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ALLIGATORS IN SAN JUAN RIVER.

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over the sand-bank that extends down to the mouth of the river. A long, deep branch forms a favourite resort for alligators. At the far end of a sand-spit, near where some low trees grew, I saw several dark objects lying close to the water on the shelving banks. They were alligators basking in the sun. As I approached, most of them crawled into the water. Mr. Hollenbeck had been down a few days before shooting at them with a rifle, to try to get a skull of one of the monsters, and I passed a dead one that he had shot. As I walked up the beach, I saw many that were not less than fifteen feet in length. One lay motionless, and thinking it was another dead one, I was walking up to it, and had got within three yards, when I saw the film over its eye moving ; otherwise it was quite still, and its teeth projecting beyond its lips added to its intense ugliness and appearance of death. There was no doubt, however, about the movement of the eye-covers, and I went back a short distance to look for a stick to throw at it; but when I turned again, the creature was just disappearing into the water. It is their habit to lie quite still, and catch animals that come near them. Whether or not it was waiting until I came within the swoop of its mighty tail I know not, but I had the feeling that I had escaped a great danger. It was curious that it should have been so bold only a few days after Mr. Hollenbeck had been down shooting at them. There were not less than twenty altogether, and they swam out into the middle of the inlet and floated about, looking like logs in the water, excepting that one stretched up its head and gave a bellow like a bull. They sometimes kill calves and young horses, and I was told of one that had seized a

10

THE NATURALIST IN NICARAGUA.

[Ch. I.

full-grown horse, but its struggles being observed, some natives ran down and saved it from being pulled into the water and drowned. I heard several stories of people being killed by them, but only one was well authenticated. This was told me by the head of the excellent Moravian Mission at Blewfields, who was a witness of the occurrence. He said that one Sunday, after service at their chapel at Blew fields, several of the youths went to bathe in the river, which was rather muddy at the time; the first to plunge in was a boy of twelve years of age, and he was immediately seized by a large alligator, and carried along under water. My informant and others followed in a canoe, and ultimately recovered the body, but life was extinct. The alligator cannot devour its prey beneath the water, but crawls on land with it after he has drowned it. They are said to catch wild pigs in the forest near the river by half burying themselves in the ground. The pigs come rooting ainongst the soil, the alligator never moves until one gets within its reach, when it seizes it and hurries off to the river with it. They are often seen in hot weather on logs or sand-spits lying with their mouths wide open. The natives say they are catching flies, that numbers are attracted by the saliva of the mouth, and that when sufficient are collected, the alligator closes its jaws upon them, but I do not know that any reliance can be placed on the story. Probably it is an invention to account for the animals lying with their mouths open; as in all half-civilised countries I have visited I have found the natives seldom admit they do not know the reason of anything, but will invent an explanation rather than acknowledge their ignorance.

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Commence journey up San Juan river-Palms and wild canes-Planta

tions—The Colorado river-Proposed improvement of the riverProgress of the delta-Mosquitoes—Disagreeable night-Fine morning-Vegetation of the banks—Seripiqui river-Mot-mots-Foraging ants—Their method of hunting -- Ant-thrushes—They attack the nests of other ants—Birds' nests, how preserved from them—Reasoning powers in ants—Parallel between the Mammalia and the Hymenoptera-Utopia.

I FOUND at Greytown the mail-boat of the Chontales Gold-Mining Company, which came down monthly in charge of Captain Anderson, an Englishman who had knocked about all over the world. The crew consisted of four Mosquito negroes, who are celebrated on this coast for their skill as boatmen. Besides the crew, we were taking three other negroes up to the mines, and with my boxes we were rather uncomfortably crowded for a long journey. The canoe itself was made from the trunk of a cedar-tree (Cedrela odorata). It had been hollowed out of a single log, and the sides afterwards built up higher with planking. This makes a very strong boat, the strength and thickness being where it is most required, at the bottom, to withstand the thumping about amongst the rocks of the rapids. I was once in one, coming down a dangerous rapid on the river Gurupy, in Northern Brazil, when we were driven with the full force of the boiling stream broadside upon

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