* Home * Loney home * Life & career * Documents * Album * Ships * Portrait * Uniform * Background * * Search this site * 
William Loney RN - Background

Home-Loney-Background-Niger expedition-Book Chapter VI * Chapter VIII



Mr. Jamieson's settlement at Bassa-pu - Mr. Beecroft's knowledge of the native character - Gigantic trees - Botanical remarks - Monkeys - Squirrels - Birds - The spiny-tailed flying squirrel - The large blue plantain-eater - Sun-birds - Large snakes - The mason wasp -Krumen catching a turtle - New moon dances of the Africans -Bimbia - King William - Odd costume of that chief - His wives -Tribute paid in slaves - Royal displeasure - Avaricious demands -Fondness for strong liquors - King William's consequence - Mòndoleh - Yellow Nako, the Lord of the Isles - Voracity of the blue shark - Peculiar structures about the head - Supposed uses.

Messrs. Roscher and Thomson went over to Mr. Jamieson's settlement, Shark River, near Bassa-pu, which they reached with some difficulty, having adventured themselves in a crazy vessel, which had been a racing galley in times past, but was now so split and disabled by tropical suns, that it required one man constantly baling to keep her afloat; to add to their disagreeables, some of the negroes were refractory, and, regardless of a heavy swell which was setting in, would just paddle as they thought proper.

The place selected by Mr. Beecroft for the settlement is most judiciously chosen on a small promontory, fully exposed to all the benefit of the sea-air, and, moreover, the dense brushwood which springs up so luxuriantly at most other parts of the island is here wanting; fine forest trees abound, but from some peculiarity, the soil is dry, and there is no tendency to the vegetation just spoken of. From all that was learned, it appeared to be a very healthy locality, and few who have resided at it have suffered from dangerous fevers. Mr. B. received them with his usual truly English frankness, aided in all their inquiries, and enabled them to pass a sojourn of five days most agreeably, under his hospitable roof. There is a store attached to the place for the purpose of trafficking with the natives for palm-oil, and Mr. Jamieson's ships generally touch here to fill up any deficiencies of cargo or provisions that may be required.

The natives of Bassa-pu, the adjoining village, are like the rest of their countrymen, very harmless and good-natured, but now and then they are obliged to have a war palaver with some distant town, in consequence of the seduction of a female, or some petty quarrel; but although they are all well trained in their military evolutions, the nature of the country does not admit of an open engagement, so that the offensive is confined to certain strategies by which they get near enough sometimes to inflict a spear wound or two, and perhaps in their retreat bear off with them slight scratches "à posteriori," to show that they prefer running away rather than deadly combat.

They are greatly attached to Englishmen, and have ever shown the most friendly feeling to the white residents, whose opinion they regard as law. Fortunately Mr. Beecroft unites with his kindliness of disposition, a thorough knowledge of the native character here and all over the coast, so that they respect him very much. The timber in the neighbourhood is remarkably fine, being different species of iron-wood, red-wood, African oak, and many sorts of fine woods unknown as yet by their botanical characters, but producing excellent timber. The Bombaceae are the largest in Africa, some of them being one hundred and fifty feet from the base to the first branch, while the buttresses by which these immense trees are supported often occupy a circumference of fifty or sixty feet. They are truly the giants of African forests; the wood being very soft and buoyant, is suitable for canoes, but scarcely for any other purpose. Most of them have in. the dry seasons festoons of beautiful parasitic plants pendant from the branches, or convolvuli twining gracefully round the trunks. The trees most prized by the natives, are the palm and goora or Sterculia, apparently a different species to that found on the mainland {Dr. Thomson obtained an extremely bitter alkaloid principle from the sterculia, which he designated Sterculine}. The former, besides affording a refreshing drink - topi, or palm-wine - yields the oil which adds zest to their simple cookery, and procures them in barter the luxuries of tobacco and rum; while the seed of the latter, furnishes an agreeable tonic bitter, and in the hands of the Buyeh-rupi works wonders as a medicine. Some of the straighter branches of the young Tespesia or red-wood are used as spears.

Among the numerous objects of botanical interest we noticed a species of ebony or Dyospyros; a dark-colored wood like mahogany, either a Swietenia or Trichilia; a fine tree said to produce good timber, either Myrobolanus or Terminalia; a climbing shrubby Cissus, with pulpy berries; a small shrub with alternate simple leaves, apparently a Unona; a Capparis, a spiny herbaceous shrub with alternate leaves; one small shrubby Flacourtiana; Spondias, a moderate-sized tree, alternate leaved, with a resinous bark; the fruit, a sort of yellow plum, was acerb and disagreeable; a herb with simple opposite leaves, something like a Lawsonia; a species of Achyranthes, a branched shrub with opposite leaves; and, lastly, a herbaceous plant, simple leaved, either a Plumbago or Salvadora, used by the natives to excite vesication, which it does in a very short space of time.

Mr. Thomson's object was to obtain as many specimens as possible of the animals and birds, and he fortunately succeeded in procuring some new species, and many of those already known, but imperfectly described from furriers' skins.

Among these were the red and black colobus, Colobus rufoniger; the black colobus, Colobus satanas, called by the Edeeyahs, Mu-cho; Burnett's mona, Cercopithecus Burnettii; the red-eared monkey, Cercopithecus erythrotis, native name Mo-bab, a very curiously marked animal, the ears and greater part of the tail being dusky red; the hocheur, Cercopithecus nictitans {We had a young one of this species about four months old, which became so attached, that, if left alone, it would throw itself down, and beat its head violently against the ground, testifying the deepest grief. It was very tame and interesting in its habits. One day it was necessary to leave the little creature, which as usual displayed much sorrow at being deserted, throwing itself on the floor, and uttering the most plaintive cries. On our return two hours afterwards, the little hocheur was found dead, with the hands firmly pressed over the eyes, as if it had expired in a paroxysm of grief}; the black galago, Galago Alleni; Richardson's gennet, Genetta Richardsoni, native name Chipah; the golden roode bok, Cephalophus Ogilbyi, native name Cho-oh; the black-rumped guevi, Cephalophus melanotus, native name Se-chi. Of Sciurinae several interesting varieties: the red-cheeked squirrel, Sciurus erythrogenys, native name Buso-pi; the red-armed squirrel, Sciurus rufobrachium; Stanger's squirrel, Sciurus Stangeri; the red-forked squirrel, Sciurus poensis; and the spiny-tailed flying squirrel Pteromys derbianus, native name Iba-he; these latter abound in the woods at Bassa-pu, they only move out of their resting-places about sunset, and as they shoot across from tree to tree, they expand the membranous portion that fringes each side between the upper and lower extremities, which gives a curious effect to their flight. A tufted porcupine, Atherura, was apparently a new species. This and the bush-pig, Cricetomys poensis, are favourite articles of food among the Edeeyahs.

The island abounds in rare birds, and some of remarkable fine plumage. The large touraco, Scizorhis gigantea - the prince of plantain-eaters - as large as a pheasant, plumed in different shades of rich metallic blue, yellow, rufous, and black, the head surmounted with a slightly raised crest. In the evening these birds make a loud noise like tu-ca, tu-ca, which resounds through the still woods. They are difficult of approach. The white-backed crow, Corvus leuconotus, an interesting bird, but just as wary of the sportsman as his more sombre brother of our cold clime. Several species of Ploceus or weavers. A fishing-eagle, believed to be new. Various halyons or kinghunters; the green banded cuckoo, Chalcites auratus; and another probably new, with richer plumage. The orange-crested bush-shrike, Malaconotus chrysogaster; the yellow-billed coucal, Zanclostomus flavirostris; plumage glossy violet, and purple above, cinereous below, with a tail of rich deep blue. The purple-headed grakle, Lamprotornis ptilonorynchus; the golden-eared grakle, Lamprotornis chrysonotis; and a third, supposed to be new; all of them were plumed in dark colours of rich metallic tint.

The most interesting, however, are the little nectarinidae, of these the olive-backed sunbird, Cinnyris chloronatus; the red-collared sunbird, Cinnyris chalybeia; the green-rumped double-collared sunbird, Nectarinia chloropygia. A beautiful species, one of which we sent to England by Dr. Stanger, after whom it was named, Cinnyris Stangeri, is very abundant and the colours fine, being red, yellow, and other less gaudy tints, blended with rich metallic green.

These pretty little denizens of the woods are very properly named sunbirds, for while most others are quietly buried in the thickets to avoid the heat and glare of the noonday sun, these diminutive pilferers are often actively engaged on the nectar-teeming yellowish flower of the Papaya carica, which when in blossom, is their favourite haunt. We procured most of our specimens in the vicinity of one of these trees.

Snakes are numerous and some very large; one, a description of Boa, about fourteen feet, was killed during our sojourn, and if the accounts of the natives are to be credited, another of an enormous size had been killed at West Bay, where it had long been the terror of the Edeeyahs. They said it was shot while in a state of inactivity, after having gorged itself with a golden roode bok; a proof, if true, of its large dimensions.

Attached to the wooden rafters of the house, little circular and somewhat pyramidal collections of clay were noticed, which on examination were found to be divided into a number of oval cells, each containing one or more eggs, and some small Diptera intended as future food for the young larvae. The labours of this careful mason were but too often fruitless, as a large description of Synagris was observed busy at work robbing them of their contents, almost as soon as they were completed. The fabricators of these curious structures require about a fortnight to finish them; they commence with a circle of glutinous clay, and as the work proceeds the cells are divided off, and stocked, until the whole are concluded. They are about one inch and a-half in diameter.

Mr. Beecroft, with his usual kindness, lent the officers one of his boats and five Krumen, to take them back to Clarence Cove. On the passage, these hardy pulla-boys gave a proof of their dexterity in the water, by capturing a large turtle. On observing it, one of them slipped quietly overboard and got hold of the prize, which not liking the manipulation, tried to escape, taking the Kruman down with it; three others immediately dived in, and after a little struggle brought the turtle up, but from the immense power of these animals in their proper element, even four men were insufficient to master it, and it became necessary for the fifth to join his companions. It was not a little amusing to observe the conflict, the turtle having evidently the best of it, and keeping the bipeds mostly under water, whence every now and then five woolly heads shewed themselves for an instant, only to be dragged down again; fortunately the boat was at hand, and with some difficulty the troublesome Testudo was lifted in-board.

The rainy season at Fernando Po commences about the latter end of May or beginning of June, and terminates about the middle or end of November, but the tornadoes are not so frequent there as most other parts of the coast. According to Roscher's observations, the barometer rises with the east, and falls with the west wind, the maximum being when S.S.E. breezes are blowing, and the minimum when the S.W. wind obtains.

We found the evenings at Clarence to be for the most part, cool and agreeable, and the best time for walking. The settlers and natives also participated in this opinion, for then they come out to enjoy the favourite pastime of dancing. Moonlight enhances the pleasure not a little, when, seduced by its beams and the dance inspiring tom-tom, they give up the greater portion of the night to enjoyment. It seems odd how people can find music in so rude an instrument as a wooden drum, yet who that has "by pale moonlight" heard it afar off, commingled with the merry voices of the dancers, has not listened with pleasure, and confessed that it had its claims to please.

We must admit we have often been allured to the festive scene, where nature's untaught children performed their unsophisticated movements to no other sounds, and as the subdued light of "nature's own bestowing" fell through the rich forest drapery, on happy faces and graceful figures, could even have joined the merry throng. The new moon is, throughout Western Africa, the signal for rejoicing and renewed offerings to the gods, and when we have remarked this among other coincidences, we have recalled to mind the time when the Israelites also held their "new moon feasts and solemn festivals." The Krus are passionately fond of dancing, but we cannot say much for their performances. They generally represent some hunting scene; one personating the animal, while the others with their bodies bent and the hands resting on the thighs, jump about in a very uncouth manner, looking as if they were trying to escape the notice of the chief performer. Sometimes on board ship they go through a rude but amusing figure, each person holding a capstan bar or some other large piece of wood, with which they strike the deck accompanying the performance with a grunt. Although we cannot praise their dancing, we must admit their mimicry to be admirable, and they even accomplish extempore plays, in which various characters are imitated in a very diverting manner.

Friday, April 22nd. - In pursuance of Captain Allen's determination to keep moving about as much as possible, in order to preserve the health of the crews by change of air and scene, while waiting for orders from England, we sailed this day from Clarence Cove to the opposite coast, where a twin mountain faces the noble peak of Fernando Po.
"Like cliffs that had been rent asunder;
A dreary sea now flows between."

The shallowness of the strait separating these two remarkable elevations would tend to prove either that they have been disjoined by the action of the sea, or that the reverse process, their junction, is taking place. Future surveys will determine if any difference takes place in the depth of the channel; but probability points to the latter hypothesis; from the contiguity of numerous rivers, especially the Niger, a considerable portion of the enormous amount of alluvium of which will naturally be deposited in the deep bend of the Bight of Biafra, especially when there is an obstructing subaqueous ridge, marked by the line of volcanic agency which has raised these mountains and the adjacent islands in a S.W. direction.

The immediate object of our little voyage was Bimbia, - where we hoped to be able to procure fresh provisions and vegetables, which were not to be had at Fernando Po, where a lazy population of liberated Africans from Sierra Leone, neglect the advantages of one of the richest soils in the world.

We coasted along some beautiful inlets and islands, clothed with magnificent forest-trees. At the entrance of one of these - the strait dividing Bimbia Island from the mainland - the vessel was anchored, as it was not prudent to venture into an unknown channel.

Captain Allen being desirous of communicating with the chief, of the high-sounding title of King William -his real name being Billeh - landed at the island forming the strait.

We were conducted by the chief's son, Ejèh, who had taken a passage with us from Fernando Po, to the palaver-house, where he assured us we should find his august father. On our arrival, however, we ascertained that his sable Majesty was washing himself; patience was therefore to be practised, and we knew from past experience that not a small portion would be in requisition.

The palaver-house - which the royal ablutions afforded ample time to examine - was destitute of any object of interest to beguile the time, being simply a protection from the sun and rain. However it attained the object in one sense, since it induced that negative state of enjoyment, - only appreciated in a hot climate, - the luxury of reposing in a cool shade and, - doing nothing.

After a great deal of equivocation and loss of time we were informed that the chief was on the opposite side, at his house; which was distinguished by its commanding position, size, European form, and the splendour of whitewash, from the numerous huts scattered en amphithéatre along the beautiful shores of the strait, and up the slopes of the lower hills of the eastern base of the Cameroons Mountain. They were, however, grouped into distinct villages. We immediately crossed over to the landing-place, and walked up a rising ground, between neat huts surrounded with gardens, to the chief's residence, - a very good-looking wooden house. The principal floor is raised from the ground, and is surrounded by a verandah; it contains some good rooms. Around the grand salon were ranged about a dozen large chests, containing cloth of European fabric. The walls were adorned with looking-glasses of divers sizes, and abundance of crockery-ware, for no other purpose than show, and some of it in very curious juxtaposition. A backroom was used as a sitting-room, and had chairs and tables, with presses around the walls, the depositaries of his wealth, and various articles for trade with the natives of the interior. Beneath this floor were other apartments, or magazines. Two long lines of huts behind the palace were occupied by his numerous wives, children, slaves, and cattle.

This house, and another of smaller dimensions, were constructed at Fernando Po, by Mr. Scott, and cost one hundred dollars. Being situated on an elevation, and whitewashed, it had a very imposing appearance; well calculated to impress the surrounding natives with a due idea of the chief's dignity, derived from his friendship with the white men. He was, in fact, confirmed in his supremacy by Colonel Nicolls, about fifteen years ago, when he surrendered the sovereignty of his country to England, and received the title of King William. He is brother to the former chief, Naka, who ruled over all the country at the eastern base of the Camaroons Mountain called Bakwileh; that is to say, he had more wealth than the neighbouring chiefs, who will hardly acknowledge even a nominal supremacy. There are several of these petty chiefs in the little strait of Bimbia, whose villages are so close together as to give the appearance of one town.

We were kept waiting here also a long while for the sable chief; who doubtless, like other great men, thought that our opinion of his importance would rise in proportion to the time we were held in anxious expectation of his appearance. To our frequent inquiries why he did not come, we were told "the king wash him face" and would come "one time," i. e., directly.

Our original information of his being on the island, proved to be correct, as we saw him land, and walk up the hill in very stately guise, surrounded by a few attendants, and his own person protected, not only by an umbrella, but by a large double-caped boatcloak. He saluted us in the English fashion, by shaking hands; but seemed very anxious to impress us at once with the idea of his magnificence, drawing our attention particularly, and with great complacency to the evidences of his wealth and power around the room, displayed in the form of pots and pans and chamber utensils, which he said made him look like a "proper king," whereas if he had not all these things the "bushmen" would think him a "small man." He apologized for having kept us waiting so long, and said he had recently lost his son, and five of his people. All his women were consequently in mourning, that is, they had heightened the extreme ugliness of their features, by plastering their faces with indigo. We saw one lady of the court, with a mirror, before which she was laying it on pretty thick; and with much care if not taste. The object of our visit was for the simple and homely purpose of purchasing fresh provisions, and of opening a better system of traffic than had hitherto prevailed. His Majesty however entered at once into subjects of high diplomacy. He denounced with great eloquence or volubility the inhabitants of one of the islands in the Bay of Amboises, who being rendered "saucy," by the impregnable nature of their position, had set his authority at nought. After having drunk fetiche water, and made an agreement with him that the islands should be his, they had fired at his people, stolen some of his wives, and caused the death of his son. Moreover, they invariably attacked canoes which they thought not strong enough to resist them, and had even killed two Krumen; they were therefore enemies equally of the black and the white man. This latter part of the charge was not likely to be true; but it was found that the natives of Bimbia, sometimes assume the Kru mark, and pretend it had been conferred on them by some head Kruman. For all these crimes and treasonable practices, he threatened vengeance in very energetic terms, and suggested the propriety of Her Britannic Majesty's steam-vessel, 'Wilberforce,' declaring war upon the refractory subjects of our firm ally, and that we should at once proceed to burn their town as a lesson to them.

Captain Allen endeavoured to explain to him the disadvantage of being in continual hostility with his neighbours, which would be detrimental to the legitimate commerce he professed the disposition to promote, and he tried to awaken in him the better principles of charity and good-will towards his neighbours. The chief said he would willingly make peace with them, if they would pay him eight hundred "coppers;" which it was not likely they would agree to, as they did not admit his claim of supremacy. However, Captain Allen said he would try and settle that "bob" for him. He next turned with equal vehemence to an alleged infraction of an agreement with the English agent at Fernando Po, who had engaged thirty or forty of his "boys" to work at a stipulated price; but he said, they could not get payment, and were frequently flogged, some were even put in prison. We gave passage to ten of these men, who had been working at Clarence, but would remain no longer as they could not obtain their wages. One of these told us, that Billeh buys annually one hundred slaves at the town of Rumbia, in the Bamboko country, on the western base of the Camaroons Mountain. Some of these he used to sell to the Spaniards, and the rest he kept to "make him strong." The Spaniards, however, had not been here for more than a year, in consequence of the presence of our cruisers in the vicinity. Ejeh, son of the chief, a remarkably fine young man who had been sent to Clarence to remonstrate, related the result of his mission with much grace and energy ; and being nearly naked, his attitudes, though sometimes constrained by his sitting posture, were seen to great advantage, As he spoke in his native language, he could not of course be understood ; but it appeared that his remonstrances at Clarence had nearly procured him also a flogging. The chief, during the harangue, frequently uttered passionate exclamations, clasped his hands as if invoking justice, or wildly threw his arms about as in menace. He said to us, that he had always thought the white men loved justice, and "did not slave;" but now, some of his free people were kept as slaves. He intimated that he might with ease take ample vengeance, by going with all his canoes and war-men and attacking the settlement. He was cautioned to be more temperate in his language, before a captain of a man-of-war; that he would pursue a very improper course by such a proceeding, which would not fail to bring destruction on himself and his town. He said with animation, "Suppose I go in the bush, which way man-of-war ship catch me there?" He was again advised to be less violent, and his complaint would be inquired into. On his indignation in some degree having subsided, Captain Allen endeavoured to "make trade" with him for some fresh provision, of which we were much in want; but he being inflated with an idea of his consequence, would hear of nothing less than thirty dollars for a bullock, and six for a goat. After being well scolded for his rapacity, he did not mend the matter by offering the goat as a bribe; pretending that it was always intended as a present for "Cappy." During the discussion he dispatched half a tumbler of pure brandy, without offering any to his guests ; and after every sip, which he enjoyed to the utmost, by rinsing his mouth with it while any strength was left, before swallowing it, he was careful to keep in the flavour of the spirit, by crossing both his hands over the glass. On his want of hospitality being hinted at, he offered us bottled ale, and even wine; but could not open his heart to the extent of brandy. We only asked for some green cocoa-nuts, which afforded a delicious and refreshing beverage, without taxing his cellar. On being accused of slaving with the Spaniards, he strenuously denied having done so for many years.

Billeh, or King William, as he likes to be called, is a fine specimen of a savage potentate. He is tall, and with a good forehead, though somewhat ferocious features; to which, however, his late excitement may have given a worse expression than usual. Though he assumes so much consequence, he is but the principal trader, and owes his apparent superiority over the other chiefs, to the possession of a greater number of wives and chattels; by which he acquires the consideration due to a "big man," all being looked on as "little boys" until they can boast of such increase of their substance. Several others, especially John King his brother, have perhaps more influence in the interior, though they cannot shew such a house, nor array themselves in such a boat-cloak.

Finding it was impossible to obtain live stock from this fellow on anything like reasonable terms, we left him very much to his disappointment, as he expected to make a great harvest. He frequently called on us to come back and receive his mark of friendship.

Saturday, 23rd April.- We sailed from this inhospitable chief, who had very much disappointed us, and defeated his own purpose, and proceeded in the afternoon to the Bay of Amboises, in hope of being more successful there, and thus by competition bring him to his senses. In steaming round the island, the eminences were crowded with natives, vociferating and gesticulating as we passed; but whether in peace or war we could not then ascertain. However, soon after we had anchored near the island called Mòndoleh, they came to us in great numbers.

Sunday, 24th.- Remained quietly at anchor. The natives readily comprehended why their canoes were not suffered to come alongside during divine service, and they did not trouble us all day.

25th.-Sent an officer to explain to the natives of the island that we wished to purchase stock. The chief very shortly came on board, and professed his willingness to trade; nevertheless, we had almost as much trouble as with the chief of Bimbia. They had abundance of goats, pigs, plantains, &c., but did not know how to ask enough for them ; and they were so capricious, that it required the utmost patience to await their decision, in the articles which were offered to them in exchange. Mr. Bush the purser, however, managed them tolerably well. They seemed to be very shrewd, especially a young man called Yellow Nako, from his skin being of a lighter colour than the rest of his countrymen. He claimed the sovereignty of two of the islands, named Dàmeh and Mòndoleh, in right of his father, Old Nako, the former chief of Bakwileh already mentioned. Ejèh, the son of King William, had asserted that his father was the lawful sovereign; but when informed what Yellow Nako had said, he acknowledged the truth of it.

Yellow Nako is therefore the veritable "Lord of Isles." Moreover, he rejoiced in the titles of Pilot and Interpreter to H.M.S. 'Wilberforce.' It was by his intervention that all our bargains were made; and in estimating the price of the articles offered in barter, they were very suddenly depreciated, when compared with the value betrayed in his anxiety to obtain the same as a gift. On this being pointed out to him, he very naively said, "Trade is trade, but dash is dash." The lord of the isles was, however, more interested in the transaction than we had suspected; for we afterwards found they were his own goats, which he kept on the island Mòndoleh, the Lieutenant-Governor of which, being the ostensible salesman, Nako was thus able to regulate his extortionate demands, by an appearance of mediation.

The offal of a slaughtered goat having been thrown overboard, an inflated portion of it was observed bobbing up and down in the water, not far from the vessel; one of the Krumen thinking it might be a delicate fish for his frying-pan, went in a boat to examine it, and put out the oar to lift it from the water, when to his astonishment, a large shark suddenly laid hold of the blade and nearly dragged him overboard. In a short time a well-baited hook was over the ship's side, which was immediately swallowed, and to the delight of all our sailors, the monster was captured. It proved to be a blue shark, - Squalus glaucus, - not above ten feet long, but of enormous capacity in the jaws, which were upwards of twenty inches in diameter, and just such a fellow as might be supposed to have swallowed the "Port Royal soldier, musket and all." There were three rows of serrated triangular teeth, some of which had been recently broken, probably in the mistaken attack on the oar. The bronchial openings, five in number, were near the strong falciform pectoral fins. The tail was particularly powerful, especially the upper lobe. The back and upper part of the body were covered with skin of a deep slate colour, and of a rough granulated texture, the belly and sides whitish. Even after having been some time out of its proper element, it continued to snap when anything approached.

There were several large remorae or sucking fish, adherent by the exhausting power of the muscular laminae or plates on the upper part of their heads. Only one beautifully striped pilot was observed ; the little creature swam round and round the vessel as if looking for its voracious companion.

On removing the skin of the shark's head, a thick gelatinous-looking layer was seen, in which white nervous fibrillae were particularly numerous. We could not but think of the possible truth of the views of some physiologists, who consider this structure to be endowed with the especial sensibility by which the shark is enabled to detect the course of ships, and to follow for a long time and distance in their wake.

Certainly nothing seems better adapted than this jelly-like layer for conducting the impressions occasioned by the displacement and irregular action of water, during the passage of large bodies through it. Possessed of this conformation, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a shark, crossing the track of a ship, might thus discover by the peculiar motion of the water, the course the vessel is taking. It is only by some such means we can account for these monsters following as they often do, ships, which by their superior fleetness in a strong breeze, must have left them far, far astern; and yet on the first calm, they make their appearance perhaps to be captured, with proofs of their identity inside, in the shape of bones, clothes, &c., which had been throw overboard many days previously.

This view, is certainly not more inconsistent than the popular belief, which ascribes to the olfactory organs of the shark, not only this singular faculty of detecting the proximity of ships, but of tracking them.

Top Chapter VI * Chapter VIII

 * Home * Loney home * Life & career * Documents * Album * Ships * Portrait * Uniform * Background *
Valid HTML 5.0