Among these grow clusters of an elegantly frilled species, of delicate thin texture, and yellow-brown hue, bearing no slight resemblance to the tresses of some fair lady: this also is a Laminaria, but I am not quite sure whether it is the young state of the former species, or entitled to a name of its own. In the latter case, it is the L. phyllitis of botanists. One result of the establishment of Marine Aquaria will be a more general acquaintance, and consequently a better and more satisfactory one, with the tenants of the sea, than has hitherto been practicable ; since they can now be studied to far greater advantage than when blanched in bottles of spirits, or pressed between the leaves of a book.

In these deep pools grew also those bunches of broad dark-red leaves, which are probably the most conspicuous of all the marine plants in the collection. My readers will recognise them, when I say that they are generally about as large as one's hand, smooth and glossy, of a dark crimson hue, but apt to run off into a pale greenish tint towards the tips; their edges have often little leaves growing on them. This plant is the Dulse or Dillis (Rhodymenia palmatā), which is eaten by the poor of our northern shores as a luxury. The soldiers of the regiment quartered here, many of whom are Irish, may be frequently seen on the ledges, searching for the leaves of this plant, which they eagerly eat raw, to the entertainment of the children, who are sailing their little boats in the pools.

The leaves of the Dulse soon decay, spots of an orange colour speedily appearing. As a rule, the appearance of an orange colour, on crimson or purple weeds, is always a sign of the death of that part, and is the infallible precursor of decay. As soon as it appears, or at least if it begin to increase, the specimen should be ejected without mercy, as the diffusion of the gases from decaying vegetable matter is speedily fatal to most animals.

A weed is found growing in dense mossy patches on the perpendicular and overshadowed edges of the rocks, which, when examined, looks like a multitude of tiny oval bladders of red-wine, set end to end in chains. This pretty sea-weed is called Chylocladia articulata. In the same spots grow also the stony coralline, of which it is a mistake to collect such specimens as are purely white, that being the condition of death. One of the most valuable plants for an Aquarium is the sea-lettuce, Ulva latissima. It is abundant in the hollows of the rocks between tide-marks, extending and thriving even almost to the level of high water. This species will grow prosperously for years, giving out abundantly its bubbles of oxygen gas all day long. It is readily found, but owing to the excessive slenderness of its attachment to the rock, and its great fragility, it is not one of the easiest to be obtained in an available state. The Enteromorphæ have the same qualities and habits, but their length and narrowness make them less elegant. The Cladophoræ are desirable ; they are plants of very simple structure, consisting of jointed threads, which grow in dense brushes or tufts of various tints of green. In order to transfer sea-plants to an Aquarium, a portion of the rock on which they are growing must be removed. Upon this subject Mr. Gosse makes the following remarks :

These plants have no proper roots, and, therefore, cannot be dug up and replanted like an orchis or a violet, but adhere by a minute disk to the surface of the rock, and if forcibly detached, die. I therefore bring the hammer and chisel into requisition, and split off a considerable fragment of the solid stone, which then, with the plant adhering to it, is placed in the Aquarium. This is often a difficult, always a delicate operation; the rock is frequently so hard as to resist the action of the chisel, or breaks at the wrong place; sometimes, on the other hand, it is so soft and friable as to crumble away under the implement, leaving only the isolated plant deprived of its attachment; and sometimes at the first blow, the sea-weed flies off with the vibration of the shock. Often we have to work under water, where the force of the blows is weakened and almost rendered powerless by the density of the medium, and where it is next to impossible to see with sufficient clearness to direct the assault.

As the plants are detached they are placed one by one in security. The finer and more delicate ones, as the Delesseria for instance, are immediately dropped into a jar of water; for only a few minutes' exposure of their lovely crimson fronds to the air, would turn them to that dull orange colour, already mentioned as the sign of incipient decay. The hardier sorts are laid in the basket-a layer of damp refuse-weed being first put in to receive them, and covered lightly with damp weed. The degree of moisture thus secured is sufficient to preserve many species from injury, for hours. Thus they are brought home.

We have been speaking of the haunts of the living Algæ, and of the manner of procuring them ; because, in the sequence of idea, as Mr. Gosse has it, these come first into consideration. But in point of fact, the search for animals goes on simultaneously with the process just described ; the same haunts which are affected by the marine plants conceal various animals ; and it is, our author enticingly observes, one of the great charms of natural history collecting, that you never know what you may obtain at any moment. The expectation is always kept on the stretch ; something new, or at least unthought of, frequently strikes the eye, and keeps the attention on the qui vive :

Close examination of the fissures, of the pools, of the rough and corroded stones that have been fished up, and even of the sea-plants themselves, reveals many curious creatures of various kinds and forms, each of which, as it is discovered, is seized and consigned to one or other of the collecting jars appropriated to this purpose. Some of the subjects, indeed, require little research; the tangled masses of olive bladder-weed, that sprawl, like dishevelled locks, slovenly and slippery, over acres of these low-lying ledges, are studded all over with those little smooth globose shells that children delight to gather, attracted by the variety and gaiety of their hues, brown, black, orange, yellow, often banded with black, or marked with minute chequers. This most abundant little winkle, for it is one of that genus (Littorina littoralis), feeds on the fucus, like the unowned cattle on the American Pampas, and it must be owned that a spacious and fertile pasture-ground is allotted to it.

Among these we see, less numerous but sufficiently common, the more bulky and still more familiar form of the periwinkle (L. littorea), marching soberly along beneath his massive mansion, stopping to munch the tender shoot of some alga, or leisurely circumambulating the pretty tide-pool which he has chosen for his present residence. You may tell that all his movements are marked by gravity and deliberation, for if he does not let the grass grow under his feet (I beg his pardon, he has but one foot; though, as that is somewhat of the amplest, he is not deficient in understanding), he lets it grow over his head. It is quite common to see one of these mollusks adorned with a goodly ulva or other sea-weed that has taken root on the summit of his shell, so that he habitually sits under the shadow of his own roof-tree.

The humble periwinkle, exclusively a vegetable eater, is of the greatest utility in an Aquarium ; he delights in devouring the green scurf which is constantly accumulating on its transparent sides, and which, if examined with a lens, is found to be composed of myriads of tiny plants. The pretty Trochus may be used for the same purpose. It is almost Deedless to remark that there are other things besides periwinkles and trochi to be found on these cleft and weed-draped ledges. Among these Weymouth has its own Actinia-A. clavaia-a species of great beauty, which is quite common on these ledges, of which it appears to be characteristic.

Mr. Gosse did not confine his researches to the shore, he also went dredging for the living things of the deep, and we must follow him in one of his excursions :

The morning was clear, and promised a fair day; there was breeze enough to enable a boat to work, enough in fact to raise what sailors call a “cats' paw" upon the surface of the sea, and not sufficient to cover it with " white horses." It was a pice time for a dredging excursion, though rather cold; and I sent word to Jonah Fowler to bring his boat over, and we would try a haul. The sun came out while we were waiting, and penetrated through the clear water to the bottom; and the reflection of his rays from the dimpling surface threw up on the boat's quarter a running pattern of reticulate lines of light, as if to give me in that bright net a good omen of success. Little urchins stood on the quay-edge watching the preparations with curiosity, whose hanging ringlets, and free attitudes as they stood with hands in the pockets of their loose trousers, looked like copies tableaux vivants, if you will) of the well-known print of our nautical little Prince of Wales. The trim boat's crew of the revenue cutter were lying at the steps, or lounging with folded arms on the quay, waiting for their officer; but it was far beneath their dignity to manifest curiosity or interest in any such matters.

The preparations are made, the dredges and keer-drag are overhauled, a goodly array of pans, tubs, jars, and bottles are put on board, my mackintosh and swimming-belt are on (for you can never tell what eventualities of weather or accident may occur), and a stout packet of sea-stores are snugly thrust into the locker. “Shove her off! Up with mainsail and jib! and away to go!"

Pleasant it is to start on such an excursion. The day all before us, hope dominant; fancy busy with what treasures of the deep the dredge may pour at our feet; the sun's rays cheerful; the breeze exhilarating; a good, stiff boat, clean and light, under foot, and an agreeable companion, for such is our friend Jone ;-and thus we swiftly glide out into the bay.

This Jone is a character in his own way, and deserves to be introduced to the reader:

A clever fellow is Jone, and though only bred as a fisherman, he is quite an amateur naturalist. There is nobody else in Weymouth harbour that knows anything about dredging (I have it from his own lips, so you may rely on it); but he is familiar with the feel of almost every yard of bottom from Whitenose to Church-Hope, and from St. Aldham's Head to the Bill. He follows dredging with all the zest of a savant; and it is amusing really to hear how he pours you forth the crackjaw, the sesquipedalian nomenclature. “Now, sir, if you do want a Gastrochana, I can just put down your dredge upon a lot of 'em ; we'll bring up three and four in a stone.” “I'm in hopes we shall have a good Cribella or two off this bank, if we don't get choked up with them 'ere Ophiocomas." He tells me in confidence that he has been sore puzzled to find a name for his boat, but he has at length determined to appellate her The Turritella," "just to astonish the fishermen, you know, sir,"—with an accompanying wink and chuckle, and a patronising nudge in my ribs. Jone is a proud man when he gets a real savant alone in his boat; and he talks with delight of the feats he has achieved in the dredging line for Mr. Bowerbank, Mr. Hanley, and Professor Forbes. I will say, I found him no vain boaster, but able to perform his professions; and can heartily recommend him to any brother naturalist who may desire to “dredge the deep sea under" in Weymouth Bay, as one who knows what is worth getting and where to get it.

And now for a haul with the drag:

Well, here we are in the bight, just off the mouth of Preston Valley, the only bit of pretty scenery anywhere near. This, however, is a little gem ; a verdant dell opening to the sea, through which a streamlet runs, with the sides and bottom covered with woods, a rare feature in this neighbourhood. We are over the zostera ; the beds of dark-green grass are waving in the heave of the swell, and we can make out the long and narrow blades by closely looking down beneath the shadow of the boat. Here, then, is the place for the keerdrag. Down it goes, and sinks into the long grass, while we slowly drag it for a couple of hundred yards or so.

When disposed to try our luck we hauled on the rope, till we brought the mouth of the drag to the top of the water; a turn or hitch was then taken round a belaying pin with the two side-lines of the bridle, and the point of the net only was then hauled on board, put into a pan of water, and untied. Here was congregated the chief part of the prey taken, and hence the need of having the meshes so small in this part. Ouit swam in a moment a good many little fishes that haunt the grass-bed; as Pipe-fishes (Syngnathus) of several species, Gobies (Gobius unipunctatus, G. Ruthersparri, &c.) and bright-hued Conners (Labrus and Crenilabrus). With these were two or three active and charming Cuttles (Sepiola); and clinging to the meshes of the net in various parts, were several species of Nudibranch Mollusca, creatures of remarkable elegance and beauty. ` All these demand more consideration than I can now stay to give them ; so that I propose to return to them in detail presently, describing them to you, not from the hurried glances we can give them in the boat, but as they appear when at home in the Aquarium.

Such are the pleasant records of which a naturalist's journal is made up. With Mr. Gosse, sketches of scenery of local customs and manners, and of personal adventure, made during the prosecution of his researches, enhance the charm of his copious details of the peculiar habits and instincts of the living things of our shores. Among these, first in rank, we must place a walk through Portland :

Some jottings of the amenities of Portland, which I hastily put down in the course of a pedestrian excursion through it, may not be unacceptable to such of my readers as have not had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with it; for it is rather an original little isle, and has some claims of its own to attention.

After clearing that city of stone blocks, which I have before mentioned, I wound round the foot of the hill, and mounted the steep village of Fortune's Well, with its pretty houses and nice shops, all of stone of course (on the principle of patronising the home manufacture), and the substantial church, and neat rectory, where dwells-a blessing to the inhabitants—my venerated friend, the Rev. Mr. Jenour. As I toiled up the precipitous road in the summer's sun,

« EelmineJätka »