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them of a deep indigo blue, reflecting the bright rays of the
Our ship rose slowly over a few of the largest of them, until one immense fellow came rolling on, threatening to cover her, and which I was sailor enough to know by the feeling of her’ under my feet, she would not rise over. I sprang upon the knight-heads, and seizing hold of the fore
hands, drew myself up upon it. My feet were just off the stanchion when she fairly struck into the middle of the sea, and it washed her fore and aft, burying her in the waters. As soon as she rose out of it, I looked aft, and everything forward of the mainmast, except the long-boat, which was griped and double-lashed down to the ring-bolts, was swept off clear. The galley, the pig-sty, the hen-coop, &c., and a sheep-pen, were all gone in the twinkling of an eye, leaving the deck as clean as a chin new-reaped, and not a stick left to show where they had stood. In the scuppers lay the galley, bottom up, and a few boards floating about, the wreck of a sheep-pen, and half-a-dozen miserable sheep floating among them, wet through, and not a little frightened at the sudden change that had come over them.
That such storms should require the greatest prudence to preserve both ship and crew must be evident to all, and the following description will give some notion of the dangers which so often threaten the sailor in his sea-home, when fog, tempest, and ice combine their dreaded assaults :-“At the end of the third day the ice was very thick ; a complete fog-bank covered the ship ; it blew a tremendous galo from the eastward, with sleet and snow, and there was every promise of a dangerous and fatiguing night. At dark the captain called all hands aft, and told them that not a man was to leave the deck that night, that the ship was in the greatest danger ; any cake of ice might knock a hole in her, or she might run on an island and go to pieces. No one could tell whether she would be a ship the next morning. The look-outs were then set, and every man was put in his station. It was a dreadful night for those on deck : a watch of eighteen hours, with wet and cold, and constant anxiety, nearly wore them out; and when they came below at nine o'clock for breakfast, they almost dropped asleep on their chests ; and some of them were so stiff that they could with difficulty sit down. Not a drop of anything had been given them during the whole time, though the captain, as on the night that I was on deck, had his coffee every four hours, except that the mate stole a potful of coffee for the men to drink behind the galley, while he kept a look-out for the captain. Every man had his station, and was not allowed to leave it ; and nothing happened to break the monotony of the night, except once setting the main-topsail to run clear of a large island to leeward, which they were drifting fast upon. Some of the boys got so stupid and sleepy that they actually fell asleep at their posts ; and the third mate, whose station was the exposed one of standing on the fore-scuttle, was so stiff when he was relieved, that he could not bend his knees to get down.'
This is one aspect of the sea, but the transition is often rapid to the perfection of quiet beauty. In the stillness of night the watching sailor is startled by a mysterious brilliancy, which, spreading far over the waters, produces the appearance of a sea on fire. The brightness comes and goes, flashing hither and thither as the wind curls the waves, looking like an aurora borealis playing in the ocean depths. The superstitious mariner marvels at the strange display, not knowing that all this startling splendour arises from myriads of animalculæ moving in the still waters, and flashing a phosphorescent light through the darkness. Such a view the dweller on land never obtains. The sparkling fire-flies, which form a sort of Chinese lantern-festival during the evenings in warm countries, cannot be likened for a moment to the illuminated seas of the tropics.
Whether this beautiful appearance arises from some collection of phosphorescent matter on the surface of the water, the agency of electricity, or myriads of tiny marine creatures disporting on the still waves, the phenomenon is singularly interesting both to the ignorant sailor and the educated philosopher or naturalist. In a hot and dark night, when all around is wrapped in deep blackness, and the ship slowly moves, oppressed by the heated atmosphere, a stream of unearthly light flashes through the gloom, seeming like a river of lightning rolling and swelling through the ocean. One moment the strange gleam is close by the ship, and the bow dashes aside the spray in sparks of bluish light ; again the stream glances from a distance, ebbing and flowing at the call
of some unknown power. The grandeur of the spectacle impresses itself for years on the rude imaginations of the sailors, startled in their nightly watch by the mysterious splendour of those lurid streams. Consider next the everchanging scenery of the heavens, the various constellations which successively rise as the ship changes her latitude. During one month the sailor, as he nightly walks the deck, beholds the well-known stars which he has gazed on from boyhood : in the next, fresh groups shed their new rays, and Ursa Major is succeeded by the “ bright cross of the south.'
“ How oft in their course o'er the oceans unknown,
Where all was mysterious and awfully lone,
Stars, never seen by millions of the human race, rise in their beauty to the sailor, and reveal the rich variety of those fields of light which lie hidden from the view of all, fixed to one little spot of earth. Such persons see but one page of the celestial records, and read not the sublime mysteries hung over the great oceans they have never seen. What marvels are sometimes disclosed in those skies, whence the aurora borealis, or the aurora australis, darts its long, fiery splendours, raising across the heavens vast arches, of rainbow hue and brilliancy. The distant scintillations of these mysterious phenomena do sometimes excite the admiration of landsmen, especially of those dwelling in high latitudes ; but the sailor is alone privileged to behold the aurora in its home, and mark its indescribable gorgeousness. At one time long columns of splendid light shoot up suddenly from the horizon, and rising far into the heavens, branch out into forms of the brightest beauty, from which coruscations of vivid light dart in various directions, here expanding into a fan-like form, there curving into majestic spirals. The suddenness of the whole phenomenon, its brilliancy and variety of colours, rapid changes, singular forms, and the hissing noise which often accompanies this meteoric display, combine to render it one of the most magnificent spectacles witnessed by the sailor. Amongst the “beautiful sights” at sea must be classed a ship in full sail. How often do we hear of this ?-with what an easy glibness does the voyager
to far distant Gravesend, or the remote Nore speak of this? Not one in a thousand has witnessed the glorious spectacle. Let the reader imagine himself on the deck of a ship whilst another vessel in full sail passes by ; see what a pyramid of canvas rises towards the sky, spreading out like beautifully defined clouds above the hull. There is just breeze enough to swell every sail to the most gracefully developed shapes : the sunlight falls upon the canvas, giving to the vessel the appearance of some splendid sea palace. Such a spectacle is never seen on the land, and only at sea when a light and settled breeze allows of such a display of sail.
“A ship ! a ship! I see the swelling sails
Fly like white clouds before the breathing gales ;
And rides the billows like a winged god !". The various kingdoms of animated nature are also laid before the mariner, At one time he moves amidst a crowd of whales, and such a zoological study as the following is presented to his notice :-" The first time I heard the breathing of whales was on the night that we passed between the Falkland islands and Staten Land. We were surrounded far and near by shoals of sluggish whales and grampuses, rising slowly to the surface, or perhaps lying out at length, heaving out those long-drawn breathings which give such an impression of supineness and strength. All was perfectly still, so that there was nothing to break the illusion, and I stood leaning over the bulwarks, listening to the slow breathings of the mighty creatures. Now one breaking the water just alongside, whose black body I almost fancied that I could see, through the fog ; and again another, which I could just hear in the distance, until the low and regular swell seemed like the heaving of the ocean's mighty bosom to the sound of its heavy and long-drawn respiration.” Or, instead of listening to the breathings of these Sea-Titans, the sailor may come into close contact with them, almost touch with his hand their rough sides, and feel the spray of the water dashed from their tails. The following adventure shows one instance of such an undesirable approach : “We,” says
once came very near running one down in the gig, and should probably have
been knocked to pieces and blown sky-high. We had been on board the little Spanish brig, and were returning, stretching out well at our oars, the little boat going like a swallow, our backs were forward, and the captain, who was steering, was not looking ahead, when all at once we heard the spout of a whale directly ahead. Back water ! back water, for your lives !’ shouted the captain ; and we backed our blades in the water, and brought the boat to in a smother of foam. Turning our heads, we saw a great, rough, hump-backed whale slowly crossing our forefoot, within three or four yards of the boat's stem. IIad we not backed water just as we did, we should inevitably have gone smash upon him, striking him with our stem just about midships. He took no notice of us, but passed slowly on, and dived a few yards beyond us, throwing his tail high in the air. He was so near that we had a perfect view of him, and, as may be supposed, had no desire to see him nearer. He was a disgusting creature, with a skin rough, hairy, and of an iron-grey colour.” The reader of Coleridge's “ Ancient Mariner” may pause at the lines :
"At length did cross an albatross;
Through the fog it came,
We hailed it in God's name.
And round and round it flew ;
The helmsman steered us through.
The albatross did follow;
Came to the mariner's hollo !
It perched for vespers nine ;
Glimmered the white moonshine.
“God save thee, ancient mariner !
From the fiends that plague thee thus.
I shot the albatross,"
The reader may now desire to see the bird, but long must he wait ; it is the seaman only who can gaze uninterruptedly