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Title: The Book of the Ocean
Author: Ingersoll, Ernest
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Book of the Ocean" ***

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Transcriber’s Notes:

Italic text is denoted _thus_.

The original spelling, hyphenation, accentuation and punctuation has
been retained, except for apparent typographical errors.

In Chapter 10, the quotation following the 10th paragaph stated:

  On her port side she carries a red light, and it is so shut in that
  it cannot be seen from the port side or from behind.

This has been corrected to read:

  On her port side she carries a red light, and it is so shut in that
  it cannot be seen from the starboard side or from behind.


+Other books in similar style and binding.+



The standard young folks’ book of the Fair. The story of two boys
who visited the great exhibition with their tutor. 250 pages, richly
illustrated, from photographs, etc. $1.50.


_Issued under the auspices of the Sons and Daughters of the American
Revolution. Each with about 250 pages and as many illustrations, in
handsome binding. $1.50._


Telling in attractive story form what every boy and girl ought to know
about the government,—the President, Senate, etc. Introduction by
General Horace Porter.


The story of the pilgrimage of a party of young folks to the famous
Revolutionary battle-fields from Lexington to Yorktown. Introduction by
the Hon. Chauncey M. Depew.


Describing a trip to the historic homes of America—Washington’s,
Lincoln’s, Grant’s, etc. With an introduction by the President-General
of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

  +The Century Co.+

[Illustration: Original Image.]








  [Illustration: printers mark]


  [Illustration: printers mark]


  Copyright, 1898,


[Illustration: decorative page header]







      Part I—Previous to the Discovery of America.

      Part II—From Columbus to Cook.



      Part I—Wooden Walls, from Salamis to Trafalgar.

      Part II—The Present Era of Steam and Steel.




    X  DANGERS OF THE DEEP      201





    GENERAL INDEX      277

[Illustration: oarsmen towing sailing ship]


[Illustration: rescue of man from the sea]



Looking at the land, we divide the surface of the earth into eastern
and western hemispheres; but looking at the water, we make an opposite
classification. Encircle the globe in your library with a rubber band,
so that it cuts across South America from about Porto Alegre to Lima
on one side, and through southern Siam and the northernmost of the
Philippine Islands on the other, and you make hemispheres, the northern
of which (with London at its center) contains almost all the land of
the globe, while the southern (with New Zealand as its central point)
is almost entirely water, Australia, and the narrow southern half of
South America being the only lands of consequence in its whole area.
Observing the map in this way, noticing that, besides nearly a complete
half-world of water south of your rubber equator, much of the northern
hemisphere also is afloat, you are willing to believe the assertion
that there is almost three times as much of the outside of the earth
hidden under the waves as appears above them. The estimate in round
numbers is one hundred and fifty million square (statute) miles of
ocean surface, as compared with about fifty million square miles of
land on the globe.

To the people whose speculations in geography are the oldest that have
come down to us, the earth seemed to be an island around which was
perpetually flowing a river with no further shore visible. Beyond it,
they thought, lay the abodes of the dead. This river, as the source
of all other rivers and waters, was deified by the early Greeks and
placed among their highest gods as Oceanus, whence our word “ocean.”
Accompanying, or belonging to him, there grew up, in the fertile
imagination of that poetic people, a large company of gods and
goddesses, while men hid their absence of real knowledge by peopling
the deep with quaint monsters.

“The word for ‘ocean’ (_mare_) in the Latin tongue means, by
derivation, a desert, and the Greeks spoke of it as ‘the barren brine.’”

Over these old fables we need not linger. All the myths and guesswork
that went before history represented the sea as older than the land,
and told how creation began by lifting the earth above the universal
waste of waters. The story in Genesis is only one of many such stories.


From a photograph.]

Scientific men believe that when our planet first went circling swiftly
in its orbit it was a glowing, globular mass of fiery vapors; but
as time passed, the icy chill of space slowly cooled these vapors,
and chemical changes steadily modified, sorted, and solidified the
materials into the beginnings of the present form and character, until
at last _water_ came into existence. This must have been at first in
the form of a thick envelop of heated vapors, impregnated with gases,
that inwrapped the globe in a darkness lit only by its own fires.

After that, when further changes had come about,—let us picture
it,—what deluges of rain were poured out of and down through those
murky clouds where thunders bellowed and lightnings warred! At first
all the rains that fell must have been turned to steam again; but by
and by the steady downpour cooled the shaping globe so that all the
water was not vaporized, but some stayed as a liquid where it fell,
and this increased in amount more and more, until finally, between the
hissing core of the half-hardened planet and the dense clouds which
kept out all the sunlight, there rolled the heated waves of the first
ocean—an ocean broken only by the earliest ridges, like chains of
islands, marking the skeletons of the continents that were to follow—an
ocean sending up ceaseless volumes of steam to form new clouds.

[Illustration: EATING AWAY THE COAST.]

Yet all the while the cooling of the planet went on. Now, when any
heated substance cools it contracts, and the globe as a whole is
no exception to the rule; but a sphere formed of so incompressible
a substance as rock can shrink only by some sort of folding or
displacement of its surface. Therefore, as the cooling of our globe
proceeded, explosions and swellings constantly occurred at weak points
or lines on or near the surface, where the prodigious strain forced a
break. That these upheavals were most prominent and extended in the
northern hemisphere is shown by the fact that the great masses and
heights of land are grouped there; and the trend of mountain-ranges
seems to show that the range of breakage and upheaval was in general
in north-and-south lines. Elsewhere, and mainly in the southern
hemisphere, broad areas of perhaps stiffer crust sank downward, making
the vast depressions into which poured the waters of the primeval sea,
and where our oceans still sway and roll.

[Illustration: SURF AT FORT DUMPLING, R. I.]

All these changes, however, have been in the direction of insuring
more and more stability; and when the ocean water had thoroughly
cooled, the very chill of its vast masses in the depths of the troughs
assisted in the work, for the cold water, by more rapidly withdrawing
their heat, caused the rocks beneath their basins to become denser,
thicker, stronger, and consequently less liable to break or change,
than were those rocks forming the foundations of the continents.

The moment it had shores to beat upon, that moment the ocean began
to knock them to pieces under its pounding surf, and to grind the
fragments so small that they could be drifted away, reassorted, and
deposited wherever the water was sufficiently quiet to let them fall.
The original rocks—chiefly granite—held the different forms of lime,
magnesia, etc., to make the limestones; the silica to make the gritty
sandstones; the alumina to make the clays; and so on. The sea not only
was the agent to eat this old, rich crust to pieces and respread it
into strata, but to sort out for us the materials to a considerable
extent, laying down beds of limestone by themselves, and sandstone,
shales, marl, etc., by themselves. It is probable, says Professor
Shaler, that layers of rock twenty miles in thickness have thus been
laid down on the gradually settling ocean floor, much of which has been
raised again to form continental lands.

Hitherto we have spoken of the waters that surround the continents as
if they formed one mass, as, practically, they do; but for convenience
sake we may designate certain areas by separate names, which ought
now to be defined. Thus the larger, more open spaces are known as
_oceans_, and of these five are recognized, namely, Pacific, Atlantic,
Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic. Parts or branches of these, more or less
inclosed by land and usually comparatively shallow, are termed _seas_.

_The Pacific Ocean_ is the largest, it alone covering more space than
all the continents combined, having a breadth, east and west, of ten
thousand miles (about the length of the Atlantic), and an area of
seventy million square miles. The equator divides it into the North
and South Pacific. The former is comparatively free from islands,
and is inclosed northward by the approaching extremities of Alaska
and Siberia; while the latter widens at the south into the boundless
Antarctic Ocean. Its basin is a vast depression of fairly uniform
depth, studded in the western part by island peaks,—the summits of
submerged volcanic mountain-ranges. The name “Pacific,” or “Peaceful,”
was given to it by Magalhaens (Magellan), its first navigator, in 1540
(see Chapter IV), in his joy at having escaped from the tempestuous
experience he had long endured in the South Atlantic. On the whole the
Pacific deserves its name as compared with the Atlantic—a fact chiefly
due to its great size. The term “South Sea” was formerly much used for
it, but English-speaking persons now usually mean by that phrase the
island-studded district between Hawaii and Australia.


_The Atlantic_ commemorates in its name the myth of Atlas and his
island. Atlas seems to have been originally, among the Greeks, the
name of the Peak of Tenerife, of which they had vague information from
the earlier Phenician sea-wanderers. Then this was forgotten, and in
place of the fact arose a myth of a Titan who stood upon a vast island
in or beyond the “Western Sea,” called Atlantis. Legends of wars with
its people form a part of the nebulous hero-story of the beginnings of
Athens; and it is said to have sunk out of sight long before records
began. There have always been those who believed this story founded
upon fact, and only a few years ago a book was printed in the United
States arguing that the tale was the history of a real land; but not
only is there no literary or historical evidence that Atlantis had
any firmer foundation than vague memories of the Cape Verd or Canary
Islands, but every evidence of the geological condition and history
of the eastern shores and bed of the middle Atlantic Ocean shows that
no such convulsion as the destruction of this island calls for ever
took place there, or that there was ever such a land to be submerged.
The Atlantic occupies a long, winding, comparatively narrow trough,
that measures about ten thousand miles north and south, from the ice
of the Antarctic to the ice of the Arctic ocean, and has only a few
islets south of Iceland, the Faroes and the Shetlands, which rise from
a plateau stretching from Labrador to Great Britain, the higher points
of which were probably above the water within comparatively recent
geological times, possibly since man appeared upon the globe. The
average depth of the Atlantic south of this ridge is about thirteen
thousand feet, but greater depths are found along the African and
American coasts, on each side of a long submerged ridge from which rise
the isolated islands of Cape Verd, St. Helena, and Tristan da Cunha.
The width from Norway to Greenland is only about eight hundred miles,
but between Montevideo and Cape Town it is thirty-six hundred miles,
and the average width is about three thousand miles. The shape and
situation of the Atlantic make it the most stormy of the three great
oceans, and it is the one where the phenomena of tides, currents, etc.,
are most prominently manifested, as we shall see. It is also the most
frequented and best known, because it has been necessary to study it
for the benefit of commerce.

_The Indian Ocean_ is simply the extension of the vast southern
water-zone northward of parallel 40°, south latitude, where, from the
Cape of Good Hope to Tasmania, it is six thousand miles in width.
At this line the depth suddenly decreases, as though the edge of a
submerged Antarctic plateau defined the southerly rim of its basin
there. This ocean contains several large and some groups of small
islands, but these are mostly near the shore, and connected with the
neighboring continent by shallow waters, showing that they rise from
a submerged plateau. The average depth of the Indian Ocean is about
fourteen thousand feet; its surface-water is warmer and salter than
that of any other; and its winds and weather are more regular and
peaceful than in either the Atlantic or the North Pacific.

_The Arctic Ocean_ is the well-defined body of water around and
probably over the north pole. It is connected with the Pacific only
by the narrow and very shallow Bering Strait, and with the Atlantic
by comparatively narrow openings. It has been fairly well explored as
far north as the parallel of 80°, and found to contain many islands;
but it appears that there is great depth of water north of Spitzbergen
and northeast of Greenland, making it probable that the trough of the
Atlantic reaches to or beyond the pole itself. Most of its area is
covered with drifting ice.

_The Antarctic Ocean_ is regarded as the space of water within the
Antarctic circle; but this is surrounded by a zone of deep ocean,
unbroken almost half-way to the equator, except by the narrow southern
part of South America and by New Zealand. It is an area, apparently
rather shallow, of ice, fogs, and tempestuous gales, inclosing lands of
unknown extent.



But these geographical distinctions are merely convenient methods of
speech. After all, there is only one ocean “poured round all,” and its
particles are incessantly changed in place and remingled by means of
a world-wide system of tides and currents, the effect of which is to
keep sea-water everywhere uniform in character and perfectly pure and

[Illustration: IN MID-OCEAN: A GREAT WAVE.]



Now that we have studied the ancient ocean, it is time to study its
present characteristics and understand the great and important part it
plays in the world.

A very striking thing about the ocean is its flatness. Being water,
it seeks always to find its level; and we commonly assume that it
everywhere does so, and take the sea-level as the standard from which
to calculate all heights above or depths below its surface; that is,
we assume that every part of the surface of the ocean when calm and at
mean tide is exactly the same distance from the center of the globe.
This, however, is not wholly true. Careful observation has shown that
the Pacific is several feet lower on the western shore of the Isthmus
of Darien than is the Atlantic on its eastern shore—a fact due, no
doubt, to the crowding of water by the Gulf Stream into the Caribbean
Sea. The Mediterranean is known to be somewhat higher than the
Atlantic, and other differences exist in similar places elsewhere.

This introduces the subject of depth—a matter which we have learned
accurately only within a very few years. In the early days ropes alone
were used for sounding, and these had to be of considerable size to
bear the strain; but a mile or so of rope became too heavy to handle,
and depths below that length remained unmeasured. Then a little machine
was tried consisting of a heavy weight having attached to it, by a
trigger, a wooden float. This was thrown overboard. It sank, and when
it touched bottom the shock released the float. From the time that
elapsed before the float reappeared the depth was estimated. This,
however, was little better than guesswork; and accurate soundings
exceeding one thousand fathoms were not obtained until an American
naval officer began to use wire instead of rope. From this hint
was developed elaborate machinery, operated by steam, using steel
piano-wire, having automatic registers of the amount reeled out, and
carried down by weights that were released when the bottom was struck,
making it easier to recover the wire. To these weights (or rather to
the wire just above them) were attached devices for clutching and
bringing to the surface specimens of the bottom, self-closing jars to
fetch water from the lowest layer, self-registering thermometers that
recorded the temperatures at the greatest or at various intermediate
depths, and other means of learning the character of the water,
bottom-material, and animal life several miles below the surface,
including methods of photographing by aid of a submerged electric
light. Such investigations, carried on in ships suitably equipped, have
been prosecuted by several governments, most notably by the expedition
of the _Challenger_, a British surveying-ship which circumnavigated the
globe during the years from 1872 to 1876.


This and many other expeditions have sounded in all parts of the world,
and explored large tracts where the water uniformly exceeded three
miles in depth. The United States ship _Enterprise_, after passing the
Chatham Islands in her run from New Zealand to the Strait of Magellan,
found the water everywhere more than thirteen thousand feet deep.
Throughout her run from Montevideo to New York the water varied from
twelve to eighteen thousand feet deep, and Captain Nares and Admiral
Belknap found like depths over equally vast breadths elsewhere.

Yet even in these basins more profound pits and valleys exist. Several
places are known near Japan and off Porto Rico exceeding five miles
in depth; and an English officer sounded 29,400 feet in the southern
Pacific Ocean, nineteen hundred miles east of Brisbane, without finding

The average depth of all the oceans is estimated at from twelve
thousand to fifteen thousand feet. As, according to Humboldt, the
average height of the lands of the globe is only about one thousand
feet, it will be seen that all the land now above the water, and its
foundations, could be shoveled into the ocean troughs and still leave
water more than two miles in depth covering the whole planet.

The soundings and dredgings of which I have spoken enable us to make
a tolerable map of the ocean beds and to describe their features.
All the continents are bordered by a shelf reaching out under the
shallow shore-water to a greater or less distance, and then dropping,
usually with much abruptness, to the ocean trough. This shelf, perhaps
originally a part of the primeval continent, bears most of the great
islands near continents, such as Newfoundland, the West Indies, Great
Britain and Ireland, Madagascar, the Aleutian, Japanese, and Philippine
groups, the Malay Archipelago, and others. If you will look at a map
that has marked upon it the line of one thousand fathoms’ depth along
the shores of the various continents, you will find it reaching far
out from the eastern shores of both Americas, the western and northern
shores of Europe, the eastern shores of South Africa, prolonging India
hundreds of miles, and embracing great spaces among the East Indies,
while even the hundred-fathom line would connect many an island with
the mainland or with some other island, as they actually have been
connected in times gone by. The fact is, there is not a single proper
mountain-peak rising out of deep water at any great distance from the
margins of the continents. All the numerous islands of the wide oceans
are either coral reefs or the summits of volcanic cones.

Upon this shelf, and for the most part within two hundred miles of the
coast, are deposited all of the materials torn from the land by the sea
or brought down by rivers or glaciers, excepting the very finest, which
currents may float somewhat farther out, and also excepting the rocks
that icebergs carry away and drop in mid-ocean; but this is not a great
amount, for most icebergs strand on the shallows off Newfoundland or in
Bering Sea.

Almost nothing from the shores, therefore, reaches the central depths
of the open oceans, whose beds are in substantially the same condition
that they were in at the beginning, except for two things—volcanic
upheavals in some places, and the remains of animal life everywhere.
The former exception is a very important one, since it is now known,
according to Professor Shaler, that volcanoes, by their eruptions, send
more dust and broken materials to the seas than the rivers and shores


“Although the deeper sea-floors probably lack mountains,” says
Professor Shaler, “they are not without striking reliefs, which,
if they could be seen, would present all the dignity which their
size gives to the Himalayas or Andes: the difference is that these
elevations are not true mountains, but volcanic peaks, sometimes
isolated, again accumulated in long, narrow ridges, but all made up of
matter poured out from the craters or through great fissures in the
crust. So numerous are these heaped masses of lava and other ejections
from these vents that there is hardly any considerable area of the
oceans where they do not rise above the surface. There are indeed
thousands of these volcanic peaks distributed from pole to pole....
Thus on the floor of the North Atlantic there is evidently a long,
irregular chain of these elevations extending from the Icelandic group
of islands southward to the Azores. If an explorer could view this part
of the sea-bottom, he would probably find that the line of craters was
as continuous as that exhibited by the volcanoes of the Andes.

“Besides the volcanic peaks,” Professor Shaler continues, “the
sea-bottom in certain parts of the tropics ... is beset with the
singular elevations formed by coral reefs.” But of these I shall have
more to say toward the end of the book, and I allude to them here only
as a feature of the invisible landscape beneath the waves.

Over the vast, gently undulating spaces separating these submerged
lines of volcanoes and the ridges of coral, lies a mat of mud of
unknown thickness, which naturalists term “ooze.” It is principally
composed of volcanic dust and of the microscopic “tests,” or flinty
limy skeletons of minute animals, few of which are large enough to be
seen by the unaided eye. “Dwelling in myriads in the superficial parts
of the sea, these foraminifera, as they are termed, sink at death to
the bottom, over which they accumulate a thick coating of minutely
divided limestone powder, forming a layer of ooze as unsubstantial as
the finest snow.”

In regions like the North Atlantic this ooze consists almost wholly of
such animal matter; but in other regions, such as the South Pacific,
where volcanoes prevail, it is constantly and largely increased by an
enormous quantity of mineral matter hurled broadcast by volcanoes,
all of which are on islands or near sea-coasts. A part of this is the
merest dust, which slowly settles from the air, perhaps hundreds of
miles from where it was ejected. A larger part consists of that spongy
lava called pumice, which is so full of holes filled with air and
gases that it may float half way around the globe before it sinks, as
happened after the explosion of Krakatoa.

Into the oceanic ooze, too, sinks so much of all dead fishes and other
mid-sea animals as is not dissolved or devoured before reaching it; and
it forms the grave of thousands of men. It is often said that ships
and other things would not sink far, but would float, suspended by
dense water or some miraculous influence, only a few hundred or a few
thousand feet below the surface, for no one knows how long. But this
eerie notion has no foundation in fact. “No other fate,” we are assured
by those who know, “awaits the drowned sailor or his ship than that
which comes to the marine creatures who die on the bottom of the sea.
In time their dust all passes into the great storehouse of the earth,
even as those who receive burial on land.” Wooden wrecks probably last
much longer than those of iron.

I have mentioned that a small part of what the sea tears away from the
land, or receives from rivers, winds, and other sources, is dissolved
in its waters, which now contain, no doubt, samples of every ingredient
of the rocks and soils of the dry land, and very likely some elements
not yet detected. This solvent power of the sea explains its saltness,
and it must go on growing more and more bitter as long as its waves
grind at the shores and the rivers run down. The salinity varies in
degree, water at great depths being salter than that near the surface,
and excelling in saltness where evaporation is rapid, as under the
trade-winds, while fresher in the regions of equatorial calms, where an
immense amount of rain falls; broadly, the lightest (freshest) water
is found at the equator, and the heaviest in the temperate regions.
Inclosed, or nearly inclosed, areas become very salt. Thus the Dead Sea
is what chemists call a saturated solution, being nearly one third (28
per cent.) salt, and Great Salt Lake in Utah is not far behind. The Red
Sea contains 4 per cent., and some parts of the Mediterranean nearly as
much. Taking all the open oceans together, about 3½ in every 100 parts
(3½ per cent.) is composed of various salts, more than three quarters
of which is common salt (chloride of sodium), and the remainder mainly
forms of magnesium. One of the _Challenger_ authors has estimated that
the oceans contain enough salt to make a layer 170 feet thick over
their whole area, and another writer says that the amount, if heaped
up, would be four times larger than the whole bulk of Europe above the
level of high-water mark, mountains and all.

In early times, indeed, sea-water, which yields about a quarter of
a pound of crystallized salt per gallon, was almost the only source
of salt for food. Even yet it is the principal source of supply for
the manufacture of commercial salt in France, Portugal, Spain, Italy,
Austria, the West Indies, and Central and South America; and it is
largely used in Holland, Belgium, and Great Britain. The early process,
still extensively practised in some parts of Europe, was to admit
the sea-water to large partitioned flats floored with clay, where it
evaporated rapidly. The salt-crystals remaining were then collected,
purified to a greater or less degree, and sold off-hand. It was by
similar means that our great-grandfathers in New England and along the
Southern coasts provided themselves with salt, only they used large
vats arranged over fires instead of earthen basins exposed to the sun.

But analysis of sea-water discloses small quantities of many other
recognizable minerals. Silica must be there to supply the needs of many
foraminifers, sponges, and other animals; lime in various forms exists,
or else such sea animals as mollusks could not compose their shells,
nor polyps erect their enormous reefs; bromine is present, and to the
iodine and other mineral dyes in the water we owe the lovely purples,
crimsons, and scarlets painting corallines, seaweeds, echinoderms, and
some molluscan shells, as that of the Sargasso-snail (Janthina).

As for gold and silver, both are present. I have seen it stated that a
voyage of a year or two is sufficient to permit the formation of a film
of silver all over the copper sheathing of a ship’s bottom, so that
a frigate returning from a long cruise is really silver-plated; but I
fancy this is more a matter of imagination than visible reality. Gold,
in certain chemical combinations, certainly exists in sea-water, and
may be extracted therefrom. Up to the present, however, the cost of the
extraction has been more than the precious metal obtained was worth.
Gold is often washed from sea-sand.


The ceaseless restlessness of the ocean forms another of the greatest
contrasts between it and the immovable land—_terra firma_, as those
like to call it who have been tossing too long on the “rolling deep”.
This characteristic restlessness involves some of the most important
and interesting facts in physical geography; for were the waters
still,—that is, were the oceans simply huge, quiet ponds,—none of that
action could take place along the shores which has been so important
an agent in shaping the world and making it a suitable place for human
habitation and social development.

On a planet with an atmosphere and changing seasons like ours, however,
a stagnant ocean is as impossible as a motionless air; indeed, it is
because the air _is_ always in motion that large bodies of water are
never at rest, for it is the changing density and temperature and
movements (winds) of the air that produce waves and currents.

Waves are caused by the pressure and friction of the wind upon the
surface of the water, as you may readily see at any pond; and the water
in them simply rises and falls, driving forward a little at the very
surface so as to cause a gentle current called _wind-drift_. When the
waves approach the shallow, sloping border of the land they are checked
at the bottom by the slope of the beach, while the freer upper part
goes forward, and the waves speedily lose their rounded form and become
more and more sharply ridged and steep on the front side as they sweep
on until at last they pitch forward in the crash and thunder of surf.

In the open ocean the waves are usually doing little work except to
cause the surface to rise and fall. The harder the wind blows, the
higher the waves become, and the faster they travel. This speed has
been calculated, and has been found to be proportionate to size.

“Waves 200 feet long from hollow to hollow,” we are told, “travel about
19 knots per hour; those of 400 feet in length make 27 knots; and
those of 600 feet rush forward irresistibly at 32 knots.” These, of
course, are under the furious impulse of a gale, and it is marvelous
that ships can be made to ride over them; nor is it any wonder that
excited mariners clinging to the bulwarks of some small and heeling
craft, should call them “mountain high,” and declare in all seriousness
that they have seen their crests rising one hundred feet above their
hollows. No such altitude, nor half of it, probably, is ever reached
by a storm-wave in the heaviest cyclone. An excellent authority,
Lieutenant Qualtrough, assures us that the highest trustworthy
measurements are from forty-four to forty-eight feet. The height of a
wave depends upon what mariners call its “fetch”—that is, its distance
from the place where the waves began to form. This has been worked
out mathematically by Thomas Stevenson (father of the late Robert
Louis Stevenson, the novelist), an eminent engineer and designer of
lighthouses, who gives the following formula: “The height of the wave
in feet is equal to 1½ multiplied by the square root of the fetch in
nautical miles.” If the waves began 100 miles away from your ship, the
waves about you will be 15 feet high, because the square root of 100
is 10, and one and a half times 10 is 15 (feet). The highest waves are
not formed in the greatest tempests, which beat down their crests, but
when the gale is both very strong and long continued. The worst “seas,”
as sailors call big waves, are those met with off the Cape of Good Hope
and Cape Horn.

The depth to which wave disturbance extends depends on the violence of
the wind, and near shore upon the slope of the bottom. Prestwich tells
us that pebbles may sometimes be moved at the depth of one hundred
feet, and sand much deeper, as is shown by the fact that the bottom is
disturbed in heavy storms on the Banks of Newfoundland.

The weight and power of such on-rushing masses of water are tremendous,
as appears from the effect on coasts where they strike; but this
opens up a subject which is too large for treatment here, and I must
refer readers to geological treatises, and to such special works as
Professor N. S. Shaler’s excellent “Sea and Land,” where the work of
the ocean in tearing down and building up its coasts is fully and
entertainingly explained. I shall have something more to say on
this point, also, when I come to the chapter “Dangers of the Deep,”
and speak of the terrible destruction caused by earthquakes, and in
certain other agitations of the sea not due to the wind, and often
styled “tidal waves.” There is only one kind of “tidal wave,” properly
speaking, however; and this is a theoretical rather than an actual one,
perceptible usually only in that rising and falling of the water along
coasts twice each twenty-four hours that we call the flow and ebb of
the tides; and here we see the effect rather than the thing itself.

[Illustration: LOW TIDE, ST. JOHN’S HARBOR, N. B.]

The tide has been an inevitable circumstance of the existence on the
earth of the ocean, or any other great body of water, ever since its
origin, yet it was not until Sir Isaac Newton made us comprehend
the law of gravitation that its mystery was explained. We now know
with certainty—if you want the mathematical formulæ and so forth,
consult some good modern encyclopædia under the word _tide_—that this
periodical rising and falling of the sea is due to the attraction of
the sun and moon,—to the last three times as much as to the first,
because it is so much nearer. This attraction is exerted toward the
globe as a whole; and its visible effect upon the movable water is to
lift it bodily on that side nearest the moon, and at the same time to
pull away the earth from the water on the opposite side, which amounts
to the same thing; and thus high tides are simultaneously produced
at these antipodes, which accounts for the two a day. At the same
time, however, the intermediate spaces have low tides caused by an
attraction there toward the center of the earth. “There are thus always
simultaneously and directly under the moon two high waters opposite
each other, and two low waters at equal distances between them. Owing
to the rotation of the earth, this permanent system of swells and
troughs travels from east to west over every part of the ocean and of
its coast, and explains the regular succession of rising and falling
waters, at equal intervals of time, which we call the tides.”


But the sun also exerts a similar but lesser influence, producing
four daily solar tides, which most of the time are lost to view in
the greater lunar tides. When, however, the moon gets into line with
the earth and the sun, so that both the heavenly bodies pull together
like a tandem team, as happens twice a month,—at new moon and full
moon,—their combined action causes unusually high water, which is the
sum of the lunar and solar tides, and is called the spring tide. High
water is then highest, and low water lowest. On the other hand, in the
midst of these fortnightly intervals, when the moon is at its first
or third quarter, the sun is a full quarter of the heavens (90°) away
from the moon. Its influence, therefore, acts at right angles to or
practically against that of the moon, and the solar tides go to swell
the low waters and diminish the high waters, forming what sailors call
neap tides,—preserving an old English word meaning _low_.

Now remember that the globe is not standing still, even while we make
these explanations, but is revolving at a tremendous speed, so that the
water under the moon lifted by lunar attraction is changing place every
instant at the rate of over one thousand miles an hour, and you have
the conception of a low wave on each side of the earth, reaching north
and south, highest and swiftest on the equator and diminishing toward
the poles. These are the true tidal waves. Were the globe covered with
an unbroken mantle of water, such waves, each about twenty inches (or
twenty-nine inches at springtide) high on the average at the equator,
would follow one another round and round the earth at the rate of one
complete circuit in every twenty-four hours. That must have been the
case in the primeval ocean before any continents existed; and something
of it still exists in the belt of unobstructed water surrounding the
Antarctic continent of ice. It would then be flood tide or ebb tide
at the same hour along the whole length of any one meridian. But in
the present condition of the globe, where the oceans are separated by
continents and broken by islands, the progress of the tidal waves is
obstructed, deflected, and wholly stopped in a great variety of ways
and places, so that the hours, amount, and behavior of the tides are
exceedingly varied in different regions, and are often very puzzling,
forming one of the most difficult matters with which the practical
navigator has to deal. Interference of tidal currents forms the
Maelstrom, off the coast of Norway, whose revolution is reversed twice
daily, the classic Scylla and Charybdis, in the Straits of Messina, so
much dreaded by the navigators of old, and many other whirlpools of
less celebrity. The tidal wave sweeping northward across the Atlantic
has time to round the northern end of Scotland and flood the German
Ocean with southward swelling currents before the rising water pouring
into the southern end of the English Channel has time to push its way
through that narrow and shallow passage; hence the two floods meet in
the Straits of Dover, which accounts for the miserable chop-sea so
sadly prevalent in that unfortunate bit of water.

The natural height of the tide seems to be from two to five feet, as
shown in the midst of the broad Pacific. “But when dashing against the
land, and forced into deep gulfs and estuaries,” to quote Professor
Simon Newcomb, “the accumulating tide-waters sometimes reach a very
great height. On the eastern coast of North America, which is directly
in the path of the great Atlantic wave, the tide rises on an average
from 9 to 12 feet. In the Bay of Fundy, which opens its bosom to
receive the full wave, the tide, which at the entrance is 18 feet,
rushes with great fury into that long and narrow channel, and swells
to the enormous height of 60 feet, and even to 70 feet in the highest
spring tides. In the Bristol Channel, on the coast of England, the
spring tides rise to 40 feet, and swell to 50 in the English Channel at
St. Malo on the coast of France.”

To this cause is also due in some degree those great oceanic currents
which form another striking fact in the history of the sea; but they
are mainly due to temperature, wind, and the rotation of the earth.

The drops that make up a body of water are the most restless things in
the world; they are always sliding down the least slope, sinking out
of the way of lighter substances, rising to let a heavier object pass
beneath them, or moving hither and thither in an ever hopeful search of
that levelness and quiet that we call equilibrium. Furthermore, when
water is heated it becomes lighter. Should, therefore, a portion of
the sea grow warmer than the remainder, it must and will rise to the
surface; and whenever a portion becomes cooled, it must and will sink.

Now, under the continuous blazing sun of the torrid zone the sea-water
near the surface gets fairly warm,—having an average temperature of
about 85° along the equator,—while in the polar regions the ocean is
always chilled by permanent or floating ice until it is nearly cold
enough to freeze; but these masses of warm and cold water cannot remain
separate in the universal ocean. The hot tropical flood, continually
rising, _must_ flow away somewhere to find its level; and it can flow
nowhere except toward the poles, for there the ever-sinking volume of
chilled and therefore heavier water sucks it in to take its place,
while it, in turn, creeps underneath toward the equator, there to fill
the gap which the escaping warm water leaves behind. So we know there
is constantly going on an interchange of water—a constant flowing
_away_ from the equator northward and southward on the surface, and a
flowing in _toward_ the equator along the bottom; an endless springing
up in the torrid zone and a steady settling down in the polar seas. One
out of many proofs of this fact is that the thalassal abysses below the
depth of a mile or so are known to be ice-cold. This could not happen
unless they were constantly filled and refilled with new water from the
great coolers at the poles; for if the water at those depths should
remain unchanged, it would soon become very warm from the heat of the
interior of the earth, whence it does constantly extract some heat.

But while this invisible _vertical circulation_ is going on, another
more visible and interesting set of movements is in progress on the
surface, forming what are known as _ocean currents_. These are vast
rivers in the ocean flowing across its face in certain directions and
to a certain depth, as rivers make their way along the land. They
begin and are kept going mainly by a union of the two causes already
explained—heat and wind.


The heat of the sun at the equator, warming, lightening, and
evaporating the water, constantly tends to draw the colder water from
the poles, most copiously from the South Pole; but the Antarctic water,
hastening to the equator, is soon interrupted by the extremities of
Australia, Africa, and South America, and so split into three great
branches. That which passes into the South Atlantic goes on northward
along the western coast of Africa, part of it becoming so warm under
the hot sun there that it will not sink, but constantly comes more and
more to the surface, until it strikes against the great shoulder of
Guinea and is turned sharply westward. Now it is squarely under the
trade-wind and headed the same way; constantly urged forward by this
moderate but endless tugging of the wind upon its waves, the current
can never swerve, but flows along the equator, and for half a dozen
degrees each side of it, straight across the Atlantic. South America,
however, stands in its path, and the wedge-like coast of Brazil,
pointed with Cape St. Roque, splits this great river. Part of it now
turns southward and swings back across toward Africa, making an eddy
a couple of thousand miles wide in the South Atlantic, while another
arm runs down the Patagonian coast. But by far the largest part of the
divided current is sent northward, past the coast of upper Brazil into
the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, where it is well heated, and
thence poured into the North Atlantic, to become widely celebrated as
the _Gulf Stream_.

Gathered in full force, the Gulf Stream flows northward close along
the coast of our Southern States at the rate of eighty or ninety miles
a day until Cape Hatteras gives it a swerve away, when it strikes out
to sea and pushes straight across to Spain, where a branch leaves it
and runs northward between Iceland and the British Islands, while the
main body turns southward to mingle again with the equatorial current
from Africa and repeat its journey all over again. It is in the heart
of this great circle of currents in the middle of the Atlantic that
navigators find that dreaded region of heat and calms which they call
the Doldrums; and here, too, float round and round the wide, buoyant
meadows of the Sargasso Sea.

Meanwhile another most important cold stream is making its way through
the Atlantic, known as the Arctic current. It comes down out of
Baffin’s Bay, joins a similar flood from the outer coast of Greenland,
is thrown up to the surface by the Banks of Newfoundland (where meeting
warm air, it produces those thick and prolonged fogs so common in that
region), fills the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the bight between Nova
Scotia and Cape Cod with chilly water, and finally dips under the Gulf
Stream amid that commotion of winds and waters that makes the track
of the steamships between New York and Europe the most tempestuous of
ocean highways. It is the mingling of these warm and cold waters there
which is chiefly responsible for the stormy condition of the North

The Pacific has a similar arrangement of circulation north and south of
the equator. The Antarctic waters form a cold stream named the Humboldt
current, which pours up the western side of South America, keeping the
climate down to a far more wintry condition than it is entitled to by
latitude, until it reaches the southern trade-winds, which sweep it
westward straight across the Pacific, where much of it is lost among
the archipelagoes of Oceanica, and the southern part flows onward into
the Indian Ocean.

North of the Pacific equator a similar westward current moves steadily
over the great waste of waters past the Sandwich Islands to the coast
of China. From the Philippines and Japan northward, however, there
is a far stronger flow, known to the Japanese as the Black Current
(Kuroshiwo), which skirts the coast of Japan and the Kurile Islands,
makes these and Kamchatka habitable, then turns sharply east along
the front of the foggy Aleutian chain of islands, and broadening and
cooling as it turns, swings down the temperate coast of Alaska and
gradually disappears. These two great currents and their inclosed
eddies are far broader and less distinct than those of the North and
South Atlantic, but they follow the same laws.

In a similar but lesser way the Indian Ocean has a strong westerly
stream flowing straight across from Australia to South Africa, which
is of immense help to ships returning from the East around the Cape of
Good Hope. From Mozambique the water turns northward to make the return
round, but here it is complicated by the peculiar conditions made by
the inflow and outflow of the Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, and so on, and
by the disturbing influences of the monsoons, until it can hardly be

Of all these currents none is as well marked as the Gulf Stream. Its
blue water is in such contrast to the darker, greenish hue of the
remainder of the ocean that sailors can often tell when they enter the
edge of the current, half their vessel being in and half out of the
stream. If you approach from the west you find that the water at first
shows a warmth of only fifty or sixty degrees near the surface; but as
you sail on, this increases until, opposite Sandy Hook, you may get
as high a reading on the thermometer as eighty degrees, and opposite
Florida above one hundred degrees. This difference in temperature
between the eastern and western margins of the Gulf Stream is owing to
the presence of the great river of Arctic water flowing in an opposite
direction between the Gulf Stream and the shore. Off Florida the Gulf
Stream is about sixty miles wide; off New York it is over one hundred
miles in width, but is less sharply defined. Its depth is hard to
determine, but certainly amounts to several hundred feet. It is worth
remembering that, although some guesses had been made at it before, Dr.
Benjamin Franklin was the first man to study the Gulf Stream and to
tell us anything of its origin and course.

The way in which some of these ocean currents affect the weather of
the lands upon which they border shows how great is the influence of
the sea upon land-climates; indeed, it may be truthfully said that
only the continents and such great islands as Australia or Madagascar
have any climate essentially distinct from that of the ocean in their
quarter of the globe. But the equability that would reign over an ocean
of quiet water, determining the amount of cold and heat by regular
gradation in latitude between the equator and the poles, is completely
upset by the great current-movements I have outlined. Scotland, for
example, lies as far north as Labrador, and the latitude of London is
above that of Lake Superior, yet neither have those terrible frosts and
heavy snows which prevail in Canada, and make Labrador a land of ice
almost uninhabitable. This difference is due almost wholly to the fact
that the Gulf Stream pours its warm flood against the coast of Great
Britain, and even tempers the Norwegian coast, keeps Barentz’s Sea
largely free from summer ice, and clothes Spitzbergen with vegetation,
although within ten degrees of the pole. Hence in the forests of
northern Scandinavia Laps can dwell in much comfort on a line with the
frozen barren grounds north of Hudson Bay.


On the other hand, the unfortunate coasts of Greenland are bathed in
water chilled by months of captivity near the pole, and loaded with
ice that cools down all the winds that blow ashore. Greenland itself
is covered with an unbroken sheet of ice, hundreds or thousands of
feet thick, yet most of it is no farther north than Sweden. The whole
northeastern coast of America, down to Labrador, is incrusted with
ice; and the region south of the St. Lawrence has a similar climate to
Finland; while even farther south, Boston, within the protecting arm of
Cape Cod, is in winter a city of frost and snow and fog from November
till April, when it really is little farther north than sunny Naples,
where one laughs at winter.

Similarly, in the Pacific Ocean, the northward movement of the great
Japanese current makes the coast of China habitable and pleasant clear
to the Sea of Okhotsk, gives the Aleutian archipelago a pretty decent
climate, and causes the islands and coasts of Alaska and British
Columbia to nourish the most magnificent forests in America, and to
have a climate resembling that of Great Britain. Glasgow and Sitka
are, in fact, in the same latitude, and under very similar climatic
conditions, except that in Scotland there are no such lofty and cold
mountains to precipitate constant rains as is the case along the
northwestern margin of America.

Similar examples and contrasts might be drawn in other parts of the
world. The weather in the interior of continents is pretty much
alike on similar latitudes the world round, varying with height; but
the climate of all sea-coasts is good or bad as a place to live, in
accordance with the temperature of the water which the currents bring
to that part of the ocean.

But the currents of the ocean influence something besides the weather.
Upon them depends to a considerable extent whether a certain part of
the coast shall have one or another kind of animals dwelling in the
salt water. This is not so much true of fishes as it is of the mollusks
or “shell-fish,” the worms that live in the mud of the tide-flats, the
anemones, sea-urchins, starfish and little clinging people of the wet
rocks, and of the jellyfishes, great and small, that swim about in the
open sea.

Nothing would injure most of these “small fry” more than a change in
the water making it a few degrees colder or warmer than they were
accustomed to. Since the constant circulation of the currents keeps
the ocean water in all its parts almost precisely of the same density,
and food seems about as likely to abound in one district as another,
naturalists have concluded that it is temperature which decides the
extent of coast or of sea-area where any one kind of invertebrate
animal will be found. It thus happens that the life of Cuban waters is
different from that of our Carolina coast; and that, again, largely
separate from what you will see off New York; while Cape Cod seems to
run out as a partition between the shore life south of it and a very
different set of shells, sand-worms, and so forth, characteristic of
the colder waters to the northward.

Out in the ocean, however, the warm current of the Gulf Stream forms
a genial pathway along which southern swimming animals, like the
wondrously beautiful Portuguese-man-o’-war (Physalia), may wander
northward for hundreds of miles beyond where they are found near shore;
yet if by chance they stray outside the limits of the warm Gulf Stream,
they will at once be chilled to death, as happened once to millions of

Ocean currents carry floating burdens long distances. They bring the
icebergs to form those terrible fogs of Alaska and Newfoundland; and
they often bear far away the logs that float out of tropical rivers.

[Illustration: A YOUNG SHIP-RIGGER.]

These drifting logs often have plants growing upon them or contain
quantities of seeds which are not injured by their short voyages.
When, therefore, the coral polyps build up one of their reef-islands
until it appears above the waves, thither the currents bring roots
and seeds from neighboring islands, and quickly plant them upon the
new barren shores, so that in a few seasons the little islet becomes
green and wooded and ready to hold its own against the winds and
waves. Moreover, the same drifting stuff will carry land animals
as passengers,—insects, snails of many kinds, reptiles, and even
four-footed beasts,—and so not only give the island a vegetation, but
populate it with various of the smaller animals. This seems to you,
perhaps, a very accidental and haphazard way of fitting out a country
so that presently it may support human beings, nor is it the only
means by which barren islands become productive; but it is important
as far as it goes, and when we study into the distribution of plants
and animals in an archipelago, we are pretty sure to find those of the
same sort upon islands that lie in the same current—even to the human



As late as 1861 an exploring ship was visited by natives of Western
Australia, riding simple rough logs. To smooth and sharpen the log’s
end and then to hollow it out has been thought to be the first step
taken by primitive man in his progress toward a boat; but I think the
dugout probably came later, or at any rate no earlier, than the folding
of bark into a trough and tying up the ends, as some savages are still
content to do. In North America, where materials were favorable,
this germ developed into the very highest type of canoe—the Algonkin
birch-bark. It may have been an attempt to imitate the bark canoe in a
more durable form which led to the laborious hollowing of dugouts; but
here again, in regions where suitable trees grew, the art developed
so highly as to produce the great sea-boats of the Papuans and our
Northwest Coast Indians, carved from a single log, yet able to carry
sixty or more persons and their luggage. Such boats as these, when
provided with sails, are practically “ships,” and satisfy every need of
their owners.

Another root of naval architecture lies in the raft, which long ago
reached a high degree of usefulness in the sea-going balsa of western
South America. It is probable that the South Sea catamaran is a clever
outgrowth of experience with a raft. In Polynesia it took the form of
two great canoes, exactly equal, fastened close together and covered
by a single central deck; and such are the seaworthiness and speed of
these double boats, that the Polynesians voyage hundreds of miles in

Similar in purpose—namely, to insure stability—are the various
outriggers that at once characterize and distinguish among themselves
the native craft of the South Seas. This device consists of a beam of
the lightest obtainable wood, usually about half as long as the canoe,
which rests upon the water parallel to and a few feet away from the
side of the boat, and is connected with its gunwale by elastic rods or
planks. Sometimes these are covered, or partly covered, by a light
platform, and there are many variations in form; but the idea in all
cases is to keep the boat from overturning.

In many parts of the world logs could be obtained large enough only for
a narrow bottom or hollowed keel, and the remainder of the boat was
built up of planks and pieces ingeniously pegged and knit together with
treenails, ratan, and cords made of vegetable fibers that tightened
when wet. The Madras surf-boats are a familiar example in civilized
waters of boats made in this way which have great elasticity, and
out of them have developed, without much change, the swift proas of
the Malays, and the junks of China, Korea, and Japan. One device for
stitching these boats firmly together was the leaving of ridges on the
inner side of the planks or pieces, through holes in which they could
be tied to each other and to the inner framework without making a hole
reaching the outside. This system seems to have been earlier than the
use of treenails.

[Illustration: PROA, WITH OUTRIGGER.]

Of similar construction, apparently, were the boats of the Egyptians
and other peoples about the eastern end of the Mediterranean and the
Red Sea, which, as far back as three thousand years before Christ, at
least, had reached the size and capabilities of true ships, making, as
we shall presently see, extensive sea voyages. Pictures of them remain
in the very ancient tombs, and show that the planking consisted of
pieces about three feet square, which were laid on overlapping, like
shingles on a roof, and fastened to the framework by wooden treenails.
The Phenicians, and their pupils the Greeks and Romans, improved on
these methods in various ways, at last substituting iron, copper, and
bronze nails or bolts (which would not rust) for the wooden pegs of
their ancestors.

All of these boats and those of all western Europe (of which the best
outside the Mediterranean were the vikings’ ships) differed in one
essential point of construction from Oriental ships: instead of making
the shell of the vessel, and fitting into it a framework of connected
braces, as the Malays and Polynesians did (and yet do), they laid a
keel, bending it up or setting into it stem- and stern-posts at the
ends, and inserted along its sides curving upright timbers, well styled
“ribs,” which swelled out amidships, and narrowed in forward and aft,
making a skeleton of the shape the hull was intended to be. Finally,
over and upon this well-braced framework were securely fastened the
planks, which were narrow and ran lengthwise in every case except
that of the ancient Nile boats. The Scandinavian vikings developed a
craft of their own, one of the most interesting of the ancient ships;
and to these northern craftsmen is traceable the principal influence
that has shaped British (and consequently American) ship-building and
seamanship. This early Scandinavian boat was always made of oak, sharp
at both ends, and rather shallow, the general form being much like that
of a modern whaleboat, with a great rounding keel—if, indeed, this
wonderful sea-craft may not be a lineal descendant of the viking ship.
The hewn planks were attached to the keel and to the ribs (usually
single, naturally bent V-shaped prongs of oak) in a most ingenious and
serviceable manner, and they were always overlapping or clinker (_i.
e._, clencher) built. Several of these and other prehistoric boats have
been found buried in peat-moss and in mounds in Germany, Denmark, and
Scandinavia, and have been described by various writers.

The motive power of all the early boats was found in human arms,
wielding paddles or oars. It is said that the oldest forms of paddles
of which we have any record among the Egyptian or Assyrian hieroglyphs
show them to have been shaped somewhat like the arm and hand, and that
similar paddles were to be seen a few decades ago on the canals in
Holland. This is natural, because undoubtedly the first paddle ever
used was the naked hand. Short paddles were soon found less powerful
than long ones; but in order to work the latter it was necessary to
brace them against something in the middle. Notches were therefore cut
in the edge of the boat, or thole-pins were inserted, the paddle became
an oar, and by and by boatmen learned the art of feathering, and so

Steering could be done of old, as now, with a turn of the rearmost
paddle in a canoe, and as canoes enlarged, the steering-paddle was
lengthened. As the sterns of the ancient boats were usually either
sharp, like the prows, or else built up into an ornamental height, the
most convenient place for the steering-oar was over the right side,
where it was balanced in a loop of cable, or otherwise, as close to the
after end of the boat as practicable, and then a cross-piece extended
inboard from the handle, enabling the steersman to move it more easily
by giving him the benefit of leverage. Such was the arrangement of
steering-gear in all the ancient Mediterranean boats, and it is to a
similar arrangement in the sea-going craft of our northern ancestors
that we owe our words _stern_ and _starboard_, which originally
meant “steering-place” and “steering-side.” The modern rudder is
substantially the same oar, set upright, tiller and all, and hinged to
the stern-post; in fact, the word has descended from the old Teutonic
name for “oar,” and all gradations between steering-oar and true rudder
may still be found.

Though some romantic stories are told by the old mythologists as
to its origin, the idea of rigging was as natural and practical in
its development as that of hull or steering-gear. That a strong
breeze moves a canoe, and that, if a man in a canoe holds his robe
outstretched or a thick bush upright, the force will send him along
without the labor of paddling, and lengthwise rather than sidewise,
because that is the direction of least resistance, were facts quickly
and gratefully seized upon by the earliest boatmen. To have a skin
ready for the purpose, and to set up a pole and ropes to hold it in
position, were easy matters; yet in this simple arrangement you have
the first sail.

But skins were too heavy and valuable for such a purpose, except in
such limited circumstances as those of the Arctic Eskimos.

Persons who spent much time on the water, therefore, like the most
ancient Egyptians and the islanders of the Chinese and South seas, soon
devised a way of weaving rushes or splints of bamboo into broad mats,
and thus were able, on account of their lightness, to carry much larger
and more effective sails, which were kept outstretched by one or more
cross-poles or spars, and could be taken down quickly. Many such sails
are in use to this day not only among Asiatic and African boatmen, but
on the northwest coast of Canada. A fine example hangs above my desk as
I write.

With the discovery of how to make cloth and cordage of woolen, silken,
hempen, and cotton fibers (and in Egypt of papyrus), came a still
better material for ropes and sails, since cloth was so much lighter
that a far greater extent of it could be spread than before; its
flexibility enabled it to be handled, changed, and rolled up snugly,
and its cheapness encouraged its use and the practice of navigation
generally. We read of silken sails on the royal barges of medieval
times, but they could hardly have exceeded in strength or elegance
those of the fine Phenician ships that carried the commerce of the
world twenty-five centuries ago. “Fine linen with broidered work from
Egypt was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy sail,” exclaims
the sacred chronicler (Ezekiel xxvii. 7). Hempen cloth, indeed, was
preferred for sails until the present century, as is expressed in our
word _canvas_, which is derived from the Latin name of flax; but now
cotton has mainly superseded it.

Anciently the sails were often colored, purple or vermilion being the
badge of a monarch or an admiral. Black denoted mourning. “In some
cases the topsail seems to have been colored, while the sail below
was plain; and frequently a patchwork of colors was produced by using
different stuffs.” Various inscriptions and devices were also woven or
painted on the sails, sometimes in gold. The Venetians and Greeks do
the same to this day, adding a gaudy feature to the lovely Levantine
sea-scenery; and the sails of the North Sea fishermen are turned to a
rich red and yellow by the tanning mixture in which they soak their


As for the shape, all rigs seem reducible to two types—the lateen and
the square. The former is characteristic of the eastern half of the
world, the latter of the western half, including primitive America,
where, so far as I know, only plain, rectangular sails were ever made
by the Indians.

[Illustration: A HONG-KONG “PULL-AWAY” BOAT.

Showing method of hoisting and reefing matting sails.]

There must be some good reason for a broad division like this, and
it is found in the different conditions which eastern and western
seamen had to meet. The lateen seems to have originated in the Indian
Ocean, is seen wherever Arabs are, and has been taken eastward by the
Malays as far into the South Sea Islands as their influence extended.
It is a huge, triangular canvas extended at a steep angle by a long,
flexible yard balanced across the mast to which it is loosely hung,
and controlled by a sheet attached to the free corner. It is thus very
lofty, and therefore suitable to a region of steady and usually light
winds. This is the characteristic rig of the Arab dhow—a model that has
come down from remote antiquity and is capable of excellent service on
the northern and eastern coasts of Africa, where it prevails. It was
probably in a small vessel of this kind that the Apostle Paul suffered
shipwreck; and an outgrowth and perfection of it is the dahabiyeh
of the Nile, now become famous as a tourists’ pleasure-boat, whose
immensely lofty sail is precisely adapted to catch every faint breath
that comes across the river from the deserts. Such sails are spread
like the great pointed wings of an albatross over the narrow decks
of the Malayan “flying proas” and other swift South Sea craft, and
urge upon their fleet errands the xebecs, saics, feluccas, and other
light craft of the Levant and Barbary coasts, identified with former
piracy and modern smuggling, as well as with fishing and freighting.
Some of these boats have two or three masts, the xebec and felucca
being notable because of the curious forward rake of the foremast;
and in that extremely picturesque Portuguese fishing-boat called the
muleta there are, in addition to the big lateen, a huge free second
sail ballooning out to leeward from the tip of the yard, and a host of
little flying jibs forward, which somebody has well likened to a flock
of birds hovering about the prow. Good examples of lateen-rigged boats
may be seen in Louisiana, built and manned by the Greek, Maltese, and
Sicilian fishermen.

The difficulty of handling in rough or squally weather this long yard
and expansive canvas makes it unsuitable for such weather as prevails
in the western Mediterranean or on the Atlantic; and to meet these
stormy and frequently changing conditions, and obtain a rig with which
they could beat to windward, the earliest rough-water seamen devised
square sails. What the rig of the ancient far-voyaging Phenician ships
was we have no means of knowing, but the indications are that they
carried lug sails, which appear to be the simplest and earliest of the
“square” forms; that is, sails suspended from short cross-yards, and
controlled by ropes (sheets) attached to their lower corners. Such at
least were the sails of the Roman and Greek merchant and war vessels of
the classical era, and they persist to-day in the local fishing-smacks
of the stormy Adriatic.

The true home of the square-sailed craft, however, was northern Europe,
where the Norwegian, Dutch, and Norman coasters and fishermen of to-day
probably represent fairly well the rigs of the bold viking boats of
twelve or fifteen centuries ago.

Of the slow development of ship-building during the middle ages we have
little information, but in the fourteenth century we begin to hear of a
revival in the art, as, indeed, was needful when the long voyages were
to be undertaken which the discovery of the mariner’s compass had then
rendered possible. In this revival the Venetians and Genoese took the
lead, but the English were not far behind. There was a large variety
of vessels in that day, rude though they were, and called by names we
should hardly recognize.

Though the hulls of these vessels were large and tight, their shape
was poorly adapted for speed or for safety in bad weather. Their decks
were built up into immensely high structures at the stern and bows,
after the old galley model, and to form forts for soldiers. Our word
“forecastle” reminds us of this old usage. Their masts were single
sticks,—not divided into topmasts,—and hence, necessarily, were thick
and heavy; and they bore upon their summits large “top-castles” where
marines stood in battle to shoot down upon the enemy’s decks. This
weight above, with the height of surface exposed to the wind and the
clumsy rigging, made it impossible for them to sail safely except with
a fair and gentle wind (they never attempted it otherwise), and they
were required to carry an enormous quantity of ballast. There was
so little room for anything except armament, sleeping-berths, and a
cooking-room in the war-ships that every war fleet had to take with it
small vessels carrying provisions; and the case was little better in
respect to merchant vessels.

The ships in which Vasco da Gama, Columbus, the Cabots, and other
explorers did their marvelous work were no better than this. Strangely
inefficient they seem to us, and we wonder that some of the simplest
contrivances in rigging were not adopted centuries before they came
into use until we remember that it was not for long, speedy voyages
that vessels were intended previous to the sixteenth century (with
certain exceptions in northern seas), but simply as a means of carrying
slowly from one coast-port to another a great number of men or huge

However, as the known world widened and trade grew, inventions by
private ship-owners continually improved the rigging, though it would
be hard to find a class of men slower to change old ways for new than
the seamen. Columbus’s “caravel” had four short masts, the forward one
having a square lug-sail and the three after masts lateens. It was
very gradually, indeed, that lateens were given up, and most curious
combinations of sails were to be seen in this transition period of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The old-fashioned Mediterranean
barca, for example, had as foremast the forward-raking “trinchetto”
of the felucca, with a huge lateen, while the mainmast bore three
square sails and the mizzen two lugs; and in addition to this two banks
of oars were provided! In fact, it was not until 1800 that English
frigates substituted a spanker for the lateen-rigged mizzen.

Another curiosity of rigging possessed by these solidly built,
beautifully carved vessels (no such exterior decoration has been seen
since as adorned the ships of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries)
was the quaint little spritsail-topmast. By this time the single
heavy pole-mast had been superseded by the three built-up masts and
topmasts, braced by stays, made accessible by rope ladders (shrouds),
and carrying several tiers of topsails instead of only one. A bowsprit
had been added, also, and this became almost a fourth mast, so loaded
were it and its stays with various small sails. Its outer end bore
this miniature spritsail-mast, with topmast, shrouds, and tiny sails
all complete, surmounted by a pole-head, or jack-staff, upon which was
hoisted the flag since known as the jack, and always now carried at the
prow of any national boat or ship, even such as the shapeless monitors.

But gradually, out of the experience of long voyages, the competition
of merchants, and as an effect of improved gunnery and consequent
changes in naval tactics, the lofty deck-structures, great tops,
needless outworks, and odd sails, like this spritsail, were got rid of,
and vessels were trimmed down and equalized until they became, as now,
“ship-shape, Bristol-fashion.”

The rigging of modern sailing-vessels is divided into “standing” and
“running”; the former includes the masts, their stays, now generally
made of wire, and such other rope-work as is not adjustable.

The sails, also, may be assigned to two classes: first, those attached
to a mast, with or without boom and gaff, or to a stay, which are
called fore-and-aft sails because they may be ranged lengthwise of the
ship; and, second, those suspended by their upper and lower edges to or
between spars or “yards” swung across the mast, and known as “square”
sails, the lowermost of which are really lugs. All the variations
of shape seen in America, except the rare and local lateens, can be
counted in one or the other of these classes.

The styles of rig visible in American waters are not many, and are
easily learned. Let us begin with the simplest—that having one mast.

[Illustration: ANCIENT CARAVELS.

Copied from old manuscripts and tapestries.]

The _cat-boat_ (_i. e._, cat-rigged boat) is one having a simple
pole-mast stepped very near the bow, and a fore-and-aft sail laced to a
gaff and boom and managed by a sheet. This is the rig of the ordinary
American sail-boat, which is noted for its ability in pointing up into
the wind. In England it is known as a una-boat. Sometimes the peak
of the sail is sustained by a little loose spar called a “sprit,”
instead of a gaff. In the chapter on Yachting will be found further
illustrations of these small rigs.

A _sloop_ has one mast (with topmast) set well back from the stem, and
a bowsprit. The sloop-rig consists of a fore-and-aft mainsail, spread
by means of a boom and gaff, a gaff-topsail, a forestaysail, and one
or more jibs. A _cutter_ is now substantially the same thing, though
formerly somewhat distinguished. Both are derived, probably, from the
northern lugger, and old-time pictures show queer intermediate forms,
often having a square topsail instead of a gaff. Thus the earlier of
the Hudson River sloops, which were not only the freight-carriers but
the packet-boats between New York and Albany from the time the Dutch
introduced them until steamboats took their place, had the top of the
mainsail supported, lug-fashion, by a short yard, and carried above
that a square topsail; but this rig was steadily modified toward the
modern type to make it faster and safer in the sudden squalls that
beset this hill-girt river.

Of two-masted rigs, the oldest is the _brig_, which has square sails on
both masts, just like the main and mizzen masts of a full-rigged ship.
Then there is the _brigantine_, a slight modification of the brig,
and the _hermaphrodite brig_, or _brig-schooner_, with fore-and-aft
sails on the after mast. This kind of vessel has been greatly modified
(one of its most extraordinary forms was the _ketch_), is less common
now than formerly, and took its name, which is derived from the same
source as “brigand,” from the fact that it was the most common rig of
the pirates of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its place was
largely taken for small vessels by a purely American invention, and
one of the greatest of Yankee notions—the _schooner_. The schooner
was originally small, and had two masts; but now is often built of
great size, with as many as five or six masts, each of which has a
fore-and-aft rig—that is, a sloop’s mainsail and gaff-topsail on every
mast, with forestaysail and several jibs in front, and staysails
between. Sometimes a square sail is placed on the foretopmast, which
makes the vessel a _topsail schooner_. The first one was built by a
Gloucester sea-captain about 1817, and proved so satisfactory that all
the fishing-fleet were soon rigged in that way, whence the idea has
spread to all parts of the world.

Until recently, however, vessels large enough to have three masts were
always “square-rigged,” as _barks_, _barkentines_, or _ships_; for,
although we have come to speak of any big vessel as a “ship,” yet in
proper nautical language a ship is a vessel rigged in a particular way,
and it is nothing else. In fact, in olden times they were sometimes
very small—too small to be economical, as we now know. The “Naval
Chronicle” for 1807 contained an account of a full-rigged ship of
only thirty-six tons’ burden, which for one hundred and thirty years
previous to that date had been cruising about the English coast, and
may be doing so yet, for aught I know.


Masts have their proper names: the tallest is in the middle of the
vessel, and is called the _mainmast_; the next tallest stands in front
of it, and is the _foremast_; and the third is in the stern, and is
named _mizzenmast_, because it carries the mizzen (sail). All the
rigging, except that belonging to the bowsprit, is repeated for each
mast, and each piece is named with reference to the mast or part of the
mast or appropriate sail to which it belongs: as, for example, main
shrouds, fore shrouds, mizzen shrouds, mizzen-royal, maintopsail yard,
foretopmast studdingsail downhaul, and so on. In a proper full-rigged
ship all the sails upon the masts, except the spanker, are square,
and are named from the sections of the mast opposite which they hang.
Counting from the deck to the truck, or tiptop of the mast, they are
as follows: on the mainmast, mainsail or maincourse, maintopsail,
maintopgallant-sail, mainroyal, and skysail; on the foremast, foresail
or forecourse, foretopsail, foretopgallant, foreroyal, and skysail;
on the mizzenmast, cross-jack (and behind it the spanker, mizzen, or
driver), mizzentopsail, mizzentopgallant, mizzen-royal, and skysail.
The bowsprit sails are the forestaysail, foretopmast staysail, jib,
flying jib, and outer jib, or jibstaysail. Each of the stays running
diagonally from mast to mast bears a triangular sail known by the name
of the particular stay on which it hangs, as maintopmast staysail, and
so on—nine in all. In addition to all this, a little sail is sometimes
set above the skysail, and another under the bowsprit, while out
beyond the ends of the yards are often extended light additional spars
carrying studdingsails. In favorable weather, when the captain wishes
to “crowd all on,” as sometimes can be done for days and weeks together
before the trades, almost forty sails may be spread, and the ship moves
grandly along under a swaying cloud of canvas that reaches far beyond
her rails on each side, and towers more than one hundred feet into the
steady air.

But the cost of building, maintaining, and handling these grand
fabrics is so great that they are steadily diminishing in numbers,
and perhaps are destined before long to disappear altogether from the
seas to which they have lent so much picturesqueness and romance. The
supremacy of the schooner seems likely to prove complete. Unwilling to
concede everything at once, many vessels are now rigged with square
sails on the foremast and mainmast and fore-and-aft sails on the mizzen
(a _bark_), or square sails on the foremast only, and the others
schooner-rigged (a _barkentine_); but even these are disappearing in
favor of the three-masted or four-masted schooner. This is due to the
fact that the schooner rig will sail closer to the wind and gives
as much force in proportion as the ship style, while it is far less
expensive to build, and more quickly and easily managed, not requiring
nearly as many men, and therefore being cheaper to run as well as
to set up. It is for these reasons that I have called it one of the
greatest of Yankee notions.





Wherever it may have been that man first appeared upon the earth, the
period must certainly have been incalculably long ago, for he had time
to spread to all parts of the habitable globe long before any sort of
record begins. Little, if any, part of the world has yet been found
where the evidences of man’s residence in the long-forgotten past do
not exist. So long ago that all tradition of it is forgotten, and only
the imperishable stone implements they used remain as traces of their
presence, mankind had reached and settled the farthest northern and
eastern coasts of Europe and Asia, and the southern extremities of
Africa and India. These might have been reached by land; but similar
traces exist in many islands which, so far as we can see, could never
have been connected with each other or with any continent by lands
now submerged (as perhaps has been the case in some other islands)
since man originated. Such places, then, could have been reached and
colonized only by means of boats, and that at an exceedingly remote

Some hint of what these prehistoric navigators might have been able to
do may be gathered from the performances that we know of in the South
Sea, where almost every island and coral atoll that could support a
colony has apparently been inhabited, since long before even tradition
begins, although some of them, like the Hawaiian group, are separated
from all others by hundreds of miles of open sea.

It is exceedingly interesting and suggestive to read in a work like
Professor Friedrich Ratzel’s “History of Mankind,” of the dispersion
of population over the islands of the South Pacific Ocean, where a
mixed population of black and yellow races possessed themselves of
the whole of Oceanica long before white men had even heard of that
part of the world. This astounding fact gains in significance when
we remember that wide tracts of very deep ocean divide these islands,
many of which are so small that they were found by exploring navigators
only with difficulty. Cook and Beechey and other early voyagers note
finding upon certain islands people who had come thither in their own
boats over distances of six or eight hundred miles; and there are many
instances of castaways surviving voyages of one thousand or fifteen
hundred miles, even against the trade-winds. But these involuntary
voyages were no longer than many others undertaken for war or trade,
or because of famine or a mere love of wandering. Over-population of
the limited spaces of most islands and groups led to the colonization
of others; and it must often have been necessary to go far away to
seek unoccupied or thinly peopled refuges. This could not have been
done had men not been good shipwrights, not only, but careful students
of the heavens by whose sun and moon and stars they steered, aiding
themselves with charts made of sticks. The remotest groups, like the
Sandwich Islands and Easter Island, were found and settled too long
ago even for tradition to retain more than a fabulous story about it.
“These Vikings of the Pacific,” says Ratzel, “continued to discover
even small and remote islets. In the whole of the Pacific there is not
one island of any size of which it was left to Europeans to demonstrate
the habitability.” It has even been argued that the continent of
America was peopled by Pacific Islanders, who made their way to it
from Polynesia; but of this there is no direct evidence, and it seems
unlikely, because the prevailing winds and currents flow from South
America, rather than toward it, in this part of the Pacific.

But leaving these dim old times when barbarous men voyaged far and wide
over seas, and races mingled that were born on opposite sides of wide
waters, let us note what traveling our civilized ancestors did.

The evidences of ruined walls, graves, carvings, and stone tools
show that that earliest of civilized races of which we now have any
knowledge—the Hittites—were acquainted not only with the coasts of
the Mediterranean Sea, but had boldly rounded the headlands of Spain,
skirted the stormy Bay of Biscay, and settled colonies in England
and France. Who were these Hittites? They were an Asiatic people,
dwelling in the Taurus Mountains of the eastern part of Asia Minor,
who increased into the most powerful nation of that part of the world
about two thousand years before Christ, and carried on wars with the
Egyptians, among others, until at last they were overcome by the rise
of the empire of Assyria, north of them, about eleven hundred years
before Christ. Doubtless they explored the African coast somewhat south
of the Red Sea, and very likely knew the Persian Gulf and the route
to India. My own opinion is that we are likely to give the people of
antiquity too little credit rather than too much in the direction of a
knowledge of geography.

Meanwhile there was rising along the Mediterranean from Palestine
northward the most able commercial race of antiquity, who styled
themselves Canaanites, as in the Bible, but whom the Greeks called
Phenicians, the name by which we know them best. Their capitals were
the cities Tyre and Sidon, the ruins of which are still to be seen
on the Syrian coast a little way south of Beirut, and the wealth and
commercial power of which will give us some interesting paragraphs
for a future chapter. Suffice it here to say that their rulers were
foremost among the loosely organized “nations” between the Nile and the
Euphrates, and that they maintained their power through a long period,
not only by their wealth and enterprise as traders, but mainly through
their skill and energy as navigators. As we shall see when we come to
consider their commerce in Chapter VII, they excelled in the building
of ships, in an understanding of how to steer long courses by the
heavenly bodies, and in sea knowledge generally. It is well known that
the Phenicians traded in their ships down the west coast of Africa to
and beyond the Canary Islands, which they also visited; made repeated
voyages to the French coast and the British Islands; and may very
likely have gone around into the Baltic, for they knew of its amber,
though this might have been obtained by the overland trade routes. It
is believed that they ascertained that Africa was, in fact, a huge
island; for it was to prove this supposition that Pharaoh Necho (or
Naku or Neku) II, an enlightened Egyptian monarch who reigned in the
sixth century before Christ, hired a crew of Phenician seamen to man
an expedition whose purpose it was to circumnavigate Africa. These men
started down the Red Sea in 611 B. C., and in 605 B. C. came sailing
home through the Strait of Gibraltar, to the delight of their friends
and confusion of a kingdom full of I-told-you-sos.[1] Just twenty
centuries elapsed before any one else repeated that feat, so far as I
know;, and no wonder it was forgotten. This same Necho II did even more
for maritime commerce, for he attempted to complete the canal, begun
long before his time, connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea,
and seems to have made a passage along which barges and small boats
might be towed, which remained open for many centuries, and in part
followed the line now covered by the Suez Canal. Earlier than that
Darius, the Persian conqueror of Egypt, had dug a navigable canal from
the Nile to the Red Sea; and this shows that there must have been large
traffic in both seas at that time to justify such tasks.

[Illustration: AN EARLY ROMAN BIREME.]

By this time the power and prosperity of Tyre and Sidon had declined,
and Carthage, originally a colonial city, had become the most important
center of Phenician influence; and from this port there sailed a
century later (perhaps about 500 B. C.) an exploring expedition under
a Carthaginian king named Hanno, intended to study and establish trade
with the West African coast. It was a large and powerful fleet, said
to number sixty galleys; and that women were taken as well as men
shows that it was intended to form settlements at suitable points,
as, indeed, was done. The account of it has been preserved in a short
writing called the “Periplus,” by an ancient but unknown Greek; and
this inscription is regarded by most scholars as entirely authentic,
since all its details conform to modern knowledge, even though it is
impossible to identify surely the various points mentioned. It tells us
that the terminus of Hanno’s exploration was an island beyond a gulf
called Noti Cornu, in which he found a company of hairy women, whom
the interpreters called _gorillas_. It was in memory of this that the
manlike apes which a few years ago were discovered on the west coast of
Africa received the same name; but they are not known anywhere north of
the Kamerun Mountains, while the farthest point any critic is willing
to believe reached by Hanno is the Bight of Benin, some distance north
of the Kameruns. It is easy to believe that the inquiring Carthaginians
might have heard of these apes,—or perhaps of chimpanzees, now found
as far north as the Gambia River,—and reported actually seeing them,
in order to add glory to their name. At any rate, this expedition
increased largely the ancient knowledge of the sea in that direction;
and navigators now knew the shores of the Atlantic from the Gulf of
Guinea to the North Sea; but there the knowledge of the world seems
to have rested for more than a dozen centuries, principally, no
doubt, because there seemed nothing beyond, either north or south, to
invite the merchants who then, as ever since, have been the principal
promoters of discovery. It is only within the past century that
voyages of discovery have been undertaken purely for the sake of the
increase of knowledge. Previous to that the object was always either
military conquest or the extension of trade.


(About 240 B. C. Banks of oars and lug-sails.)]

Attention was now turned to the eastern seas, overland routes to India
and even to China having become well known both to conquering armies
and to mercantile caravans. The coasts of Abyssinia, of Arabia, of the
Persian Gulf, and of western India were settled by a semi-civilized
people for a thousand, perhaps two thousand, years before the Christian
era; but they were broken into many independent tribes; and their
ships, if they had any, only crept from one harbor to another near
by, and neither knew nor cared what lay beyond the farther headlands.
As time went on, however, and strong kingdoms arose in Egypt, Arabia,
Syria, and Persia, consolidating these scattered tribes into nations,
it became necessary to learn the sea-routes between more distant ports.
Thus it came about that while the Pharaohs still flourished, Arabic
commerce extended regularly along the coast of Abyssinia, and doubtless
as far southward as Zanzibar, while the Malays had probably already
reached and colonized Madagascar. There seems no reason to doubt that
those remarkable ruins in stone which the late Mr. Thomas Bent has
studied at and near Zimbabwe, in Mashonaland, East Africa, are the work
of Arabian gold-miners, made perhaps a thousand or more years ago; and
it is pretty certain that Arabic seamen even at that date regularly
traded as far as the island of Madagascar.

The Persian Gulf has been another nursery of a seafaring people
since long before the record of history begins; yet so slow were
they to learn of anything outside their capes, that it was accounted
a wonderful thing when, in the winter of 325-4 B. C., Nearchus, the
admiral of the fleet of Alexander the Great, voyaged from the mouth of
the Indus to the head of the Persian Gulf. Soon afterward, however,
under the house of the Ptolemies, rulers of Egypt, fleets sailed
regularly between Red Sea ports and India and Ceylon.

But now for many long centuries the boundaries of the known world
were not to be much enlarged (although methods of navigation were
improved and commerce continued within the limits of Roman and Arabic
dominion), for we know of the discovery of no new coasts until we
begin to hear of the doings of an independent and far northern people,
scarcely known to the civilized world, and certainly not regarded as a
part of it.

On the bleak shores of the North Sea, where the fiords and creek-mouths
of Scandinavia gave shelter not only from foreign enemies, but from
each other, there had grown up a seafaring race of men, of Gothic
ancestry, who had settled on the coasts of what are now Norway, Sweden,
and Denmark. They styled themselves Norsemen, or men of the North, and
did not object to the title Vikings, or Fiord-men; but their enemies
called them pirates, and with much reason, for they ravaged and ruled
all the coasts both north and south of the Baltic, voyaging northward
to the “land of the midnight sun,” colonizing northern France in the
tenth century, and taking practical possession of all they pleased of
the British Isles—Ireland and northern Scotland in particular. Here
these Norsemen met equally fierce foes, or found congenial partners,
as the case might be, in the Scottish and Irish seamen of that day,
who were themselves bold freebooters and wide voyagers; and when, in
the middle of the ninth century, the Northmen had discovered, as they
supposed, the Faroe Islands and Iceland, a little exploration soon
showed them that the Irish _culdees_, or priests of the Christian
church planted in Ireland by St. Patrick, had been there before
them—first in 725, according to the Irish chronicles of Dicuilus, who
seems worthy of credence. Indeed, it is believed by some antiquarians
that these Irish sea-wanderers had colonized Iceland at the same early
age; had reached Newfoundland, and regularly resorted to its banks
for fishing and whaling (five hundred years before Cabot); and were
even acquainted with the coast of the North American continent, where
traditions assert that their colonies were planted on what are now the
shores of Virginia and the Carolinas, which they called New Ireland.

These are entertaining old stories, and may have some truth in them,
for it seems certain that the Irish reached Iceland, at least, in the
eighth century. Icelandic history, however, begins with the visits
of Norsemen in 850, followed by others, who, a few years later, took
colonies there and set up an island population which before a century
had elapsed numbered more than fifty thousand people. They had a
republican form of government, and were quite independent of the King
of Norway (Harold the Fair-haired, great-great-grandfather of William
the Conqueror), from whom the earlier colonists had fled because of his
oppression; but they kept up acquaintance with the mother-country, and
merchants and adventurers were continually voyaging between Iceland
and all the islands and coasts of that region, using stanch vessels
sometimes one hundred feet in length, and eminently seaworthy; yet
their only guides were the stars and such signs as seafaring men read
in the water and weather about them.


It continually happened, however, that they were driven far out of
their courses, in such a region of gales, currents, and fogs as is the
North Atlantic. In one such adventure, in the year 876, a sea-captain
named Gunnbjörn Ulfkragesson was driven far to the west of Iceland,
and when he got back to port told his friends that he had seen land.
Probably he also told them Showing build, steering-oar, and rig
(colored lug-sail), of Scandinavian exploring ships in the North

that so far as he could see there was nothing but icy mountains, of
which they already had enough, for no one seems to have investigated
the matter further until more than a century later, when a turbulent
viking of the rebellious house of Erik, called Erik the Red, was
banished from Norway and fled to Iceland with his followers. He was
soon convicted there also of manslaughter in a neighborhood quarrel,
and again condemned to banishment. Iceland wanted to get rid of him and
his brawlers, and Europe would not let him return. Whither should he go?

Then his thoughts turned toward the strange land in the west that
tradition said Gunnbjörn had sighted. It is believed by the most
careful students that Gunnbjörn’s “rocks” were volcanic islets, which
have now disappeared, and are represented only by certain shoals;
but it would not be incredible that he had caught a glimpse of the
Greenland coast itself.

At any rate, Erik had little hesitation in starting out to rediscover
them. Why should he? Those rough-riders of the sea were used to voyages
of equal length. It is about 200 miles from the Norwegian coast at
Bergen to the Shetland Islands; 200 miles from the Shetlands, or 225
from the Hebrides, to the Faroes; and 275 miles thence to the nearest
coast of Iceland,—reckoning all in straight lines, shorter than any
ship could actually follow.

If his viking boat and viking crew could span those stretches of sea
unguided, what hindered his crossing the little further space whose
tempests had no terrors for this wild sea-king? In that unpossessed
land, could he find it, he might be free to riot at his will (but one
cannot help thinking there was more in the man than that!); and if he
could open to his people a new country, what wealth and power might not
come with it to him, for the humbling of his rivals at the court of

So Red Erik sailed away to the west in 984, and two years later
returned to Iceland and reported that he had met first a far-extending
icy coast, along whose front he had sailed southward until he could
turn to the west and then northward, thus rounding its narrow southern
extremity (Cape Farewell); and there he had found a habitable region,
which he called Greenland, in order, as he said, to attract settlers
by a pleasant name. Thus this wicked old Norseman was the first of
American “real-estate boomers.”

Attracted by his story, a band of adventurers went back with him in
986, and established a settlement near the site of the present Danish
town Julianshaab, just inside the cape, on an inlet that they named

Among these emigrants was one named Herjulf, whose son Bjarne[2] was a
merchant captain who owned his own ship, and was then absent in Norway.
Returning to Iceland shortly after Erik’s departure, he concluded at
once to follow his father, and, with a willing crew and still loaded
ship, set sail for the west. But incessant bad weather drove them they
knew not whither during many days. At last the wind fell, the sun shone
out, and they saw land; but its appearance did not agree with the
description of Greenland, and knowing they were too far south, Bjarne
turned north, and kept on, occasionally sighting the coast, until
finally he reached Eriksfiord in safety. No one knows what headlands
he looked upon; but if the Icelandic versified chronicles called sagas
may be believed,—and the wisest students of history put faith in
them,—he was the first European to see America of whom we have definite

Several years passed by, however, before any one tried to profit by
this accident and seek the lands that had been seen southward. Then
Leif, the eldest son of old Red Erik, resolved to do so. He had talked
with Bjarne and his men until he knew all the details of their story,
and then he bought the same good old ship, and enlisted a crew of
thirty-five men. This happened in Norway, where Leif then was, and it
is said by some that the king aided and authorized the expedition. At
any rate, after a public farewell they sailed away, and seem to have
gone straight across the ocean; but whether they did this, or sailed
by way of Iceland and Greenland, they easily found the unknown coasts
Bjarne had described, and landed in Helluland, Markland, and Vinland,
in the last of which they built huts and spent the winter of the year

The identification of these places has caused much discussion. That
“Helluland” was Newfoundland and “Markland” Nova Scotia seems tolerably
certain; but historians are not agreed as to where that winter was
spent in “Vinland,” so called (meaning “Wineland”) because a German
member of the crew gathered grapes there, from which wine could be
made. When, in 1602, Gosnold discovered a fruitful island south of Cape
Cod, he named it Martha’s Vineyard, believing that he had found the

When Leif reached Greenland again, the next spring, every one was
vastly interested in his discoveries, and emigrants from Greenland,
Iceland, and even from Europe went out to colonize the new lands; but
the attempts, though spasmodically continued for a long time, seem
never to have been really successful, so that no undisputed trace of
the presence of these sea-wanderers on the mainland of North America
is known to exist. That they knew the coast fairly well from Disco
Island (70° N. lat.) southward to Virginia, is generally believed;
but where Leif Erikson spent that first winter, or where the Vinland
settlement of subsequent times was, is thus far a matter of conjecture.
Some students of the sagas place it in New York harbor, others in
Narragansett or Buzzard’s bay, near Boston, or in Nova Scotia. Formerly
the general belief was that Newport, R. I., or the shore above there,
was surely the site; but this was based, first, on the supposed
European inscriptions on a rock in the Somerset River, at Dighton,
just above Fall River, which were in reality only Indian markings;
and, second, upon the “old round tower” at Newport, which few persons
now believe was built prior to the coming of the English colonists
with Roger Williams. The late Professor E. H. Horsford believed that
he had found the site of the principal Norse settlement of the tenth
century, called Norumbega, at Watertown, on the Charles River, a few
miles west of Boston; and he made an argument from old maps, etc., to
support his assertion that the ancient river-walls, etc., there were
really the remains of a town; but historians generally do not attach
any importance to Professor Horsford’s theory.

Perhaps we shall never know where this “Vinland” was that Leif
discovered, and where the queenly Gudrid dwelt and her son Schnorr—the
first white child in America—was born; nor is it of much consequence
that we should, for the settlements were few and transitory. That they
existed, however, and that the shores of Canada and New England were
occasionally visited from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries by
Norsemen, cannot be gainsaid. That the Greenlanders did not all migrate
to the warmer, well-timbered, and fruitful region in the south was
probably due to the fact that it was so remote from their kindred, and
so open to attack by the native red men, whom they called _skrellings_.

[Illustration: A VIKING GALLEY.]

Over the long but slow history of these American settlements of
the Northmen we need not linger. Although Vinland seems to have
been abandoned within a few decades, the Greenland settlements were
maintained. A republican government was organized; Christianity was
introduced, and remains of their stone churches and Augustinian
monasteries have been identified. By the end of the fifteenth century,
however, these colonies had completely disappeared, worn out in
the hopeless struggle against climate and the savage Eskimos, but
exterminated, at last, perhaps, by the Black Death—for the great plague
which almost depopulated Europe in the fourteenth century seems to have
reached even the desolate shores of Greenland, and to have consumed the
last of these remote people, causing them to be utterly forgotten.

A more definite account of pre-Columbian North America than that of
the sagas and other traditions of the Vinlanders, and one accepted as
true by Mr. Major of the English Hakluyt Society and other competent
geographical critics, is that of the voyages and reports of the
brothers Nicolò and Antonio Zeno. These men belonged to a family
distinguished in Venice; and toward the close of the fourteenth century
they separately or together made many voyages in the North Atlantic,
going far beyond any previous navigators of which they knew. They wrote
letters home containing an account of these, but little publication was
given to them, and they were forgotten until the revival of interest in
geography following the early discoveries of Columbus. The documents
possessed by the Zeno family were then made the basis of a pamphlet
by a grand-nephew reciting what his ancestor had done, long before
the time of Columbus. The most interesting thing in it is an account
of how, about 1390, Nicolò Zeno fitted out a ship at the Faroes, went
over to Greenland and there learned of an island which was called
Estotiland, and which we know as Newfoundland. Not very far away to the
southwest of it, he says, was the country of Drogeo, which fishermen
whom he saw had visited. They claimed to have “discovered” none of
these places, but spoke of them as formerly well known, although then
little frequented by Europeans.

As to Drogeo,—which he speaks of as if it were the mainland,—that
was still occasionally resorted to for fishing; and he relates the
adventures of a white man who had been captured by the mainland savages
a few years previously, and adopted by them on account of his knowledge
of how to fish with a net, and to do other useful things. Such a
course would be very characteristic of the aborigines of eastern North
America, as we have since learned to know; and it is also natural that
he should have been fought for by rival chiefs, as Zeno says happened
to this man, who, by capture and exchange, or of his own motion,
traveled about and saw much of the people of this “country” Drogeo. At
any rate, the information given by Zeno tallies remarkably well with
the truth about primitive North America and its inhabitants. “They have
no kind of metal,” reported this wandering refugee, who finally drifted
back to the coast, and was able to make his escape to a fishing-boat.
Now the one really remarkable and distinctive fact about the North
Americans was just this,—that with a considerable advance in other
directions, they had never learned to fuse and forge or otherwise
utilize iron or other metals, save a little metallic copper and silver
in the Great Lakes region. But listen to the rest of his brief report:

  They live by hunting, and carry lances of wood sharpened at the
  point. They have bows, the strings of which are made of beasts’
  skins. They are very fierce, and have deadly fights amongst each
  other, and eat one another’s flesh [as was true, to a limited
  ceremonial extent, after battles]. They have chieftains and certain
  laws among themselves, but differing in the different tribes. The
  farther you go southwestward, however, the more refinement you meet
  with, because the climate is more temperate, and, accordingly, there
  [_i. e._, in Mexico] they have cities and temples dedicated to their
  idols, in which they sacrifice men and afterwards eat them. In those
  parts they have some knowledge of gold and silver.

Now, whether all this was the observation of a single rude sailor,
or, as is more likely, summarizes what Zeno was able to learn from
all sources at his command regarding the new western mainland and its
people, it is correct and forcible. Had young Nicolò the editor, a
century afterward, tried to invent something of the kind, he would
surely have made his invention marvelous, for that was an age of fable
and bombast. On the contrary, this is a simple and accurate statement
of what we now know were the facts. Nor did he have any means of
knowing anything more of the case than his family archives revealed,
since he wrote and published this account of his uncle’s voyages only a
few years after the first return of Columbus, and before any writer had
visited the northern American coasts, or had learned the habits of the
natives. I can but believe, therefore, that the report was made in good
faith, and records simply what the Zeni did and saw and heard; and that
these bold Venetian navigators knew more about North America, at least,
before the end of the fourteenth century than Columbus had learned by
the end of the fifteenth.

I have run ahead of my story, but I wanted to show how little
impression these northern investigations and occupation of a new
continent had made upon the Mediterranean “world,” which seems rarely
to have heard of them, much less to have profited by the information,
for more than four hundred years, in spite of the fact that there was
constant communication between the Normans and British, at least, and
the Mediterranean peoples.

Let us now go back to those southern countries and see what they had
been doing toward maritime exploration during these thousand years
and more when the Scandinavians were so busy in the north. It was
principally perfecting the knowledge of the world their fathers knew.
From the very first men had tried to make maps, and succeeded fairly
well for small spaces; but to make a map of the whole world was a task
that defied human knowledge for many centuries. After Aristotle’s time
all men of education understood that the world was a sphere; and about
150 B. C. Hipparchus, borrowing an idea from the Babylonians, taught
the Greeks that the way to place their towns and mountains and rivers
and the outlines of the coast correctly upon a model of the world, was
to determine their position by observations of the heavenly bodies.
Thus the ideas of latitude and longitude originated. He could not apply
his method practically very far, because there were few or no accurate
astronomical observations away from a few cities in Egypt and Greece;
but two hundred and fifty years later Ptolemy, a learned mathematician
of Alexandria, gathered all the facts obtainable, and made an attempt
which bore a rude resemblance to the truth and served as the best and
almost the only account of the world for several hundred years. Ptolemy
flourished about 150 A. D. His book describes Asia as far east as the
Malayan peninsula, Africa south to Zanzibar and the Gulf of Guinea,
and shows a knowledge of Europe as far north as the Shetland Islands
(Ultima Thule) and Denmark; the original work seems to have contained
no maps, but these were added to it about 500 A. D. by another
mathematician named Agathodæmon. It is called the Almagest.

Nothing of value was added to this during the long stagnant period of
the world called the middle ages, when the love of learning declined
and men fell back into the old traditions, even to the extent of being
taught by their priests that it was a sin to believe that the world
was round. In those times the Arabs of Bagdad nourished knowledge more
than any one else, but even they did little for geography. Finally the
people of Europe began to wake up and look at things for themselves,
instead of tamely accepting whatever the Pope of Rome or somebody else
told them, and going and coming as he directed, regardless of whether
it was for their interest to do so or not. One of the first and one of
the most important influences of this revival in a desire for learning
and the means for larger activity among men was the sudden extension of
navigation; and this could not have come about, nor amounted to much,
had the mariner’s compass not been invented.


  “Off, thou Norseland Terror, clouding
      Hellas with the jealous wraith

  Which, the gods of old enshrouding,
      Froze their hearts, the poet saith!”

Nothing is more obscure than the history of this instrument. The
Chinese have certainly known, from a remote antiquity, that a
magnetized needle, permitted to move freely, would turn north and
south; but they seem to have profited as little by it as by so many
other useful things that, long afterward, in the hands of the more
energetic men of the West, contributed so largely to the progress of
civilization. They were accustomed to poise a sliver of magnetized
steel upon a bit of cork and set it afloat in a bowl of water. One end
was marked, but this, with characteristic Chinese perversity, was the
one pointing toward the south, not toward the north, as with us. This
rude and simple arrangement is still in use among the Koreans—or was
until recently. With such a contrivance and little, it any, knowledge
of the variation of the needle, the Chinese of a thousand years ago
made longer voyages than they have done in more modern times, trading
not only with India, but sailing regularly as early at least as the
ninth century to the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.

There is no direct evidence, but it seems incontestable, that it was
from these eastern mariners that the Arabs received the compass, and
gradually brought it into use in their home waters, where it became
well known to the crusaders and other sea-going travelers of the middle
ages. Little reliance could be placed upon it, however, until the
sixteenth century, when the need for something trustworthy for long
voyages made men turn their attention to the study and betterment of it.

Toward the end of the fourteenth century, as I have said, Europe was
beginning to recover from the terrible visitations of the plague, and
to wake from its lethargy and to look abroad; and various influences
were at work to promote exploration by sea and land—and what a grand
field for study there was!

At this time nearly all the commerce of Europe, mainly in Italian
hands, was with India and China. The overland route was long, perilous,
and expensive, and that across the Arabian Gulf hardly less so. At
best, such traffic was slow and limited, and the first need of the
reviving world was the discovery of some straighter and quicker road
to the East. In this quest Portugal came forward under the brilliant
leadership of Dom Henrique (Prince Henry), styled “the Navigator,” who
was the younger son of King João (or John) I, and half an Englishman,
since his mother was Philippa of Lancaster. It was Prince Henry’s
ambition to extend geographical discovery and improve seamanship, and
he enlisted the help of the best navigators obtainable, regardless of
nationality. In order to observe the heavens to better advantage, and
also to study the tides and other nautical phenomena, he established an
observatory on the bleak headland of Cape Sagres, where he willingly
spent a large portion of his time for the sake of science. Navigation
was sorely in need of such help. Except that they had rude compasses,
of whose laws of variation, etc., they were ignorant, the seamen
of that day were little, if any, better equipped than were those
who sailed the “ships of Tarshish” a thousand years before that.
Astronomers had supplied them with rough tables of the declination of
the sun, pole-star, etc., by which, with the help of a cross-staff,—a
simple instrument for ascertaining angles,—they might make a guess at
the latitude. Longitude was found only by observations of eclipses of
the moon, and noting the difference between the time when it was due
at home, according to the almanac, and the local time of its actual
coming; but at sea the “observations” were little better than guessing.

Chart-making was an important branch of study at Sagres. So few and
rare were sea-maps then that one was never seen in England until 1489.
To the collection of information in this direction, and the improvement
of nautical methods, Prince Henry and his aids applied themselves most
diligently; but he died before much had been accomplished. Nautical
studies went on, however, under the next king, John II, for whom Martin
of Bohemia, the foremost astronomer of his time, devised a form of the
astrolabe for use on shipboard, increasing accuracy in finding latitude.

It was with no better instruments than these (and sand-glasses in
place of chronometers) as guides over chartless and unsounded seas
that the way was found to India and to America, and the globe was
circumnavigated; and that the same thing might be done again is shown
by the fact that only last year (1897) a vessel, which had barely
escaped destruction in a storm and lost all her instruments in the
mid-Pacific, was brought safely into San Francisco by observation of
the stars and “dead-reckoning” alone.

But Prince Henry (for I have run ahead of my story again) was not
content to study and teach on land alone. He was fired with the ardor
of discovery and conquest likely to augment Portugal’s wealth and
influence in the East. Expedition after expedition was sent southward,
and in 1435 Henry’s ships finally passed Cape Bojador. Great was the
wonder and rejoicing thereat, for it had always been taught by the
monks that this cape was the end of the earth; but it was not until
1462 that the Cape Verd Islands and Sierra Leone were reached. Prince
Henry had been dead since 1460, but the influence of his wise and
untiring enthusiasm and work lived on, and inspired the king and people
of Portugal to renewed efforts at solving that riddle of Africa that
perhaps the Egyptian sphinx was meant to typify. By 1469 trade had been
opened with the Gold Coast, and a few years later the mouth of the
Congo was found.

These advances showed that there was nothing unnatural or fearful in
the southern latitudes, as sailors had been taught to believe from
time immemorial,—a superstitious dread which the old chart-makers long
sustained by their habit of filling the empty sea-spaces on their maps
with fearsome and wondrous monsters,—and therefore, in 1486, King John
II sent Bartholomew Dias in two sail-boats—pinnaces of fifty tons
each—with orders to go as far as he could; and this bold captain,
passing the last known headland of the Guinea coast, sailed on and on,
tracing the West African coast, and landing here and there to examine
the swampy shores, to get fresh water, and to hoist the castellated
banner of Portugal in token of possession before the wondering eyes of
naked negroes. At length he was blown and buffeted for days and days in
heavy storms, and at their close found himself far to the eastward of
his former longitude, whereupon he fought his way on and sighted land
which he rightly determined must be the southern extremity of Africa.
This was in 1487. Returning to Lisbon toward Christmas of that year, he
reported his experiences, and dwelling especially upon the rough time
he had had in the south, proposed to style the point of the continent
Cape of all the Storms; but King John, foreseeing great things to
follow for his country, said, “No; we will call it the Cape of Good
Hope”; and so it remains to this day—but all the storms remain about
it, too!


Copied by permission of Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., from Justin
Winsor’s “Narrative and Critical History of America.”]

Now for some years previous to this time the monarchs of western
Europe were much exercised over rumors of the existence somewhere
in the Orient of an all-powerful and generally marvelous potentate
styled (by them) Prester John, and reputed to be a conqueror of
Asiatic, or perhaps African, infidels who later had become cut off
from Christendom. The whole affair was a myth, probably arising from
an indistinct knowledge of Abyssinia, whose negus afterward borrowed
the title; but before this was realized popes and various “Catholic
majesties” had sent embassies in search of Prester John’s court, some
of which incidentally gained valuable information. Among the latter
was Pedro Covilho, an emissary of Portugal, who, having failed to find
Prester John in western India or Persia, made his way back to Egypt and
Abyssinia, whence he sent home in 1486 or 1487 a report of progress
that told John II some surprising news of the advancement of the Arabs
of that part of the world in the sciences, and especially in those
belonging to geography and navigation.

Covilho’s messenger was a Portuguese Jew, Rabbi Joseph of Lamego, who
carried voluminous letters, one of which showed that Arabic mariners
were then familiar with the whole length of the east coast of Africa,
including Madagascar, and were perfectly well aware where it terminated
at the south, and that there was no obstacle to passing around to the
western side of the continent; and just at this interesting juncture
Dias came sailing back in his pinnace to say that it was all true, for
he had seen it.

Thus the sea-road was open to India and Cathay, and Portugal was eager
to take advantage of it. She was then one of the leading powers of
Europe, and the foremost one in colonial and commercial enterprise,
striving to wrest from Genoa and Venice the supremacy in trade that
they had so long enjoyed. Nevertheless almost ten years elapsed
before the next expedition was sent southward to confirm Portugal’s
possessions, and establish commerce with the Orient. John II had died,
and Emmanuel the Fortunate reigned in his stead—a reign that has been
called the heroic period of the nation’s history; and it must not be
forgotten that “Little Portugal” was then so mighty that a year or so
previously (May 4, 1493) the Pope (Alexander VI) had issued a bull in
which he had divided, with intended equality, all undiscovered parts of
the earth between Spain and Portugal, the former being given everything
to the west, while to Portugal were reserved all future rights east of
a certain north-and-south line.

The line of separation designated was the meridian of no variation of
the compass-needle. The existence of such a line had been discovered
by the same Christopher Columbus who was to thrill the world a few
years later; but he did not know, what only experience developed, that
this meridian was changeable, swinging many degrees east and then
returning west in the course of two or three centuries. At that time
the line seemed fixed some three hundred miles west of the Azores, and
philosophers accounted for it later by a theory that it lay in the
middle of the Atlantic because there it was subject to an equality
of attraction toward both continents which held it steady. This was
not true, but it was better than the less learned but more popular
explanation of the magnetism of the compass—namely, that it was “an
effluvium from the root of the tail of the Little Bear.” A year later,
however (June 7, 1494), the treaty of Tordesillas, between Spain and
Portugal, declared that the line of demarcation should be the meridian
370 leagues west of the Cape Verd Islands, or as nearly as possible
in the center of the Atlantic. The supposition that there might be
valuable lands within, that is, east of, that limit, inspired several
of Portugal’s subsequent searchers.




In 1497 King Emmanuel’s expedition was ready to sail—the largest and
best equipped, probably, that had ever been sent out by any government,
and its commander was Vasco da Gama, a young naval officer of renown.
His fleet consisted of four vessels,—small caravels, of course, one
of which was commanded by Dias,—and left the Tagus, after ceremonious
farewells, in July. Da Gama stopped at various places, but reached
and safely rounded the stormy cape in November. He had with him the
information (and some say an Arabic map) sent home by Covilho, but his
business was not to verify this, but to reach India and establish new
Portuguese possessions. Why, then, did he not strike straight across
from Cape Agulhas, as East Indiamen have done ever since? For the good
reason that he had no guide, no means of finding his way across the
southern ocean, where all the stars were strange; for sun observations
for latitude were then unknown to European navigators, and rarely used
on land. Instead of this, he was obliged to turn northward and skirt
the coast for a thousand miles, stopping here and there, until he had
passed far enough north of the equator to bring above the horizon the
familiar home stars, for which he had “tables.”

At last, from the Arab port of Melindi, near Mombasa, he turned east
and sailed straight away to India, where he anchored before Calicut,
then the most important port of southern India, on May 20. Returning
the next year with ships richly laden, he was received with public
rejoicings and given high honors; and he greatly astonished his
friends of the navy by telling them that the Arabs used the compass,
sea-charts, quadrants, and “had divers maritime mysteries not short of
the Portugals.”

Da Gama lived many years, and sailed often to India and China after
that; but chiefly on political expeditions, in which he disgraced his
otherwise great name by inexcusable rapine and cruelty.

Meanwhile some exploration had been done toward the far north, as we
shall see in the next chapter; and so the fifteenth century ended, with
Europe understood as far as Nova Zembla, Africa circumnavigated, and
the coasts of India, Malaya, southern China, and the larger Malayan
islands fairly familiar to geographers. This is much, and yet it leaves
unmentioned the greatest fact of all—the work of that grand, sad
character, Christopher Columbus, upon whose grave near Seville has been





“There, beyond the Cape of Storms, Where the breaker’s voice of thunder
Roars when ships are rent asunder, Through a fog of ghostly forms

“Men catch glimpses of the sail, Ages old, and rent and hoary, Of that
quaint old ship of story, And cry, ‘Vanderdecken, hail!’”]

[Illustration: THE ROCK IN THE SEA.]


[1] This is related by the Greek historian Herodotus, and has often
been denied, especially by the older writers; but the “Encyclopædia
Britannica” gives it credence, and tells us that the latest and best
critic of the geography of Herodotus, Major Rennel, maintains the
possibility of such a voyage, and believes it was made. He argues that
the construction of their ships, with flat bottoms and low masts,
enabled these hardy voyagers to keep close to the land, and to enter
all the rivers and harbors for food and water. I think, therefore, that
we may believe that Herodotus recorded what really happened, even if we
reject some details.

[2] This is not a Norse, but an Irish name, familiar to us as _Barney_.





Why to Spain? It is an “oft-told tale,” and the merest reminder is all
that is needed here. Columbus was a young seafaring man, born at Genoa
about 1434, and ambitious to become a master of his profession, and
especially to acquire great wealth. He traveled to Venice, Barcelona,
and other cities where learning was to be gained, and became thoroughly
acquainted with all the astronomical and geographical science of the
time, and especially proficient in the art of cartography. Attracted by
the naval activity in Portugal under that indefatigable Prince Henry,
Columbus went to Lisbon about 1454, and endeavored to find a leading
place in the sea-work that country was doing. But Portugal’s eyes were
so blinded by the glamour of Africa and the East Indies that she had
no time to follow the gaze of this young and ardent Genoese captain
whose eyes were turned steadily toward the west, where, more and more
insistently, he urged that a sea-track, straight as a line of latitude
marked on a globe, lay open to the Indies and the coasts of Cathay. To
prove this true would be not only a glorious exploit for any man, but
an achievement of untold advantage to the nation under whose flag he


Just how this conviction arose in the mind of Columbus we do not know.
It was probably first a purely scientific conclusion from the facts of
astronomy and geography that he had learned, encouraged by romantic
traditions of western “Isles of the Blest.” A few scientific men agreed
with him, but the great influence of the Church of Rome condemned such
notions as opposed to the Bible and revealed religion; and the mass of
the people, ignorant and superstitious, looked upon them as foolish,
and laughed at Columbus as a

dreamer or worse. Between his danger of arrest and death as a heretic
on the one hand, and imprisonment as a lunatic on the other, the man
of science in those days had a hard time. Columbus therefore sought
far and wide for evidence to support his theories and render them
acceptable. How much he learned—what, in the way of facts, he actually
knew—it is hard to say. Having fallen in love with a Portuguese lady of
good family, he married and apparently settled in Portugal as his home,
but continued his voyaging. He knew the Mediterranean from end to end.
He made several voyages to the Guinea coast, and dwelt for a time at El
Mina, then newly founded, satisfying himself of the foolishness of the
common assertion that men could not live “under the equinoctial”—that
is, near the equator. He went north to and beyond Iceland, and
acquainted himself with those waters, and thus convinced himself that
the ocean was everywhere navigable, and subject to uniform laws of
tides, weather, etc. His mind was cleared more and more of the mists of
fable and superstition, and all he learned brought into clearer view
the truth of science as a guide. He devoted more and more attention to
improving the means of finding the true position of a vessel at sea,
and of keeping a true course by the compass, which he continually
studied; and it was he who first discovered that some leagues west of
the Azores lay the meridian of no variation—a meridian that has now
moved eastward until it lies near London. Everywhere he interrogated
explorers, discussed navigation with experienced captains, and sought
the aid of new maps, improved instruments, and advancing knowledge; and
yet mixed with all seem to have been a childlike vanity, credulity, and
superstition, hard to reconcile with his courage and acumen.

How much actual evidence he had of the existence of lands below the
Atlantic horizon unknown to his countrymen can never probably be
satisfactorily answered. The latest critical biographer of Columbus,
the great Spanish liberal statesman Emilio Castelar, considers that
he was led to his discoveries by little, if anything, outside of
pure reasoning upon the rotundity of the earth and other scientific
data, and dismisses as fables or things unknown to Columbus all
the Scandinavian discoveries of Greenland and the rest, and other
stories of men who, it is said, had already seen the transatlantic
world he sought. We are told that he learned of woods and canes like
none that grew in Africa, of strange carvings, and even of the dead
bodies of men, resembling those of the far East, being cast upon the
shores of Africa and the islands near it, especially the Azores. It
seems impossible that when he was in Iceland and the other northern
regions, a man of his inquiring mind should not have learned something
of Greenland and the continental shores beyond, especially when one
remembers that for centuries previous Catholic missionaries had been
reporting progress to Rome from that distant but real field of labor.
It is quite likely that some knowledge of these facts, which must
have been known to the professors of the universities of Pavia and
Barcelona, where Columbus studied, and to other intelligent men of
Italy and Spain with whom he came in contact, had caused Columbus to go
to the north, for we know of no other errand. Perhaps he had heard of
the Zeni.

[Illustration: ships of columbus]

Especially to be noted is the allegation that Columbus possessed
information as to the experience of a Frenchman named Jean Cousin,—a
Dieppe sea-captain, who, it is asserted, discovered South America
and the Amazon River in 1488. This claim has been lately reviewed
(“Fortnightly Review,” January, 1894) by Captain Gambier of the British
navy, and he decides that it is good; and that it was because Cousin’s
first mate was one of the Pinçons that that firm was willing to assist
Columbus, as a good investment.

Whatever he knew or did not know, and whatever may have been the
difficulties in his way, Columbus spent many weary years in fruitless
efforts to interest some government in his schemes. How finally he won
Spain to his support, secured the aid of the Pinçons, merchant princes
of Palos, and sailed from that port on August 3, 1492,—and it was
Friday!—are details that need not be repeated. Equally well remembered
are the story of his daring onward voyage, and of the glorious outcome
when, on October 12, land was seen,—a new world found.

Expedition after expedition followed one another from Spain to the
newly found possessions, some conducted by the earlier companions of
Columbus, and all filled with adventurers who cared for nothing but
plunder. One of these, led by an officer named Ojeda, reached the coast
of Guiana in 1499, and coasted along the north shore of South America
as far, probably, as Maracaibo. This was the first of the Spanish
expeditions actually to set foot upon the mainland; and it would
not have been mentioned out of its place (since Cabot, as we shall
presently see, had landed on the continent nearly two years before) but
for the fact that one of its members was that Amerigo Vespucci whose
fortune it was to have his name attached to the continent.

Amerigo Vespucci (or Vespusze, as Columbus spells it) was a Florentine
engaged in the shipping business who was attracted to Spain by the
maritime activity there, and became interested in equipping the
second flotilla of Columbus and in other similar enterprises for the
government. The wealth and influence thus gained and his general
abilities led him to join that expedition of Ojeda in 1499, and
during the next four years he made three other voyages to Brazil, in
which the bay of Rio Janeiro was entered (New Year’s day, 1501), and
an exploration southward extended probably as far as South Georgia
(Islands). Upon his return from this last voyage, in 1505, he publicly
asserted that he had visited, in 1497, the coast of what is now the
southern United States. It has lately been shown by Spanish records,
however, that at that date he was busy in the government dockyards
in Spain; therefore his assertion was false. It served, however, to
deceive a forgetful public, and to procure for its author the coveted
glory of being the first “discoverer” of the “New World,” as he first
called it (though there is no evidence that he understood it to be a
continent), and hence the one entitled to give it his name.

This bold claim achieved its purpose. The oldest known map of the whole
world, dated A. D. 1500, said to have been drawn by the great artist
Leonardo da Vinci, from data furnished by Juan de la Cosa, and hence
known to historians as the “De la Cosa Mappimundi” (it is preserved
in Madrid), bears the name “America” across the new countries for the
first known time; but Juan de la Cosa was with Ojeda and Vespucci on
the expedition of 1499, and doubtless Vespucci managed the naming.
In 1507, only a year after the death of Columbus, there appeared in
France the “Cosmographie Introductio” of Waldseemüller (also called
Hylacomylus), which was regarded as the most complete and authentic
geography of its time; and here the name of _America_ was boldly
written across “a fourth part of the world, since Amerigo found it.”
The name (a Latin derivative) was novel, easy to pronounce, no one knew
or cared as to the right of it, and so it stood.


A few lines more as to the Spanish and Portuguese navigators in these
waters, and then we shall have done with them for the present. In
1499 one of the Pinçons sailed from Spain straight to the Amazon, as
has been mentioned, avoiding the West Indies, as if he knew precisely
whither he was bound, and reached there in January of 1500. A few
months later a large Portuguese expedition under Pedro Cabral, starting
for India around the cape, was blown so far to the west that it ran
against Brazil. Everybody was hitting upon untrodden shores in those
inspiring days, and Cabral promptly took possession for his king.
As this shore was outside (east of) the hemisphere assigned by the
Pope to the Spanish, the Portuguese kept it for 389 years, in spite
of Pinçon’s priority. In 1508 Ojeda obtained the government of the
northern coast of South America, and Nicuesa of the region north of the
Gulf of Darien; and with the arrival of these adventurers in New Spain
began that era of rapine and horror which will forever disgrace the
Spanish name. The rapacious governors and their wild crews quarreled
and fought with each other as well as with the downtrodden natives,
and exploration was carried on by piracy. A learned man, Martin
Enciso, went out to take command in 1510, but he was deposed by his
soldiers the next year and sent back to Europe, where he made the
first book printed in Spanish (1519) describing America. His place was
taken by Vasco Nuñez Balboa, who entered upon a career of exploration
and peaceful conquest, generally conciliating the Indians, who told
him of another sea not far to the west, and on September 25, 1513,
guided him to the summit of a hill near Panama, whence he, first of
Europeans, gazed upon the Pacific. Who can imagine the emotions of such
a sight!—for it told the Spaniards that this land was not the eastern
margin of Asia, but a new continent. Balboa made his way through the
forests as rapidly as he could, and on the 29th, wading into the surf,
banner in hand, took possession of the waters in the name of the King
of Castile.

Balboa at once began preparations to utilize his discovery, for the
Indians had also excited him and his men by tales of a country to the
south abounding in gold. He cut and shaped timbers for small ships,
and had with enormous trouble and labor transported these across the
isthmus, intending there to build a fleet and sail southward, when
he was superseded in command by a new governor, Pedrarias. This man,
a jealous and brutal adventurer, on a false pretext of disloyalty
arrested and beheaded Balboa before he could get away—an act that
“was one of the greatest calamities that could have happened to South
America at that time; for ... a humane and judicious man would have
been the conqueror of Peru, instead of the cruel and ignorant Pizarro.”
The frightful destruction of the country of the Incas soon followed,
while Cortés overran Mexico and De Soto invaded Florida.

It has doubtless by this time been in the mind of more than one
reader to ask whether, while the men of the Mediterranean region were
making these notable searchings for new shores, the men of northern
Europe were standing idle. What were the mariners of France and the
Netherlands, Scandinavia and Great Britain, doing? Well, all were doing
something, and some of them produced results of novel seafaring that
were well worth the getting, but these were principally in far northern
waters, as we shall read in the next chapter. It was not until the
opening of the sixteenth century that in England, at least, that era
of far voyaging began which signalized the Elizabethan age on the sea
as much as the poets and dramatists and statesmen-writers of her court
distinguished it on land.


It was, however, earlier than that—in the reign of Henry VII—that
England’s story of discovery begins, and the first names are those of
two Italians known in English as John and Sebastian Cabot, father and
son, who were then residents of Bristol. The Bristol folk were at that
time the foremost mariners of England, who often went to Iceland and
all the nearer isles; and they firmly believed in certain traditional
islands and coasts far away to the west, which seem to have been
composed of no better material than the airy structures of the sunset
clouds and the romantic tales of Phenician sailors and other travelers
in the dawn of history. As long ago as when Strabo wrote, a century
before the birth of Christ, these things were of old belief, and he
recounts the delights then told of the “Isles of the Blest,” west of
the farthest verge of Africa. When the Canary Islands became known as
facts, the myth moved farther west; and when acquaintance with the
Azores proved them to be only natural earth with a fair share of its
ills, as well as of its good, people insisted that still other islands
must lie farther away, where the Elysian Fields basked in perpetual
summer and men were eternally happy. The old idea charms us even yet
when we sing “Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood stand dressed in
living green.”


But no such higher rendering occurred to the men of the earlier time.
They believed firmly in the actual existence of these ever-fortunate
islands under the sunset horizon of the Atlantic, and (in the north)
called them the Isles of St. Brandon, the “green isle of Brazil”
(the root of which word seems to express the idea of redness, such
as appears in low sunset clouds), the Isle of the Seven Cities or
Antillia, and by other names. Ferdinand Columbus, a son of Christopher,
says in his “History” that his father fully expected to meet, “before
he came to India, a very convenient island or continent from which he
might pursue with more advantage his main design.” This does not prove
that Columbus put any faith in the reality of these old notions, nor
does he seem to be responsible for the fact that the name _Antilles_
was immediately attached to the archipelago he actually did meet
with, and The _Brazils_ to a part of the mainland next found. These
names had been appearing on conjectural maps of the Atlantic side of
the earth for many years before his time; and that they represented
realities to many hard-headed merchants and sailors of his time is
shown conclusively by the fact that between 1480 and 1487 at least two
carefully planned naval expeditions had gone from Bristol, England,
in search of them. How much vague memories of early Norse and Irish
findings in the west may have given weight in Bristol to these old
myths is hard to say; but at any rate it was there the search for this
pot of gold at the end of the rainbow bore unexpected and momentous
results, but all were surprised at the distance involved.

About 1496 John Cabot, then a resident of Bristol, proposed to the
king an expedition in search of a new route to the Indies by sailing
due west from Ireland. Henry VII was excited by the news of Columbus’
southerly findings, and was eager to secure something of the kind for
England. Nevertheless, although the king granted privileges that might
prove profitable in case of success, he seems to have furnished no
money. Cabot, therefore, sailed away, privately equipped, in a small
caravel named _Matthew_, carrying only eighteen persons.

Never was a voyage of discovery, the consequences of which were so
far-reaching, entered upon with less pomp or flourish of trumpets. So
little note of it was made at the time that the very name of John Cabot
narrowly escaped being lost altogether, and the record of his work came
very near being replaced by a confused account of the doings of his son
Sebastian; for it was not until certain letters had been found—and that
within a very few years—in the contemporary archives of Spain and other
European countries, that we were able to give any sure account of the

It is now plain that John Cabot, in the _Matthew_, leaving Bristol
early in May, 1497, and having passed Ireland, shaped his course toward
the north, then turned to the west and proceeded for many days until he
came to land, where he disembarked on June 24, and planted an English

There seems to be no doubt that this was the mainland of North
America, and the general opinion has prevailed that his landfall was
the extremity of Cape Breton. Cabot stayed some days, but how far he
traced the coast, and whether he learned of Newfoundland or Prince
Edward Island, are matters of conjecture. At any rate, he soon turned
homeward, and arrived in Bristol probably on August 6.

We can imagine with what eagerness his story was listened to, as he
told of the fair, temperate, well-wooded land, its people and animals
and fruitfulness, that he had seen. But the thing that impressed the
Bristol men most was the report of the enormous abundance of codfish
there. This was something these canny men could see without any
illusions, and possess themselves of regardless of papal bulls; and
they at once abandoned their northern fishing-grounds and began to
resort to the Banks of Newfoundland, whither they were quickly followed
by large annual fleets of Norman, Breton, Spanish, and Portuguese
fishermen. John Cabot intended to go again the next year and make his
way onward to Japan, as he believed he could do, for, like the others,
he thought what he had found was only a remote eastern part of Asia;
and in 1498 he actually did sail westward from Bristol with five
ships, victualed for a year. None of these ships ever returned, and
no evidence exists that they ever reached their goal; and with them
John Cabot, to whom England owed her early supremacy in North America,
disappears from view.

Sebastian Cabot was a son of John Cabot, and a skilful map-maker.
Whether he went with his father on the first voyage is disputed; there
seems no direct evidence that he did so. That he did not go on the
second voyage is plain, for he had a long subsequent career, of which
accurate knowledge is a late acquisition; here it is only necessary
to add that by his statements to Peter Martyr and others he allowed
the erroneous impression to pass into history, if he did not directly
authorize the lie, that it was he, and not his father, who discovered
America and the fishing-grounds.

Now that the way across the Atlantic was learned, chivalrous sailors
hurried to add what they could to the map. Corte-Real, a Portuguese
of rank, struck northwest, and hit upon and named Labrador as early
as 1500. The next voyage of prominence introduces the French as
competitors, Francis I sending the Florentine Verrazano, a typical
sea-rover of the period, who had already been to Brazil and the East
Indies and was finally hanged as a pirate, to find out what he could
about northern America. He steered west from the Madeira Islands in
January, 1524, found land near Cape Fear (North Carolina), and claimed
to have traced the coast as far north as Nova Scotia, besides entering
a large bay (either New York or Narragansett). His whole story,
however, rests on certain letters and maps the authenticity of which
has been hotly disputed; and at any rate little, if anything, came of
this voyage.

It was far different with the next one, however,—that one sent from
France in 1534, under the command of Jacques Cartier, who sailed from
St. Malo in two tiny vessels to Newfoundland, and learned of the mouth
of the St. Lawrence River. Then, like all the other captains, none of
whom could stay over winter in America, because their vessels were too
small to store provisions, and because they were beset by fears, not
only of visible savages, but of invisible hobgoblins, he returned to
France. The next year found him back again, however, this time steering
his vessels up the St. Lawrence to “Hochelaga” (Montreal), and later
carrying home an account that led to so immediate a movement on the
part of France that Canada was the scene of the earliest colonization
of the New World, properly speaking, for the Spanish settlements
in the south were thus far nothing but military stations. France,
indeed, dreamed of obtaining the whole of North America for herself,
and attempted soon after to colonize Florida and the Carolinas; but
these attempts failed, and she was able to hold only the valley of the
St. Lawrence and the shore of its gulf. These things happened later,
however, and for many years the Atlantic coast of North America was
left unclaimed by any one, while the English and Dutch were busy in the
far north, the Spanish were rioting in the tropics, and the Portuguese
turned their attention to the southern and eastern quarters of the
globe. It is one of the most striking curiosities of the history of
the development of civilization on the globe, following the stagnation
of the middle ages and the desolation of the plague-ridden thirteenth
century, that the most remote, unprofitable, unhealthy regions were so
fiercely struggled for, while the best parts of the New World were left
until the last.

Having found Brazil, both Spaniards and Portuguese proceeded to trace
the continent southward, hoping to find a practicable way to Peru
around it. Several experienced navigators worked southward, the best
known of whom is Juan Diaz de Solis, who entered the La Plata River
and was killed there by the Indians in 1516. Columbus had not been a
moment too soon to be first. Nevertheless it was left to a stranger in
those waters, the indomitable Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães), to reap
the reward of success. The Pope and all the bishops still declared
that the earth was flat; but so little was this now believed, even
by themselves, that Magellan, who had just quitted the service of
Portugal, dared to propose to “his most Catholic majesty” the King of
Spain to sail west instead of east to the Moluccas, just as though the
earth were globular and might be circumnavigated; and the king not only
dared to listen, but approved of the proposition, which seemed entirely
practicable _if_ South America could be passed. That was the problem
Magellan set himself to solve. Should he succeed, could the Moluccas
be reached by sailing westward, then they would fall into that half of
the earth given by the Pope to Spain, and Portugal’s present claim to
them would be overthrown. Thus the experiment was well worth making in
behalf of politics as well as knowledge, and Magellan was furnished
with five ships, carrying two hundred and thirty-seven men. The
_Trinidad_ was the admiral’s ship; but the _San Vittoria_ was destined
for immortality.

  He struck boldly for the Southwest, not crossing the trough of the
  Atlantic as Columbus had done, but passing down the length of it, his
  aim being to find some cleft or passage in the American continent
  through which he might sail into the Great South Sea. For seventy
  days he was becalmed under the line. He then lost sight of the
  North Star, but courageously held on toward the “pole antarktike.”
  He nearly foundered in a storm, “which did not abate till the three
  fires called St. Helen, St. Nicholas, and St. Clare appeared playing
  in the rigging of the ships. In a new land, to which he gave the name
  Patagoni, he found giants of “good corporature”.... His perseverance
  and resolution were at last rewarded by the discovery of the Strait
  named by him San Vittoria, in affectionate honor of his ship; but
  which, with a worthy sentiment, other sailors soon changed to the
  _Straits of Magellan_. On November 25, 1520, after a year and a
  quarter of struggling, he issued forth from its western portals, and
  entered the Great South Sea, shedding tears of joy, as Pigafetta, an
  eye-witness, relates, when he recognized its infinite expanse....
  Admiring its illimitable but placid surface, and exulting in the
  meditation of its secret perils soon to be tried, he courteously
  imposed upon it the name it is forever to bear—the _Pacific Ocean_....

  And now the great sailor, having burst through the barrier of the
  American continent, steered for the northwest, attempting to regain
  the equator. For three months and twenty days he sailed on the
  Pacific, and never saw inhabited land. He was compelled by famine to
  strip off the pieces of skin and leather wherewith his rigging was
  here and there bound, to soak them in the sea, and then soften them
  with warm water, so as to make a wretched food; to eat the sweepings
  of the ship and other loathsome matter; to drink water that had
  become putrid by keeping; and yet he resolutely held on his course,
  though his men were dying daily. As is quaintly observed, “their gums
  grew over their teeth, and so they could not eat.” [This was scurvy,
  the dread of all mariners in those times and long afterward.] He
  estimated that he sailed over this unfathomable sea not less than
  12,000 miles.

  In the whole history of human undertakings [declares Dr. John W.
  Draper, from whose striking sketch of this achievement in his
  “Intellectual Development of Europe” I am quoting]—in the whole
  history of human undertakings there is nothing that exceeds, if,
  indeed, there is anything that equals, this voyage of Magellan’s.
  That of Columbus dwindles away in comparison. It is a display of
  superhuman courage, superhuman perseverance—a display of resolution
  not to be diverted from its purpose by any motive or any suffering....

  This unparalleled resolution met its reward at last. Magellan reached
  a group of islands north of the equator—the Ladrones. In a few
  days more he became aware that his labors had been successful. He
  met with adventurers from Sumatra. But, though he had thus grandly
  accomplished his object, it was not given to him to complete the
  circumnavigation of the globe. At an island called Zebu, or Mutan,
  he was killed, either, as has been variously related, in a mutiny of
  his men, or, as they declared, in a conflict with the savages, or
  insidiously by poison.... Hardly was he gone when his crew learned
  that they were actually in the vicinity of the Moluccas [having
  previously wandered too far north, and discovered the Philippines],
  and that the object of their voyage was accomplished....

  And now they prepared to bring the news of their success back to
  Spain. Magellan’s lieutenant, Sebastian d’Elanco, directed his course
  for the Cape of Good Hope, again encountering the most fearful
  hardships. Out of his slender crew he lost 21 men. He doubled the
  Cape at last; and on September 7, 1522, in the port of St. Lucar,
  near Seville, under his orders, the good ship _Vittoria_ came safely
  to an anchor. She had accomplished the greatest achievement in the
  history of the human race. She had circumnavigated the earth.

The immediate result of this voyage was to impress Spain’s sovereignty
upon the East Indies; but a vaster and more far-reaching consequence
was the influence it exerted, by its proof that the world was really
a globe, to free men’s minds from blind belief in and guidance by a
tradition, which had taught that the earth was a flat plain surrounded
by water,—an error sanctioned by St. Augustine and other influential
teachers. Magellan impressed a name upon the greatest of the oceans,
and has his own name gloriously emblazoned upon both the map of the
earth and the map of the sky in the southern hemisphere; but his
greatest title to honor, after all, is that he struck dogma the hardest
blow it ever received.


The sixteenth century seems to have been, outside of the Arctic
regions, an era of surveying rather than of exploration by sea, yet
some notable work was done in the East, where all nations now entered
as competitors in the trade, seizing upon every island or mainland
shore that they could, and holding their possessions as long as
possible. Even the English entered heartily into this rivalry, the
great East India Company having been founded in 1599. With its trading
we have nothing to do, but must note that it extended knowledge of
Oceanica considerably, and added greatly to Europe’s information as
to India, the Malayan peninsula and larger islands, China, and Japan.
The Spanish and Portuguese found themselves so busy in defending that
to which they already laid claim that they had little time to search
for new lands; and this sort of enterprise fell mainly to the Dutch,
who, now that the Netherlands were at last free from the long and cruel
tyranny of Spain, were energetically making up for lost time. Their
captain, Van Noort, went out by way of the Straits of Magellan to the
Philippines, and got back to Rotterdam between 1598 and 1601. Another
fleet made the same voyage fifteen years later; and in 1616 Cape Horn
was rounded by Willem Cornelis Schouten, who gave the name of his home
village, Hoorn, to that desolate terminus of South America.

For many years geographers had held belief in a vast “southern
continent,”—_Terra Australis_,—and most of the islands found in the
South Pacific were accidental results of some attempt to reach it. New
Guinea had been sighted a century before, and perhaps Australia also,
of which several navigators got glimpses here and there early in the
sixteenth century, satisfying them that it also was a great island.
It was not until this century was half gone, however, that the map
of that quarter of the “South Sea” was filled out with any accuracy;
and this was due to the skill and labor of an eminent Dutch voyager,
Abel Janszen Tasman, who was despatched southward with two ships by
the colonial government at Batavia, where the Dutch had already gained
political ascendancy.

“This voyage,” we are told, “proved to be the most important to
geography that had been undertaken since the first circumnavigation of
the globe.” Tasman sailed from Batavia in the yacht _Heemskirk_, on
the 14th of August, 1642, and from Mauritius on the 8th of October. On
November 24 high land was sighted in 42° 30´ S., which was named Van
Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania), and, after landing there, sail was again
made, and New Zealand (at first called Staatenland) was discovered on
the 13th of December. Tasman communicated with the natives and anchored
in what he called Murderers’ Bay, because several men were massacred
there by the natives. Thence he took an irregular course east and
north, until he arrived at the Friendly Isles of Cook. In April, 1643,
he was off the north coast of New Guinea, having meanwhile sailed
around New Britain and New Ireland (now New Mecklenburg), and on June
15 he returned to Batavia.

The contribution to sea-knowledge of the remaining voyages in this
century were mainly in the direction of a better understanding of
winds, currents, ice movements, tides, and an improvement in the
methods of building, rigging, and navigating vessels intended for
long voyages. Map-making received a great impetus and was especially
cultivated by the Dutch, among whom Mercator became famous by inventing
the useful projection that bears his name and is still most commonly
used. Nevertheless, the improvement, especially in instruments of
navigation, was slow. The astrolabe generally gave place to the
cross-staff; and this to a better device called the back-staff, of
which an improved form, invented by John Davis, remained long in use.
This was called the Davis quadrant; and with it “the observer stood
with his back to the sun, and, looking through the sights, brought the
shadow of a pin into coincidence with the horizon.” Many variations of
this instrument were made, until, in the middle of the next century, it
was superseded by the sextant. Thus before the close of the seventeenth
century, astronomers and navigators had learned how to determine
latitude fairly accurately, and the sailor had prepared for him a
variety of tables of stars, almanacs, and other mathematical guides.
The determination of longitude was yet difficult, however, owing
largely to the imperfection of timepieces; and it was not until the
last year of the century, signalized by the first recorded sea-voyage
made purely for scientific purposes, that much advance was made. This
voyage, lasting two years (1699-1700), was undertaken by the eminent
English astronomer Edmund Halley for the express purpose of obtaining
information necessary to the improvement of the compass and methods
of ascertaining the position of a ship at sea, was productive of
results of the greatest service, and placed the science of navigation
upon a sure footing. It was followed early in the next century by
the establishment in England of the Longitude Board, a scientific
commission charged with the duty of determining longitudes and studying
navigation. From this board came the “Nautical Almanac,” which first
appeared in 1767, but similar almanacs are now published annually by
the governments of almost all maritime powers, and the editorship is
esteemed in the United States one of the most honored positions in the
naval service. These books contain ephemerides, or tables of positions
for each day of that year of all the heavenly bodies, “predictions of
astronomical phenomena, and the angular distances of the moon from the
sun, planets, and fixed stars,” all referred to some stated meridian.

With such an almanac, an improved compass, and one of Newton’s new
sextants as a means of quick and accurate observation of sun and moon
and stars, the navigator had little need to doubt as to where he was;
and maps began to show a corresponding improvement in accuracy.


The early part of this century, as we shall see later, was the era of
the buccaneers and of many wild sea-rovers whose far-wandering barks,
in search of adventure, picked up much information at the expense
of human lives and hard-earned property. The foremost of these was
Dampier, who seems to have gone almost everywhere a ship could go,
and who found out many new things, which he had the power of telling
well, as to Australasia; and the strait between New Guinea and New
Britain, which he discovered, is named after him. Many a commander was
now cruising in those waters, however, under English and Dutch flags
mainly, finding new lands and pillaging old ones—such as Roggewein,
Anson, Byron, Wallis, Carteret, Bougainville, and others; and such
important islands as Easter, Tahiti, Charlotte, and Gloucester groups,
Pitcairn, and others, were found during the first half of this century.
But now the English were to redeem their good name by sending out a
government expedition, or series of expeditions, whose object was
scientific discovery and the humane study of the men and resources on
the other side of the world, instead of forced trade or bloody rapine.
These were the three expeditions commanded by Captain James Cook, one
of the most capable officers in the British navy.

The first voyage was made in 1767 for the purpose of carrying a party
of astronomers and naturalists to Tahiti to observe there a transit of
Venus, after which a survey was made of the then almost unknown coasts
of New Zealand and Eastern Australia. The second voyage was to explore
the Antarctic regions, whither the French had preceded him, as we shall
see in the next chapter; and we need only say here that Cook finally
disposed of the tradition of a vast _terra australis_—at any rate a
habitable one. It is to his third voyage, then, that he principally
owes his fame.

This was undertaken in pursuance of the ruling idea of his day, that a
sea-route might be discovered north of the American continent, which
would vastly shorten the trip from Europe to China and the Spice
Islands. Others were seeking it directly by way of Baffin’s Bay, and
Cook was sent to attack the problem from the Pacific side. He was
given command of his old ship _Resolution_ and a new one, _Discovery_,
outfitted in the best possible manner, and especially guarded, in the
matter of provisions, against scurvy—that dread of the old-fashioned
seamen, in respect to which Cook himself had introduced such new and
valuable preventives as would alone have entitled his name to grateful
remembrance. He was commanded to revisit, on his way out, the South
Pacific Islands; and departed from England in June, 1776, steering by
way of the Cape of Good Hope, and reaching the archipelagoes in the
spring of 1777, where he cruised for nearly a year. In January, 1778,
he sailed north from the Friendly Islands, and a few days later hit
upon a large, inhabited, unknown group of islands, whose principal one
was called Hawaii by the people, but which he named Sandwich Islands,
in honor of an English earl who had taken great interest in his plans.
Here he spent some delightful days, and then bore away to the west
coast of America, which the English still claimed under Drake’s name of
New Albion, and which he struck near Puget Sound. Thence he went slowly
along the coast northward until he found and penetrated the deep bay
since called Cook’s Inlet. His hope that this might prove a sort of
northern Straits of Magellan was quickly disappointed, and he went on
into and through Bering Sea and Strait until he was stopped by the ice
on the north shore of Alaska, at a point still called Icy Cape. Then he
turned back, surveying both shores of the strait, and again made his
way to the Sandwich Islands, where, in an unfortunate quarrel with the
natives, he was killed. The Hawaiians have always said that this was
the act of a ruffian among them, and that the chiefs and the best of
the people never wished nor intended any harm to their visitors; and
this is probably true. His executive officer took the ships back to
England in October, 1780.

The voyages of this able and intelligent commander bore fruit in
many ways. One was the colonization of Australia, Tasmania, and New
Zealand by the English, which began in 1788. Another was the voyage
of Vancouver to the west coast of America in 1792, which intercepted
the surveys of the Spaniards there, under Quadra and others, and
enforced English possession of all the country between the Californian
settlements of the Spaniards and the Russian posts in Alaska, though
he curiously failed to find either Puget Sound or the Columbia River.
A third direct result, and from some points of view the most important
one, was the opening of a great number of the South Sea Islands to
Christian missionaries.

By this time there had arisen in the New World which these voyagers had
first stumbled upon, and then searched for, and afterward scrutinized
so carefully, a new, composite nation, which somehow forgot that all
their broad and fertile land had been given away centuries before by
an old gentleman in Rome to his friends the Spaniards, and acted as
though they thought it belonged to themselves; and by and by this
thriving nation hoisted a starry flag of its own, and proclaimed itself
the United States of America. Then, not to be behind European powers,
whose navigators were enriching libraries with magnificent chronicles
of scientific studies in sea-science, such as those of the French
“Voyage of the _Astrolabe_,” the Russian narratives of Krusenstern
and Kotzebue, and the English explorations of Beechey (who was
accompanied by Charles Darwin), the United States sent to the Pacific a
well-equipped expedition under Lieutenant (afterward Admiral) Charles
Wilkes. This was gone from 1838 to 1845, surveyed the west coast of
South America, wandered about Oceanica, and did its best to penetrate
the icy limits of the Antarctic zone. The results were six magnificent
folio volumes, containing not only the narrative of the cruise, but
contributions to science by James D. Dana, Horatio Hale, John Cassin,
and other men of the last generation great in American science.

[Illustration: end of chapter decoration]



As soon as the sea-routes between Europe and the far East were learned,
and the American coasts had been mapped, the region within the Arctic
circle became the most attractive field for nautical discovery. All
this earlier Arctic exploration, however, was not, as it has lately
become, a system of scientific research, but was simply a series of
attempts to open new roads for commerce to follow. It occurred to every
navigator that as a sea-way had been gained past the southern end of
America, so one around its northern border might be disclosed; and
perhaps, also, a ship-route along the northern coast of Siberia. Either
of these would be far shorter than to go to “Cathay” around either
Cape Horn or Cape of Good Hope, and would enable the English and other
northerners to avoid their enemies, the Spanish and Portuguese, who
commanded the southern waters.

The first Arctic voyage of exploration, properly speaking, was that of
Willoughby and Chancellor, who in 1553 penetrated the seas north of
Scandinavia, where they became separated. Willoughby and his men tried
to winter on the coast of Russian Lapland, but all died of scurvy.

Chancellor, however, pushed on into the White Sea, reached a monastery
on the coast, and thence made his way to Moscow, where he was well
received, and thus opened a trade route of incalculable advantage to
both England and Russia. It led at once to the organization of the
Muscovy Company, and began a commerce now regularly carried on in
steam vessels to Archangel, which in 1897 was connected with Moscow by

By 1580 several other commanders had tried to improve on this
performance, but none got past the Kara Sea, and the next important
effort was headed toward that “Northwest Passage,” which for more than
three centuries was the lodestone of Arctic students and voyagers.
It was in charge of Martin Frobisher, later one of England’s most
conspicuous admirals, who afterward made a larger expedition in which
he learned many facts about the Labrador coast and Hudson Strait.
Another English seaman, and a more scientific one, John Davis, made
three remarkable voyages, between 1585 and 1589, and increased the map
by a careful delineation of both coasts of the strait still called
after him.

Shortly afterward Dutch merchants had sent three expeditions northward
under command of William Barentz to search for a _northeast_ passage,
the third and most important of which sailed in 1596 and found it
impossible to penetrate the ice east of Nova Zembla (which had been
seen first by Burrough in 1556, who had been shown the way by Russian
fishermen), but discovered Bear Island and Spitzbergen. The crew
of Barentz’s vessel spent the winter of 1596-97 at Ice Haven, Nova
Zembla—the first successfully to face a winter in the Arctic zone.
When the next spring came they made their way to Lapland and homeward
in boats, but Barentz died on the road. This voyage was highly
important in opening to the Netherlands the whale and seal fisheries
of that region which has ever since been known as Barentz’s Sea, but
it discouraged the hopes of a “northeast passage.” In 1871 Barentz’s
winter quarters at Ice Haven were found undisturbed, after a lapse of
274 years, and in 1875 part of the journal kept by this brave mariner
was recovered. Almost every year about this time saw English, Dutch,
and Danish ships going north, each adding some new fact to geography
and the knowledge of polar waters and ice. One of them, in 1607, was
commanded by Henry Hudson, who searched the North Atlantic, found Jan
Mayen, and pointed the way to the Spitzbergen whale fisheries; yet he
had hardly more than a sail-boat, and a crew of only eleven men.

The following year this intrepid man tried to go to China north of
Asia, but failed as Barentz had done, and returned “void of hope of a
northeast passage.” Nevertheless, he tried it again a year later in
the service of Amsterdam merchants, but his men were obstreperous,
and, yielding to his own inclination as well as to theirs, he turned
west to find that “Northwest Passage” in which everybody then believed
because they hoped, and because of the difficulty of getting so great
a fact as the real North American continent proved to be accepted by
the popular imagination, which was used to small things in geography.
Very willingly, then, Hudson’s little ship, the _Half Moon_, was turned
toward the southwest; and it found something better than it sought, for
the Hudson River and the site of the future metropolis of the New World
were added to the map.

Hudson’s success in this voyage led to his immediate engagement by a
company of English merchants and speculators, who were willing to risk
additional money in searching for a northwest passage if he would lead.

In 1610, therefore, Hudson took command of a new ship, the
_Discoverie_, and sailing in her to Baffin’s Bay, found the great
opening of Hudson Strait, and with high hope that his goal was now
in view followed it westward into Hudson Bay. Here he coasted south
to what we term James Bay, and, after a comfortable winter, resumed
his examination of the west coast, whereupon the majority of his men
mutinied, set Hudson and several sick men adrift in a rowboat, and
turned back. Most of the mutineers died, but the vessel was finally
taken back to London, where the murderers were promptly questioned and
nearly as promptly hanged.

The story of another remarkable voyage closes the story of this early
attempt at the problem which, two hundred and fifty years afterward,
was to be solved only by proof of its uselessness. In 1616 another
_Discovery_—a caravel of only fifty-five tons—went north from England
in charge of William Baffin. “On the 30th of May he had reached Davis’
farthest point, Sanderson’s Hope, in 72° 41´ N., ... and reached, 1st
July, an open sea, the ‘North Water’ of the whalers of to-day. Passing
Capes York, Atholl and Parry, he yet pushed northward, and on 5th July
attained his farthest point within sight of Cape Alexander.

His latitude, about 77° 45´ N., remained unequaled in that sea for two
hundred and thirty-six years.” Arctic success depends on good luck.


The next century (1700 to 1800) was a period of active polar research
in the Old World. The Russians completed their knowledge of their
Arctic coasts, Popoff reaching East Cape in 1711, and bringing back
an account not only of various islands, but also of a continental
shore eastward. It was this report that caused Peter the Great to set
on foot a costly scheme of research upon the northeastern coasts of
Siberia, which was placed in the hands of Vitus Bering, a Dane, in his
navy, but accomplished nothing of any value; and it was not until 1740
that Bering finally crossed over in a blundering sort of way and made
a brief examination of the coast of Alaska, where his ship was finally
wrecked, and he died of discouragement and chagrin. He saw neither the
sea nor the strait that bears his name, was not the first to reach the
American continent, and never learned whether or not it was connected
with Siberia. Nevertheless his voyage had fruitful results, for it
led to vast fisheries and fur-gatherings, and the writings of his
naturalist, Steller, had and still have great scientific importance.


By this time the whaling and allied marine industries, and the work of
such excellent explorers as the Dutchman Martens, had made mariners
thoroughly acquainted with the North Atlantic from Nova Zembla to
Greenland, and a vast advance had been effected in the knowledge of
navigation amid the ice, and in the building and equipment of ships
and the proper methods of provisioning and clothing and treating crews
in order to maintain health and comfort as well as mere safety. These
well-fitted and daringly managed whalers had at the beginning of the
nineteenth century begun to penetrate far into the waters west of
Greenland, in spite of a very curious fact, which would make anybody
but a British whaleman pause—namely, that there were no such waters. So
their best maps and treatises said!

Two hundred years had now passed since Baffin’s return from his
wonderful voyage of 1616, and during all that time not a white man’s
keel had plowed the chilling solitudes he had left, except lately these
venturesome whalers, who did not frequent libraries. Consequently
Baffin’s work had first been forgotten and then disbelieved; so that
at last first-class maps were published which omitted Baffin’s Bay
altogether, and books were written, such as Barrows’ “Arctic Voyages”
(London, 1818), that denied the authenticity of his narrative. As the
nineteenth century opened, however, England began to turn her attention
to the renewal of polar studies. The Hudson’s Bay Company’s men were
reaching the coast of their Territories here and there; but otherwise
the whole Arctic Ocean north of British America was unknown.

To relieve herself of the shame of this Great Britain soon sent into
that field a rapid succession of explorers, many of whom soon became
famous. The very first of these, John Ross, despatched in 1818,
confirmed fully the geography laid down by Baffin as far as Cape York,
in spite of the learned book-makers, and reported a great number and
variety of interesting facts; whereupon a much larger expedition was at
once arranged and placed in command of a naval officer named William
Edward Parry, who went out in 1819 with orders to find the northwest
passage, and who had in his staff such men as Sabine, Liddon, James
Ross, Reid, Crozier, and similar material, all stimulated not only by
naval and scientific pride, but by the offer by Parliament of a reward
of $100,000 to him who should first discover the desired thoroughfare.

This first voyage was a grand success. Forcing his way into Lancaster
Sound in midsummer, Parry found that Ross’s report that it was a
landlocked bay was erroneous. As Greely tells it:

  The mirage-mountains of the previous year had vanished, and as Parry
  crowded sail westward, he opened a series of magnificent waterways
  hitherto unknown. The way lay through an archipelago (Parry), with
  North Devon, Cornwallis, Bathurst and Melville islands to the north,
  and Cockburn, Prince of Wales, and Banks islands to the south.
  Lancaster Sound, broken at its western end by Prince Regent Inlet,
  gave way to Barrow Strait, which broadened into Melville Sound, while
  yet farther to the west the encroaching land formed Banks Strait
  wherethrough these channels open into polar ocean.

If you will look at the map you will see that this list comprehends
pretty nearly everything south of Smith Sound. Many details of course
were lacking, and these Parry was sent a second time to work out,
but he added really little to geography by two seasons of hard work;
and a third voyage, begun in May, 1824, was still more unfortunate.
These voyages, however, enabled Parry, who was one of the greatest
of all Arctic students and navigators, to state that the western
sides of all northerly and southerly bodies of water are always more
encumbered with ice than the eastern sides; and to make many most
valuable improvements in ice navigation and equipment. His illustrated
narratives remain among the most readable books of Arctic experience,
and little has been added to their accounts of eastern Eskimo life and

Meanwhile (1819) another navy officer, who was ardent in the scientific
branches of his profession, as well as distinguished in seamanship and
naval warfare, and who had acquired Arctic experience under Buchan in
the ill-starred expedition of 1818, was sent overland to coöperate with
others in defining the mainland coast of America. This was Lieutenant
John Franklin—a name destined to become the most famous of all among
the explorers of the frozen North. For several years he and his
parties lived and traveled among the Eskimos, tracing the coast-line
from a considerable distance east of the mouth of the Coppermine
River westward almost to Point Barrow, Alaska, where they came within
one hundred and forty-six miles of meeting Beechey’s coöperative
examination by sea from Bering’s Strait; and it was out of these trips
that we got the valuable treatises upon the natural history of British
America, published by his assistants, Hearne and Richardson. This ended
in 1826.

The next prominent expedition was that of Captain John Ross and his
nephew James, afterward celebrated in Antarctic exploration; and it
turned out an exceedingly productive one. Meeting fortunate conditions
in Lancaster Sound he easily reached where the _Fury_ had gone
ashore, and refilled his ship with a portion of the stores Parry had
thoughtfully landed and made safe there—a provision which later kept
this expedition from destruction. Then he pressed on beyond where
Parry had gone, and added largely to the details of his map, but
curiously failed to recognize Bellot Strait as a thoroughfare, and so
unaccountably missed the thing he was in search of. Ross discovered
Boothia Felix; and during the three winters spent on its eastern shore,
the younger Ross, by sledging, discovered Franklin Passage, Victoria
Strait, and King William’s Land, and largely explored their coasts;
but his most important work, “giving imperishable renown to his name,”
as Greely declares, was the determination of the position of the north
magnetic pole on the west coast of Boothia Felix.

“The experiences, duration, and results of this voyage,” writes General
A. W. Greely, “are among the most extraordinary on record. The party
passed five years in the Arctic regions without fatality, save three
(two from non-Arctic causes), discovered a new land, the northern
extremity of the continent of America, and made other extensive
geographical discoveries. Its observations are probably the most
valuable single set ever made within the Arctic circle.”


During the third winter (1833) a rescuing party under Captain C. Back
had gone from England overland in search of Ross; and recruited by
Hudson’s Bay Company men of experience had descended Fish (or Back’s)
River to its mouth, thus noting a new point on the map; but it failed
to reach Ross. By similar overland journeys from their trading-posts
on Great Slave Lake and elsewhere, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s men,
especially Simpson, Dease, and Rae, connected various points of the
coast, so that before 1850 it was known with substantial accuracy from
Melville Peninsula to Bering Strait. In much the same way Russian
sledge-travelers had traced the northern Asiatic coast by descending
to the mouths of rivers; but no ship had yet succeeded in passing Gape
Chelyuskin, the northernmost point of Asia or any continental land.

Then came a period of the keenest rivalry and richest results in the
history of polar conquest, but also one of the greatest catastrophes.
The expeditions of Lieutenant John Franklin in 1818 and 1819 were
spoken of a moment ago. His services then and subsequently had been
recognized by the British king, who, among other honors, had made
Franklin a knight, and sent him to be governor of Van Diemen’s Land
(Tasmania), where he remained from 1836 to 1843, founded a prosperous
colony, and was regarded as one of the wisest, kindest, and most
upright men of his day. Upon his return to England Franklin was made
commander of the most important expedition that had ever yet been
fitted out to search for the Northwest Passage, and his reputation
brought the best men as volunteers to his standard. Having selected 134
officers and men, and made the best equipment possible, Captain Sir
John Franklin sailed on May 19, 1845, in the _Erebus_ and _Terror_,
Parry’s old ships. On the 26th of July they were seen proceeding
prosperously up Baffin’s Bay by a whaler, who reported them in due
course, but neither ships or crews were heard of again for many years.

Anxiety over the long silence at length aroused the people of England
and the United States to begin a search for them which lasted through
many years. It was fruitless as to its first object,—the rescue of
Franklin or any survivors,—but it gradually cleared up the sad mystery,
and it was the means of learning all, and more than all, that Franklin
sought to ascertain.

The search began by the despatch, early in 1848, of Sir James Ross in
two ships, _Investigator_ and _Enterprise_, which wintered near the
northeast point of North Devon, and returned the following year with no
tidings, although they afforded the second officer, Lieutenant F. R.
M’Clintock, an opportunity to acquire a knowledge of sledging, which
he afterward used to advantage. This failure only aroused England to
renewed efforts.

Many ships were started out at once, and also parties overland, of
which mention will be made later. The _Herald_ and _Plover_, during
1848 and 1849, scanned the whole coast from Bering Sea to the mouth of
the Mackenzie, and discovered Herald Island. Following them, in March,
1850, went the _Enterprise_, under Collinson, and the _Investigator_,
under M’Clure, via Bering Strait, while the _Assistance_ and
_Resolute_, with two steam tenders, under Captain Austin, went to
renew the search by Barrow Strait, and two brigs, the _Lady Franklin_
and _Sophia_, under a whaling captain named Penny, followed them. The
eastern expeditions discovered Franklin’s winter quarters of 1845-46
at Beechey Island, but no record of any kind indicating the direction
taken by his ships. Admirable arrangements were made for passing the
winter, and their combined sailing and sledging work added much to the
map of that district, and to our knowledge of life in polar latitudes,
but it learned nothing whatever of Franklin’s fate.


  “Out from the dark, mysterious North,
      With all its glamour, every night

  Tingling with unforgotten dreams,
      And every day flood-full of light.”

Meanwhile the expedition via Bering Sea had become separated in the
Pacific, and M’Clure, in the _Investigator_, got so far ahead that he
was able to pass through Bering Strait and work his way eastward north
of British America, and through the narrow Prince of Wales Strait until
he reached Princess Royal Islands, where he wintered. Here he was only
thirty miles from Barrow Strait; and when he had climbed a high hill
and saw its ice gleaming in the distance, he had in reality discovered
the Northwest Passage. Yet he was not the first, as we now know, for
when the survivors of Franklin’s ships, in their attempt to escape,
had reached Cape Herschel, they, too, saw this same passage they had
been sent to find, but then, as now, it was closed by perpetual ice,
so that although we now know the way, we can no more avail ourselves
of it than could they, except by going south of King William’s Land,
through a strait of which they had not yet learned. The next summer
was spent in a fruitless struggle to get north along the western side
of Banks (or Baring) Land, in which he succeeded only far enough to get
frozen in so firmly on the north shore of that great island that even
the summer warmth did not release his ship. He would have perished had
it not been that musk-oxen were plentiful; and by the spring of 1853,
it was plain that the _Investigator_ must be abandoned.

The _Enterprise_ meanwhile had followed M’Clure in the spring of 1851,
and passed two years in searching every shore and passage she could
find, while her men made sledge-journeys far and near, as M’Clure’s men
were doing, and once came within a few miles of Point Victory, where
Franklin’s remains would have been found. At last, in the spring of
1854, she succeeded in making her way back along the American coast,
and returned to England, completing one of the most remarkable of
Arctic voyages.

During their absence the friends of Franklin had not been idle. The
apparent sacrifice of this fine character aroused almost or quite as
much interest in America as in England, and Yankee shipmasters knew
the north as well as did the men of England and Scandinavia. Henry
Grinnell, a prominent merchant in New York, furnished the money to fit
out two ships, the _Advance_ and _Rescue_, commanded by Lieutenants De
Haven and Griffiths, of the United States navy. They assisted in the
search about Beechey Island, then struck north and discovered Grinnell
Land, after which they returned before the winter had closed in. With
them was a young physician and traveler, Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, who
persuaded Mr. Grinnell to send him again to the north, less to search
for Franklin, whom he had despaired of, than to prosecute explorations
in higher latitudes. In 1853, in command of the little brig _Advance_,
manned principally by whaling men, he left New London, Conn., and
made his way straight up to the head of Baffin’s Bay, which narrows
northward into Smith Sound, where, on the eastern, or Greenland, shore
of its expansion, since called Kane Basin, he was stopped by ice and
remained a prisoner until rescued in 1855.

Dr. Kane wrote the histories of these expeditions, and especially of
the latter one, in books so charmingly expressed, and abounding in such
novel information, that they were read like romances in every home in
the land, and did more to fire the ardor for Arctic discovery which has
ever since glowed in this country, than anything else that had been
said or done. The most immediate result was that Dr. I. I. Hayes, who
had been with Kane, took a ship to Smith Sound and spent the winter of
1860-61 there, but with little result. More came from the expeditions
led by an enthusiastic journalist of Cincinnati, Charles F. Hall, but
before speaking of these, let us return to the English search for

Undeterred by the failure of Austin and Penny, or the silence of
Collinson and M’Clure, the British government in 1852 despatched again
the four vessels used by Austin, and added a fifth, the _Assistance_,
and a store-ship, the _North Star_, to form a depôt of supplies
at Beechey Island. The old haphazard ways had given place to very
systematic methods of advance and rescue; but steam was little employed
as yet, because of the trouble and cost of supplying coal, although two
small steam vessels, as tenders, accompanied this, the largest and most
bountifully equipped expedition that had yet started out. The fleet,
under command of Sir Edward Belcher, proceeded through Lancaster Sound,
beyond which they scattered somewhat, and spent the first winter in
extensive sledge-journeys, during which they discovered (by a message
that M’Clure had left on Melville Island) where the _Investigator_ was
imprisoned, and rescued all its people in June, 1853.

This great expedition learned nothing of Franklin, although it did
learn much of other Arctic matters, and left the map substantially
complete south and west of Jones Sound; but its honors rested upon
M’Clure, who, first of all recorded men, had really made the Northwest
Passage by sailing and sledging around the northern end of America. The
settlement of this long-discussed matter had proved it of no practical
value; but the British Parliament kept its word, and gave £10,000 (half
of the promised reward) to the officers and crew of the _Investigator_,
besides raising M’Clure to knighthood. An incident of this expedition
is the fact that Kellett’s abandoned ship _Resolute_ survived crushing
long enough to drift out through Barrow Strait and Lancaster Sound and
down into Davis Strait, where in September, 1855, she was found and
towed home by an American whaler. As she was little injured, she was
presented to the British government with the compliments of the United
States, and a few years later, when she came to be broken up, a fine
table was made from her oaken timbers, and returned as a present to
Uncle Sam; and it now stands in the private office of the President of
the United States in the Executive Mansion at Washington.

Two great facts had now been ascertained. One was that none of
Franklin’s men or ships survived. The other fact was, that although
there was plenty of water north of the American continent, it was so
obstructed by permanent ice that probably no vessel could ever make its
way through from the Atlantic to the Pacific; none has done so yet,
despite the determined effort of the steam yacht _Pandora_ in 1875,
but ships from the east have reached points also reached by ships from
the west. The everlasting ice sheet of the polar ocean, ever crowding
down upon this northern coast and into the channels between the islands
north of it, forms a barrier that will very rarely, if ever, pause or
open long enough to let a vessel through, even south of King William
and Victoria lands. The outflowing warm waters of the rivers or other
influences may sometimes produce a narrow space comparatively free from
ice in summer along the shore of the continent and greater islands; but
everywhere off shore, and never at a great distance, begins a thick
mass of perpetual ice, which, it is believed, extends across the pole
like a cap, and reaches on the other side nearly to Petermannland. To
this has been given the name of the Paleocrystic Sea, or sea of ancient
ice, and nothing is known of it beyond the blue cliffs of its margin
that confronts the explorer as he gazes abroad from the hills of the
Parry Islands or Banks Land, or vainly seeks in some lone vessel north
of Alaska or Siberia to penetrate its glassy front.

So thoroughly were the islands of this archipelago explored, and so
unpromising seems further study, that Arctic voyagers have long ceased
to risk their ships there, and the story of Franklin’s fate was finally
learned by land travelers. As early as 1854 Dr. Rae and a party of
Hudson’s Bay Company’s men had traveled over land and ice to King
William’s Land, proved it an island, and heard stories of the death by
famine and cold of white men who could be no other than the Franklin
crew, as was further shown by various relics which Dr. Rae obtained
from the Eskimos. Dr. Rae claimed and received £10,000 of the reward
offered by the British government. The next year another party, going
down the Great Fish River, recovered many other articles from Eskimos
at the mouth of the river and on Montreal Island. It was evident even
then that every one had perished in an attempt, nearly successful, to
reach the mainland at the mouth of this river. Lady Franklin, however,
despatched an expedition in the _Fox_, under the command of the
experienced M’Clintock, which at last brought back, not her husband,
but the satisfaction of knowing fully his fate.

All along the west and south coast remains of articles belonging to
the ships were found, and skeletons—two of them in a broken boat; and
finally in a stone cairn a written record that briefly told the tale of


In 1845-46 Franklin quartered at Beechey Island, on the southeast coast
of North Devon, after having ascended Wellington Channel to latitude
77°, and returned west of Cornwallis Island, which was an exceedingly
successful season’s work. In the autumn of 1846 he had turned toward
the south, but had been stopped by and frozen into the masses of ice
that come ceaselessly down M’Clintock Channel and press upon King
William’s Land. Had he known King William’s Land to be really an island
he need not have exposed himself to this. During all the summer of 1847
the ships remained firm in their icy bonds. Sir John Franklin died,
and Captain Crozier took command. The spring of 1848 brought no hope,
and in April the ships were abandoned. The crews started southward
along the shore, dragging two boats (one of which was soon abandoned)
and many sledges. The Eskimos said the men dropped down one at a time,
from weakness and hunger; but it is believed that many of them were
killed by the savages for the sake of what few things they had with
them—precious articles to those natives. It appears that one of the
vessels must have been crushed in the ice, and the other stranded on
the shore of King William’s Land, where it lay for years, forming a
mine of wealth for the neighboring Eskimos. Some years later Lieutenant
Schwatka and W. H. Gilder, traveling with Eskimo parties in the region
near the mouth of the Great Fish River, found the graves of the last
remnant of the party, and recovered still other relics of this dreadful
calamity. Let me copy for you here the postscript, written by Crozier
and Fitzjames, to the short record of their work. It is startlingly
brief and impressive:

  April 25, 1848. H. M. ships _Terror_ and _Erebus_ were deserted on
  22nd April, five leagues N. N. W. of this [Point Victory], having
  been beset since 12th September, 1846. The officers and crews,
  consisting of 105 souls under the command of Captain F. R. M.
  Crozier, landed here in lat. 69° 37´ 42´´ N., long. 98° 41´ W. Sir
  John Franklin died on the 11th June, 1847; and the total loss by
  deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men.
  We start on to-morrow, 26th April, 1848, for Back’s Fish River.

It would be tedious to attempt to chronicle the almost yearly
excursions into the north, but a few ought to be spoken of. One such
has been alluded to—that of Charles Hall, a Cincinnati journalist,—who
enlisted the aid of the American Geographical Society, and then
prepared himself by going upon a whaler and spending the winters of
1860-61 and 1861-1862 among the Eskimos near Cumberland Sound, where he
found the remains of a stone house built by Frobisher in 1578. Again,
from 1864 to 1869 he was living with the wandering Eskimo north of
Hudson’s Bay, preparing himself to undertake an expedition which may
be said to be the first whose avowed object was to try to reach the
North Pole. The United States government furnished him the steamer
_Polaris_, and a small but efficient body of scientific assistants,
one of whom was Emil Bessels. The _Polaris_ passed through Smith
Sound, and after completing the exploration of Kennedy Channel, and
discovering that beyond its expansion into Hall Sound it continued
straight northeastward, forming Robeson Channel, Hall stopped his ship
and by sledge-journeys reached Cape Brevoort, above 82° N., whence
he could see the open polar sea. This was not only far beyond any
previous northing, but his work added immensely to our knowledge of
both Grinnell Land and northwestern Greenland, and prepared the way for
further successes.

This sledge-journey was, however, too great a strain, for he had hardly
returned to his ship when he sickened and died. The next season (1872)
Dr. Bessels and Sergeant Mayer reached on foot 82° 09´ N., a few miles
farther than Hall. This accomplished, an attempt was made to return,
but the steamer was soon inclosed in the pack, and drifted helplessly
southward for two months, until off Northumberland Island, when a
violent gale loosened the pack and nearly destroyed her.

  At length the danger became so great that on October 15th boats and
  provisions were put on the ice, on which nineteen of the crew had
  disembarked. Suddenly the ship broke away, and the party on the
  ice drifted slowly 195 days, and were picked up off the coast of
  Labrador, in 53° 35´ N., by a whaling steamer 1,300 miles from where
  they had parted with the _Polaris_. The party in the ship reached
  Littleton’s Island, where they passed the winter, building two boats
  from the boards of the vessel, in which they set sail southwards in
  June, 1873. On the 23d of that month they were picked up by a Dundee
  whaler, and ultimately reached home.

Only three years before that a very similar experience had happened to
the smaller ship of a German expedition under Captain Koldewey, of
which the larger went up the east coast of Greenland to 75½° N., where
a grim headland was named Cape Bismarck. It is just south of the land
sighted by Lambert in 1670. The little _Hansa_, however, was crushed
in the ice near Scoresby Sound. The crew escaped to the floe, where
they built a house of blocks of patent fuel, filled it with provisions,
and trusted themselves to the great Arctic current which carried them
south, at the rate of about sixty-five miles a day at first, until
finally, in June, 1870, it took them to the Moravian missions near Cape
Farewell, more than twelve hundred miles from where they were wrecked.

The seas and archipelagoes north of Europe were being questioned, all
this time, as well as those north of America. The Norwegian fishermen
had been familiar with Spitzbergen waters from long ago, but it was not
until 1863 that the group was circumnavigated. The next year Captain
Tobieson sailed around Northeast Land, and in 1870 Nova Zembla was
circumnavigated, and the mouth of the Obi reached.

The men who did these feats were sealers or shark-fishers in small
stanch Norwegian schooners, which flocked in Barentz Sea at this
period, and they furnished invaluable material, as did the whalers and
sealers of American and Scotch ports, for the ice-pilots and crews of
the scientific expeditions which now began to go to the north: moreover
many of the commanders were trained by amateur service in such vessels.
It was thus Nordenskjöld began his experiences in 1864. Among these
earlier expeditions was an Austrian naval lieutenant, Julius von Payer,
who became notable, not only because he interested a new nation in
Arctic research, but because of his discoveries. His first experience
was with the German expedition to Greenland in 1869, and in 1871 he
and another Austrian navy officer named Weyprecht spent the summer in
examining the edge of the ice between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla.

Their observations led them to project an expedition to try again at
that place to penetrate eastward, and effect the Northeast Passage,
which had been regarded as hopeless for the past hundred years. The
idea of making an Austro-Hungarian expedition of it aroused great
enthusiasm in that empire, and Payer and Weyprecht were furnished with
the large steamer _Tegethoff_, equipped as well as possible, with
Weyprecht in command, while von Payer was to lead all sledge-parties.
She reached the northern end of Nova Zembla in time to get into
comfortable winter quarters, but instead of escaping in the spring was
kept imprisoned in the ice, drifting steadily northward before the
prevailing wind until, in October, land was approached, near which
the ship again became a fixture for the winter of 1873-74. In March
Payer began to make exploratory journeys, and found that they had
discovered a group of mountainous islands, separated by broad and deep
channels, which he named Francis Joseph Land, in honor of the Emperor
of Austria-Hungary.


By this time summer was approaching, when it was plain that the
_Tegethoff_ must be abandoned, and an attempt made to get home afoot.
On the 24th of May three boats were placed on sledges, other sledges
were loaded with provisions, and the ship’s company started on another
one of those Arctic marches that often end at so sad a goal. Until the
14th of August they were plodding over the ice before they reached the
edge of the pack and launched their boats, in which they sailed for
three weeks before being picked up by a Russian vessel.

This has always been regarded as one of the greatest achievements in
polar work of this century, not only because of the heroism and skill
shown, and the new lands discovered, but because it promised so much
for the future—a promise that has been largely fulfilled.

The next important expedition was another attack upon the Northeast
Passage, the hope of which would not “down”; and it was under the
leadership of Professor Adolf Erik Nordenskjöld, a Swedish geologist
and naturalist of Stockholm, although born in Finland, who had made
several previous journeys to Greenland, Spitzbergen, etc., which
were fruitful of scientific results. Then he turned his attention to
Siberia; and in 1875 and again in 1876 he sailed to the mouth of the
Yenisei, as also Captain Wiggins of Sunderland, England, was then
doing, in a profitable trade with the Siberians, which has been kept
up more or less regularly ever since. These experiences convinced him
that it was worth while to try once more to work one’s way through the
Siberian ocean to Bering Strait.

He obtained and outfitted the steamer _Vega_, and arranged that a
smaller supply-steamer, the _Lena_, should accompany him as far as the
mouth of the river Lena—a bold proposition in itself, for that was
a thousand miles beyond the Yenisei. Nevertheless, this program was
carried out; for leaving Gothenberg on July 4, 1878, a month later they
were traversing the Kara Sea, and on August 19 passed Cape Chelyuskin,
which, up to that time, had defied all attempts and has since closed
the gate to all but the daring Nansen. A week later the mouth of the
Lena was reached, and the little tender, unloading her coal and other
stores into the depleted hold of the _Vega_, turned west, and actually
sailed back to civilization uninjured.

The _Vega_ then hastened on eastward, and came near getting right
through to Bering Strait in that one season; but this was more than the
indulgent Arctic gods could grant, and at the end of September the men
found themselves frozen into the ice off North Cape (where Cook turned
back in 1778), only one hundred and twenty miles from Bering Strait.
Here they were near shore, the country was inhabited by Tchuktches—a
nomadic people, with herds of reindeer, who take the place in Siberia
of the Eskimos of Arctic America; and the time was well spent in
gathering a knowledge of these people and their country, and in making
very valuable collections in zoology and anthropology.

It was not until July 18, 1879, however, that their prison-gates
opened, and the _Vega_ steamed on. These waters were familiar enough
to navigators; and Nordenskjöld proceeded straight east, passed down
through Bering Strait on the next day but one (so near was he), and
thus easily accomplished that which had baffled men since first it had
been tried by the unfortunate Willoughby three hundred and twenty-six
years before.

But though the Northeast Passage had thus been found, it was of no more
practical value to commerce than the solving of the Northwest Passage
had been, and the value received from the cruise was in the scientific
information gained, the more accurate delineation of the coast, and the
increased knowledge of winds, currents, magnetic phenomena, and the
behavior of the floating ice-fields on that side of the polar area.
When at last, however, the _Vega_ had circumnavigated the globe by this
extraordinary course, returning home through the Suez Canal, as no
Arctic expedition had ever been expected to do, its commander was made
a baron, and all his men were loaded with praises and honors, while his
book, “The Voyage of the _Vega_,” printed in four or five languages,
spread their fame throughout the world.

Now while the _Vega_ was drifting slowly about northeast of Siberia
during that early summer of 1879, not only were Schwatka hunting for
Franklin relics with the Eskimos of King William’s Land, the Danish
Captain Jansen tracing the northeast coast of Greenland, and Dutch and
English explorers investigating the neighborhood of Francis Joseph
Land, but within a few leagues of Nordenskjöld and his men there
was beginning one of the most dreadful of those tragedies that have
seared with suffering the track of Arctic exploration since men began
to pry into the secrets of the frozen North: I mean the story of the

Many readers of this book will easily remember the intense interest
which the starting of this expedition created in the United States, for
it was organized at the suggestion and expense of James Gordon Bennett,
the proprietor of the New York _Herald_. The government coöperated,
however, lending from its navy the officers and men needful, and
otherwise aiding the project. The vessel itself was the steam yacht
_Pandora_, which had been proved a worthy craft by Sir Allen Young in
his search for the magnetic pole in 1875, and which Mr. Bennett had
bought and rechristened.

Supplied with everything science and experience could suggest, the
_Jeannette_ sailed from San Francisco on July 8, 1879, and missing the
incoming _Vega_ among the fogs of Bering Sea, passed through into the
Siberian ocean, bound poleward. The last report of her was that she had
been seen September 3d steaming toward Wrangell Land, which had been
sighted by American whalers in 1867, and was generally regarded as of
continental extent northward. It is now known that De Long intended to
reach it and winter there; but to his dismay he could not escape from
the ice-pack, and to his astonishment found himself drifting past
the northern margin of Wrangell Land, thus proving it an island about
seventy miles long.

When two years had passed and no tidings had been received, the
United States government equipped a search expedition in the steamer
_Rodgers_, commanded by Lieutenant Berry, which in 1881 reached
and examined Wrangell Land, and then went north farther even than
Collinson, reaching 73° 44´, the highest point yet attained immediately
north of Bering Strait, where the paleocrystic ice spreads much farther
from the pole than on the American side. But he found no trace of
the _Jeannette_, and himself had a hard time getting home, for the
_Rodgers_ was burned in her winter quarters.

What then had befallen the lost vessel? She had become beset in the ice
and drifted with the pack around the north end of Wrangell Island, and
then west, until at the end of twenty-two months she had been crushed,
and sunk on June 12, 1881, in latitude 77° 15´ N., and longitude 155
E. Two small islands, named Jeannette and Henrietta, had been visited
some distance east of the scene of the catastrophe; but when the crews,
saving themselves and what little they could on the ice, started to
drag their boats and sledges homeward, they headed directly south, and
soon found a new island, named Bennett, which is the northernmost of
the New Siberia group.

It would be a sad task, were it possible, to relate here the frightful
hardships of that journey through the fast-gathering Arctic night
toward the bleak coast of Siberia. Having passed the islands, open
water was found, and the starving men embarked in their three boats for
the mouth of the Lena; but soon they were separated in a storm, and
each one proceeded as best he could. One boat foundered in the first
gale. Another, in charge of Melville (now engineer-in-chief, U. S. N.),
reached an eastern mouth of the river and ascended it to a Russian
village. A third boat, with De Long and others, also reached the Lena
delta, but only two seamen were able to proceed afoot to Bulun, a
far-away Russian settlement. Melville heard of this, and made haste to
start out searching parties, but they were too late. De Long and his
crew had died of exhaustion, and it was not until the next season that
their bodies and records were fully recovered.

Nevertheless, as we are assured by experts, the results of this
unfortunate expedition were important, physically and geographically.
“They covered some 50,000 square miles of polar ocean, and clearly
indicate the conditions of an equal area between their line of drift
and the Asiatic coast.” De Long believed the Siberian ocean to be
a shallow sea, dotted with islands; and his conclusions have been
confirmed by the admirable scientific work since of Toll, Bunge, and
other Europeans who have explored the Liachoff Islands and other places
in that part of the Arctic realm.

The desire for scientific study of the polar world had now become the
motive for northern research, though men were still ambitious to reach
the pole; and when Sir George Nares returned from the great British
expedition of 1875, to tell how the men of the _Alert_ had reached a
wintering-point beyond Robeson Channel, on the west coast of Greenland,
in latitude 82° 27´ N., and that Markham and a sledge-party had gone
about one degree farther (to 83° 20´ 26´´ N.), greater pride was felt
in this fact, perhaps, than in the careful observations and collections
that the ships had made. This remained the advance record until the
memorable feat of Lieutenant Lockwood of the American Greely expedition
eight years later.

This expedition was one of several acting in concert, according to
a scheme suggested by Weyprecht, and perfected at international
congresses of interested men meeting at Hamburg in 1879 and at St.
Petersburg in 1882. This plan was for the establishment by various
governments of a ring of stations as far within the Arctic circle as
practicable, where simultaneous daily observations of the weather,
magnetic conditions, tides, currents, etc., might be made. The
arrangement was begun in the summer of 1883, and observing stations
were established by Austria on Jan Mayen Island; by Denmark at
Godthaab, Greenland; by Germany on Cumberland Bay, west of Davis
Straits; by Great Britain at Great Slave Lake, Canada; by Holland at
the mouth of the Yenisei; by Norway at Alten Fjiord, Norway; by Russia
at the mouth of the Lena, and on Nova Zembla; by Sweden on Spitzbergen;
and by the United States at Point Barrow, Alaska, and, farthest north
of all, Lady Franklin Bay, Greenland. Nothing need be said about most
of these stations—all were successful except the Dutch; but to the
last-named belongs a story that Americans will not forget.

The command of the Lady Franklin Bay Station was assigned to Lieutenant
A. W. Greely—not a naval lieutenant, but, like Schwatka, a cavalry
officer, then assigned to duty in the Signal Service, to which (because
it then supervised the Weather Bureau) the government had intrusted
this matter. A steamer easily conveyed Greely and his party to Lady
Franklin Bay, and left them there with a good house ready to be set
up, and supplies of all sorts for two years. The prescribed series of
observations with barometers and thermometers, wind-gages, tide-gages,
magnetic instruments and all the rest, were at once begun, and two
winters passed comfortably enough. Dogs and Eskimo drivers had been
obtained, and several journeys were made, of which the most important
was Lockwood’s advance toward the pole, of which an account has
been succinctly supplied by General Greely himself in his admirable
“Handbook of Arctic Discoveries.”


Lieutenant J. B. Lockwood, one of the principal assistants, who had
already displayed great skill and energy in sledging, even in prolonged
temperature as low as 81° F. below freezing, undertook a long exploring
trip up the Greenland coast, to or beyond Cape Britannia. A large
party went with him at first, but gradually men were sent back, after
establishing supply-depots. “The journey onward was marked by severe
storms, rough ice, broken sledges, snow-blindness, minor injuries,
and—worst of all for loaded sledges—soft, deep snow.” At last, some
distance north of Cape Bryant, all turned back except Lockwood,
Sergeant Brainard, and an Eskimo, Christiansen, who, with twenty-five
days’ rations, pushed on. In five and one half days they had reached
Cape Britannia—the farthest north of the Nares expedition—82° 20´
N. Halting here only long enough to study the landscape from its
summit, and make sure of the remarkable fact that this northern end
of Greenland is free from the ice-cap, whose northern limit is about
lat. 82° N., they rounded a cape, and crossing channel after channel
filled with ice, which showed that all this district is an archipelago,
reached on May 10th Mary Murray Island, 83° 19´ N. “A violent gale
delayed them sixty-three hours, the cold exhausting them physically
and the delay mentally. If weather forbade travel, life must be
sustained; but they tasted insufficient food only at intervals of
fifteen, twenty-four, and nineteen hours—the last as clearing weather
made progress possible. Floes so high that the sledge was lowered by
dog-traces, ice so broken that the ax cleared the way, and widening
water-cracks in increasing numbers impeded progress. But, despite all
obstacles, they reached, May 13, 1882, Lockwood Island, 83° 24´ N.,
42°, 45´ W., the farthest of their journey, and the highest north [by
land], then or now.”

They could see land several miles northeast, which they named Cape
Washington, the highest known land, and toward the north could overlook
a polar sea to within three hundred and fifty miles of the pole. Even
here plants were numerous, and foxes, hares, lemmings, and ptarmigans
existed. The three heroic travelers returned safely, reaching
headquarters on June 3d. Another expedition by Lockwood and his two
companions explored and located the west coast of mountainous and
glacier-girt Grinnell Land, where the musk-ox and Eskimo hunters range
to the northern border.

The summer of 1883 brought no relief-ship, and the plan of escape must
be put into execution at once. A ship had, in fact, tried to reach
Greely in 1882, but, failing, had left supplies of provisions at Cape
Sabine and elsewhere. In 1883 another relief expedition sent north was
dreadfully mis-managed, and finally the ship itself was lost, and,
instead of leaving supplies, took away all that had been stored at Cape
Sabine—the precise point where they were to be needed.

Leaving Lady Franklin Bay in August in open boats, the party managed,
after desperate exertions, to get near Cape Sabine, and safely landed
on Bedford Pim Island, on the northwestern shore of Smith Sound,
October 15, 1883. Of the misery that followed, let Greely himself tell

  Winter had begun, the polar night was imminent, clothing in rags,
  fuel wanting, and forty days’ rations must tide over 250 days, till
  help could come. The main party put up a hut of rocks, canvas, boat-
  and snow-slabs, while selected men scoured the coasts for caches,
  sought land-game, and watched seal-holes, until utter darkness drove
  all to the hut. Scientific observations were unremittingly made,
  amusements devised, a spring campaign planned, and the returning
  sun found only one dead. Efforts to cross Smith Sound failed, and
  a hunting trip to the west found a new (Schley) land, but no game.
  Finally game came so inadequately that food failed, and one by one
  men died—Jens seal-hunting, and Rice striving to bring in a cache.
  Courage and solidarity continued; and if Greely gave to the maimed
  Ellison double food while it lasted, he did not hesitate to order
  in writing the execution of a man serving under an assumed name of
  Henry, who repeatedly stole sealskin thongs, the only remaining
  food. Flowers, plants, seaweed, and lichens eked out life for the
  six, till June 22, 1884, when the relief-ships, _Thetis_ and _Bear_,
  under Captain W. S. Schley and Commander W. H. Emory, rescued them.
  Records, instruments, and collections were saved to tell the story
  of an expedition that failed not in aught intrusted to it, and whose
  members perished through others.

To another piece of brilliant work, that of Lieutenant R. E. Peary, U.
S. N., I can give only a few words, because, like so much else that
might be said of Arctic researches, it was by land rather than by
sea. By extraordinary courage, skill, and endurance, he twice crossed
northern Greenland, showed that it is an island having a northern shore
free from inland ice in about 82° north latitude, and made stronger
Greely’s conclusion that the lands visited and seen by Lockwood, north
of Cape Britannia, are detached islands. Peary’s work may be said to
have completed the map of the continental boundary of the Arctic Ocean,
but he is still busy there.

Of Nansen, on the contrary, I ought to say as much as I can, because
his extraordinary voyage in the _Fram_ was perhaps more purely
an examination of the Arctic _Sea_ than any other ever made. Dr.
Fridtjoff Nansen was a young Norwegian who had already made his mark
in Greenland, where, soon after 1880, articles began to be found that
had belonged to the _Jeannette_, and apparently must have drifted
thence from where she was lost off Siberia. This was only a part of the
indications that convinced Dr. Nansen that a current flowed across the
unknown polar space from the neighborhood of Alaska to the northeast
coast of Greenland, and thence became the great Arctic current that we
recognize south of Iceland. He argued that if a vessel could find this
current north of eastern Siberia, she would be moved with it until she
emerged into the Atlantic. Incidentally she might drift directly over
the pole.

With this in view, he raised funds to build and equip a small wooden
vessel, furnished with both steam and sails, which was so shaped by
the roundness of her bottom, and so amazingly braced and strengthened
within, that before any “nips” of the ice would crush her, the pressure
would lift her out of water—as, in fact, happened many times in the
course of her wonderful excursion. Nansen chose twelve companions,[3]
and though some of them were educated men of science, others skilful
sea-captains, and others common sailors, all lived and worked together
in one cabin as brothers—the happiest and healthiest lot of men that
ever ventured into the hyperborean kingdom of desolation.

Leaving Norway in July, 1893, he struggled through the Kara Sea,
and it was not until late in September, 1894, that he found himself
permanently frozen into the great polar pack, north of the New Siberian
Islands; but even then he was neither so far north nor so far west as
he hoped to get, and feared that he was south of his supposed current.
For the story of the strange life led by those thirteen men on that
drifting ship, safe, abundantly provisioned, dry, warm, lighted by
electricity (power for the dynamos being gained by a windmill), I can
only refer you to Dr. Nansen’s book, “Farthest North,” one of the
most interesting Arctic volumes ever penned. Turning, zigzagging, now
advancing and again retreating as the constantly moving ice swayed here
and there under the pressure of wind or the dragging of currents, they
nevertheless made a gradual progress westward.

By March they had reached a point near the crossing of the 70th
meridian and 85th parallel, and were still fixed in the ice. Then
Nansen, taking with him Lieutenant Johansen, started north by
dog-sledges, in an attempt to reach the pole. They could take very few
supplies of any sort, and how far north they would be able to travel
must depend upon their ability to return, not to the _Fram_, which
would drift on, but to the islands of Francis Joseph Land, far away
south. The ice, bad at first, grew worse as they proceeded, being one
long stretch of hummocks and jagged ditches, with now and then a lane
of open water around which they would toil in misery only to find a
worse one ahead. On April 7th it became certain that they must turn
back. This was “farthest north,” indeed—just above the 86th degree,
hardly 275 miles from the North Pole. Then it was a race against death
by cold, or drowning, or starvation. One by one the dogs were killed to
furnish food for the remainder. At last, after almost superhuman labors
and thrilling escapes from freezing and drowning and the attacks of
famished bears, they reached Francis Joseph Land, and spent a winter in
a hut made out of stones, earth, and raw walrus hides. The next spring
they plodded on, and by good chance found the camp of the Jackson
Harmsworth surveying party (which a few days later would have gone away
in its steamer), by whom Nansen and Johansen were carried to Norway in
August, 1896.

A week later the _Fram_ came in, with every one well and hearty, having
emerged from the ice just northwest of Spitzbergen.

Since Nansen’s return another Scandinavian, S. A. Andrée, with two
companions, has disappeared into this same desert of ice and silence,
in a balloon carrying a boat, sledge, tent, and various supplies.
It was his intention to reach the pole if possible, and to do
whatever else circumstances permitted. Since his departure, on July
10, 1897, from Spitzbergen, he has not been heard from, except by a
pigeon-message two days later.


We have followed up to date the history of adventurous and scientific
exploration of the hardly yielding, yet steadily narrowed, circles
of unknown coasts and waters about the North Pole. Let us now see
what, thus far, has been done to wrest from the ocean and ice of its
Antarctic antipodes the secrets of the South Pole.


Drawn by the Antarctic explorer Borchgrevink.]

Almost three hundred years ago the existence of islands far to the
southward of any continents became known to navigators, who were driven
thither by bad weather, and little by little was added to the map of
this desolate region; but it was not until 1772 that any one went into
that terrible Antarctic sea for the express purpose of a survey. This
man was the intrepid Captain Cook, and though he sailed a third of the
way around the globe in his efforts to find an entrance through the icy
barrier, he could never penetrate beyond 71° south latitude, which is
equal to North Cape, or the town of Upernavik, in the Arctic region.
Later captains did little better, until 1841, when Sir James Ross, in
his ships _Erebus_ and _Terror_,—the same vessels which afterward met
their destruction with the ill-fated Franklin expedition,—skirted the
edge of the thick ice that everywhere clothed the land, though it was
midsummer, and finally reached the base of the southernmost land yet
known on the globe—a magnificent mountain-chain stretching away to the
south from latitude 78° 10´.

The most conspicuous point of all this range of polar mountains, which
rises from an unexplored continent or great island called Victoria
Land, is the volcano Mt. Erebus. It was in eruption at the time of
Ross’s visit, and the explorer tries to tell us of the splendor of its
display when the wide glistening waste of snow and the deep blue of
the ocean and the starry sky are lit up by the column of fire hurled
thousands of feet heavenward from its crater: but who can picture the
grandeur of such a scene! This volcano is about 12,400 feet high, and
an extinct neighbor, Mt. Terror, is still higher; while a third peak,
Mt. Melbourne, exceeds 15,000 feet in altitude, and like all the rest
is covered with everlasting snow and glaciers from the tempestuous
water’s edge to its lonely crest.

Meager as this information is, it is about all we know of the surface
of the globe within the Antarctic circle; and it will be extremely
difficult to learn much more. In a latitude much farther from the
pole than that where in the north vegetation is abundant, and men and
animals live all the year round, the severity of the Antarctic climate
cuts off all life, and constantly seals the water under a cap of ice.
The coasts and outlying islands thus far examined appear to be wholly
volcanic, often composed of nothing but alternate layers of ashes
and ice; but the _Challenger_ staff dredged up from the edge of the
ice south of the middle of the Indian Ocean pieces of granite-like
and other rocks, such as belong to land regularly formed; so that
probably the whole uplift does not consist of volcanic materials; and,
furthermore, rocks containing fossil plants have been found on some of
the southernmost islands which show that in past ages—the period of
the coal deposits—the climate of that end of the world was mild enough
to support forests of trees and, doubtless, a large variety of herbage
and animals. Now most of the coast is unapproachable on account of a
border of sea-ice, or else cliffs of moving land-ice (glaciers) that
give off the flat, table-topped icebergs characteristic of the south
polar waters. No trace of any land animal—except visiting sea-fowl—has
been found, and only a little of the simplest plants (lichens); nor is
this surprising when we learn that the highest noonday heat of summer
is only a little above the freezing-point.

Why this intense cold and dreadful desolation exists so much farther
from the pole in the southern than in the northern hemisphere, I need
hardly explain to you; for you will recall that in the north the
continents are so broad as to form almost an unbroken wall about the
narrow polar sea, confining its cold waters, warming the air by wide
radiation, and guiding the heated flood of the Gulf Stream straight
into the northern sea. In the southern hemisphere, on the other hand,
an immense breadth of ocean south of latitude 40° is broken by no
land of any account, and the southward flowing warm water from the
equator becomes spread out so thin upon the vast surface that it is
rapidly chilled. It is now generally believed, as has been hinted,
that the south polar region is a continental mass, deeply buried in an
ice-sheet that is ever fed in the center as fast as it wastes away at
the circumference; for the prevailing winds there tend toward the pole
from all sides, and carry loads of moisture to be condensed and fall in
ceaseless snows.


The Antarctic seas, however, are by no means lifeless, but abound not
only in fishes,—cod are said to throng in these waters in prodigious
numbers,—but several varieties of whales, dolphins, and their kin
(which will be described in one of the later chapters), and many kinds
of seals, notably the huge sea-elephant, now becoming rare elsewhere.
Then, too, the Antarctic islands and headlands are the resort of
enormous flocks of certain sea-birds, all different from the Arctic
species of their families, which subsist upon the fishes and less
creatures in the water, and go to the lonely shores outside the ice-cap
only for rest and to make their nests. Of all these the penguins are
most numerous and most hardy, and a whole chapter might easily be given
to their quaint appearance and quainter ways. It also appears probable
that certain migratory birds—especially beach-feeding kinds—regularly
visit the Antarctic continent in summer from Patagonia, and breed there.

Now what has been gained by all the expense, exertion, and hardship
of polar exploration? What has been the charm that has led wise and
brave men to overcome terrific obstacles, and turn again with deeper
and deeper longings toward the mystic icy regions? Lieutenant Maury has
given one answer: “There icebergs are framed and glaciers launched.
There the tides have their cradle: the whales their nursery. There
the winds complete their circuits, and the currents of the sea their
round in the wonderful system of interoceanic circulation. There the
Aurora Borealis is lighted up, and the trembling needle brought to
rest; and there, too, in the mazes of that mystic circle, terrestrial
forces of occult power and vast influence upon the well-being of man
are continually at play.... Noble daring has made Arctic ice and waters
classic ground. It is no feverish excitement nor vain ambition that
leads man there. It is a higher feeling, a holier motive, a desire
to look into the works of creation, to comprehend the economy of our
planet, and to grow wiser and better by the knowledge.”

To polar explorers we owe not only the discovery of the waters,
coasts, and archipelagoes that now are accurately outlined upon our
maps within the Arctic and Antarctic circles, but vast and valuable
products—whale-fisheries, seal-fisheries, cod-fisheries, and many other
additions to the wealth of the world from the sea, while the Arctic
lands have yielded furs and other valuable things in great quantity.
The study of the people living under those adverse northern conditions
has been highly instructive, assisting us to reconstruct the life in
the primitive world; and what we have learned from the records of
the Arctic rocks has thrown a bright and unexpected light upon the
antiquity of the globe.

To studies of the ocean and atmosphere in very high latitudes science
is largely indebted for new facts in magnetism, in the movements of
the air and causes of climate, in the formation and behavior of ice
and icebergs, in the action of tides and ocean-currents, and in many
other departments of knowledge, all of which have been made of use
especially to the navigator. Nor has this cost over much. Attention
has been called to every casualty, and the romantic light of adventure
has brought into high relief all the hardships and sometimes horrors
of Arctic experience; but the records show that the average of loss
and suffering in Arctic work is not greater than that of ordinary
seafaring and naval careers. Sir Leopold M’Clintock has stated publicly
that during the thirty-six years when Great Britain was most active
in polar research, she lost only one expedition and 128 persons
out of forty-two successive expeditions sent out, and never lost a
sledge-party out of a hundred that made overland journeys.

After all, no doubt, the best result has been the human heroism
displayed, and the human sympathy developed. “There are,” exclaims
Professor Nourse, “and ever will be, fair fruits born out of such acts
of high aspiration, energy, and fortitude, in those who have gone out,
and in their liberal supporters; exemplars for the lifting up of the
discouraged, the education of the young. Certainly volunteers for the
paths of discovery will offer themselves until the fullest additions to
the domain of science have had their ingathering.”





[3] The success of this most hazardous venture, although its crew
numbered _thirteen_, is equal to the success of Columbus’s first
voyage, although it began on _Friday_! “Luck” has no show when it is
pitted against pluck.




Naval warfare, properly speaking, begins with the battle of Salamis,
480 B. C., when the Greek fleet, under the guidance of Themistocles,
destroyed or put to flight a horde of twelve hundred Persian vessels,
and saved Athens, to become the foundation of a strong nation.

Of these ships at Salamis we know very little, except that they were
large, open, or partly open, rowboats, having platforms at the stern
and prow, and perhaps amidships in some cases, where soldiers might
stand and discharge their arrows out of the way of the rowers beneath
them, or leap aboard the enemy’s boats whenever they could be reached.
They were, in short, early types of the galleys which subsequently
became vessels of war as powerful and serviceable, under the conditions
they were intended to meet, as are our battle-ships to-day, and
probably safer as a fighting-place for their crews.

That from rowboats rather than from sail-boats should have been
developed the highest type of Mediterranean war-vessel of ancient times
is not surprising when one remembers the light and variable winds of
that region, the usually smooth seas, the abundance of harbors, and,
above all, the need of having the vessels under complete control when
all fighting had to be done at short range—chiefly by ramming and
boarding, in fact. It must be remembered, too, that labor was cheap;
and it was considered that the most proper and economical—not to say
humane—use to which prisoners of war could be put was to make them
rowers in public ships, while enough remained to be sold as slaves to
the owners of private yachts and privateering galleys. One may imagine
a worse fate than this.

The earliest war-vessels of the eastern Mediterranean—those of Homer’s
time, for instance—seem to have been long and rather narrow rowboats,
the best of which had two tiers of oars, one above the other, the
lower, shorter tier working through oval holes in the side, and the
upper in notches or thole-pins on the gunwale. This left the upper
rowers exposed, and hence such vessels were called _aphract_, or
“unfenced”; and it was not until the Greeks began to become prominent
that the bulwarks were raised high enough to protect all the rowers,
and war-vessels generally became _cataphract_, or “fenced.”

It appears that in very early times war-ships (_biremes_) with not
only two tiers or banks of oars, but even those (_triremes_) with
three banks, were used; and the trireme became the type of the most
numerous and effective vessels of the Greek and Roman navies in their
prime. And as weight and power gradually increased, the crushing power
of collision began to be utilized, and ramming came in as a more and
more important feature in naval tactics. As the Greeks seem to have
first applied these new ideas, it is quite likely that their success at
Salamis was due to these improvements. The arrangement was this:

From the side of the vessel (inside) projected three rows of benches, a
yard apart, horizontally supported at their inner ends by timbers that
slanted toward the stern at such an angle that the top seat of each row
was exactly above the bottom seat of the row behind it. The oars of
the top tier (_thranite_) were about fourteen feet long, those of the
middle tier (_zygite_) about ten and one half feet, and the lowermost
one (_thalamite_) seven and one half feet. Each oar was so nearly
balanced in its oar-port as to work in the easiest manner, tied there
by a thong and surrounded by a loose sleeve of leather which kept out
the water. Each one of the lowermost oars was worked by a single man,
the middle ones by two, and those of the third tier by three or four,
as they were of great length.

In later times larger vessels were invented for special
purposes—four-banked (_quadriremes_), five-banked (_quinquiremes_),
and so on, even up to one of forty banks; but as we are unable to
understand how it was possible for more than five or six tiers of oars
to be operated, we may leave these extraordinary galleys to special

The structure of these vessels gave them the greatest strength
combined with lightness. They had very strong keels and stems, the
latter peculiarly braced; and along their sides ran waling-pieces, or
fore-and-aft bracing timbers, the lowermost curving inward forward,
until they met in front of the stem at the water-line, where they were
braced by massive timbers, and prolonged into a sharp three-toothed
spur, of which the middle tooth was the longest, reaching out perhaps
ten feet. This was covered with metal, usually bronze, and formed the

“Above it, but projecting less beyond the stem-post, was the
_procmbolion_, or second beak, in which the prolongation of the upper
set of waling-pieces met. This was generally fashioned into the figure
of a ram’s head, also covered with metal.... These bosses, when a
vessel was rammed, completed the work of destruction begun by the sharp
beak at the water-level, giving a racking blow which caused it to heel
over and so eased it off the beak, releasing the latter before the
weight of the sinking vessel could come upon it.”


The stem was often carried up into a curving ornament called the
_acrostolion_, beneath which was a stout-walled deck-space for sailors
or the fighting-men to do their work; and the stern-post similarly
supported a lofty, richly ornamented structure (_aplustron_), arching
over the officers’ quarters.

Platforms extended up and down the center of the ship between the
rowers; and over their heads was a deck having walls or bulwarks where
the fighting-men and their various “engines” stood. In addition to
this an external defended gallery for soldiers and boarders usually
ran along the outside of the bulwarks above the oars; and awnings of
rawhide were stretched over all to ward off grappling-irons.

It must not be forgotten, however, that these galleys also had three
pole-masts, and certain sails—probably a huge split lug, with possibly
a square topsail on the mainmast, while the fore- and mizzenmasts
carried lateens. At the top of each stick was a round, protected cage
filled with archers and slingers—the prototype of our “military mast.”

Nor are the size and force of these Greek and Roman men-of-war to be
despised. The ordinary trireme had a crew of 200 to 225 men in all, 174
of whom were rowers. The space for cabins and stowage must have been
little, but this was of small account, since the war-galleys rarely
undertook long cruises, their tactics being a rush and a sharp fight,
and then a quick return to harbor, where it was the practice to draw
the lighter galleys up on shore each night. The transportation of the
ships across the isthmus of Corinth was not, then, so astonishing a
feat as it is sometimes called.

Rome’s experience, however, gained in war and in suppressing the
Levantine pirates, taught her to abandon the heavy, many-banked,
unwieldy vessels she had at first developed from Greek and Carthaginian
models, and to trust to a much lighter, swifter, and more manageable
style, with far less upper structure and rigging, and having only two
banks of oars. These were called Liburnian galleys. With this change
came naturally one of tactics, capture by chase and boarding taking the
place of the earlier attempt to crush by ramming and overriding the

The armament comprised not only as many soldiers with bows and javelins
as could find room in action, but various machines of offense and
defense, such as catapults hurling huge stones or marble grape-shot,
spearheaded rams or huge knives that could be run out against an
enemy’s hull or rigging, arrangements for smashing the enemy’s decks,
caldrons swung at yard-arms, holding burning pitch or oil to be poured
upon the foe, and often cranes (_corvi_), provided with grapples that,
if one could be made fast, would lift an adversary out of water, and
turn him upside down. No more vivid picture of the life in cruise and
battle of a Roman man-of-war’s man is known to me than that penned by
General Lew Wallace in “Ben Hur,” but I cannot, of course, transfer
all of it to my pages, as I should like to do, and an extract here and
there would only spoil the pleasure in store for you in re-reading it

Of medieval naval warfare in the Mediterranean, the struggles between
the weak “principalities and powers” that followed the decay of Rome
and lasted for a dozen centuries, we know very little. There is more
obscurity here than even elsewhere in the dim history of the dark
ages. It is evident, however, that not much change took place in naval
architecture. The Byzantine empire succeeded to Rome as mistress of the
seas, and we know that in the ninth century the Byzantine emperors were
still building biremes (then called _dromones_) armed with tubes for
spouting Greek fire. It should be noted that boats having only a single
bank of oars came now to be called galleys; and this is the first and
proper use of the word, though popularly it is now (or until recently
was) applied to any large many-oared boat.


With the introduction of gunpowder and cannon into naval vessels,
the ornamental top-works—a picturesque relic of which remains in the
Venetian gondola of to-day—disappeared, as we see when the clear
light of history begins to shine on the fleets of Venice and Genoa,
when these cities were leaders of the world in navigation. Turkey—the
successor of the old Byzantine empire and of the Greek power—was
then, as now, the great enemy of the west, but in those days it was
aggressive. Its fleets were strong and well manned, and they threatened
to cross the Adriatic and fasten the baneful grasp of the Moslem upon
Italy in revenge for the persecution of the Moors in Spain. Perhaps
they would have done so had not John of Austria, admiral of the
allied navies of Spain, Venice, and Rome, won that great victory in
the harbor of Lepanto, near the isthmus of Corinth, which destroyed
nearly the whole Turkish fleet, and released fifteen thousand Christian
galley-slaves. This was in October, 1571, and it saved the West from
being overrun by the barbarous East, as exactly fifteen and a half
centuries before it had been saved near Actium, a famous promontory on
the northwestern coast of Greece, where Octavius defeated the forces of
Antony and Cleopatra.

It is doubtful whether the ships that fought in the later battle
were much different in either build or rig from those of the earlier
conflict, but their decks no more gleamed with men in armor, and in
place of catapult, crane, and caldron were cannonades and falconets,
arquebuses and hand-grenades. Perhaps, however, they had already taken
on more of that long, low shape characterizing later the French and
Italian galleys, common enough in Mediterranean ports up to about one
hundred years ago, which differed mainly from the ancient ones in their
use of much longer oars or sweeps, balanced upon a sort of extended
outrigger or shelf projecting from the vessel’s side. The galleass of
which we hear in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was a large
war-ship of this style, which foreshadowed the Atlantic ships, to be
spoken of presently, in having castellated structures fore and aft,
in which were mounted sometimes twenty guns; besides its two or three
lateen-rigged masts, it often had thirty-two sweeps on each side, each
about forty-five feet long, and handled with a long, slow stroke by
five or six men—in France mainly convicts “condemned to the galleys.”[5]

Such vessels continued to be used by the Spaniards, Maltese, Italians,
and Turks long after they had been abandoned by the French navy,
but latterly, after the suppression of piracy, in which they were
of especial service, for the conveyance of important personages and
occasions of ceremony rather than for practical service; and in the
state barge of the Doge of Venice, brought out annually to this day
at the ceremony of re-wedding Venice to the Adriatic, we have a
magnificent relic of these stately craft.


But such boats were adapted only to the comparatively calm and simple
navigation of the Mediterranean; and although imitated in the similar
waters of the eastern Baltic, they never flourished north of Spain.
When they gradually disappeared, their successor inside the gates of
Gibraltar was the xebec, which began to appear under Arab or Spanish
control in the seventeenth century; this was supposed to be able to
withstand any weather, and carried from fourteen to twenty-two guns
on deck, with small ports for oars between the guns. A picturesque
relative was the Portuguese muleta.

The English liked this kind of vessel on account of its strong sailing
qualities, but when they took it into their own stormy waters they
found it necessary to raise its sides to fit them for breasting
the high seas that roll in the open Atlantic or are tossed by the
contending tides of the English Channel, and developed out of it a
style of swift and handy vessel called a frigate.

During all these “middle” ages the northern nations had been sailing
and fighting on the sea as well as the southerners. Stories of sturdy
battles have come down in tradition and in such chronicles as those of
Froissart; but those old conflicts seem to have produced little change
in ship-building or armament until the experience and wisdom brought
back by the Crusaders began to spread abroad even in the half-savage
North, and to produce that revival of learning which by and by was to
make such striking changes in western Europe; and here the leaders are


In those days no national navies, properly speaking, existed in
England, France, or northward. When a monarch wished to transport
troops by water to some other land, or make a naval expedition or
campaign, he fitted out the ships that belonged to the crown as the
king’s personal property, and compelled his subjects to furnish the
rest, just as his feudal provinces and cities and lords were expected
to equip and bring to his standard any land forces required. It was to
systematize this method somewhat in England that William the Conqueror
“established the Cinque Ports, and gave them certain privileges on
condition of their furnishing 52 ships, with 24 men in each, for 15
days, in cases of emergency.” Now and then, at first, Englishmen were
disposed to resist the “arrest” of ships, which might easily mean the
ruin of their business; and special laws had to be made to quell this
reluctance. Another quaint and significant feature of that practice
was this: In every fleet one or more ships were set apart as “royal,”
and either the king or his representatives occupied them with court
ceremony to carry out the fiction of royal dominion over the sea as
well as upon the land. It naturally followed in England that after her
navy had shown its power, and signalized it especially by a brilliant
victory over Spain in 1380, Edward III should have assumed as an
additional title “King of the Seas”—an act which had far-reaching

During the fifteenth century something like an established navy was
foreshadowed; but it was not until the reign of Henry VII, when, at
the end of the fifteenth century, the whole world was exploring the
oceans and awakening to the importance of sea power, that the first
vessel, properly called a national war-ship, was built, equipped,
manned, and sustained at government expense by England. This was the
_Great Harry_—a floating fortress rather than a ship; for, with her
towering, overweighted “castles” fore and aft, she was unseaworthy, and
came near being sunk by a slight rolling which poured the water into
her lower ports.

But a better known “_Great Harry_” was the _Henri Grâce de Dieu_, built
by Henry VIII. This king was the real founder of the British navy,
providing for it many good ships, dock-yards, trained officers, and
regularly enlisted crews. The advantage of this organization and the
superiority of English seamanship were demonstrated in the next reign
by the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

England was then at war with Spain, and Philip II thought to end the
matter by means of the greatest expedition ever heard of. It began to
be prepared in 1587 under the title of the Most Fortunate Armada,[6]
but an English squadron under Drake attacked the rendezvous at Cadiz,
destroyed over one hundred vessels and huge quantities of stores, and
then so ravaged the neighboring coasts as to delay Spain’s project for
a whole season.

In midsummer of 1588, however, after an unlucky start, in which it
was driven back by storms, the dreaded Armada appeared in the English
Channel, like a close flock of huge birds drifting along the British
coast. It consisted of about 130 ships, seven of which exceeded 1000
tons burden, and numerous small craft, and was armed with nearly 3000
cannon. Its commander was the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who was a most
incompetent man for the post, and it bore, besides nearly 10,000
sailors and galley-slaves, over 10,000 soldiers; but this naval force
was not intended to attack England until after it had ferried over from
Belgium the Spanish army of the Duke of Parma.

To such a force as this England opposed a miserably small fleet—only
34 vessels that could be called ships; but she hastily armed as many
more smaller ones as she could, amid great fright and excitement, until
finally Admiral Howard commanded 80 or 90 ships and boats. There was no
deficiency in his men, however,—the pick of English “sea-dogs” was at
his call; and among the leaders of the pack were men we have already
met elsewhere—Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Martin Frobisher, and others.

What a sight it must have been on that August day as these ships,
flying the huge banners of Castile, standing high out of the water,
with lofty “castles” forward and aft, gaudy with carving and color,
the light rippling here from silken pennants and flashing there
from shining cannon or huge poop-lanterns, moved past the southern
headlands of England, watched by half-raging, half-fearful crowds! And
how mystified and indignant must these watching country people have
been when Admiral Howard, their only defender, calmly let the Armada
sail by Plymouth, where the English fleet lay hid in the Solent, and
Captain Drake coolly insisted upon finishing a game of bowls before he
would go down to his waiting frigate.


But these captains knew what they were about. In those days, as now,
in fighting with sailing-vessels the advantage is usually with the
one who attacks from the windward side; for then he can manœuver his
vessel, whereas his enemy, heading toward the wind, can do so only with
difficulty if at all, and hence cannot easily take a good position or
escape from a bad one. Howard, therefore, waited until the closely
crowded squadrons of Spain had passed beyond him up the Channel, when
he issued from Plymouth harbor, bore down upon their rear from the
windward, and proceeded, as one of the reports expressed it, to “pluck
their feathers.”

Then began some wonderful days of sea history and naval schooling. The
Spanish vessels were floating castles armed with heavy guns and crowded
with soldiers armed with muskets and “harquebuses of crock,”—that is,
great blunderbusses supported upon a portable rest. They kept in a
close crowd, like a phalanx of old Swiss infantry, and supposed that
the English would move against them in another dense raft, and that
they would fight from deck to deck of grappled ships as if they were on

But the English knew better. They had few ships as large—the _Triumph_,
1100 tons, was the biggest—or guns as heavy as the Spaniards’.
Instead of attacking in a solid mass, therefore, they spread out,
hovered on the flanks, darted a ship here and there, fired as they
saw opportunity, and kept their own vessels out of danger as much as
possible. In the light and variable winds that prevailed, the great
galleons of the Armada were almost immovable, while the English for
the most part had smaller, lighter vessels, whose nimbleness and ready
obedience to the helm astonished the Spanish. Standing low in the
water, these would drive their shot right through the enemy’s hulls,
and make off before the Spaniard could depress his guns enough to do
any damage in return; while the army of musketeers upon whom he had
relied so strongly had little chance to do anything at all.

Thus for a week the English frigates and armed fishing-boats harassed
the Armada on its way up the Channel, capturing and sinking many of
the ships, while losing some of its own, of course, until at last
the worried and baffled squadron managed to gain the roadstead of
Calais, where the army of the Duke of Parma lay. To carry this army
across and begin a campaign against London seemed now not only out
of the question, but the safety of the fleet itself was a question;
for a few days later, when a favorable wind arose, several fire-ships
came sailing down upon them from the blockading Englishmen outside.
These fire-ships—an important part of every fleet for two or three
centuries—were old vessels intended to set fire to an enemy’s ships.
Their yard-arms were set with great iron hooks, their hulls and
riggings were saturated with oil, their decks loaded with tar-barrels,
and their old guns overloaded, so as to spread destruction in every
direction by bursting. Then bold crews sailed these grappling monsters
as near the enemy as they dared,—and it must have been a service dear
to the heart of the daring,—set fire to them, lashed their helms, and
got away in their boats as best they could.

To escape these dreadful things the Spaniards were obliged to up-anchor
and put to sea, losing many ships and lives by fire or the wildly
flying cannon-balls, or by going ashore in the effort; and then the
Englishmen followed them again, like wolves after a herd of buffalo
in winter. The Spaniards dared not go back down the Channel, and
nothing remained to them but the hazardous voyage around the north
of Scotland—a venture for which the towering, unwieldy galleons were
ill-fitted. Storms overtook them in the North Sea and on the Atlantic,
and so many were cast away on the Irish coast, where those who reached
the shore were slain, that hardly half of the proud Armada crept back
to Lisbon and Cadiz.


This incident was one of the most notable in European history for
two reasons: First, historically, it no doubt saved England and her
colonies from the Inquisition, and all the other depressing and
horrible burdens that long afterward weighted the papal countries
of southern Europe and their American possessions; and, second, it
reformed naval warfare not only by confirming the value of a regularly
organized national navy, but by showing that the old-fashioned, dense
fleet formation, carrying soldiers to fight as they would do on land,
was wrong and ineffective.

But though Spain had been humbled she was by no means crushed, and
sea-fighting went on a long time before either she, the French, or the
Dutch—and the last were the hardest foes—would fully admit England’s
claim to be sovereign of all the seas around Britain, and strike their
flags whenever they met one of her “king’s ships” in acknowledgment
of it. England asserted that the domain of her crown covered not only
the lands of England (and much of France), but also “the narrow seas”;
and she defined this domain to include all the Channel waters north
of Cape Finisterre and thence in a square area westward to the middle
of the Atlantic. This was not an assertion: “I can beat the world in
sea-fighting,” but was a legal claim to rule—a declaration that her
laws extended over that much sea in the same manner that it is now
agreed that the laws of all nations extend to a distance of three miles
from their coasts.

The whole idea of naval warfare in those days was defense of your
own commerce and attack upon your enemy’s; and at that time any one
you met under another flag was likely to be your “enemy” if either
party promised spoils worth a fight. Hence not only did privateering
flourish,—often degenerating into piracy,—not only did all merchant
vessels go heavily armed, but the royal ships were intended principally
for convoying or guarding merchantmen. This theory, which was only a
part of the generally unsettled condition of that formative period,
kept up a continual state of fighting on the sea, even between peoples
nominally at peace, and of course led again and again to open wars.
These were almost always popular, especially among the bold sailors
but poor traders of England, on account of the chances for prizes and
plunder that often more than repaid the expenses and losses of the
conflict; thus the war with the Dutch in 1652-54, in which William Penn
was a captain, brought in more than _£_6,000,000 worth of captures—more
than the financial cost of the war.

At this time—the first half of the sixteenth century—Holland was the
leading commercial nation of the world. Not only had her merchants
large interests of their own in both the East and West Indies, very
extensive fisheries in northern waters, and trading stations in the
African and American coasts, but a large part of the commerce of
other nations was conducted in Dutch ships, including much of England
itself. It was the unrighteous but determined effort to break this up
by any and every means that brought on the second war with Holland,
one incident of which was the capture of New Amsterdam (New York); for
fleets no longer stayed close at home, acting mainly as defenders
of coasts, as in the previous century, but now cruised and fought on
the high seas, as the Spanish had learned in many a hard struggle to
protect their trading and treasure-ships homeward bound.





This new practice, however, had required a change in ships and their
equipment. The English learned this quicker than any one else. They cut
down the lofty cabins, increased the height, while reducing the weight,
of masts by inventing jointed topmasts, and replaced the unwieldy
lateens by an arrangement of lofty, quickly handled square sails. By
the middle of the seventeenth century ocean-going ships had much the
same appearance as at present,—although far more elaborately ornamented
and bulging aft with stern-galleries,—the massive, high-pooped Spanish
galleon surviving longest as a relic of the old type. These changes
allowed the armament to be taken from the front and rear of the ship,
where it had formerly been mainly placed, there being no room in the
waist, and allowed it to be distributed equally up and down the ship,
which now began to deliver the “broadsides” that formed such a feature
in sea-gunnery before the days of turreted ironclads, and this, with
the constant improvement in the range and power of the artillery, soon
brought about ideas of battle formation. The early plan was to provide
a large number of ships,—eighty or one hundred on each side in a single
action were not uncommon,—because each was weak, and also because a
great number of fighting-men was thought necessary, and then to advance
from the windward in a compact mass, and endeavor to close with the
enemy and capture or destroy him by hand-to-hand promiscuous fighting.
Our word _squadron_ means a square, and, as applied to ships, is a
survival from those antiquated methods.

But when the practice of using fire-ships became common and effective,
and trimmer, more active ships superseded the cumbrous galleasses, it
was seen that this close formation only exposed a fleet to destruction,
and an open order had to be adopted, with a consequent change of
tactics. Another lesson was, that a sea-fight was a sailor’s battle,
where soldiers were out of place, and that to take a great number
of weak ships into action, crowded with men, was only to risk life
unnecessarily. Hence, larger and more heavily armed ships, but fewer of
them, appear in later engagements; and in place of a bunch of vessels,
“huddled together like a flock of sheep,” at which to shoot, the open
order gave the gunners small and single targets.

All these changes combined to enforce the wisdom of meeting an enemy
in a widely spaced line, where the strongest fighting-ships were put
forward, and smaller vessels came up in the rear. Those ahead met the
battle-ships at the head of the enemy’s column, and the lesser ones, as
they came up, were paired off against those of their own size, so that
the battle became a series of equalized duels. Such was the theory of
naval tactics in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and so arose
the term line-of-battle ship, descriptive of such national craft as are
shown on the opposite page.

These fine old line-of-battle ships were large and powerful before
the seventeenth century ended. Thus in the British navy when 1700
came in there were eight which had from ninety-six to one hundred and
ten guns each—fifty-three others carrying more than seventy guns, and
twenty-three more with more than fifty guns—all at that time regarded
as fit for the line of battle, though a hundred years later nothing
less than a “seventy-four” was so considered. Such were the grandly
picturesque old vessels that won the day at Gibraltar, Copenhagen, and
Trafalgar, and at many another spot where the whole horizon echoed to
their thunderous broadsides; but of them all there now remain only a
few honored hulks in harbors, or a few grand figureheads preserved in
docks and museums.

Each navy, however, had a greater number of smaller, more active
vessels, known as frigates, corvettes, sloops-of-war, gun-brigs, etc.,
which carried from twenty to forty-four guns, and were the “eyes of the
fleet,” as one old strategist styled them. They answered to what we
should now call cruisers, and often went on duty in distant parts of
the world, or in war were scouting about and supporting the main fleet.
This class was especially cultivated by the United States, as soon as
it began to make a regular navy, at the close of the Revolutionary
War, and six frigates were built at our six navy-yards during the
last years of the last century, which were intended and proved to
be separately “superior to any single European frigate of the usual
dimensions” in speed, manœuvering, and fighting power, in proportion to
their weight of ordnance. Three of them (_Constellation_, _Congress_,
and _Chesapeake_) mounted thirty-six guns, and three (_United
States_, _President_, and _Constitution_) forty-four guns each—mainly
24-pounders; and all gave so good an account of themselves, as ships,
that the high compliment was paid us of their being carefully imitated
by foreign naval constructors.

This is not a naval history, so that I am not concerned to tell of all
the glorious or inglorious work of the navies of Europe in obtaining
and holding, or failing to get and keep, trade routes open and
territorial possessions intact in various parts of the world. During
the seventeenth and eighteenth and far into the nineteenth century,
there was no time when some nations were not fighting on the sea if not
on land; and much of the time _all_ the maritime nations were hard at
it, turning their guns to-day on the allies of yesterday, and fighting
shoulder to shoulder with them the next season against some friend of
the year before.

A few of the most famous battles ought to be spoken of, however, as
illustrating the methods and development of naval warfare, and because
we now recognize that their consequences were far-reaching.

In the wars which broke out toward the close of the eighteenth century
due to Napoleon’s ambition to rule the world, Great Britain found
herself engaged in a struggle not only with France, but really with
the whole world, for the command of the seas that washed the western
coast of Europe. The only sign of friendship to England from the Baltic
to Gibraltar was in the doubtful neutrality of Portugal. England had
to abandon the Mediterranean, and devote herself to facing the allied
powers against her outside the Gates of Hercules as best she could.
In 1797 she made a beginning by crushing a fleet of Dutch ships off
Camperdown (Holland), and a Spanish fleet off Cape St. Vincent; but,
though both were great battles, neither had any lasting effect; and
in spite of them Napoleon planned his celebrated invasion of England
for the following year, supposing that by his expedition to Egypt,
threatening England’s East Indian possessions, he would draw away so
much of the British navy that he and his allies could put an army
across the English Channel unhindered. I need not say that his invasion
of England never was even attempted; but for a time his fleet did hold
command of the Mediterranean—a state of things to which an end was put
by England’s most famous naval hero, Horatio Nelson.

A long series of brilliant exploits had given Nelson fame, and the
vigorous accounts of them he used to send home helped his great
popularity. A large part of his service had been in American waters.

In 1798 Nelson was a rear-admiral, and was sent to the Mediterranean
after the French fleet, which, having convoyed Napoleon’s army to
its landing at Alexandria, was ready for new operations. It is
characteristic of the slow and almost useless methods of gaining
intelligence in those days, that from early June to the end of July
Nelson searched for this flotilla, and was unable to get more news of
it than an occasional rumor that it had been at some place or other
days or weeks before. The French knew no more as to the movements of
their pursuers, yet the fleets were twice within a few miles of each
other. This was Nelson’s first independent command, and his patience
and nerves were nearly worn out by anxiety.


At last, on the first day of August, the English almost stumbled on the
French at anchor in the Bay of Aboukir, among the mouths of the Nile,
between Alexandria and Rosetta—a shallow roadstead full of shoals and
rocks, for which Nelson had neither chart nor pilot.

In the interior of this bay lay the Napoleonic squadron, under Admiral
Brueys, in such fancied security that a large part of the crews was
ashore, and some of the ships unprepared for a battle when the British
appeared. It was anchored in line of battle, however, and consisted
of thirteen ships of the line, the central one being the flagship
_Orient_, having 120 guns, and probably the largest and most complete
war-ship then afloat. On each side of her were the _Franklin_ and
the _Tonnant_, of 80 guns each, and none of the others were greatly

The British had also thirteen ships, but none was the equal of the
best French, and one of them did not engage in the attack at all.
Knowing nothing of the harbor, and aware that all his ships drew
much water,—perhaps thirty feet,—Nelson had to make a long and very
cautious detour, throwing the lead every moment and feeling his way
in. It was then late in the afternoon, and half-past six before the
_Goliath_, leading the column, got near enough to attract the French
fire. Replying, but not halting, the _Goliath_, followed closely by the
_Zealous_ and _Orion_, made for the head of the line, and then with
a daring unrivaled, for there was barely enough water to float their
keels, these ships slowly turned around the foremost French vessel and
dropped their anchors in the rear of the enemy’s line. The other ships,
as they came up, ranged alongside the front of the French, and the
deepening twilight resounded with such a roar of broadsides as never
will be heard again.

In the darkness and smoke an English seventy-four, the _Bellerophon_,
had engaged the monstrous _Orient_, and in a short time had been
crushed; all her masts were swept out of her, two hundred of her people
were killed and wounded, and she drifted out of action. But nearly the
same fate had by that time overtaken the French _Guerrière_, for the
_Theseus_ had coolly placed herself where she could rake the anchored
ship and tear her to pieces. The moment the _Bellerophon_ drifted
off, however, her place was taken by two newly arrived frigates, and
the _Orient_ presently found herself the target of three ships which
slowly but surely were cutting her to pieces in spite of her tremendous
resistance. Her admiral had been killed on her deck, where half her
officers and men lay dead or wounded, when it was suddenly seen that
she was on fire, and the whole battle was instinctively suspended to
watch the magnificent spectacle, save where some still poured in shot
and shell to prevent the French crew from extinguishing the flames.

Powerless either to save their ship or launch their boats, the remnant
of the _Orient’s_ crew could only fling themselves into the water and
trust to the mingled boats of friends and foes to pick them up. The
ships nearest slipped their cables, and tried to edge away out of
danger as the flames enveloped the towering masts, burning with amazing
fierceness in the tarred rigging and lighting up the desert for miles
inland, while the hull became a furnace. Suddenly, at a quarter before
ten, a volcano-like explosion tore the glowing old battle-ship asunder,
a torrent of burning fragments was hurled aloft,—with how many dead
heroes, no one knows,—and double darkness closed over the appalling
scene. Then the black waves were lighted anew by the flash of cannon
and musketry, and the battle went on until daylight before the last of
the French vessels had been conquered, while two of them had managed
to steal away. Of the other eleven one had been burned and sunk, three
had gone ashore, where one burned, and the remainder had been crushed
into surrendering. The English did not lose a single vessel, for even
the dismantled _Bellerophon_ could float, and their loss in men was far
less than that of the French.




Historians tell us that this victory was the grandest naval success
on record. Nelson himself said that victory was too weak a term—it
was a catastrophe. It put an end at once to Napoleon’s campaign in
Egypt, and to all his designs against India. It gave the command of the
Mediterranean to England, emboldened Turkey and Russia to recover the
Ionian Islands, gave Naples a chance to assert herself, and aroused
Austria and Russia to resist by armies Napoleon’s aggressions, so
that from this battle dates his downfall. Its influence soon reached
the United States, and caused it to break through its neutrality
and begin upon the sea that naval war with France of which we hear
very little nowadays, but which gave to our own naval record such
glorious incidents as Truxton’s battles in the _Constellation_ with
_L’Insurgente_ and _La Vengeance_, and Captain Little’s capture, in the
corvette _Boston_, of the French sloop-of-war _Le Berceau_.

Nelson remained in the Mediterranean for some years, by no means idle,
and then did service of extraordinary value elsewhere, as at the battle
of Copenhagen, which in a single remarkable conflict put an end to
a northern conspiracy against England, and saved her a vast deal of
trouble; but his final service was the most momentous of all, at any
rate for the fortunes of Great Britain alone, and this was the winning
of the battle of Trafalgar.

In 1805 Napoleon had prepared for another grand invasion of England,
and with great skill had gathered a fleet of allied French and Spanish
vessels, which was to protect and coöperate with the strong army he
proposed to land along the Kentish shores. This fleet was commanded by
Admiral Villeneuve, and assembled at Cadiz, where, in October, 1805,
it was being watched by an English fleet, commanded by Nelson and
Collingwood, consisting of thirty-three ships of the line; twenty-seven
of these were present when, on the morning of the 21st, the allies,
twenty-nine battle-ships strong, came sailing out, hoping to avoid
battle if possible. This, Nelson was resolved, should not happen; and
dividing his forces into two columns, he made at them in such a way as
to strike their line (then off Cape Trafalgar) in the middle of its
crescent. The wind was very light, and an hour or more elapsed before
even the heads of the line struck the enemy, so that there was plenty
of time to make every preparation, and there was constant instruction
by signaling from Nelson’s flagship _Victory_. Then at the last moment,
when the first gun was ready to be fired, there rose upon the signal
halyards of the _Victory_ the message that, received with ringing
cheers, has been an inspiration to patriots the world around ever since


A few moments later Collingwood in the _Royal Sovereign_, and Nelson
in the _Victory_, were in the thick of the foreign fleet, which
awaited them in disorderly array, but closed about these two, bent
upon destroying them if possible before any others could come up. The
fury of the duels that ensued, where ships were mixed in disorder, and
sometimes three or four against one, passes adequate description. None,
perhaps, fared worse than the _Belle Isle_, a large English two-decker
that was the first to reach the scene after the _Royal Sovereign_, and
to draw off some of the fire that threatened to pulverize Collingwood’s


  England expects every man will do his D U T Y



The wreckage and suffering on other ships were almost as great. The
very first broadside of the _Royal Sovereign_, taking the _Santa Ana_,
struck down 400 out of the 1000 persons aboard; and the _Sovereign_
herself soon lost every mast. The _Santissima Trinidada_, a Spanish
four-decker, and the largest ship then afloat, was reduced to a wreck,
and a dozen others lost a part or all of their masts. As for the
_Victory_, she was always in the thick of it, receiving at one time the
concentrated fire of seven hostile battle-ships, yet was not too much
disabled to be manœuvered. Her captain’s aim was to engage directly
with the French flagship _Bucentaure_, but she was closely attended
by three other large ships, and difficult to reach. Nevertheless, the
_Victory_ finally got across her stern, and from a few yards distance
poured in a broadside which, sweeping the whole length of her interior,
dismounted twenty guns, and killed and wounded 400 men. As she passed
on, returning the fire of the other vessels near by, she was closely
followed by the _Temeraire_, the second English ship, which had already
become almost unmanageable; and a lifting of the smoke showed her
smashing a little French frigate, the _Redoubtable_, which, by and by,
was captured after almost every man had been killed, and she was in a
sinking condition. The astonishing resistance of this little vessel,
and the damage she did by soldiers with muskets crowded in her tops
and firing down upon the decks of the English ships, form one of the
most noteworthy incidents of naval history; and it is not too much to
say that she inflicted upon Great Britain as great harm as all the
rest of the allies put together, for it was a musket-ball from the
mizzentop of the _Redoubtable_ that struck down, early in the action,
the great Nelson himself. He seemed to have had a feeling, even before
leaving England, that he would not survive this campaign, and knew his
wound was mortal the instant it was received. He was carried below,
and remained alive and conscious about three hours, eagerly listening
to reports of the progress of the fight, and rejoicing at last in a
knowledge of victory. His last words, murmured again and again, with
his failing breath, seemed an answer to his signaled injunction, for
they were: “_Thank God I have done my duty._”

  Other men [writes Captain Mahan] have died in the hour of victory,
  but to no other has victory so singular and so signal stamped the
  fulfilment and completion of a great life’s work. “Finis coronat
  opus” has of no man been more true than of Nelson. Results momentous
  and stupendous were to flow from the annihilation of all sea power
  except that of Great Britain, which was Nelson’s great achievement;
  but his part was done when Trafalgar was fought, and his death in the
  moment of completed success has obtained for that superb victory an
  immortality of fame which even its own grandeur could scarcely have

No such fleet actions as this ever occurred in North American waters
in the time of the “old navy,” though there was plenty of cruising
and fighting up and down the coast and in the West Indies. The United
States had made its new flag respected before the end of the eighteenth
century, but it was done mainly in European waters, where that
marvelous captain, Paul Jones, had been defying enemies to the point of

Paul Jones was the first man to hoist our national ensign (the
rattlesnake flag) on an American ship, and again the first to hoist
the stars and stripes, and was the ranking officer of the continental
navy. He records that “in the Revolution he had twenty-three battles
and solemn rencounters by sea; made seven descents in Britain and her
colonies; took of her navy two ships of equal and two of far superior
force,” and so on. It is true that he alone of his day steadfastly
refused to acknowledge England’s supremacy of the seas; that the flag
of the United States alone was never struck to Great Britain except
under force of honorable combat; and that on the ships commanded by
Paul Jones it was never struck at all!

Every Yankee school-boy knows of the terrible fight of the crazy old
sloop-of-war _Bon Homme Richard_ against the _Serapis_, a new English
50-gun frigate in the North Sea, in which a sinking and burning and
shot-riddled vessel, able after the first broadside to bring only
three or four small guns into practice, conquered and captured her
twice-greater antagonist. It is not a story one can tell in a few
words, but it was a deed that is regarded in naval annals as among the
most extraordinary in the history of the world, and it won for the new
republic a credit in Europe that was of vast benefit to it and all its
wandering citizens.

Great Britain, though humiliated, had not been seriously hurt by the
loss of two or three ships out of her six hundred, and she still tried
to enforce against the rising naval power on the west side of the
Atlantic the subservience which she received along its eastern shores.
It took the form of asserting her right to stop and board any American
vessel, governmental or private, and seize and impress into her own
service any British subject found serving in the crew. This always met
with protest and resistance, and at last became so galling that in 1812
the United States declared war against Great Britain’s might rather
than continue to submit to it.


  _Drawn from Life by S. DeKoster Decʳ.8 1800, Engraved by Jd. Stow._


This might gradually overcame us, and British fleets sailed up and down
our coasts unhindered, but not until the enemy had been surprised by
many harder knocks than they anticipated, and had learned one thing for
certain,—that while man for man the Yankees were equally good seamen
and fighters, they were better ship-builders, and could teach lessons
in that art which their enemies were not above learning: and finally we
won by sheer force of victories at sea.

I have already spoken of the six frigates which were used in that war,
as admittedly the best of their kind in the world. Except the unlucky
_Chesapeake_, which was rashly carried unprepared into the fatal action
against the _Shannon_, where Lawrence lost his life, but won undying
fame in the memory of his countrymen by his “Don’t give up the ship,”
all did glorious work. Thus, the _United States_ under Decatur reduced
to a wreck off Madeira, and brought as a prize to New York, the British
44-gun frigate _Macedonian_ in October, 1812, itself remaining almost
uninjured,—a victory due to superior seamanship and gunnery.

The same skill, using a ship of superior sailing power, accounted
largely for the splendid victory of the United States sloop-of-war
_Wasp_ (18 guns), a week earlier, near Bermuda, in an encounter with
the British sloop _Frolic_ (19 guns), where in three quarters of an
hour the _Frolic_ was totally dismasted and reduced to a rolling
wreck, with ninety killed or wounded out of a crew of one hundred and
ten, while the _Wasp’s_ loss was only ten. A British seventy-four
then came up and captured both the victor and her prize; but eighteen
months later a second _Wasp_, by reason of her better gunnery, cut to
pieces at different times two other ships with comparatively small
injury to herself. Nor could the _President_ have given so good an
account of herself in her unfortunate encounter with the _Belvidera_,
and again when chased and finally captured by the squadron led by the
_Endymion_, had not her sailing qualities and gunnery been of so high
an order—qualities which also distinguished the American fleets on Lake
Erie and Lake Champlain.


But the honors of that brilliant naval war belonged chiefly, after all,
to the _Constitution_—“Old Ironsides,” as the people loved to call
her,—which is enshrined in the history and hearts of the United States
as Nelson’s _Victory_ is in those of Great Britain.

The _Constitution_ was the finest, perhaps, of the United States
frigates, and a favorite ship with commanders, yet her fame began with
her success in running away, Broke’s British squadron chasing her three
nights and two days, only to lose her after all. The winds were so
light that she sent out her boats to help the sails urge her forward.
It was only a few days after that (August 19, 1812) that Commodore
Isaac Hull, cruising in search of the British vessel _Guerrière_ (the
same that had been captured from the French in the battle of the Nile,
and again dismasted at Trafalgar), overhauled her off the coast of
Newfoundland. The London newspapers had not only been sneering at the
_Constitution_ as “a bundle of pine boards sailing under a bit of
striped bunting,” but Captain Dacres had sent a boastful challenge
to Hull to meet him and see what would happen. The vessels, though
nominally of different rate, were actually in close equality, and
both crews were eager for a fair fight. It was already well along in
the afternoon, and the sea was rough, but Hull would not reply to the
enemy’s fire until he was within pistol-shot, then his broadside opened.

  “Fifteen minutes after the contest began,” to quote Lossing’s lively
  account, “the mizzenmast of the _Guerrière_ was shot away, her
  mainyard was in slings, and her hull, spars, sails, and rigging were
  torn to pieces. By a skilful movement, the _Constitution_ now fell
  foul of her foe, her bowsprit running into the larboard quarter of
  her antagonist. The cabin of the _Constitution_ was set on fire by
  the explosion of the forward guns of the _Guerrière_, but the flames
  were soon extinguished. Both parties attempted to board, while the
  roar of the great guns was terrific. The sea was rolling heavily,
  and would not permit a safe passage from one vessel to the other.
  At length the _Constitution_ became disentangled, and shot ahead of
  the _Guerrière_, when the mainmast of the latter, shattered into
  weakness, fell into the sea. The _Guerrière_, shivered and shorn,
  rolled like a log in the trough of the billows. Hull sent his
  compliments to Captain Dacres, and inquired whether he had struck
  his flag. Dacres, who was a ‘jolly tar,’ looking up and down at the
  stumps of his masts, coolly and dryly replied: ‘Well, I don’t know.
  Our mizzenmast is gone, our mainmast is gone,—upon the whole you may
  say we _have_ struck our flag.’”

Too completely wrecked to be of any further use, the historic old ship
was set on fire and blown up, and so ended her pride and her story.
Hull lost only fourteen men killed and wounded, while the British lost
seventy, dead, and all the survivors prisoners. This calamity, on the
heels of similar successes elsewhere for the “bit of striped bunting,”
spread consternation throughout Great Britain not only, but in the
other European monarchies, for it presaged the rise of a new power to
be reckoned with, where novel and superior instruments and methods of
warfare opposed uncalculated forces to the old régime.

This conviction was enforced upon Europe anew only four months later
by the _Constitution_ overtaking and crushing in West Indian waters
the 38-gun frigate _Java_, which also was burned to the water’s edge,
because the wreck was not worth saving; and again the British loss was
many times greater than the American. Captain William Bainbridge, who
had distinguished himself in the Mediterranean, was her commander.


The ports on the upper deck aft were roughly cut to meet the emergency.
The sailors in the rigging threw water from buckets upon the sails to
make them hold better the faint breeze, and below hose pipe was used to
the same purpose. During the three days’ chase boats were sent out to
tow, and kedge-anchors were used to warp the ship forward.]

Various successes marked her career for the next two years, until,
under the command of Captain Charles Stewart, she had her memorable
adventure off Madeira, in which she engaged with the two British ships
_Cyane_, thirty-six guns, and _Levant_, eighteen guns, and captured
both, with a loss of only three men killed and twelve wounded.
Stewart set sail with his prizes and prisoners for Porto Praya,
whence he purposed sending his prisoners to New York in a captured
merchantman. Reaching there on March 10th, he was next day busy at
these arrangements, when the topsails of several men-of-war were seen
entering the harbor through the prevailing fog. Having no trust that,
if these were British, their commanders would respect the courtesies
of a weak neutral port, Stewart felt that his only chance was to try to
run away in the fog, and made immediate preparations to do so, sending
word to the _Levant_ and _Cyane_ to follow. Being discovered by the
strangers—three large British frigates—at the outlet of the harbor,
their escape immediately became a question of seamanship and sailing.
Here the Americans showed their superiority, and effectually dodging
both the ships and the cannon-balls of the pursuers, the _Levant_ got
back under the protection of the guns of the fort at Porto Praya, while
the _Constitution_ and _Levant_ fairly outsailed the frigates and

In 1830 brave Old Ironsides was condemned as worn out, and ordered
to be sold. But, as a similar sad fate overtaking the “Fighting
_Temeraire_” had been made the occasion of an immortal painting
by Turner, and so, perhaps, had caused Nelson’s still more famous
battle-ship _Victory_ to be preserved in the harbor of Portsmouth
as a shrine of naval inspiration, so the obloquy that menaced the
_Constitution_ now fired the heart of a young poet to write a
passionate appeal to patriotism. Who does not know Dr. Holmes’s ringing

  Oh, better that her shattered hulk
    Should sink beneath the wave;
  Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
    And there should be her grave.
  Nail to the mast her holy flag,
    Set every threadbare sail,
  And give her to the God of Storms,
    The lightning and the gale!

[Illustration: HOMEWARD BOUND.]

The country caught the spirit, and such a cry of protest went up that
the vandalism was stayed, and Old Ironsides was again repaired—hardly
anything but her ornaments was now left of the original structure—and
took several cruises, one of which was in carrying wheat to
famine-stricken Ireland. Later she was used as a school-ship, but
finally became worthless even for that, and in 1895 the question
arose whether she should be broken up at the Brooklyn navy-yard or
towed around to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and there laid up in a
line with the _Macedonian_ and a few other ancient hulks that were
rotting quietly away in honorable age, and have now wholly disappeared.
Sentiment dictated the latter course, and, with a crew aboard, prepared
to take to their boats at a moment’s notice, the leaking and crazy old
warrior, stately even yet, and sadly saluted by every fort and vessel
she passed, crept around to her last berth at Kittery Point. She is the
last and the most glorious representative of the “old navy.”

[Illustration: TYPES OF BATTLE-SHIPS—1890 AND 1800.]


[4] An example of the so-called forty-bank galley is illustrated, so
far as its forward end will show it, in the picture of the ship of
Ptolemy Philopator, on page 43. The forty “banks” appear to be groups
of oars in a few tiers.

[5] Three other terms of similar sound need explanation. The _galiot_
was a small, fast galley of the Levant. The _gallivat_ was a large,
swift, two-masted, armed sail-boat used by Malay pirates. The _galleon_
was any Spanish ship sailing to and from the Spanish main; hence,
especially a treasure-ship.

[6] It was known later as the Invincible Armada.





The introduction of steam made little difference in naval affairs at
first, so far as either strategy or tactics are concerned, although it
changed the conditions of naval action in two principal ways and in
many minor ones. Ships could now, like the early galleys, be placed
in any position the commander pleased, and, unlike galleys, this
effort could be sustained a long time, for engines do not tire out
like human arms. On the other hand, ships propelled by steam needed to
return to port at frequent intervals to obtain coal, and naval powers
found it necessary to provide, either by possession or treaty, safe
coaling-stations in various parts of the world for the use of their
cruising fleets.

The first steam war-ships were naturally fitted with side
paddle-wheels; but as soon as the screw-propeller came into use the
navy was quick to adopt it. “By its use the whole motive power could
be protected by being placed below the water-line. It interfered much
less than the paddle with the efficiency and handiness of the vessel
under sail alone, and it enabled ships to be kept generally under
sail. Great importance was attached to this, as the handling of a ship
under sail was justly thought an invaluable means of training both
officers and men in ready resource, prompt action, and self-reliance.”
For this reason masts and sails were retained long after they were
admitted to be detrimental to the fighting qualities of battle-ships.
Naval reformers had to wait until the last generation of “old salts,”
trained on “blue water,” had died off, and their scornful sneers at
“tea-kettle” seamanship had been silenced in the only way possible,
before they could persuade governments to build or men to serve in
the new style of vessels. In truth, the transition from the fighting
machinery and methods that prevailed until, say, the bombardment of
Acre, in 1840, to those that decided the inferiority of China in her
struggles with Japan at the Yalu and elsewhere, was rapid enough to
make even a sea-dog dizzy.


Excellent types of the war-steamers, intermediate between the old two-
and three-deckers and the sailless “ironclads” that followed, were
those two actors in that most glorious sea-fight of the American Civil
War—the _Kearsarge_ and _Alabama_.

In this great fight, which took place a few miles off the harbor of
Cherbourg, France, one beautiful summer Sunday (June 19th) in 1864,
much the same tactics prevailed as in any one of the earlier ocean
duels. As the _Alabama_ came on she began firing the two-hundred-pound
pivot-rifle forward, which was her main gun, while the _Kearsarge_ was
yet a mile away. The latter waited a little before replying, but only a
few moments elapsed before both were near enough and hard at it, each
doing its best to get a position ahead of its antagonist for raking,—a
disadvantage which the other steadily avoided; and this caused them
to follow one another about in advancing circles, of which seven were
described before the end came.

We have a story of the battle as seen from the deck of the _Kearsarge_,
written by her surgeon, who had little to do except observe the

  The _Kearsarge_ gunners [he tells us] had been cautioned against
  firing without direct aim, and had been advised to point the heavy
  guns below rather than above the water-line, and to clear the deck
  of the enemy with the lighter ones. Though subjected to an incessant
  storm of shot and shell, they kept their stations and obeyed

  The effect upon the enemy was readily perceived, and nothing could
  restrain the enthusiasm of our men. Cheer succeeded cheer; caps were
  thrown in the air or overboard; jackets were discarded; sanguine of
  victory, the men were shouting as each projectile took effect: “That
  is a good one!” “Down, boys!” “Give her another like the last!” “Now
  we have her!” and so on, cheering and shouting to the end.

  After exposure to an uninterrupted cannonade for eighteen minutes
  without casualties, a sixty-eight-pounder Blakely shell passed
  through the starboard bulwarks below the main rigging, exploded
  upon the quarterdeck, and wounded three of the crew of the after
  pivot-gun. With these exceptions, not an officer or man received
  serious injury. The three unfortunates were speedily taken below,
  and so quietly was the act done, that at the termination of the
  fight a large number of the men were unaware that any of their
  comrades were wounded. Two shots entered the ports occupied by the
  thirty-twos, where several men were stationed, one taking effect in
  the hammock-netting, the other going through the opposite port, yet
  none were hit. A shell exploded in the hammock-netting and set the
  ship on fire; the alarm calling for fire-quarters was sounded, and
  men detailed for such an emergency put out the fire, while the rest
  stayed at the guns.

  The _Kearsarge_ concentrated her fire and poured in the eleven-inch
  shells with deadly effect. One penetrated the coal-bunker of the
  _Alabama_, and a dense cloud of coal-dust arose. Others struck near
  the water-line between the main and mizzen masts, exploded within
  board, or passing through burst beyond. Crippled and torn, the
  _Alabama_ moved less quickly and began to settle by the stern, yet
  did not slacken her fire, but returned successive broadsides without
  disastrous result to us.

  Captain Semmes witnessed the havoc made by the shells, especially by
  those of our after pivot-gun, and offered a reward for its silence.
  Soon his battery was turned upon this particular offending gun
  for the purpose of silencing it. It was in vain, for the work of
  destruction went on. We had completed the seventh rotation on the
  circular track and begun the eighth; the _Alabama_, now settling,
  sought to escape by setting all available sail (fore-trysail and two
  jibs), left the circle, amid a shower of shot and shell, and headed
  for the French waters; but to no purpose. In winding the _Alabama_
  presented the port battery with only two guns bearing, and showed
  gaping sides through which the water washed. The _Kearsarge_ pursued,
  keeping on a line nearer the shore, and with a few well-directed
  shots hastened the sinking condition. Then the _Alabama_ was at our
  mercy. Thus ended the fight after one hour and two minutes.

One incident of this battle much talked of at the time, and given as
an excuse for their defeat by the Confederates (though without good
reason), was the fact that the waist of the _Kearsarge_, opposite the
engines, was protected by anchor-chains, hung in close festoons on the
outside of the ship, and kept in place and concealed by a boxing of
thin boards. This, however, was not the first attempt at protecting
ships by armor, which had now become necessary to meet successfully
the better guns and projectiles that year by year were increased in
penetrative power. New powders and explosives were constantly being
invented also, each more effective than the preceding; and as these
were not only used in guns but applied to the filling of shells, these
bursting missiles for a time almost displaced solid shot.

Along with this the discovery and perfection of the Bessemer and
other processes of making steel, and methods of adapting rifling to
great cannon, produced a rapid and varied increase in size and an
improvement in quality in the guns supplied to ships as well as in
those used upon shore.

Against these new weapons the old “wooden walls” were of no avail. Oak
and teak, however sound and thick, failed to turn aside the conical
projectiles as they had the old round shot and shell. The ponderous
missiles would crash clear through, smashing everything in their path,
and sending showers of death-dealing splinters right and left. The navy
had to protect itself by a revival of the armor with which knights of
the middle ages guarded against arrows and javelins and sword-points.
By and by, when guns and bullets came, the knights thickened their
armor in an attempt to resist these new missiles, until at last it
reached a weight too great to be carried, and the whole cumbrous
panoply had to be laid aside, and knightly tactics altogether changed.
Many persons believe that this history will be repeated in the case
of the sea-warriors of the world, which, within the memory of many a
grizzled admiral, have changed from buoyant and beautiful ships to grim
and shapeless fortresses afloat.



Compare with illustration on page 139.]

The Americans, fearless of sea-traditions, were the first to propose
armor for ships, but the French first practically applied it, building
several “floating batteries,” covered with iron 4¾ inches thick, in
1855. The English copied them, in somewhat more ship-shape form; and
then the French began boldly to sheathe some of their frigates with
iron plates and call them “ironclads.” By this time iron hulls had
begun to be used commonly in the British merchant service, but of
course the men-of-war’s men, the slowest class of persons on earth
to accept any change, insisted that iron would by no means do for
war-ships. Nevertheless a few progressive spirits persuaded their
high-mightinesses, the Lords of the Admiralty, to try an experiment
in building one, and, in 1860, the first iron war-ship was launched
and named _Warrior_, while all the old salts wagged their heads and
predicted the end of “Britannia rules the waves,” until there wasn’t a
really _jolly_ tar to be found from Penolar Point to Pentland Firth.
To a certain extent these hardy old growlers were right, though their
idea of a remedy was wrong. It proved a failure to build old-style
battle-ships of iron or even of steel, or to coat them all over with
armor, even when greatly thickened. Not only were they slow and
somewhat unmanageable, but by the time one of them had been built with
thicker walls than its latest rival, somebody had invented artillery
whose projectiles would penetrate it. Ships that are “ship-shape,”
that is, possess masts and sails, but are constructed wholly of iron
or steel, and more or less heavily armored, have survived, and will
always be a part of the world’s navies, no doubt, but their uses will
be subsidiary to heavy fighting; and with the disappearance of the
wooden sailing line-of-battle ship in the Crimean war and of the iron
war-steamer a quarter of a century later, all traditions of the “old
navy” were ended—traditions that went back to the days of Drake.

But who could have foreseen that this swift and momentous upsetting
should come about, not through the efforts of the great sea powers of
Europe,—the giants who had been struggling for the control of the ocean
for three hundred years,—but from the brain and purse of landsmen in a
country of the New World not taken into account as a naval power at all.

You need not be told that it was Ericsson’s invention and Henry
Grinnell’s building and Lieutenant Worden’s courageous fighting of the
little _Monitor_ in Hampton Roads, on that fair March Sunday in 1862,
that brought about this change. When her turret—the “cheese-box on a
raft”—successfully withstood the assault of that heavily armed floating
battery, the _Merrimac_ (or _Virginia_), all the war-ships of the world
felt themselves beaten, too, and wise seamen saw that they must prepare
to face a new foe.


At once all maritime governments began to build fighting-vessels which
were castles of steel afloat, and smaller ships for various services
that more resembled a Nootka war-canoe in outline than one of the
frigates that used to do their work. So shapeless were they that a
new term had to be used, and we began to call them _cruisers_. All
war-ships, in fact, are now classified by their work, not by their
shape or size or rig.

First, fewest, and heaviest are the harbor-defense vessels—monitors and
massively walled floating batteries, intended to remain in harbors, or
close to the coast, as movable forts.

Second, battle-ships—the strongest, most thickly armored, heavily armed
style of ships that can be made, and still be able to go to sea; but
these are not expected to leave their home ports for a long time, nor
to go to any great distance unless compelled to do so in actual war.

Third, cruisers. These take the place of the old-fashioned lesser
fighting-ships, the seventy-fours, frigates, corvettes, and sloops, and
vary greatly in size, model, speed, and power of armament.

Fourth, small, swift, strongly armed but lightly armored, torpedo-boat
chasers, small gunboats for use in rivers and shallow coastal waters,
despatch-boats, dynamite-cruisers, such as our American _Vesuvius_,
tow-boats, and similar minor craft—the run-abouts of the naval service.

Fifth, torpedo-boats.

The material of all these is steel. Wood is no longer permitted even in
the fittings of their cabins, because wood will splinter and burn.

The great hull of a modern battle-ship, as described by Lieutenant S.
A. Staunton, U. S. N., which supports and carries the vast weights of
machinery, guns, and armor, aggregating perhaps more than ten thousand
tons, is built of plates of rolled steel, varying from 1⅜ inches thick
at the keel to ¾ inch at the water-line. These are closely jointed and
fitted, and bound together with straps, angle-irons, and brackets, so
as to make a strong unyielding structure braced in all directions.
Then, through the central part of the ship, at least, vertical plates
are erected upon the frame and outside plating, which bear a second
or inner bottom, thus forming the “double bottom” as high as the
water-line, having the space between the inner and outer sheathing
separated into a multitude of small water-tight cells, so that an
injury to the outside hull would not cause the vessel to leak unless
the inner bottom were also punctured.

Throughout the whole length of the vessel, reaching from side to
side and from the keel to the main deck, are many steel bulkheads,
sufficiently strong to resist the pressure of the water, and
communicating only by water-tight doors, so that even were an accident,
such as a collision or running upon a rock, or an enemy’s shell, to
open a hole through both bottoms, the ship would still float, because
the inflowing water would be confined to a single compartment, leaving
the rest of the ship dry and buoyant. Nothing less than the blow of a
ram, smashing through everything and throwing several compartments
into one, would be likely to sink such a ship, and this is one reason
why ramming has again become prominent in naval tactics.


The Peruvian turret-ship “Huascar” between the fire of the Chilean
ironclads “Almirante Cochrane” and “Blanco Encalada,” October 8, 1879.]

But while safety from sinking is thus reasonably assured, this is more
a precaution of seaworthiness against the accidents of storms than
toward injuries receivable in battle. Passenger and freight steamers
now have the double bottoms and water-tight compartments, and the best
of these have arrangements for mounting light but powerful guns upon
their decks, so that they may be utilized by the government in a war
emergency as light cruisers, as armed transports, as swift scouts, or
in other highly important ways; they will then be coated with a light
protective armor, but will not be expected to engage in a contest with
a real fighting-vessel.

The idea of armor-plate is, as has been said, scarcely half a
century old, and the moment it was put on (amid the jeers of the old
line-of-battle tars, who thought they had done all that the dignity
of the profession permitted when they arranged their rolled-up
hammocks along the bulwarks to catch musket-balls, and spread nettings
to prevent somewhat the flight of splinters) ingenious men began to
improve their powder and strengthen their guns to overcome the new
defenses. To meet these improvements armor has been increased and
perfected, until now war-vessels are no longer “ships” in any proper
sense of the word, but floating fortresses of steel, the names of whose
defensive parts, even, have been borrowed from land fortifications,
such as _turret_ and _barbette_.


A limit to this defensive strength is marked in two directions.
First, by the size it is possible to make a vessel, and still keep
her seaworthy and manageable; and, second, by the weight of armor
such a vessel can carry, in addition to the weight of the framework,
machinery, guns, and other things necessary. These limits seemed to be
reached some time ago in some of the monstrous battle-ships built in
Europe, and when it was found that even while they were in construction
rifled guns had been invented that would drive their projectiles
through the thickest wall of wrought-iron or steel that these or any
other vessels could carry, naval constructors began to despair of
keeping ahead of the gun-makers, and there was even talk of abandoning
armor altogether, and fighting battles out with bared breasts as we
used to do.

  The percentage of weight which may be allotted to armor in the design
  of a ship limits the area which can be wholly protected, but often
  permits the partial protection of other areas of less importance to
  her vitality and destructive force. Motive power, steering-gear,
  and magazines stand first upon the list of those features demanding
  complete protection.... The heavy shells from an enemy’s guns may do
  many other forms of injury besides sinking a vessel and disabling her
  crew. They may strike and disable her engines, or pierce her boilers,
  causing disastrous explosions. They may injure her steering-gear,
  destroy the mechanism which controls her turrets and guns, or injure
  the guns themselves and their carriages. In every feature of offense
  which renders her a formidable and dangerous foe—her speed, her
  mobility, the fire of her guns—a man-of-war is dangerously vulnerable
  unless she be protected by armor, unless the enemy’s shot be rejected
  by plates which it cannot penetrate.

Then came an invention that put a new face upon the matter,—the
surface-hardening of plates, composed of a mixture of nickel with
steel,—which, from one of its perfectors, is known as “Harveyizing” it.
Other processes also are known. This gave to the surface of the metal
such a flinty hardness that the heaviest and most highly tempered steel
projectiles would almost invariably break to pieces when they struck
it—the same projectiles that were able to punch a hole clear through a
target-plate of ordinary wrought-steel twenty-two inches thick!

Plates thus surface-hardened are now made in Europe, and as well, if
not better, in the United States, where we have learned and taught the
rest of the world how to make them by rolling—a much better, as well as
cheaper, process than the former method of hammering them into shape.

It was found that with these hard-surfaced plates much less thickness
was required to contend successfully with the great guns opposed to
them than had been the case before; and the great saving of weight
enabled a much larger extent of armor to be borne upon a ship than was
formerly possible, so arranged as to protect all her hull and vital

Thus, in a typical modern battle-ship, say 360 feet long, 72
feet broad, and drawing 24 feet of water, having an armor of
surface-hardened nickel-steel, this armor is thus disposed: amidships,
and a quarter of her length behind the point of the prow, is built up a
semicircular “barbette,” or wall, of the thickest armor, behind which
is a “turret,” moving to the right or left through an arc equal to half
the horizon, no higher than necessary to cover and work the guns, and
having its motor mechanism fully protected by the barbette. This is the
forward turret—a swinging fort, carrying with it, as it turns, two of
the heaviest guns in the ship.


Half-way from the center to the stern stands the after turret and its
barbette, similarly built of the strongest armor,—ten to twelve inches
thick,—and sweeping with its guns half the horizon.

From a point just in front of the forward barbette two walls of the
heaviest possible armor, reaching vertically from four and a half feet
below the water-line (loaded) to three feet above it, extend diagonally
backward to the sides of the ship, then continue along its side in a
“belt” to points opposite the after barbette, where they bend inward
as before and meet just aft of the after barbette; but hereafter the
increased efficiency of armor, by further reducing its weight, will
probably enable the armor-belts to be carried to the extreme ends of
the ship, which otherwise can be so seriously damaged by an enemy as to
interfere with the speed and control of a ship in action, even if it
does not disable her.

But while these upright walls will resist a direct shot, it is equally
necessary to guard against a plunging fire, and therefore the space
between the turrets, at least, must be roofed over with a steel deck,
two or three inches thick, to deflect shot that come just over the top
of the armor-belt.

In addition to this, on each side of the vessel are erected one or
two smaller turrets, carrying somewhat smaller guns than those of
the forward and after turrets, and also protected by heavy barbettes
which reach down to the armor-belt and thoroughly protect the turning
mechanism, passage of ammunition, etc. These various upper parts are
connected by defenses which may not resist the largest shells, but are
safe against smaller shot.

Now, what is the armament of this fortress which thus protects all the
motive power and interior machinery of the ship, by which she can be
made so terrible an engine of combative force? Well, it is as different
from the bronze “long-toms” and carronades of the old three-deckers,
or even from ten-inch smooth-bore “Dahlgrens” of the days of our Civil
War, as is the ship itself from old-time models. In place of broadside
batteries of forty or fifty cannon hidden in clouds of smoke, there are
now six or eight big rifles, from whose muzzles wreaths of thin gas
only drift to leeward; and, more striking still, in contrast, a ship
is no longer comparatively helpless when headed or turned sternward
to an enemy,—when the “raking,” formerly so justly dreaded, would be
received,—but is rather more able to do damage in that position than by
a “broadside.”

The guns themselves are marvels of structure and power. All of those
used in the United States navy are made by the government in the
gun-shops at the Washington navy-yard, and are “built up.” The methods
and tools required for this are the invention of Americans, as well as
the complicated arrangements for closing the breech, and the carriages
and mechanism for overcoming the tremendous recoil and handling the
ponderous ammunition; the latter, often weighing hundreds of pounds,
is handed up to the gunners from the magazines below by hoists worked
by electricity.

The history of the development of heavy ordnance, especially that
applied to naval uses, is one of the most interesting chapters in
mechanics; and a surprising number of ways of making a ship’s cannon
have been tried and rejected. Out of this two things seem now to be
settled: namely, that a gun composed of steel in separate parts welded
together is best, and that the best missile to shoot from it is a
conical shell, very hard and heavy, yet containing an explosive small
in quantity but exceedingly powerful.

Such guns are built up of a tube or “core” of steel of the required
size, upon which is shrunk a jacket, covering the rear, or breech half
of the core, outside of which are shrunk on several broad hoops. The
cutting out of the bore to exactly the proper caliber and the plowing
of the spiral riflings put the gun in readiness for its breech-closing
and other attachments. This process requires several months, involves
large capital and powerful machinery, and good results imply the very
highest workmanship.


Such are the guns of modern men-of-war; and a first-class battle-ship
carries four twelve- or thirteen-inch rifles (that is, having a bore
twelve or thirteen inches in diameter), several eight- or ten-inch
rifles, and many smaller guns arranged to be fired with extraordinary
speed, and hence called “rapid-fire” guns; while her upper works
and “military tops” fairly bristle with fierce little six-, four-,
and one-pounders,—revolving magazine rifles, capable of discharging
rifle-balls as fast as a man can turn the crank.


To give some idea of the size and power of one of the 13-inch guns,
whose long muzzles, in pairs, project so far out of the turrets that
hide their mountings and firing-crew, let me tell you that it is 40
feet long, more than 4 feet in diameter, and weighs 60½ tons. “It
requires 550 pounds of powder to load it, and the projectile weighs
half a ton. The muzzle-velocity of the projectile is 2100 feet per
second, with the stated charge, and its energy is sufficient to send it
through 26 inches of steel at a distance of 600 yards. At an elevation
of 40 degrees the range of the gun will be not far from 15 miles.”

In such a ship, deep down within the fortress is the massive and
complicated machinery, steam and electric, upon which the life and
activity of the whole structure depend. The power is generated in four
enormous boilers, seventeen feet in diameter and twenty in length,
their steel shells one and a half inches thick, built to carry a
working-pressure of 160 pounds to the square inch. Each pair of these
boilers, placed fore and aft and side by side, is installed in a
separate compartment, with fire-rooms at the ends. Every boiler has
four furnaces in each end, which give eight to each fire-room, or a
total of thirty-two. The two boiler compartments are separated by a
water-tight bulkhead, and by a deep, broad coal-bunker. At the sides of
the ship are also coal-bunkers, which supplement the heavy armor-belt
by the protection of a mass of coal twelve feet in thickness—in itself
a not inconsiderable earthwork, which might arrest the fragments of a
bursting shell that had succeeded in piercing the armor. No casualty of
naval combat can be worse than the penetration of high-pressure boilers
by heavy shells. Their complete protection is an imperative condition,
quite as important as the protection of the magazines.

Such is a modern battle-ship—a “wonderful and complex instrument of
warfare,” as Lieutenant Staunton has expressed it.

  She is filled [he tells us] with powerful agencies, all obedient to
  the control of man—the creatures of his brain and the servants of his
  will. Steam in its simple application drives her main engines and
  many auxiliaries. Steam transformed into hydraulic power moves her
  steering-gear and turns her turrets. Steam converted into electrical
  energy produces her incandescent and search-lights, works small
  motors in remote places, and fires her guns when desired. Every
  application of energy, every device of mechanism, finds its office
  somewhere in that vast hull, and the source of all the varied forms
  of power lies in the great boilers, far down below danger of shot
  and shell, under which grimy stokers are always shoveling coal.
  Decades of thought and study, experiment and failure, trial again
  with partial success, and repeated trials with complete success, have
  assigned to each agency its appropriate function, and perfected the
  mechanism through which its work is performed.

These modern developments have added one entirely novel and tremendous
adjunct to the fleet, in the torpedo-boat and its terrible weapon.
These take the place to some extent of the fire-ship of a century ago,
which was designed to injure the enemy not by silencing his guns or
overcoming his gunners, but by insidiously destroying his ship itself.

The torpedo is, in its simplest form, simply some arrangement of a
powerful explosive to be set off beneath or against the bottom of a
ship, and shatter or sink it. The idea is as old as gunpowder, but it
is only in recent times that it has been made effective,—how effective
we do not yet know.

Torpedoes are used in two ways: one is by fixing the torpedo beneath
the water, either to be exploded by means of a percussion-cap when the
ship runs against it, or from the shore by means of electricity. Such
arrangements as this, called submarine mines, are regarded as a most
important means of defending harbors against hostile attack. During
our Civil War they were extensively used by the Confederates, and were
sometimes successful, as when one destroyed the monitor _Tecumseh_ in
Mobile harbor, during Farragut’s famous attack there in 1864.


The former class, for which the word _torpedoes_ is now reserved,
includes explosive agents which are to be placed or sent against a
ship’s bottom at sea and exploded there. Various devices of that kind,
also, have been used for a long time in naval warfare. The Confederates
tried hard to destroy several Northern vessels in the blockading
squadron by devising very small, half-submerged boats, towing torpedoes
astern, or else projecting on a long spar from their bows; and now and
then they succeeded, as when one of the latter kind was made to sink
the _Housatonic_ off Charleston.


Then there have been invented, during the past fifty years, several
cigar-shaped machines, which, by means of a chemical or compressed-air
engine or clockwork, or some other application of power that might
keep motive machinery within them going long enough, could be launched
from shore or from another vessel and sent under water against a
hostile ship. At first these were made to glide along just beneath the
surface, carrying little flags that could be seen, and trailing two
electric wires, enabling a person, by means of electric currents,
to direct their flight; but latterly ingenuity has devised such an
arrangement of rudders and self-acting balances within the torpedo’s
mechanism that it will continue perfectly straight upon the course
it is aimed for, swerving neither right nor left, up nor down, and
will explode the instant it touches an object hard enough to jar the
delicate cap of fulminate in its snout. This latter kind, called the
automobile (self-moving) torpedo, is now almost exclusively used, and
some modification of the Whitehead is most popular. It is cigar-shaped,
and about twelve feet in length; the forward third is filled with
gun-cotton—in quantity sufficiently powerful, if accurately applied, to
ruin almost instantly the greatest battle-ship afloat.


All large war-ships are now fitted with tubes, opening near the
water-line in various parts of the hull, which form gun-like exits for
these terrible weapons, which are set in motion by a puff of gunpowder;
but in addition to this every maritime government now has a number
(Great Britain has more than 250) of small, swift steamers designed
wholly for this purpose and called torpedo-boats. Most of them are a
hundred feet or so in length, and intended to accompany the fleet
wherever it goes and in all weathers; but some are so small that they
may be carried on the deck of a big cruiser.

All are made long, low, and narrow, and the speed of many of them
exceeds thirty miles an hour. There is almost nothing to catch the wind
or show above deck except a pair of short, flattened smoke-stacks, one
behind the other; and the steersman stands, with only his head and
shoulders visible, in a little box with windows that serves the purpose
of a wheel-house. A mere wire railing saves the crew from sliding off
the deck, and in action everybody stays below. No weight is carried
that can be avoided, and the engines, taking steam from two boilers,
are as powerful as can be packed into the space at command. Usually
only coal enough for a few hours’ steaming is carried, and every bushel
of it is carefully selected as to quality, and is so treated and
intelligently fed to the furnaces as to make the hottest possible fire,
although never a spark must escape from the smoke-stack to betray the
vessel in the darkness.


Next to speed the most important quality is ability to turn quickly,
upon which might often depend the safety of the audacious little craft.

Torpedo-boats, however, are designed for a wider service than simply
to carry and discharge the frightful weapon from which they take their
name. They are to the navy what scouts and skirmishers are to a land
army. They form the cavalry of the sea, of which the cruisers are the
infantry, and the battle-ships and monitors the artillery arm. They
must spy out the position of the enemy’s fleet, hover about his flanks
or haunt his anchorage to ascertain what he is about and what he means
to do next. They must act as the pickets of their own fleet, patrolling
the neighborhood, or waiting and watching, concealed among islands or
in inlets and river-mouths, ready to hasten away to the admiral with
warning of any movement of the adversary.


It is not their business to fight (except rarely, in the one particular
way), but rather to pry and sneak and run, for the benefit of the fleet
they serve.

But to insure all these fine results, both officers and men must be
taught the art. Constant instruction and drilling are necessary, and
in each navy a regular school of torpedo-practice is maintained, where
the subject is studied in every way. In the United States such a school
is kept at the Newport (R. I.) Torpedo Station, where the torpedoes
themselves are fitted for use and supplied to the ships (the loaded
war-heads are kept separately in the ship’s magazine), and where one or
more torpedo-boats are reserved for drilling purposes.




Blown up in the harbor of Havana, February 15, 1898.]

But a worse and more insidious foe than even these sneaking, hiding,
surface torpedo-boats threatens us in the submarine torpedo-boat, which
inventors have been experimenting with since naval warfare first began.
It is said that twenty-five hundred years ago divers were lowered
into the water in a simply constructed air-box, to perforate the
wooden bottom of an adversary’s war-galley and sink it. Again, in our
Revolutionary War, a tiny walnut-shaped boat was made by an American,
which was actually tried. It would hold one man, and air enough for him
to breathe for half an hour. He would close the hatch, let in enough
water to sink him a little way, and then scull himself along by means
of a screw-bladed stern-oar until he got underneath the keel of an
anchored vessel, to which, by ingenious means, he would attach a can of
gunpowder to be fired by clockwork, giving him time to get away. It was
actually tried and nearly succeeded. Robert Fulton, who made the first
success of the steamboat, tried for years to contrive a submarine boat
that would work, and succeeded so far as to scare British blockaders in
1812 very badly indeed; and the Confederates repeated the scare when
the North was blockading their ports in the Civil War.

The great advantage of a submarine boat is, of course, its
invisibility, and its safety from shot even if discovered; but the
difficulties of progress and control as to depth and direction under
water, and at the same time effective appliance of the explosive and
safe retreat, are so many that they have as yet been only partly
overcome. If the thing is ever accomplished, naval warfare will be
demoralized until some adequate means be found to combat this unseen,
destroying agency.

[Illustration: _Vesuvius_ in action.]

The principal agent in submarine attacks would probably be some form
of dynamite, which, inhuman as its use seems, is slowly but surely
taking its place among the weapons of war. The United States has one
vessel primarily designed to employ dynamite by hurling it in the form
of shells. This volcanic craft is suitably named _Vesuvius_, and is
a small, swift vessel having long tubes slanting upward through her
forward deck, as shown in the illustration.

These tubes are the muzzles of great air-guns, through which she sends
darts loaded with dynamite to fall upon a hostile ship or fort. It
would not be safe, to say the least, to fire such bombs with gunpowder;
and therefore pumps and engines in her interior compress air until it
has acquired an expansive force sufficient for the purpose. When one
of the darts has been laid in the breech of the tube, down beneath the
deck, and suitably closed in, a valve is opened, the compressed air
acts like burning powder, and away goes the dart, in a graceful curve
to its target. In this case, of course, it is the vessel rather than
the immovable gun that is aimed, and good marksmanship depends upon
accurate calculation of distance; but remarkable shooting has been
done. This system has never yet been tried in actual warfare, and may
prove valuable chiefly in clearing harbors of mines.



The history of shipping in an earlier chapter will also answer as a
history of early international commerce. It began with the Egyptians
and Phenicians, and was confined to their parts of the Mediterranean
until after the middle ages, when it moved steadily to the western
borders of Europe.

How great, rich, and influential were Tyre and its people we have
already seen. A thousand years before the Christian era they controlled
the commerce of the ancient world by reason of their wisdom as traders
and their skill and energy as navigators and seamen. Turn to the
twenty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel, and see how the Phenician metropolis
was regarded, even in the time of that prophet, six hundred years
before Christ. These Syrians had gradually extended their commerce
until it took in the whole known world; and by their caravans to
and from the interior of Arabia, Persia, India, and the Soudan, by
their trains (perhaps of pack-horses) across Europe, by their marine
expeditions to the Nile,—which they forced open to trade, for ancient
Egypt was much like China in its exclusiveness,—and by their ships to
all the Mediterranean ports, and up and down the Atlantic coast, they
gathered and exchanged in the bazaars of Tyre and Sidon the products,
manufactures, and luxuries of every country that had anything to sell.
To the Phenicians, indeed, was ascribed, by the Latin and Greek writers
of a few centuries later, the invention of navigation; and even when
Phenicia had become of little account as a nation, its conquerors noted
with admiration the skill of the men of that coast in seamanship.
“They steered by the pole-star, which the Greeks therefore called the
Phenician star; and all their vessels, from the common round _gaulos_
to the great Tarshish ships,—the East-Indiamen, so to speak, of the
ancient world,—had a speed which the Greeks never rivaled.”

Later, in the days of the Roman supremacy, the trading-ships were as
important to the country as its soldiers, for nearly every free man was
in the army, and the slaves made poor farmers. A large part of the
grain, as well as cattle, to supply the wants of the people, had to be
brought from Egypt, which was pretty sure to have “corn,” as the Bible
calls it, when the rest of the world was suffering from short crops.
Egypt supplied grain to Rome during the second Punic war, thus enabling
her to resist the invasion of Carthage, and it is possible that Rome’s
later political alliance with Egypt was largely due to her interest in
Egyptian crops. Large fleets of grain-ships, convoyed by armed vessels,
were continually passing between the African coast and the Tiber, and
so many were the risks they ran of wreck or capture, that the arrival
of a flotilla with its precious freight of food was always a cause of
rejoicing, at any rate, among the poor.

These merchant ships of classical times were broader and heavier
than the war-galleys, and although they carried a few oars to help
themselves in a difficulty, they ordinarily moved by means of sails,
probably lugs. One of the grain-ships plying between Egypt and Italy
about 150 A. D., according to Lucian, was one hundred and eighty feet
long, slightly more than one fourth as broad, and forty-three and a
half feet deep inside,— more like a barge than a “ship.” The largest
used in this trade would carry about two hundred and fifty tons. The
transports that accompanied one of Justinian’s fleets, A. D. 533, are
stated to have carried one hundred and sixty to two hundred tons of
supplies each.

These Roman vessels were made of pine, and were coated with a
composition of tar and wax, then painted, often with elaborate
decorations in bright colors, with pigments mixed with melted wax. Now
and then one was built of truly vast proportions, as that one which
brought from Egypt to Rome the first of the stolen obelisks.


With that grand awakening of interest in education, industry, and
discovery which took place in the fourteenth century, the city of
Venice gained the lead in power, and her merchants became the most
enterprising and wealthy. It was the expansion of commerce that urged
the explorations that marked the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,
for by this time Venice had her banks—the first in the world to
approach the character of modern banks—and her exchange on the famous
Rialto bridge; Genoa was in close rivalry; Spain was gathering immense
quantities of gold in South America; and England was coming to the
front as a maritime power. The trade with Cathay—as India, China, and
the Oriental islands were called collectively—was chiefly by caravans
across the Persian deserts, and Spain, England, and Holland had
small shares in it, since the only water-route known was through the
Mediterranean and Red seas, where, between the perils of the ocean,
the extortionate charges and stealings of the Arabs (who carried the
cargoes from vessel to vessel across the Isthmus of Suez), and the risk
of capture by Algerian pirates, there was little chance left for profit
to either merchants or ship-owners.

To western Europe, then, Vasco de Gama’s discovery of the route around
the Cape of Good Hope was a long advantage, and England and Holland
at least were quick to seize it. The great “East India Companies” of
the Dutch and English were formed by a group of powerful merchants
in London and in Amsterdam, who were given vast privileges by their
governments in respect to trading in the East. The Dutch company was
not founded until 1602, two years after the English company, but it
soon became the more prominent of the two, and was one of the principal
means by which the Netherlands secured the preponderance of the
carrying trade of the world, bringing to her ports, by the middle of
the seventeenth century, almost all the commerce previously enjoyed by
Cadiz, Lisbon, and Antwerp, and making very serious inroads upon that
of London and Bristol. The Dutch East India ships, copied from the
Genoese carracks, were the biggest merchant vessels then afloat, well
able to cope with many of the war-ships; and two hundred of them were
at this time engaged in the Asiatic trade alone.


It was in aid of the English rival company not only, but as an attempt
to save and revive the commercial position of England generally, that
Cromwell’s “navigation laws” were enacted, prohibiting the carriage
of goods to or from British shores except in ships owned and manned
by Englishmen,— laws that were aimed directly at the Dutch, and led
to the long wars of the latter half of the seventeenth century. These
were called wars for the supremacy of the sea, but actually they were a
prolonged struggle for the biggest share of the world’s trade, which is
the only real value of the “supremacy of the sea.” It is a saying that
“trade follows the flag,” and so it does; but at the beginning the flag
goes were the trade is to be had.

These companies were so mixed up in the politics of their respective
governments that it would be a long task, although entertaining, to
trace their growth, which is really that of western civilization in the
East. They equipped fleets of merchant and war vessels, established
forts, carried on small wars along the Oriental coasts, and were really
little kingdoms within kingdoms, because of their wide monopoly,
enormous wealth, and the national importance of all their enterprises.
The final result was that, as Great Britain finally overcame the Dutch
and French at home, so her East India Company ousted them from India;
but it was not until 1858 that old “John Company,” which had come to
be regarded by the natives of India as the government itself, was
dissolved, and resigned its territories to the crown and a system of
trade open to all the world.

Those were slow and costly times compared with the present, though
seeming to us full of a romance impossible now. A voyage around the
world occupied three years, and to go from London to Calcutta and
back took from New Year’s to Christmas under the most favorable
circumstances. Another important change, too, has gradually come about.
Formerly, the vessels were owned almost entirely by the merchants
themselves, or by a company of them; they paid all a ship’s expenses,
and put into her a cargo of their own wares. They would send to China,
for instance, cotton goods, household furniture, hatchets, tools,
cutlery and other hardware, farming implements, and fancy goods of all
sorts. In return the vessels would bring silks, tea, and porcelain,
which would go into the owners’ warehouses and be sold in their own
shops. Shipper, importer, and merchant were all one.

Now this is changed. The importers and merchants of London, Hamburg,
and New York are not often those who own vessels and bring their own
goods. Instead of this they have agents, who live permanently in each
of the foreign ports, where they buy the merchandise they want and hire
a vessel, or the needed space in a vessel, belonging to somebody else
to bring them home. By the old way, the nation which had anything to
sell carried it to the nation that would buy it, and brought back the
best thing it could get in exchange; now the merchants go to various
parts of the world, buy their cargoes, and order them sent home, in
substantially the same way as you go a-shopping in town.

This has brought out a new department of sea-labor, unknown, as a
class, a century ago—the business of carrying goods which the owners of
the vessels have no property in. In London, New York, Hamburg, and all
other seaboard cities of this and other countries, the great majority
of the shipping is owned, not by the merchants of the city, but by
“transportation companies,” who agree to carry cargoes at a certain


Merchant vessels may be divided into three classes, of which the first
includes steamships and sailing-vessels planned primarily for freight
transportation, which run back and forth between certain ports, and
so constitute “lines” for freight. Such lines exist along even the
remotest coasts, so that goods may be shipped directly, or by a single
transfer, from any given seaport to almost any other in the world.
Some of these lines, sailing between certain ports, are devoted to
particular uses, such as those of oil-steamers and cattle-steamers. The
oil-steamers run between America and Europe with American petroleum,
and in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean with oil from Russia; the
entire holds are divided into vast iron tanks for this liquid, which is
poured into and pumped out of them as into and out of a great barrel.
The cattle-steamers are specially arranged for the transportation
of live stock, but one line, running between America and England,
also carries passengers at a cheap rate. The second class of vessels
consists of those which make the transportation of passengers their
first object, loading their holds with first-class freight, for which
high rates are paid in consideration of its swift delivery. The
third class includes what are known as “tramp” steamers, which run
irregularly, as the old sailing-vessels used to do, picking up cargoes
wherever they find them and carrying them to any port. They are often
of great size and power, but being under less close supervision are
often less careful as to the safety of crews and cargoes, and are
sometimes unseaworthy. They are always ready to answer any sudden
demand for ships, their owners keeping watch of the chances and
telegraphing to their captains where to go for their next cargoes.
Without the submarine telegraph these tramp steamers could scarcely
compete with the regular lines; but, besides the great transoceanic
cables, all the sea-coasts are now festooned with electric cables,
which have frequent stations and connect the important ports of America
and Europe with those of Africa, Persia, India, the Spice Islands,
Australia, and New Zealand, and there is now a plan to run a cable
across the Pacific between America and New Zealand, by way of the
Sandwich Islands, Samoa, and Fiji.


The passenger-ship is a distinctly modern feature of marine carriage.
In former days the few persons who were obliged to cross the seas on
business errands, and the fewer who went abroad for health or pleasure
or the love of travel, had to accept such rough accommodations as the
ordinary merchant ships afforded. But as soon as the East and West
Indies were added to the map of the world, and colonies of Europeans
began to settle on distant coasts and islands, the amount of travel
justified owners of vessels in enlarging cabins and providing comforts
likely to induce patronage of their lines. Even two hundred and
twenty-five years ago the voyage between India and England around
the Cape of Good Hope, though it became somewhat tedious, because it
lasted six or seven months, was by no means a miserable experience in a
well-found ship. Thus Dr. John Fryer has recorded of such a sea-journey
in 1682 that “it passed away merrily with good wine and no bad musick;
but the life of all good company, and an honest commander, who fed us
with fresh provisions of turkies, geese, ducks, hens, sucking-pigs,
sheep, goats, etc.”

A century later, when England had come firmly into possession of
India, and thousands of her officers, troops, and traders, with their
families, were colonizing her ports, there were demanded the largest
and finest ships that could be built, combining accommodations for
many passengers with great cargo capacity. Such were the great East
Indiamen; and in those leisurely days a trip half-way round the world
on one of these roomy old vessels was a continuous pleasure to almost
every one that undertook it.

  The ship was a bit of Old England afloat, where the passenger rented
  for so many months a well-lighted, roomy, unfurnished apartment,
  which, according to his taste and means, he fitted up for the voyage
  with numberless comforts and sea stores that none but a yachtsman
  would think of cumbering himself with at sea to-day; and, reading
  narratives of the old long sea-voyages, one is constantly coming
  across expressions of regret by passengers when they “took leave of
  the good ship that for so many months had been their floating home.”
  These fine old passenger sailing-ships were, like a man-of-war,
  entirely dismantled at the end of each homeward voyage, and underwent
  a complete overhaul and refit before starting out again on an outward
  one. Passengers usually sold their state-room furniture by auction on
  board the ship on her arrival in port.

Such a ship, the Atlantic packets, and even men-of-war bound on a long
blockading cruise, did not hesitate to stow aboard all the live stock
that room could be found for, sometimes by comical devices. In that
book of charming reminiscences of ways and means afloat before the days
of quick steam transit, “Old Sea Wings,” Mr. Leslie has a chapter which
he calls “The Old Ship-Farm,” where one may learn curious particulars
of this matter.

  The man in charge of this part of the stores was the ship’s butcher,
  and he had as “mate,” or assistant, a youth of all work known to all
  sailors as “Jemmy Ducks.” Their barn, or storehouse, was especially
  the great long-boat, which often looked more like a model of Noah’s
  ark than a craft serviceable in case of shipwreck.

  Always securely stowed amidships, well lashed down and housed
  over, the boat, as she lay upon the ship’s deck, was full of live
  provender, being divided, as to her lower hold, into pens for sheep
  and pigs, while upon the first floor, or main deck, quacked ducks
  and geese, and above them (literally in the cock-loft) were coops
  for another kind of poultry. This great central depôt was closely
  surrounded by other small farm-buildings, the most important being
  the cow-house, where, after a short run ashore on the marshes at the
  end of each voyage, a well-seasoned animal of the snug Alderney breed
  chewed the cud in sweet content. In fact, when, in the old days, a
  passenger-ship began her voyage, the hull of her clumsy long-boat was
  nearly hidden by the number of temporary pens and sheds required to
  house the live stock for the supply of her cabin table; and with its
  many farm-yard and homelike sounds a ship was, even then, more like a
  small bit of the world afloat than it is now.

There was always regular traffic between America and Europe, especially
with Great Britain, and the rapid growth of emigration to the United
States and Canada made it profitable, early in this century, to put
on fast-sailing packet-ships, making voyages, at intervals of a
month, between London and New York. By 1840 a man might find a large,
well-ordered ship departing every week or so for the transatlantic
passage, which usually required less than a month going east, but might
be two weeks longer coming west. Their cabins were as comfortable and
perhaps more homelike than any seen now, and quite as pretty, with
their white and gold paint, cut-glass door and locker knobs, damask
hangings, dimity bed-curtains, and other old-fashioned niceties; and
the fare was abundant and varied, as it ought to be in a neat ship with
a small dairy aboard, and perhaps a green-salad garden planted in the
jolly-boat. None of these packets were more popular than those of the
well-remembered Black Ball Line.


The steerage passengers were not so well off then, though they seemed
to stand the voyage quite as well as nowadays. The fare was twenty-five
dollars, and the passenger found himself “in everything but fire and
water.” “Steerage passengers then had to cook their own victuals,
weather permitting, at an open galley-fire on the waist-deck; ... but
in anything like rough weather, all steerage passengers had either
to run the chance of getting constantly wet with salt water or keep
below.” The ’tween-decks space allotted to them was almost completely
filled by rows of bunks, built in each port by the ship’s carpenter,
in three tiers, one above the other, though the ceiling was scarcely
seven feet from the floor; and when in a stormy time the hatches were
closed the only way the crowd could find room was by most of it stowing
itself away in the bunks, while a few tried to sit or lie on the
luggage piled in the narrow aisles. The only light was that of a few
candle or whale-oil lanterns, and in a very bad storm everybody came
near smothering, for then it was impossible to ventilate the steerage
properly without flooding it. Considering that all the provisions for
the steerage people were kept in this crowded, damp, and fearfully
close room, it is marvelous that a pestilence did not break out during
every voyage, but, in fact, sickness was rare.

The introduction of steam into oceanic navigation was experimented with
as soon as river steamboats were successfully built. The first vessel
to go across the ocean by the aid of a steam-engine is said to have
been the _Savannah_. This vessel, built in Savannah, Ga., and having a
steam-engine and paddle-wheels, certainly crossed to Liverpool in 1819;
but it is asserted that she sailed all the way, using her steam very
little, if at all, although making the trip in twenty-two days. In 1825
the English steamer _Enterprise_ went from London to Calcutta; but it
was not until some years later that ocean navigation by steam became
successful in the beginning of operations by the Cunard Company in 1833.

These first steamers were side-wheelers, and their huge boilers and
simple engines consumed so much fuel that the space taken up by the
coal, added to that devoted to passengers, left little room for cargo.
Moreover, their speed was less, often, than that of the “clippers,” so
that for some time the sailing-packets maintained their competition.
The adoption of the screw propeller, in place of the costly and
cumbersome side-paddles, and the perfection of the compound marine
engine, which effected a great saving in fuel, soon established the
superiority of steam navigation for passenger service, fast freights,
and service in war, yet even these improvements were not fairly brought
about until the first half of the present century had gone; and sails
are not yet abandoned, not only because they steady a vessel in a gale,
and may help her decidedly when the wind is fair, but may save her
altogether in case of the disabling of her machinery.

  Great modifications and improvements on old models have grown out of
  the employment of steam and the screw, and human invention has been
  taxed to the uttermost to combine economy of space and expense with
  the various needs of different climes, or special cargoes, or the
  demands of a traveling public that is growing more fastidious every
  day. The most obvious changes in naval construction have been in the
  greatly elongated hull, the enormous dimensions aimed at, and the all
  but universal employment of iron. When the first steamship crossed
  the ocean the proportions of ships averaged three to five beams in
  length.... But it was discovered that with a given power and depth
  and beam the length could be increased without materially affecting
  the speed, thus adding to the carrying capacity of steam. Great
  length to beam, however, does not necessarily imply great speed; the
  speed of beamy vessels has too often been demonstrated. Fineness of
  lines is equally essential, together with the proper distribution
  of weights, and the like. The great average speed exhibited by the
  modern steamship is due in large part to the momentum of such a vast
  weight, which, once started, has a tremendous force.

Long after the transatlantic steamships were regularly running, sixteen
or seventeen days was considered a good passage between New York
and Liverpool. Then the Inman and White Star lines began to see the
importance of faster speed, and their rivalry had cut this estimate
in two by 1870, and ten years later the Guion Line’s _Arizona_ and
other crack boats took a full day off that. Since then there has been a
steady improvement in speed, as is shown by the table below; and this
seems to have followed proportionately the steady increase in length.
The ships of 1850 never reached 300 feet in length, and few were over
2300 tons in burden measurement. By 1880 almost all the first-class
“liners” of the world exceeded 450 feet, and some soon approached
600, as the _City of Rome_ (586 feet, 8826 tons), and several of the
famous Hamburg liners, White Stars, and Cunarders nearly equaled her
in dimensions (_Paris_ and _New York_, 580 feet each; _Teutonic_ and
_Majestic_, 582 feet); while some of the more recent boats are even
longer, as _Campania_ and _Lucania_, 620 feet, and the gigantic _Kaiser
Wilhelm der Grosse_, 648 feet. Two other ships, now planned, will
considerably exceed this length. The total number of transatlantic
passenger-steamships regularly sailing from New York alone is now
between 90 and 100, belonging to 14 different lines. The table of
speed-records between New York and Queenstown, since the time was
reduced to less than six days, is as follows:

  Year. Steamer.    Line.    Direction.  Date.    Days. Hours. Min.
  1882 _Alaska_   Guion       Eastward  May 30      6     2      0
                                        June 6
  1891 _Majestic_ White Star                        5    18      8
  1891 _Teutonic_ White Star  Westward  Aug. 13-19  5    16     31
  1892 _Paris_    American    Westward  Aug. 14-19  5    14     24
  1893 _Campania_ Cunard                            5    12      7
  1894 _Lucania_  Cunard      Westward  Sept. 8-14  5     8     38
  1894 _Lucania_  Cunard      Eastward  Oct. 21-26  5     7     23

  The approximate distance between Sandy Hook (light-ship), New York,
  and Queenstown (Roche’s Point) is 2800 miles. The fastest day’s run
  on record, however, was made by the _Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse_,
  of the Nord Deutscher Lloyds Line, averaging 22.35 knots (or
  nautical miles, of 6080 feet each) per hour, equal to about 25½ land
  miles. From Sandy Hook to Queenstown deduct 4 hours 22 minutes for
  difference in time. Queenstown to Sandy Hook add 4 hours 22 minutes
  for difference in time.

This eager rivalry in respect to speed, which insures not only a larger
and more influential passenger service, but increased business in fast
freight and in the carriage of mail—both highly remunerative—is only
one feature of the sharp competition between these ocean carriers as to
which shall offer the greatest advantages, and this is of benefit to
the public, though it has not greatly cheapened fares.


Men travel far more now than they were wont in the time of “good Queen
Bess,” or even of our own grandfathers, and the few travelers for
pleasure of those days would scarcely believe their eyes if they could
look into the floating palaces—almost cities—in which we brave old
ocean now. A ship of one of the better passenger lines is a little
world in itself, containing almost all the appliances of the best
modern hotels on shore, and reducing the inevitable inconveniences of
life on shipboard by clever devices of every sort. In the one matter of
ventilation the ingenuity of the builders is particularly taxed. Money
is spent lavishly in the finishing and furnishing of these great ships,
not to mention the expense of running them, which sometimes amounts in
cost of fuel, food, and wages to $5000 a day.

The steamship lines between New York and Great Britain do not steer
straight across the Atlantic, but on their way to this country keep
well to the northward, so as to get to the west of the Gulf Stream, and
into the favorable current flowing south from Baffin’s Bay; then they
skirt Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Cape Cod. Going east, however,
the steamers—and sailing-vessels too—keep farther south, and work
along with the Gulf Stream as far as they can. From Europe to South
America, or through the Straits of Magellan on their way to the South
Sea islands or Australia (though this route is not often taken), or to
the Pacific coast of the Americas, vessels keep close down the African
coast, and then steer straight ahead from Guinea to Brazil, and on
down the American coast. (Put a map before you and you will understand
these courses better.) Sailing-vessels to Europe or the United States
from Cape Horn, however, would swing far out into the South Atlantic
to avoid heading against the southward coast-current and to get the
benefit of the southwest trade-wind and the equatorial currents.
Between New York and the Cape of Good Hope the track is nearly straight.

In the Pacific, the steamer-route between San Francisco or Vancouver
and China and Japan, instead of being as direct as a parallel of
latitude, takes a southerly course when bound west, and a northerly
course when bound east, the exact lines varying with the seasons as the
prevailing winds and currents change. What these winds and currents
are is explained in another chapter; but it is interesting to note
that there is a difference of many miles in the ordinary westerly and
easterly courses, the latter being much the shorter, although the
vessels of the Canadian Pacific Line often sail so far north with the
Japan warm current as to sight the Aleutian Islands. Sailing-vessels,
moreover, curve so much farther south than steamers in going west from
San Francisco, in order to take advantage of the equatorial current and
the trade-winds, that the space is a thousand miles north and south
between ships outward bound and those coming home. Between California
and Honolulu a steamer takes a bee-line, but sailing-vessels find it
best to make detours. In summer, when outward bound, this amounts to
steering straight northward until under latitude forty degrees, before
turning westward, making an angular course that looks very unnecessary
to a landsman.


I have said that the finding of a sea-route to the East around the Cape
of Good Hope was a great boon to western Europe, and advanced commerce.
It remained so until within the last seventy-five years. Lately,
the corsairs being out of the way, and safety guaranteed in Egypt,
merchants and sailors both began to wish they had a shorter route
between England and India. Then, with immense labor and sacrifice, the
canal was cut across the Isthmus of Suez, and commerce returned to its
ancient channel through the Red Sea, saving thousands of miles of weary

From the end of the Red Sea at Aden, the tracks of steamers both
ways are straight courses to Bombay or Ceylon, and thence right up
to Calcutta, across to Singapore, or down to Australia. Except East
African coast lines, few steamers go around the Cape of Good Hope
from England, excepting one line to South Australia, which steers
straight eastward all the way from Cape Town to Adelaide, 6125 miles.
But the Indian Ocean is so situated under the equator, is so filled
with prevailing winds and currents and counter currents, that
sailing-vessels must take very roundabout courses there, and can by no
means steer the same track at all seasons of the year. These voyages
from New York and London to the East are the longest regular sea-roads.
A short table of distances between well-known ports along regular
steamer-routes will be of interest; and by reversing them, or adding
them together, the sailing distance between almost any two ports on the
globe may be calculated.

  Acapulco to San Francisco                 1,850
  Aden to Bombay                            1,635
  Aden to Colombo (Ceylon)                  2,100
  Aden to Zanzibar                          1,770
  Auckland to Honolulu                      3,915
  Auckland to Suva (Fiji)                   1,140
  Cadiz to Teneriffe (Canaries)               698
  Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro               2,350
  Cape Town to Plymouth (Eng.)              6,016
  Cork to St. John’s (N. F.)                1,730
  Ceylon to West Australia                  3,305
  Glasgow to New York                       2,790
  Havre to Martinique                       3,560
  Havre to New York                         3,160
  Hobart (Tas.) to Invercargill (N. Z.)       930
  Hong Kong to Manila                         650
  Hong Kong to Shanghai                       800
  Hong Kong to Yokohama                     1,620
  Leith (Scot.) to Iceland                  1,050
  Lisbon via Dakar (W. Af.) to Pernambuco   3,297
  Lisbon to Cape Verd Islands               1,537
  Liverpool to Barbadoes                    3,646
  Lisbon to Para                            4,000
  Liverpool to Lisbon                         983
  Liverpool to Madeira                      1,430
  Liverpool to New Orleans                  4,767
  Liverpool to New York                     3,057
  Liverpool to Para                         4,010
  Liverpool to Quebec                       2,634
  Marseilles to Algiers                       410
  Montevideo to Magellan Strait             1,070
  New Orleans to Havana                       570
  New York to Colon                         1,980
  New York to San Francisco, about         17,000
  New York, via St. Thomas, to Para         3,130
  Panama to San Francisco                   3,260
  Porto Rico (San Juan) to Havana           1,030
  Rio de Janeiro to Plymouth                4,941
  San Francisco to Honolulu                 2,080
  San Francisco to Yokohama                 5,280
  Shanghai to Yokohama                      1,033
  Singapore to Hong Kong                    1,430
  Suez to Aden (length of Red Sea)          1,308
  Suva to Honolulu                          2,783
  Sydney to Auckland                        1,281
  Sydney to Vancouver (B. C.)               6,780
  Teneriffe to Porto Rico                   2,790
  Trieste to Bombay                         4,317
  Yokohama to Honolulu                      3,445
  Yokohama to San Francisco                 4,750
  Yokohama to Victoria                      4,320
  Zanzibar to Bombay                        2,400

[Illustration: Chapter end decoration showing ships]



As the sea has furnished opportunities for so much good,—for manly
exertion, knowledge of the world, and acquaintance with people outside
of one’s own country, and for gaining wealth,—so it has given a chance
for unscrupulous men to show the worst that is in them; and the
guarding of shore towns and merchant vessels from piratical attacks has
always been a part of the usefulness and duty of a nation’s naval force.

As on land there are robbers and highwaymen, so on the ocean robber
ships have often been lying in wait for vessels loaded with treasure,
and have landed crews of marauders to make havoc with rich seaboard
provinces. Such robbers on the high seas are termed pirates, and their
crime was visited by the old laws with torturing punishments; yet they
were never more daring than when the laws against them were severest.

The word is Greek, and the first pirates who figure in history are
those of the Greek and Byzantine islands and coasts—bloody ruffians
who originated the amusing method of disposing of unransomed prisoners
by making them “walk the plank,” as has been done within the present

The intricate channels and hidden harbors of the Ægean Sea long
remained a hiding-place of sea-robbers, and are still haunted by
them, though every few years, from Cæsar’s time till now, the kings
of the surrounding countries have sent expeditions to break them
up. In the sixteenth century piracy in that region was especially
prevalent. The crews then were chiefly Turkish, but the great leaders
were two renegade Greeks, the brothers Aruck and Hayradin Barbarossa

[Illustration: WALKING THE PLANK.]

It happened that Spain, having conquered the Moors of Granada in 1492
and pursued her victories across the straits, had gained control of
Algeria (at that time a collection of small Mohammedan states), and
held it until the death of King Ferdinand in 1516. Then the Algerians
sent an embassy to Aruck (sometimes spelled Horuk, or Ouradjh)
Barbarossa, requesting him to aid them in driving out the Spaniards,
and promising him a share in the spoils. He eagerly accepted this
proposition, seeing a great deal more in it than the Algerians saw;
and the moment the Spaniards had been beaten and expelled he murdered
the prince he had come there to help, seized upon the city and port
for himself, and made it the headquarters of that system of desperate
piracy which became the dread of all Europe. These robbers of the sea
called themselves _corsairs_, from an Italian word signifying “a race”;
and they generally won, because they had the best and swiftest vessels
of that time, such as feluccas, xebecs, and the like. The black flag
which they flew was not blacker than their reputations, so that even
yet to call a man as bad as a Barbary pirate is to mean that he could
not be much worse if he tried. The Spanish colonies in America, a few
years later, began sending home immense treasures dug in the silver-and
gold-mines of Peru and Mexico, and extorted from the natives or stolen
from the temples of those unhappy countries. A quantity of ingots and
gold and silver ornaments equal in value to fifteen million dollars
of our modern money was taken at one time by Pizarro, in Peru, as the
ransom of the Inca Atahualpa, and booty amounting to a similar sum
was gained in the sacking of various cities. This great inpouring of
wealth caused a general giving up of manufactures and trade in Spain,
and was one of the reasons of her final decline in power, and it had
the immediate bad effect of making piracy more attractive than ever.
The treasure-ships, though convoyed by war-ships, were often attacked
and captured by the corsairs. Barbarossa’s fleets were more like
armadas of a powerful nation than mere pirate craft; and whenever it
happened that his commanders were defeated, they would land upon the
nearest unprotected coast of Spain, France, or Italy, and pillage and
burn some town in revenge. How galling this was to all merchants and
travelers we can hardly understand in these days; but so strong were
the corsairs that the fleets and armies of various governments, and
even of the Pope, which were sent against them, could not gain their
stronghold nor suppress their cruisers, at least for more than a short
time. Charles V of Spain tried greatly to conquer them; but although
his forces, attacking Aruck Barbarossa from the province of Oran, near
Algiers, defeated and killed him, Hayradin (more properly spelled
Khair-ed-din) Barbarossa succeeded his brother, and, placing himself
under the protection of Turkey, continued to build up the power of
the pirates. His first care was to fortify the city of Algiers, and
he expended a great deal of money and labor on the perfection of the
harbor, compelling all his prisoners and thousands of citizens to work
as slaves on the defenses. Next he conquered Tunis, and was selected by
the sultan as the only fit man to sail against Andrea Doria, the great
Genoese naval commander of the Christians in their wars against the
Turks early in the sixteenth century. Mediterranean commerce became so
unsafe that watch-towers were built all along the coasts, and guards
were kept afoot to give alarm at the approach of the corsairs. Charles
V gathered together a powerful armament, and sailed to the rescue of
Tunis, recapturing it for its rightful sovereign in 1535; but he was
never able to capture Hayradin Barbarossa, who lived out his life in
Algiers as “a friend to the sea and an enemy to all who sailed upon
it.” After his time the power of the pirates continued under other
leaders; and not Algeria alone, but Tripoli, Morocco, and even Tunis,
harbored piratical vessels in every port, and the rulers shared their
spoils; piracy, indeed, was the source of their national revenues, and
was encouraged by the Sultan of Turkey inasmuch as all these states
were his vassals.

Every few years some European power—Spain, France, Venice, or
England—would lose patience, send a fleet, and open a campaign that
would be successful in destroying certain strongholds, releasing a
crowd of prisoners, and burning or sinking many ships. The city of
Algiers was bombarded almost into ruins in 1682, and the job completed
a year later, after the Algerians had tossed the French consul out to
the fleet, with their compliments, from the mouth of a mortar. They
were fond of such jokes. Nevertheless, the city speedily recovered, and
piracy, complicated by Moslem fanaticism and Turkish politics, harassed
commerce during all the next century, partly because Europe was so busy
in its own wars that it had no time for outside matters, and partly
because it was for the advantage of certain nations (particularly
of Great Britain, which, in possession of Gibraltar and Port Mahon,
might have suppressed this villainy) to let the corsairs prey upon
its foes—especially France. The actual result was that most or all of
the European powers fell into the custom of paying to Algiers, Tunis,
Tripoli, and other rulers of the Barbary (or Berber) States large sums
of money as annual tribute to restrain them from official depredations
upon their coasts and commerce, besides other large payments for the
ransom of such Christian prisoners as each sultan’s lively subjects
continued to take in spite of treaties.

In this shameful condition of affairs the newly independent United
States was obliged to join during the first years of its existence, to
secure immunity for our commerce in the Mediterranean, because we had
not yet had time to create a navy. By the end of the century, however,
the United States was able to defend itself at sea, and in 1801
answered the insults of Tripoli by bombarding its capital seaport until
the dey sued for mercy and promised to behave himself. Nevertheless,
he needed another lesson, and in 1803 a second American fleet was sent
to the Mediterranean, commanded by Preble, in the _Constitution_,
with such subordinate officers as Bainbridge, Decatur, Somers, Hull,
Stewart, Lawrence, and others that later became famous. One incident
of this campaign, which began by frightening the Sultan of Morocco at
Tangier into abject submission, but was especially directed against
Tripoli, is well worth remembering.


Captain Bainbridge, going alone in the fine frigate _Philadelphia_ into
the harbor of the city of Tripoli, had unfortunately run aground, and
there, overpowered by the number of his enemies afloat and ashore,
had been compelled to give up his ship, and find himself and all his
crew taken prisoners. He managed to get word of his misfortune to
Commodore Preble at Malta, and that officer at once took his fleet to
Tripoli—Decatur, in the _Argus_, gallantly capturing on the way one
of the great lateen-sailed piratical crafts of the enemy, which later
proved a useful instrument in the contest. The fleet blockaded Tripoli
for a while, and shelled the fortifications somewhat, just to give the
bashaw a hint, and to encourage the poor prisoners; but none of the big
vessels was able to enter the narrow, tortuous, and ill-charted harbor
in the face of the many batteries, under whose guns the _Philadelphia_
could be seen at anchor with the Tripolitan flag at her main, so they
sailed away to Syracuse to make preparations for reducing this nest of
barbarians. Gunboats of light draft and mortar-vessels had to be fitted
out; but the first thing was to try to carry out a plan that Decatur
and all his friends had been maturing ever since they had arrived—the
destruction of the _Philadelphia_, not only because she had been
refitted into a powerful weapon in the hands of the enemy, but because
it was galling to national as well as naval pride to see her flying a
foreign flag. The plan was this:

Decatur was to take a picked crew of seventy officers and men on
the captured felucca (renamed _Intrepid_), and attempt at night to
penetrate to the inner harbor of Tripoli in the disguise of a trader,
supported as well as possible by the gun-brig _Siren_, also disguised
as a merchantman. As his pilot was an Italian and a competent linguist,
it was hoped the ketch could get near enough to set fire to the ship,
whirl a shotted deck-gun into position to send a shell down the main
hatch and through her bottom, fire it, and escape before the surprise
was over. The chances of failure were enough to daunt the bravest, yet
every man in the fleet wanted to go.

On February 15, 1804, Decatur in his felucca, and Somers commanding the
brig, found themselves, toward evening, again in sight of the town,
with its circle of forts crowned by the frowning castle. The great
_Philadelphia_ stood out in bold relief, closely surrounded by two
frigates and more than twenty gunboats and galleys. From the castle and
batteries 115 guns could be trained upon an attacking force, besides
the fire of the vessels, yet the bold tars on the _Intrepid_ did not

The crew having been sent below, the pilot Catalona took the wheel,
while Decatur stood beside him, disguised as a common sailor. It
was now nine o’clock, and bright moonlight. Standing steadily in,
they rounded to close by the _Philadelphia_, and, boldly hailing her
deck-watch, asked the privilege of mooring to her chains for the night,
explaining that they had lost their anchors in the late storm, and so
forth, until at last consent was given.

Having dragged themselves close to the frigate, it was the work of only
a moment to board her with a rush, overpower her surprised crew, and
make sure of her destruction by means of the combustibles and powder
they had brought with them. Before their task was done, however, they
had been discovered, and it is almost a miracle that they were able to
return to their felucca, and make their way out of the harbor, through
a rain of harmless cannon-balls; yet they did so, and Decatur was
justly honored for one of the most gallant exploits in naval annals.

A few weeks later Preble’s squadron shelled the pirate city and
fortresses into ruin, forced Tripoli as well as Algiers and Tunis
to respect them and thenceforth the American flag, and gave these
arrogant rulers the new sensation of paying instead of receiving money
for bad deeds. It put an end to the corsairs.

Turkish and Barbary pirates were not the only ones in the world,
however. Although the old Norwegian vikings and rough Norman barons did
not go under that name, they were scarcely anything else, in fact, as
the neighboring peoples could testify, though this was far back before
modern history began. But when the Spaniards and the French began
to colonize the West Indies, and to dig mines in South and Central
America, not only were the Barbary corsairs given a fresh incentive,
but a new set of pirates sprang up, the most daring that the world has
ever seen.

As the archipelago east of Greece had sheltered the hordes of the
Turkish sea-robbers, so the many islands, crooked channels, reefs
unknown to all but the local pilots, small harbors, and abundant food
of the Antilles, made the West Indies the safest place in the world
for pirates to pursue their work. To these new and wild regions, in
the sixteenth century, had flocked desperados and adventurers from all
over the world. When the wars with their chances of plunder died out
after the campaigns led by Cortés, Pizarro, Balboa, and the rest of the
Spanish _conquistadores_, many ruffians seized upon vessels by force,
or stole them, and turned into robbers of the sea. At first, as a
rule, they had farms and families on some island, and went freebooting
only a portion of the year. The island of Hayti, or Santo Domingo,
was then settled by farmers, hunters, and cattlemen, the last-named
of whom, mainly French, passed most of their time in the interior of
the island, capturing, herding, or killing half-wild cattle and hogs.
But the monopolies which Spain imposed upon the colonists interfered
with the market for their produce and induced an illicit trade, which
led to frequent encounters with the Spanish navy. As the constant wars
between Spain and France and England increased the difficulties of
trade, large numbers of the colonists joined the freebooters, who then
became extremely numerous and formidable, losing their old name and
becoming known by that of the cattlemen—buccaneers, from the French
word _boucanier_.

First Santo Domingo, then Tortugas, and finally Jamaica were
headquarters of the buccaneers, who were made up of men of all nations,
united by a desire to prey upon Spain as a common enemy. They were
thousands in number, possessed large fleets of ships and boats, were
well armed, and finally formed a regular organization with a chief and
under-officers. The most noted of these chiefs, perhaps, was Henry
Morgan, a Welshman, who was at one time captured and taken home to
England for trial. To his own surprise, instead of being executed,
he was knighted by Charles II, who had not been at all grieved at
seeing Spanish commerce harassed; and Morgan was returned to Jamaica
as commissioner of admiralty, where at one time he acted as deputy
governor, using his opportunity to make it unpleasant for those of
the buccaneers with whom he had formerly had disagreements as to the
distribution of prizes.

The earlier buccaneers found ample plunder in the Spanish fleets. They
patrolled the sea in the track of vessels bound to and from Europe, and
seized them, allowing or compelling the crews to become pirates, or
else to be killed or carried into slavery. This work, however, employed
only a portion of the buccaneers; and early in the seventeenth century,
as the commerce of Spain declined, it became too uncertain a means of
wealth to suit them. But the rich Spanish settlements still remained;
and often, therefore, they equipped a great fleet, enlisted men under
certain strict rules as to sharing the spoils, and sailed away to
pillage some coast. There was hardly an island in the West Indies from
which, in this way, they did not extort immense sums of money under
threat of destruction of the people. The mainland also suffered from
the marauders. Great cities, like Cartagena in Venezuela, Panama on
the Isthmus, Mérida in Yucatan, and Havana in Cuba, were attacked
by armies of buccaneers numbering thousands of men. Sometimes their
fortifications held good, and the enemy was beaten back; but sooner or
later all these cities, and others, smaller, were captured, robbed of
everything valuable that they contained, and burned or partly burned.

For years the buccaneers were the terror of the Caribbean region, and
after the famous sacking of Panama, under Morgan, in 1671, their power
spread across the Isthmus and scourged the southern seas. We have no
way of knowing the amount of the treasure which they captured from the
merchant vessels and from the coast of Peru; for the moment they got
home from an expedition they wasted all their booty in wild carousing,
so that the spoils earned by months of exposure, and wounds, and danger
of death, would be spent in a single week.

At last even England and France, after secretly favoring the
buccaneers, became roused to the necessity of controlling them, and
it was with this object in view that a certain Captain William Kidd
was fitted out at private expense toward the end of the seventeenth
century, and armed with King William’s commission for seizing pirates
and making reprisals, England being at war with France. Just why it
was, nobody has explained, but Captain Kidd spent his time in loitering
around the coast of Africa, where no pirates were to be found, until he
grew quite disheartened, and, fearing to be dismissed by his employers
and to be “mark’d out for an unlucky man,” he started a little pirate
business for himself, in which he gained more of a certain kind of
fame than any of the rest; for popular tradition supposes him to have
hoarded his booty and buried it. “Captain Kidd’s treasure” has been
sought for until the whole eastern coast of the United States is
honeycombed with diggings for it; but probably he had eaten and drunk
it up before 1701, when he was captured and executed in England. About
this time, however, and without his valuable aid, the combined naval
forces of all the nations interested in the commerce of the New World
broke the power of the buccaneers, and their depredations ceased. Their
story is one of the wildest, most romantic, and most terrible in the
history of the world.


  “In revel and carousing
  We gave the New Year housing,
  With wreckage for our firing,
  And rum to heart’s desiring.”

The trade of piracy was carried on during the eighteenth century in the
region of the West Indies by unorganized bands of desperados who had
all the faults and none of the greatness of the men they succeeded, and
who received little attention from the world at large. At the beginning
of the nineteenth century the Barataria pirates came into notice on
the coast of Louisiana, taking the place of the buccaneers, but in a
much smaller way. Their leaders, Pierre and John Lafitte, carried on
business quite openly in New Orleans; and their settlements on the
marshy islands along the coast, and their “temple,” to which persons
came out from the city to buy goods, were open secrets. But in the
War of 1812, although the British tried to buy their services, they
redeemed themselves by standing true to the American government, which
had just been trying to exterminate them, and so they won public pardon
and an added glamour of romance.

For the same reasons as those in the case of other island systems, the
East Indies have always been infested with pirates, whose light, swift
vessels run in and out of the intricate channels among the dangerous
coral reefs, where government cruisers dare not follow, while the
people on shore sympathize more with the pirates than with the police.

The East Indian sea-robbers are, as a rule, natives of that
region—Malays, Borneans, Dyaks, and Chinese, with many half-savages
of the South Sea Islands. This is more like a continuance of savage
resistance to civilization than real piracy, since the pirates of the
Atlantic are civilized sailors in mutiny against their own people
and national commerce. The result is just as bad, however; for these
East Indians are as bloodthirsty and cruel as the others, and if they
do not kill their victims, or save them for some cannibal feast (as
would probably happen in the New Hebrides and some other islands),
they condemn them to a life of misery. But in these days of improved
sea-craft, piracy, even in Malayan waters, is weak. Our consuls and
government agents watch suspicious vessels; our telegraph warns the
naval authorities in a moment; our steam-cruisers outspeed the swiftest
craft of the black flag; our rifled guns silence their cheap artillery;
and our coast surveys furnish maps so accurate that the pirate no
longer holds the secret of channels and harbors where he can safely
retreat. If, therefore, the old “Redbeards” should come back to life
and try to be kings of the sea, as they rejoiced to be a couple of
centuries ago, their pride would soon be humbled, and they would gladly
return to their graves and their ancient glory.

There is a form of sea-roving which has been at times not very
different from piracy; it is called _privateering_, and history shows
a good many cases where it has degenerated into sea-robbery pure and

A privateer is a ship, owned by a private citizen or citizens, to which
authority is given by a government to act as an independent war-vessel.
Its commission is called a “letter of marque” (_lettre de marque_ in
French), entitling it to “take, burn, and destroy” a certain enemy’s
property on the sea or in its ports. It has no right, of course, to
attack any one else.

The object and plea of the government issuing commissions to privateers
is that thus a great many more armed vessels can be sent afloat
than the government has money to equip, and that consequently far
more damage will be done to the enemy, by crippling his trade and
resources, than regular men-of-war alone can accomplish. Private
capital has been willing to take the risk because rewarded by a large
share of the prizes; and from the end of the fifteenth to the middle of
the eighteenth century this was one of the most profitable of marine
industries, for then nearly universal wars made almost any capture
legitimate. In the earlier times even the limited regulation that came
later was absent, and there was small choice between a privateer and
a pirate. Queen Elizabeth found the hundreds of privateers which she
had commissioned against the Spanish and Dutch preying upon her own
people, and robbing fishermen, coasters, and small shore towns, to such
an extent that she had to suppress them as bandits. Those were the
times when Hawkins could use a royal fleet to wage war upon the Spanish
colonies for private reasons; and when his ablest lieutenant, Drake,
could make his notable journey around the world a history of robbery
and slaughter. On the west coast of South America he spent months in
destroying Spanish vessels and ravaging and burning settlements; yet
it was thought remarkable, when he returned from his circumnavigation
of the globe, that the Queen hesitated somewhat before recognizing his
great achievements as a seaman, for fear of complications with Spain!


Spain, in those days of first harvest from her American possessions
and the East Indies, was the prey of everybody on the high seas able
to rob her, and formalities were joyously disregarded by both sides.
Her galleons carried precious cargoes of spices, silks, and East India
goods around the Cape, and brought silver ingots and gold bars from the
Spanish Main. They were usually convoyed by regular war-ships, and had
to run the gantlet of the enemy’s fleets whenever Spain happened to be
openly at war with somebody, as was usually the case; and otherwise
must escape buccaneers in West Indian waters, Malayan and Chinese
pirates in the far East, and irregular sea-rovers along the West
African coast, while the corsairs made the Mediterranean route doubly


The gradual growth of organized navies, the development of
international law, and the increasing organization of the civilized
world generally, slowly tamed these wild practices and reduced
privateering to some sort of control. Thus Jean Bart, the popular
hero of French naval history, who flourished toward the end of the
seventeenth century, was recognized and supported by the French monarch
as a free-lance in the Mediterranean, because his humble birth
prohibited him from taking a commission in the regular navy, which
amounted to a sort of apology for his deeds.

During the wars of the United States with England privateering was
extensively practised on both sides, and was of especial value to the
Americans. Congress issued private commissions as early as March,
1776, and the ablest statesmen upheld it as a means of employing the
ships, capital, and thousands of seamen that must lie idle when the
enemy’s cruisers were ranging the ocean highways unless permitted to
arm themselves and assist the government in an irregular warfare,
trusting to the value of their captures for remuneration. That the
chance of such reward was enough inducement is shown by the fact that
during the first year of the Revolution nearly three hundred and fifty
British vessels were captured, chiefly West Indiamen, worth, with their
cargoes, five million dollars. As Great Britain did not recognize
the flag of the United States, not only these, but even our regular
naval officers, were regarded by them as pirates, rather than true
privateers—Paul Jones first of all; but she never acted on this theory
with the severity that would have been visited upon true pirates.

In the naval warfare that came later between the United States and
France, privateering again flourished, and was a source of immense
profit to the principal seaports whence these swift, effective Yankee
vessels were despatched. No less than three hundred and sixty-five
American privateers were sent out between 1789 and 1799, and swept the
seas almost clean of the French merchant flag.

Then came the second war with Great Britain, which was fought over
a question of the sea rather than of the land,—the right of search
claimed by the British,—and once more American and British privateers
swarmed upon the highways of commerce. Of our merchant ships in all
parts of the world, about five hundred were lost; but this was more
than paid for, since our two hundred and fifty privateers captured or
destroyed, during the three years and nine months of the conflict, no
less than sixteen hundred British merchant vessels of all classes.

This disparity of results was largely due to the greater number of
English merchant vessels, but is also to be credited to the superior
speed and handiness of the Yankee vessels, most of which were
“Baltimore clippers,” topsail-rigged schooners with raking masts, that
could outsail and out-manœuver anything afloat. “They usually carried
from six to ten guns, with a single long one, which was called ‘Long
Tom,’ mounted on a swivel in the center. They were usually manned with
fifty persons besides officers, all armed with muskets, cutlasses, and

An English writer, Mr. R. C. Leslie, is of the opinion that this type
of vessel grew out of models in vogue in the West Indies, long before,
for the small piratical craft that made those waters the terror of




These Baltimore clippers, too, enlarged and square-rigged, but still
the fastest things on the western ocean, formed the craft with which
the slave-trade was continued between Africa and America long after
it had been condemned by the civilized world. For many years previous
to the American Civil War, which put an end to the larger part of the
traffic by destroying its market, England and the United States kept
squadrons patrolling the African coast to arrest the slavers and free
their “cargoes.”

What wild, wild tales of the sea do these reminiscences of piracy,
privateering, and the slave-chase bring to mind—tales of horror, and
yet full of such deeds of daring and romance and fierce delight as must
stir the heart in spite of brain and conscience!

Pirates are things of the past—no more to be feared except in a small
way in the Malayan and Chinese archipelagoes. The African slave-trade
is extinct, so far as shipment across the ocean is concerned, save
where, now and then, an Arab dhow steals with its black cargo along
the East African foreland, or flits across the Gulf of Aden or the Red
Sea. Privateering has been forbidden by international treaty among the
larger European powers, which now recognize that trade goods, even
of belligerents, must be held safe in the ships of neutrals (except
articles declared contraband of war), because the business of the
world cannot stop, or even be put in jeopardy, by a quarrel between
two nations. Privateering, therefore, has been abandoned in Europe
as a method of war since the treaty of Paris in 1856, though Prussia
came pretty near it in 1870, by organizing what she called a volunteer
fleet, and Spain reserves the privilege of commissioning privateers.

The United States, however, and some other countries whose policy
or ability forbid them to have a large navy, would not enter into
the European agreement above mentioned, mutually to abstain from
privateering, on the plea that to do so would be to yield the most
powerful weapon of a nation weak in naval armament and sea commerce,
against any of many possible enemies whose large sea-borne commerce
would expose it to the most serious wounds. In our Civil War the
President issued no letters of marque, although authorized to do so.
It was customary to speak of the Confederate cruisers _Alabama_,
_Shenandoah_, _Florida_, etc., as privateers, or even pirates, and
they actually played the part with a success woeful to us of the
North, and to Great Britain, which had to pay for the damages caused
by the _Alabama_; but, strictly speaking, they were neither, because
commissioned by a temporary but regular government, whose flag might
have been recognized if its arms had succeeded.

[Illustration: Cannon.]

More lately (1898) the United States has announced it as its policy to
refrain from privateering, though no formal signature has been given to
any international agreement to that effect.




(From the painting by J. O. Davidson, owned by F. A. Hammond, Esq.)]



Yacht is a word derived from the Dutch language, which has given to
the English so many of its sea-terms, meaning, originally, a fast
boat, such as was built for chasing pirates and smugglers, and, later,
a pleasure-boat. The latter meaning alone is now kept in view by the
word, which is properly applied to anything designed and used for
pleasure-sailing, whether moved by sails, steam, or electricity.

In Great Britain, where yachting, as we now understand it, arose, it
was not until about 1650 that races between pleasure craft began to
be sailed on the Thames and in the quiet waters about the Isle of
Wight, while the first yacht-club was not formed until 1720 (at Cork,
in Ireland). Even then, a century elapsed before yachting as a sport
attracted much attention even among the British, famous for their love
of the sea. In 1812 a “yacht-club” was founded at Cowes, in the Isle
of Wight. It received a new impetus and became the “Royal Yacht-Club”
in 1817, the Prince Regent having joined it, and in 1833 was again
reorganized by King William III as the “Royal Yacht Squadron,” the
designation it bears to-day. It carried on races, or regattas, as they
soon came to be called (borrowing from the Italians a term descriptive
of the old Venetian gondola races), but all sorts of cruising-boats
were matched against one another, classified by a tonnage rule with no
allowances for size or any of the systems by which contestants are now
classified and equalized.

By this time, however, there was peace on the North Atlantic, and many
a good seaman was free to turn his attention to enjoying and improving
the tools of his profession. By this time, also, the Americans had made
great headway as ship-builders and seamen, and by rivalry with the
Old World for trade, and by experience in the Newfoundland fisheries
and the West Indies fruit-trade, had acquired a skill in building and
rigging ships that astonished the world by their speed and weatherly
qualities. It was natural that these ideas should influence pleasure
craft on this side of the water, as Great Britain’s long sea-struggles
had influenced its sailors; and when, in 1844, the New York Yacht-Club
was founded, the conditions were favorable for beginning that home
development of yachting as a sport which was soon to place the
Americans and Canadians among the leading yachting peoples of the
world, and to lead to those international tests of speed that nowadays
excite so wide-spread and intense an interest.


The great preponderance in numbers and value of pleasure-vessels in
the United States, and in the number of clubs and club-members, is due
not only to our large population and long coast-line, but to the great
extent of inland waters furnished by our rivers and interior lakes, and
to the prevalence of bays or protected lagoons, such as Narragansett
Bay, the Great South Bay of Long Island, New York harbor, Delaware
and Chesapeake bays, and the long series of “sounds” that border the
southern Atlantic coast from Barnegat to Biscayne. The Great Lakes are
bordered by yacht-clubs on both sides, and furnish space and weather
for quite as serious work as tries the skill of ocean navigators,
while a hundred smaller lakes make fine pleasure-waters and excellent
training-grounds for fresh-water sailors.

Though the first regatta in America was sailed in 1845, little over
half a century ago, the evolution of American yachts began with the
building of the sloop _Maria_ by Robert L. Stevens, one of that family
of remarkable inventors, who had already devised the first practical
screw-steamer, and afterward created the _Monitor_. Her model, as we
learn from an excellent article in “The Century” for July, 1882, by S.
G. W. Benjamin, was suggested by the low, broad, almost flat-bottomed
sloops employed to steal over the shallows of the Hudson and the
Sound—vessels depending upon beam rather than on ballast for stability,
and imitated by many of our coasters, which are so stiff that they
sometimes make outside voyages without either cargo or ballast; but
the _Maria_ had a long, sharp, hollowed bow, whence she expanded aft,
with little taper at the stern, so that her deck-plan was that of an
elongated flat-iron. The principal novelty about her, however, was the
use of two “center-boards.”

A center-board is a plate of wood or metal, suspended, usually by a
corner pivot, within a sheath or box in the waist, which can be let
down through the keel into the water, so as to form an adjustable keel.
It is the most convenient form of a very old device for preventing a
boat’s drift to leeward, or tendency to capsize under the pressure of
the wind. In earliest times, a mat was hung over the side. Later this
was replaced by the leeboard, apparently a Dutch invention, which may
still be seen on the canal barges in Holland, and which was a feature
of the pirogues or periaugers (shallow double-ended sailing-canoes)
that in early times formed almost the only type of small sail-boat in
New York waters. Two other novel, foreshadowing features possessed by
Mr. Stevens’ boat, were the use of rubber compressors on the traveler
of the main boom to ease the strain of the sheet (rubber is applied in
many places about modern rigging), and the bolting of lead to the keel
as outside ballast.

The _Maria_ justified the expectations aroused by these and other
novelties in hull and rig by beating everything in existence, until
a Swedish gentleman in New York constructed a much smaller boat, the
_Coquette_, on very different lines, for although only sixty-six feet
long she drew ten feet of water; and in a match on the open sea she
beat the _Maria_ easily, showing the superiority of the deep-keeled
model for windy weather.

Profiting by these experiences and widely gathered information, a new
designer essayed the task of making a still better yacht. This was
George Steers, the son of a British naval captain and ship-modeler,
who had become an American naval officer and was the first man to
take charge of the Washington navy yard. He built several graceful
and fleet-winged sloops, famous in their day, such as the _Julia_,
David Carl’s _Gracie_, and many pilot-boats and ships. His most
celebrated production, however, and the one which gave our yachtsmen
an international reputation and established their method of pursuing
recreation as the foremost American sport, was the _America_, from
which the “America Cup” races take origin and name.

The origin was really accidental. When the first World’s Fair was to be
held at the Crystal Palace in London, one of the attendant festivities
was a great national gathering of British yachts in their favorite
harbor, Cowes, at which, it was announced, foreign yachtsmen were to be
welcome, especially Americans. In preparation for it, John C. Stevens,
of Hoboken, then Commodore of the New York Yacht-Club, and some of his
friends, ordered a new yacht from George Steers with which to cross
the Atlantic and meet the English racers. This new boat, completed in
the spring of 1851, and named _America_, was schooner-rigged, but had
raking masts, no topsails except a small main gaff, and only one jib,
whose foot was laced to a boom. Such was the style of the day; but
later she was changed in rig so as to carry far more and bigger sails,
more like those of a modern schooner-yacht.

The moment she arrived in Cowes, in the early summer of 1851, her
superiority in speed was conceded, and no British captain would consent
to meet her; but finally a match was extemporized, open to all nations,
for which a prize was offered in the form of a cup presented by the
Royal Yacht Squadron—not by the Queen, as usually said. Fifteen yachts
responded, but none showed what it could do, for there was little wind,
and the cup was awarded to the _America_ more in general acknowledgment
of its excellence than because of any great performance there. Not
much importance was attached to the incident, but the silver tankard
was brought home and left to ornament Commodore Stevens’ drawing-room
until 1857, when its owners dedicated it to the purpose of a perpetual
challenge cup, in charge of the New York Yacht-Club, for international
races under specified conditions. Fifteen years elapsed, however,
before the first contestant appeared.

The _America_ had differed prominently in shape from all her opponents
at Cowes, by having fine hollowed bows and a wide stern, instead of
the bluff bows and narrowing after part—the “cod’s head and mackerel’s
tail” pattern—of English craft; she also had sails that hung very flat
instead of bellying out under the wind as was the foreign style. In
these directions British yachtsmen saw good, and tried to improve; but
they would have nothing to do with center-boards, and clung to their
cutter-rig. We, on the other hand, had gained ideas as to improving
rig, especially in the schooners, and in the bestowal of ballast,
outside and in.




“Galatea,” 1885, belonged to the same type.]

At length, in 1870, an English schooner, the _Cambria_, came over to
compete for the cup, and was pitted against a fleet of crack yachts
off Sandy Hook; but again the wind was so light that the boats did
little more than drift. The Englishman, nevertheless, was outdrifted
by nine others, and the leader was the little sloop _Magic_, which
became the custodian of the cup. The next year, however, another
challenge was received, and the British keel-yacht _Livonia_ appeared
and was defeated by the American keel-schooner _Sappho_, which, under
a new rule, had won her right to defend the cup by first beating
in preparatory ocean races all other rivals for the honor. As this
contest was between single representative yachts, tried in five races,
and in all sorts of weather, it was a fair and conclusive measure of
comparative qualities. The next yacht to come after the international
cup was the Canadian _Countess of Dufferin_, which was promptly
defeated by the _Magic_ in 1876. Five years later another Canadian
appeared, the _Atalanta_, differing from previous contestants in being
a single-masted center-board yacht; but her rigging and finish were
so bad that her excellent model could not save her from defeat (1881)
at the hands of the elegant iron sloop _Mischief_ which had been built
especially for the race, and had won her foremost place through severe
trial races, as before.

Up to this time, as Mr. W. P. Stephens tells us in “The Century”
for August, 1893, whence many of the portraits of these racers have
been taken, no pleasure-boats had been built except after the rule
of thumb—some practical sailor whittled out a model according to his
ideas, and the builder followed it.

  Systematic designing was unknown, and ... one type of yacht was in
  general use, the wide, shoal center-board craft, with high trunk
  cabin, large open cockpit, ballast all inside (and of iron, or even
  slag and stone), and a heavy and clumsy wooden construction. Faulty
  in every way as this type has since been proved, in the absence of
  any different standard it was considered perfect, and open doubts
  were expressed of the patriotism if not the sanity of the few
  American yachtsmen who, about 1877, called into question the merits
  of the American center-board sloop, and pointed out the opposing
  qualities of the British cutter—her non-capsizability, due to the
  use of lead ballast outside of the hull; her speed in rough water;
  and the superiority of her rig both in proportions and in mechanical

  A wordy warfare over these types raged for several years, gaining
  strength with the building of the first true English cutter, the
  _Muriel_, in New York in 1878, and bearing good fruit a year later
  in the launching of the _Mischief_, an American center-board sloop,
  but modified in accordance with the new theories. The plumb stem, the
  straight sheer, and higher free-board, with quite a shapely though
  short overhang, suggested the hull of the cutter, and though quite
  wide—nearly twenty feet on sixty-one feet water-line—she drew nearly
  six feet. Even with her sloop rig she was a marked departure from
  the older boats of her class, especially as she was built of iron in
  place of wood, and consequently carried her ballast, all lead, at a
  very low point.

One of the results of this controversy was the sending to this country,
from Scotland, of a little ten-ton racing cutter, the _Madge_, purely
to show what capabilities lay in “a deep, narrow, lead-keeled craft
with the typical cutter rig.” The only American able to beat her was
the _Shadow_, a famous Herreshoff sloop of unusual depth, and she did
it but once. Nevertheless, the controversy was not decided in the
United States, and the Britishers thought it worth while to try to
give us another lesson. In 1884 they launched two big cutters, _Irex_
and _Genesta_, and in 1885 a third, _Galatea_; and Sir Richard Sutton,
owner of _Genesta_, and Lieutenant William Henn, R. N., owner of
_Galatea_, challenged for the America Cup.

Then the question arose: What should be done to meet them? The British
cutters differed from those previously met, in that they were built
for racing, not for general use—were “racing machines” instead of
cruising-yachts. To meet this, a scientific designer of marine vessels,
Mr. A. Cary Smith of New York, was called upon to produce a moderately
deep, center-board, iron sloop-yacht on the lines of the _Mischief_,
but much larger, and he produced the _Priscilla_. But while she was
building there was quietly begun another yacht, the _Puritan_, owned
and built in Boston from designs by an almost unheard-of architect, Mr.
Edward Burgess, who previously to this performance had been renowned
only as a student of insects!

“The stout oak keel of the new _Puritan_ was laid upon a lead keel of
twenty-seven tons, carried down into a deep projecting keel; the plumb
stem, the sheer, and the long counter suggested the British cutter
rather than the American sloop; the draft of eight feet six inches was
greatly in excess of all of the old center-board boats, and the rig was
essentially that of the cutter rather than of the sloop.”

A struggle decided that she was better than the _Priscilla_, and in
the cup races in September she proved herself better than the famous
English cutter _Genesta_.


Nevertheless, when the _Galatea_, whose challenge had been postponed
until 1886, came out, the _Puritan_ had already been distanced by
an American rival, the _Mayflower_, practically a larger copy of
herself, as _Galatea_ was of _Genesta_, and, therefore, a lead-keeled
center-board boat, having a cutter-like rig. Trial races showed that
the _Mayflower_ was able to beat all her beautiful predecessors, and
again the British contestant was obliged to take a defeat and leave the
prize in New York.

The result of this last contest (1886) was to cause British yachtsmen
to abandon their old tonnage rule of measurement and adopt the far
better modern one of load-line and sail-area measurement. Another
challenge immediately came from Glasgow, supported by a boat named
_Thistle_, built under the new rule; and to oppose it Mr. Burgess
built the _Volunteer_, which differed from its predecessors mainly in
increased draft and tendency toward the cutter model. She easily beat
the _Thistle_, and the discouraged foreigners rested for some years
before trying again to wrest from us the coveted trophy.

[Illustration: “PURITAN.”]




In 1891, however, there came to New York, from the yards of the
Herreshoff Brothers, in Rhode Island, a new forty-six-foot yacht, which
soon put the fame of the _Volunteer_ and all her glorious rivals into
the background. This was the _Gloriana_, “remarkable as a daring and
original departure from the accepted theories.” The radical novelty in
her form consisted in the great cutting away of her bulk under water
while preserving the full extent of the water-line, and the making of
a very deep, heavily loaded keel, trusted for stability. Her hull was
also novel, consisting of a double skin of thin wood on steel frames,
while the upper part of the hull projected excessively at both ends.
She was everywhere a winner, and was immediately followed by a smaller
boat, the _Dilemma_, whose keel was an almost rectangular plate of
steel, the ballast, which alone was trusted for stability, being in the
form of a cigar-shaped cylinder of lead bolted to the lower edge of the
“fin,” as this kind of keel was appropriately styled. Many boats of
this pattern were soon afloat, most of them highly successful at home
and abroad, and carrying a surprising spread of canvas.

The year 1893 brought another challenge for the cup in the person
of Lord Dunraven, sailing the yacht _Valkyrie_, but he was met by a
new, well-proved Herreshoff fin-keel, the _Vigilant_ (built of a new
alloy—Tobin bronze), and handsomely defeated. The following season the
_Vigilant_ went to England, and found herself equally overmatched by
the _Britannia_, owned by the Prince of Wales, while _Valkyrie II_ was
wrecked. In 1895 Lord Dunraven sent a second challenge, backed by a new
_Valkyrie (III)_; and this produced a fresh American contestant, again
designed and built by the Herreshoffs, named _Defender_. The races came
off amid intense public excitement, outside of Sandy Hook, but were
most unsatisfactory; “in the first, _Defender_ won; in the second,
_Valkyrie_ was disqualified as the result of a foul, and Lord Dunraven
declined to sail a third.”


  1. “America,” 1851, water-line 90 feet.—2. “Cambria,” 1868,
  water-line 100 feet.—3. “Magic,” 1857-69, water-line 79 feet.—4.
  “Sappho,” 1867, water-line 120 feet.—5. “Mischief,” 1879, water-line
  61 feet.—6. “Puritan,” 1885, water-line 81 feet.—7. “Genesta,” 1884,
  water-line 81 feet.—8. “Thistle,” 1887, water-line 86 feet.—9.
  “Volunteer,” 1887, water-line 85 feet.—10. “Gloriana,” 1891,
  water-line 45 feet.—11. “Wasp,” 1892, water-line 46 feet.—12. “El
  Chico,” 1892, water-line 25 feet.]

Such has been the history of this long series of races for the America
Cup, and such the development of its defenders; but while they and
their work have stimulated interest in yachting all over the world,
they have really not influenced it greatly, because all of the later
boats competing were not practical yachts, in which one might cruise
and live afloat, and enjoy life with his friends, but “machines” in
which every quality tending to comfort and safety was sacrificed to
the requirements of speed. In fact, the owners of these “big boats”
kept small, handy, comfortable yachts for their own enjoyment, and the
racers were as a rule sailed by a skipper and crew of professional
racing sailors.

There are said to be over two hundred yacht-clubs in the United States,
enrolling about four thousand yachts, an eighth of which are steam or
electric boats, scattered wherever any water suitable for the sport
exists. With the lakes and rivers we have nothing to do, except to
say that the yachtsmen of Montreal and Quebec are really salt-water
sailors, for they cruise in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and elsewhere at
sea as well as their fellow-sportsmen of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
At the other extreme the Havana Yacht-Club has American members who
take their boats to the West Indies every winter. Bermuda is another
favorite resort, and the scene of lively races with a local, narrow
sort of craft, called a “flyer,” which will beat almost anything if
only it can be kept right side up.

  On the Pacific coast, ... wherever there is a bay that will afford
  a harbor, and a town that will support people, the yacht is used as
  a vehicle of pleasure.... Many of the San Francisco boats are large
  schooners, a number are powerful sea-going sloops, while of smaller
  craft there is an abundance of almost every type, although the New
  York catboat and the flat-bottomed sharpie of Long Island Sound are
  seldom met with, and seem not to be in favor.... Pacific yachters
  appreciate the good points of the yawl, for the squalls which blow
  over the waters of the west coast are sudden and severe, and no rig
  meets these conditions of weather so well as does the yawl.




The most important and numerous yachting interest of the country,
however, as would be expected, is along the northeastern seaboard,
where, measured by numbers and the investment in boats, wharves,
club-houses, and equipments generally, it surpasses any other district
in the world. More than one hundred clubs exist between Maine and

  The earliest form of yacht [as Mr. F. W. Pangborn reminds us in “The
  Century” for May, 1892] was, of course, a rowboat with a sail....
  From the primitive sprit-sail pleasure-boat comes the ever-present
  and universally favored center-board catboat, a type of yacht which,
  for speed, handiness, and unsafeness, has never been surpassed.
  Keel catboats are also built, but the typical American “cat” is
  the center-board boat of light draft, big beam, and huge sail.
  The two objectionable points about boats of this class are their
  capsizability, and their bad habit of yawing when sailing before
  the wind. Yet the cat is the handiest light-weather boat made. It
  is very fast, quick in stays, and simple in rig; but it can never
  become a first-class seaworthy type of yacht. It belongs among the
  fair-weather pleasure-boats....

[Illustration: RIG OF THE YAWL.]

  From the center-board catboat grew the jib-and-mainsail sloop, a type
  of yacht which has always been noted for its great speed and general
  unhandiness. Small yachts of this kind are always racers, and the
  interest in racing is sufficient to keep them in the lists of popular
  boats. In design they are like the catboats, the only difference
  being in their rig. These two boats, the center-board cat and the
  jib-and-mainsail sloop, are what yachters call “sandbaggers”; that is
  to say, their ballast consists of bags of sand which are shifted to
  windward with every tack and thus serve to keep the yachts right side
  up. A boat ballasted in this manner can carry more sail than rightly
  belongs on her sticks, but she cannot be very safe or comfortable.
  Her place is in the regatta. It is not beyond the truth to assert
  that the sandbaggers constitute probably two fifths of the total of
  small yachts. They will never cease to be popular, for the reason
  that speed and sport are synonymous terms with a great many yachters,
  and no one can deny that these boats, like Brother Jasper’s sun, “do




  Passing the sandbaggers, the next popular and most universally used
  yacht is the ballasted sloop. A sloop may be a center-board boat,
  or a keel boat, or a combination of both. She has only one mast and
  carries a topmast. Her sails are many, and, like the cutter, she is
  permitted to carry clouds of canvas in a race. Technically speaking,
  a cutter differs from a sloop only in one point, as the terms “sloop”
  and “cutter” really apply to the rig of the yacht. The cutter has a
  sail set from her stem to her masthead; the sloop has not. This sail
  is called a forestay-sail, and its presence marks the cutter-rig.
  The term “cutter,” however, is usually applied to the long, narrow,
  deep-keeled vessel, and has in common parlance grown to mean a boat
  of that type. It is in that sense that it is generally understood.
  It is worthy of notice that nearly all yachters who cruise about in
  summer, and especially those who are fond of speedy boats, use either
  sloops or cutters; and it is remarkable to see how much comfort can
  be found in boats of these types, even when quite small....

[Illustration: A SHARPIE.]

  The average yachting man, if he be of that stuff of which good seamen
  are made, soon finds his chief delight in being master of his own
  vessel. He likes to feel that it is his skill, his prowess, his
  intellect, that rule the ship in which he sails; and finding this
  complete mastery of the vessel to be impossible aboard a big boat,
  he longs for one which he can handle alone. This independent and
  sportsmanlike instinct of the American yachter has culminated in a
  liking for certain classes of very small boats,—“single-handers” they
  are called,—and this liking has given impetus to the building of some
  little vessels which are really marvels in their way. Simplicity
  and handiness of rig have been considered in their construction,
  and this has led in many cases to the adoption of what is known as
  the yawl style, a rig which for safety and convenience has never
  been surpassed by any other. The yawl is really a schooner with very
  small mainsail. For small cruising-yachts it is an excellent rig,
  and preferable to the cat rig. Cat-yawls are also in use; they are
  merely yawls without jibs. With such rigs as these a yachter can go
  alone upon the water without fear of trouble and with no need of
  assistance. Naturally, with men of moderate means who love the water,
  these small single-handers have become very popular. Some of them are
  not over sixteen feet long, yet the solitary skipper-crew-and-cook,
  all in one, of such a boat finds in his yacht comfortable
  sleeping-quarters, cook-stove, dinner-table, and all necessary
  “fixings.” The ingenuity displayed in fitting out the cabins of these
  little boats is quite remarkable.

[Illustration: A BUCKEYE.]

  Of the many nondescript rigs which are applied to small yachts,
  two are in common use. One of these is the sharpie, a simple
  leg-o’-mutton rig used with flat-bottomed boats. Large sharpies
  have been built with fine cabin accommodations, and such boats are
  particularly adapted to the shoal waters of the South. They are fast
  sailers, but owing to their long, narrow bodies and light draft, are
  not always trustworthy. They are cheaper to build than boats of other

  Buckeyes are favored only in the South. Originally the buckeye was
  a log hollowed out and shaped into a boat, and was used by the
  negroes. To-day, however, buckeyes are built upon carefully drawn
  plans, and many of them are excellent vessels. They are common on
  the coast waters south of the Delaware Bay, and are used chiefly for
  hunting-boats, their cheapness, handiness, and roominess rendering
  them useful to the sportsman. A true buckeye is a double-ender,
  but some large ones have been built with an overhang stern, which
  destroys the ideal and creates a new kind of craft.


  A few years ago the sailing public was surprised by the appearance
  upon the waters of a spider-like contrivance which its friends said
  was a “catamaran.” This new claimant for yachting favor was like
  the raft of the South Sea Islanders only in name; in fact, it was
  not a catamaran at all, but a new device for racing over the water
  by means of sails. Wonderful feats were predicted for the future of
  the catamaran, and it certainly did accomplish something; but after
  a long and fair trial (for the yachter, no matter how bigoted he
  may be, will always try a new boat) it was discarded as a useless,
  dangerous, and decidedly unsatisfactory kind of craft....

  Leaving the discussion of the odds and ends of yacht styles, we
  come, by natural progress, to a type which is destined to greater
  popularity as time goes on, and yachters learn the ways of the sea
  and the best methods of dealing with them. Although the schooner
  is generally deemed a big yacht, it is nevertheless a fact that
  small schooners are desirable boats to have, and that the number of
  schooners of small tonnage is increasing. There is no denying the
  advantage of the schooner’s rig over that of the sloop. A schooner
  of forty feet is handier, safer, and less expensive to run than a
  forty-foot sloop. The rig of the schooner is peculiarly adapted
  to all weathers, and a small crew can handle such a vessel with
  ease, when to manage a sloop of equal size would require the best
  efforts of “all hands and the cook.” The reason for this is that the
  schooner’s sails can be attended to one at a time, which is not the
  case with the big-mainsail sloop.




  It is the small yachter [Mr. Pangborn declares in conclusion] who
  gives to the sport its wide popularity, and makes yachting so
  universally loved by men who are fond of aquatic pleasuring. The
  small yachter is everywhere upon the waters. From the coast of Maine,
  from the shores of the harbor of the Golden Gate, from the beaches
  of the Atlantic seaboard, and from the borders of the inland lakes,
  he can be seen, all summer long, sailing about in his little vessel,
  and enjoying in all its fullness the excitement and delight of this
  most noble and health-giving sport. With a pluck and energy that
  mark the true lover of the sea, and a tact and skill that bespeak
  the real sailor, he handles his little craft, in fair weather and in
  foul, in a manner that leaves no room for doubt as to its fitness for
  the work which he is doing; for, whether he sail alone, or with the
  help of his friends, or that of a hired man to run his boat, he is
  always the master of his vessel,—which is seldom the case with the
  proprietor of the big boat,—and is in reality a “yachtsman” under
  all circumstances, at all times, and in all weathers. He must be
  cool-headed and calm in times of peril, affable and courteous on all
  social occasions, and generous and prompt to respond to all calls
  upon his courage—in brief, a gentleman.




Neither ships of the stanchest steel, nor seamen however skilful, nor
pilots never so knowing, can wholly avoid the dangers of a seafaring
life. Experience in reading the signs of the ocean and of the skies,
surveyors’ charts of coasts and harbors, added to the appliances of
powerful modern machinery, have lessened the perils, it is true, since
the old times; yet even now ships sail proudly out of sunny havens,
their topsails watched by loving eyes till they disappear at sunset,
and are never seen again. On a calm day in 1782 the great hundred-gun
line-of-battle-ship _Royal George_ sank at her anchors in the harbor
of Spithead, carrying down almost a thousand souls; thirty years ago
the _Captain_, then one of the finest of England’s steam turret-ships,
capsized at sea, and not a man survived. Each of these vessels was
perhaps the best of its kind in the world. No better navigators exist
than naval officers, yet they ran the historic old steam-frigate
_Kearsarge_ on Roncador Reef, in the Caribbean Sea, in broad daylight,
and left her there a total wreck. Not a year passes that does not
record some dire calamity on the ocean, and many lesser accidents.

The wild oceanic storms are responsible for fewer of these than
anything else—I mean the mere power of wind and waves in the open
sea. When a captain has sea-room, and knows in advance, as he almost
always may, of the coming of a storm, so that he can make everything
snug, the loss of his vessel, or even serious damage to her, is not
common. Yet the mere violence of the gale has overturned, beaten down,
and extinguished the greater part of the Newfoundland fishing-fleet
again and again, and doubtless many of the ships that are recorded as
“missing” have been sunk simply by overwhelming waves.

Certain rare and extraordinary mishaps nevertheless may meet a vessel
in the open ocean. One of these is a stroke of lightning, powerful
enough to set a ship on fire in spite of her lightning-rods, and such a
fire is likely never to be quenched. Another extraordinary occurrence
would be an overwhelming waterspout, such as not infrequently is seen
in the tropics, especially along the Chinese coast, where it often
plays havoc with fishing junks. A third unusual, yet possible, peril
is the meeting with those waves of sudden and extraordinary size and
volume which sometimes engulf vessels in storms that otherwise might
be safely weathered, or are surmounted only by a miracle, as it were.
These are said to be produced in some cyclones, as one of the effects
of that whirling form of storm, and are often called tidal waves, but
the tide has nothing to do with their formation or progress.


To say that a ship in mid-ocean might be destroyed by an earthquake
seems paradoxical and absurd, yet it is true. Whenever a subterranean
convulsion occurs beneath or at the edge of the sea, the water will be
agitated in proportion to its force. Strike a tub of water a gentle
tap and see how its liquid contents shiver and ripple. Watch a railway
train running at the edge of a body of water, and observe how the water
trembles under the percussion of the wheels upon the ground.

Earthquake shocks give rise sometimes to great disturbances, either by
a direct jar to the water, or by setting in motion waves whose rolling
does damage, especially in confined harbors. Sometimes a port will be
suddenly invaded by a wave, the cause of which was an earthquake, which
rolls in upreared like a wall, and carries death and destruction in its
course. The principal port of the island of St. Thomas, in the West
Indies, was once devastated by this means. The incoming wave is said
to have been over forty feet high, and broke inland, destroying much
property and causing many deaths. “So tremendous was this breaker that
it landed a large vessel on a hillside half a mile from the harbor.”

Such catastrophes are not uncommon in volcanic districts, where the
ocean retorts with terrible vengeance when it is struck by the land.
That appalling explosion in 1883 of Krakatoa, in the Strait of Sunda,
was followed on neighboring coasts by a series of vast billows that
rolled inland, deluging a wide extent of shore, sweeping away over 150
villages, and crushing or drowning more than 30,000 persons. Within a
few years the coasts of northern Japan have been inundated repeatedly
by earthquake waves with similar dire calamities, and they are likely
to occur again. Now and then earthquakes are felt even in the open sea,
far from land. Thus, Captain Lecky, a scientific writer upon the sea,
tells us that in one instance where he was present, the inkstand upon
the captain’s table was jerked upward against the ceiling, where it
left an unmistakable record of the occurrence; and yet this vessel was
steaming along in smooth water, many hundreds of fathoms deep. “The
concussions,” he says, “were so smart that passengers were shaken off
their seats, and, of course, thought that the vessel had run ashore.”
All this disturbance was, nevertheless, only the result of a shock at
the bottom; and when the non-elastic nature of water is considered, the
severity of the jar is not surprising.

It would seem as though in the vast breadth of the “world of waters,”
and with nothing to obstruct the view, two ships might easily give
one another a wide berth; yet a collision is one of the ever-present
dangers of voyaging, even far from land. It is to avoid this peril that
all the maritime nations have agreed upon certain signals, and “rules
of the road” which are the same in all parts of the world, and without
which it would now be almost impossible to carry on commerce or travel
on the water.

The rules of the road say that when two vessels are approaching one
another, head on, each shall turn off to the right far enough to avoid
the other; that when two vessels are crossing one another’s courses,
the one which has the other on her starboard (right hand) must turn to
starboard (the right), and go behind the other vessel, while the latter
continues along her course; and that a steam vessel must always get out
of the way of a sailing vessel, one at anchor or disabled, or a vessel
with another in tow.

It is presumed that every ship will keep a sharp lookout, and that in
the daytime two approaching ships will see each other in time to keep
safely apart; but in the darkness of night none could be safe unless
all carried lights by which the position and character of each could be

In ancient times this matter of lights at sea was a much more
troublesome one than now. We know that the Roman navy managed it
somehow, and had methods of signaling by lanterns and torches. In
medieval and early times, say up to a couple of centuries ago, a ship’s
lights were a much more conspicuous and bothersome part of her than
now, when, indeed, electricity has simplified as well as perfected
signaling as much as it has benefited general illumination on ship’s
board. In such ships as those of the Armada, and long afterward, three
huge lanterns made of ornamental iron-work, sometimes large enough
to enable a man to move about inside them, surmounted the elevated
after-quarter; and these were filled with dozens of great candles.
How important candles were in the stores of one of these old ships is
shown by the fact that we still call a merchant who outfits vessels a
_ship-chandler_. Regular rules were formulated for judging of a ship’s
position and movements, and how you ought to steer by the way these
beacons grouped themselves. The introduction of whale oil gradually
superseded candles and as the sperm-lamp did not require a glass house,
smaller lanterns took the place of the big ones, until finally, by
aid of lenses, reflectors, and kerosene, and still more lately by the
use of electricity, ship’s lights have become the small, handy, and
powerful ones they are to-day.

The present rules as to lights are these—using the language of a United
States navy officer, Lieut. John M. Ellicott, who has written many
instructive and entertaining essays on sea-affairs:

  When you face toward a ship’s bow the side at your right hand is
  called the starboard side, and the side at your left hand is called
  the port side. On her starboard side a ship carries at night a green
  light, and it is so shut in by the two sides of a box that it cannot
  be seen from the port side or from behind. On her port side she
  carries a red light, and it is so shut in that it cannot be seen
  from the starboard side or from behind. If the ship is a steamship
  she carries a big white light at her foremast-head, but if she is a
  sailing vessel she does not. This white masthead light can be seen
  from all around except from behind....

  It is for the red and green lights, commonly known as the side
  lights, that the officer of the deck most intently watches (when the
  lookout warns him that lights are in sight), for by them he can tell
  which way the vessel is going. If her red light shows, he knows that
  her port side is toward him and she is crossing to his left; if it is
  her green light, her starboard side is toward him and she is crossing
  to his right; but if both the red and green are showing, she is
  heading straight in his direction.... If a vessel has another vessel
  in tow, she carries two masthead lights instead of one; and when a
  vessel is at anchor she has no side lights or masthead light, but a
  single white light made fast to a stay where it can be seen from all
  around her.

  In rivers and crowded harbors it is often impossible to follow the
  rules of the road; and sometimes even at sea the officer of the deck
  of one vessel discovers that the other is not heeding the rules. Then
  the steam-whistle is used to tell the other vessel what the first
  is doing. Thus, one whistle means “I am going to the right”; two
  whistles mean “I am going to the left”; and three whistles mean “I am
  backing”; while a series of short toots means “Look out for yourself;
  get out of the way!”

  There is one class of vessels which is most annoying to those who
  direct the course of large steamers. These are small fishing-vessels.
  On the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, on the coast of Spain, and on
  the coasts of China and Japan big fleets of these little vessels
  are found at all times. They show no lights at night, preferring to
  save the expense of oil, and take their chances of being sent to the
  bottom; but when they see a big ship rushing down upon them, they
  light a torch and flare it about. Often they pay for their folly with
  their lives. The torch is seen too late, or not seen at all, and the
  great iron bow of the steamship crushes into the frail little craft,
  perhaps cutting her clean in two; and the unhappy fishermen sink into
  the foaming wake of the churning propellers, leaving not a soul to
  tell their wives what became of them.


Signaling with lights is principally of use to men-of-war, where, also,
lanterns hung in the rigging in a particular order have a definite
significance. For long-distance signaling the best system is that
invented by Lieutenant Very, U. S. N. These night-signals “consist of a
white, a red, and a green star, each fired into the air from a pistol,
so that by firing one, two, or three of them in quick succession and in
different orders, with a pause between the groups, different letters or
signal numbers can be made until a sentence is complete.” They can be
easily read from vessels twelve miles away. For nearer work the system
of the Spanish navy officer, Ardois, which consists in flashing and
extinguishing, by means of a switchboard on deck, a series of red and
white electric lamps in the rigging, serves very well; and close at
hand a signal-man waves an incandescent electric bulb by night as he
would a flag by day.


It is, however, when the land is approached that the sailor’s perils
become menacing. Here Old Neptune is still a match for us when he
asserts himself. Nevertheless, we must go upon the restless waters,
and must risk a contest with their power along the coasts, where the
ocean’s _line of battle_ may be said to be. Therefore, every effort
has always been made by men on land to be of aid to their brethren at
sea by erecting beacons to guide them by night as well as by day, by
marking the channels, so that hidden shoals, rocks, and obstructions
may be avoided, and by contrivances to save life and property when the
fury of the gale renders seamanship futile, and the noble ship is cast
away in the surf thundering on some wild shore, to break up in a few

What could be more humiliating to our pride, as well as terrifying to
our hearts, than such a scene as that at Samoa, in 1889, when a whole
fleet of ships, including powerful men-of-war, was wrecked while at
anchor in the beautiful harbor of Apia. Of small use, then, were all
their charts and lighthouses, buoys and breakwaters!

The disturbed state of affairs in Samoa caused the assemblage there,
during March, 1889, of three small German men-of-war, _Adler_,
_Olga_, and _Eber_, the British corvette _Calliope_, and the American
steamships _Trenton_, _Vandalia_ and _Nipsic_. The _Trenton_,
Captain Farquhar, was one of our largest war-ships at that time,
and the flagship of Rear-Admiral Kimberley; the _Vandalia_, Captain
Schoonmaker, was somewhat smaller, and the _Nipsic_, Commander Mullan,
was still less in size. On March 15 a hurricane demolished the whole of
this fleet, except one, and ten merchant vessels besides, and caused
the loss of nearly one hundred and fifty lives. It is an extraordinary
story, which has been fully related by Mr. John P. Dunning, from whose
article in “St. Nicholas” for February, 1890, the accompanying facts
and illustrations are drawn.


  The harbor in which the disaster occurred is a small semicircular
  bay, around the inner side of which lies the town of Apia. A coral
  reef, visible at low water, extends in front of the harbor from the
  eastern to the western extremity, a distance of nearly two miles.
  A break in this reef, probably a quarter of a mile wide, forms a
  gateway to the harbor. The space within the bay where ships can lie
  at anchor is very small, as a shoal extends some distance out from
  the eastern shore, and on the other side another coral reef runs well
  out into the bay. The war-vessels were anchored in the deep water in
  front of the American consulate. The _Eber_ and _Nipsic_ were nearest
  the shore. There were ten or twelve sailing-vessels, principally
  small schooners lying in the shallow water west of the men-of-war.
  The storm was preceded by several weeks of bad weather, and on
  Friday, March 15, the wind increased and there was every indication
  of a hard blow. The war-ships made preparation for it by lowering
  topmasts and making all the spars secure, and steam was also raised
  to guard against the possibility of the anchors not holding.

  The wind rose to a hurricane and was accompanied by heavy,
  wind-driven rain, and when toward morning it became evident that
  some smaller ships were already ashore, and that the war-ships were
  dragging their anchors in spite of every effort, the whole town was
  awake, and much of it down by the beach seeking what shelter it could
  from the sleet-like blast. This night of horror gradually lightened
  into dawn, when it was seen that all the war-ships had been swept
  from their former moorings and were bearing down toward the inner
  reef. The decks swarmed with men clinging to anything affording a
  hold. The hulls of the ships were tossing about like corks, and the
  decks were being deluged with water as every wave swept in from the
  open ocean. Several sailing-vessels had gone ashore in the western
  part of the bay. Those most plainly visible now were the _Eber_,
  _Adler_, and _Nipsic_, very close together and only a few yards from
  the reef.

  The little gunboat _Eber_ was making a desperate struggle, but her
  doom was certain. Suddenly she shot forward, the current bore her off
  to the right, and her bow struck the port quarter of the _Nipsic_,
  carrying away several feet of the _Nipsic’s_ rail and one boat. The
  _Eber_ then fell back and fouled with the _Olga_, and after that she
  swung around broadside to the wind, was lifted high on the crest of a
  great wave and hurled with awful force upon the reef. In an instant
  there was not a vestige of her to be seen. Every timber must have
  been shattered, and half the poor creatures aboard of her crushed to
  death before they felt the waters closing above their heads. Hundreds
  of people were on the beach by this time, and the work of destruction
  had occurred within full view of them all. They stood for a moment
  appalled by the awful scene, and a cry of horror arose from the lips
  of every man who had seen nearly a hundred of his fellow-creatures
  perish in an instant. Then with one accord they all rushed to the
  water’s edge nearest the point where the _Eber_ had foundered. The
  natives ran into the surf far beyond the point where a white man
  could have lived, and stood waiting to save any who might rise from
  the water. There were six officers and seventy men on the _Eber_ when
  she struck the reef, and of these five officers and sixty-six men
  were lost. This was about six o’clock in the morning.


  During the excitement attending that calamity the other vessels
  had been for the time forgotten, but it was soon noticed that the
  positions of several of them had become more alarming. The _Adler_
  had been swept across the bay, close to the reef, and in half an hour
  she was lifted on top of the reef and turned completely over on her
  side. Nearly every man was thrown into the water, but as almost the
  entire hull was exposed, all but twenty succeeded in regaining her
  deck, and the remainder were rescued toward the close of the day when
  almost exhausted.

  Just after the _Adler_ struck, the attention of every one was
  directed toward the _Nipsic_. She was standing off the reef with her
  head to the wind, but the three anchors which she had out at the time
  were not holding; and orders were given to attach a hawser to a heavy
  eight-inch rifle on the forecastle and throw the gun overboard. As
  the men were in the act of doing this, the _Olga_ bore down on the
  _Nipsic_ and struck her amidships with awful force. Her bowsprit
  passed over the side of the _Nipsic_, and, after carrying away one
  boat and splintering the rail, came in contact with the smokestack,
  which was struck fairly in the center and fell to the deck with a
  crash like thunder. For a moment it was difficult to realize what had
  happened, and great confusion followed. The iron smokestack rolled
  from side to side with every movement of the vessel, until finally
  heavy blocks were placed under it. By that time the _Nipsic_ had
  swung around and was approaching the reef, and it seemed certain that
  she would go down in the same way as had the _Eber_. Captain Mullan
  saw that any further attempt to save the vessel would be useless,
  so he gave the orders to beach her. She had a straight course of
  about two hundred yards to the sandy beach in front of the American
  consulate, where she stuck and stood firm.

  Two attempts to lower boats were failures and every man crowded to
  the forecastle. A line was thrown, double hawsers were soon made fast
  from the vessel to the shore, and the natives and others gathered
  around the lines, where the voices of officers shouting to the men on
  deck were mingled with the loud cries and singing of the Samoans. One
  by one, and in a very orderly manner, the men of the _Nipsic_ came
  down the hawsers toward the shore, but many would never have reached
  it, had it not been for the assistance of the Samoans, who, at the
  peril of their lives, stood in the boiling torrent, grasping those
  whose hold was broken from the rope.

  Meanwhile, the four large men-of-war, _Trenton_, _Calliope_,
  _Vandalia_, and _Olga_, were still afloat and in a comparatively
  safe position; but about ten o’clock the _Trenton_ was seen to be
  in a helpless condition; her rudder and propeller were both gone,
  and there was nothing but her anchors to hold her up against the
  unabated force of the storm. The _Vandalia_ and _Calliope_ were also
  in danger, drifting back toward the reef near the point where lay the
  wreck of the _Adler_; and they came closer together every minute,
  until finally the English ship struck the _Vandalia_ and tore a great
  hole in her bow. Then Captain Kane of the _Calliope_ determined to
  try to steam out of the harbor as his only hope, and he at once cut
  loose from all his anchors. The _Calliope’s_ head swung around to the
  wind and her engines were worked to their utmost power. Great waves
  broke over her bow and she gained headway at first only inch by inch,
  but her speed gradually increased until it became evident that she
  could leave the harbor. This manœuver of the British ship is regarded
  as one of the most daring in naval annals—the one desperate chance
  offered her commander to save his vessel and the three hundred lives

  The _Trenton’s_ fires had gone out by that time, and she lay helpless
  almost in the path of the _Calliope_. The decks were swarming with
  men, but, facing death as they were, they recognized the heroic
  struggle of the British ship, and a great shout went up from aboard
  the _Trenton_. “Three cheers for the _Calliope_!” was the sound that
  reached the ears of the British tars as they passed out of the harbor
  in the teeth of the storm; and the heart of every Englishman went out
  to the brave American sailors who gave that parting tribute to the
  Queen’s ship.

  When the excitement on the _Vandalia_ which followed the collision
  with the _Calliope_ had subsided, it was determined to beach the
  vessel, and straining every means at hand to avoid the dreaded reef,
  she moved slowly across the harbor until her bow stuck in the sand,
  about two hundred yards off shore and probably eighty yards from the
  stem of the _Nipsic_. Her engines were stopped and the men in the
  engine-room and fire-room below were ordered on deck. The ship swung
  around broadside to the shore, and it was thought at first that her
  position was comparatively safe, as it was believed that the storm
  would abate in a few hours, and the two hundred and forty men on
  board could be rescued then; but the wind seemed to increase in fury,
  and as the hull of the steamer sank lower the force of the waves grew
  more violent, yet no one on shore was able to render the least aid.

  These terrible scenes had detracted attention from the other two
  men-of-war still afloat; but about four o’clock in the afternoon
  the positions of the _Trenton_ and _Olga_ became most alarming. The
  flagship had been in a helpless condition for hours, being without
  rudder or propeller, while volumes of water poured in through her
  hawser-pipes. Men never fought against adverse circumstances with
  more desperation than the officers and men of the _Trenton_ displayed
  during those hours, yet the vessel was slowly forced over toward
  the eastern reef. Destruction seemed imminent, as the great vessel
  was pitching heavily, and her stern was but a few feet from the
  reef. This point was a quarter of a mile from shore, and if the
  _Trenton_ had struck the reef there, it is probable that not a life
  would have been saved. A skilful manœuver, suggested by Lieutenant
  Brown, saved the ship from destruction. Every man was ordered into
  the port rigging, and the compact mass of bodies was used as a sail.
  The wind struck against the men in the rigging and forced the vessel
  out into the bay again. She soon commenced to drift back against the
  _Olga_, which was still standing off the reef and holding up against
  the storm more successfully than any other vessel in the harbor
  had done, and in spite of every effort on the part of both ships a
  collision took place which severely damaged both. Fortunately, the
  vessels drifted apart, whereupon the _Olga_ steamed ahead toward the
  mud-flats in the eastern part of the bay, and was soon hard and fast
  on the bottom. Not a life was lost, and several weeks later the ship
  was hauled off and saved.

  The _Trenton_ was now about two hundred feet from the sunken
  _Vandalia_, and seemed sure to strike her and throw into the water
  the men still clinging to the rigging. It was now after five o’clock,
  and the daylight was beginning to fade away. In a half hour more, the
  _Trenton_ had drifted to within a few yards of the _Vandalia’s_ bow,
  and feelings hard to describe came to the hundreds who watched the
  vessels from the shore.

  Presently the last faint rays of daylight faded away, and night came
  down upon the awful scene. The storm was still raging with as much
  fury as at any time during the day. The poor creatures who had been
  clinging for hours to the rigging of the _Vandalia_ were bruised
  and bleeding; but they held on with the desperation of men who were
  hanging between life and death. The ropes had cut the flesh on
  their arms and legs, and their eyes were blinded by the salt spray
  which swept over them. Weak and exhausted as they were, they would
  be unable to stand the terrible strain much longer. The final hour
  seemed to be upon them. The great, black hull of the _Trenton_ was
  almost ready to crash into the stranded _Vandalia_ and grind her
  to atoms. Suddenly a shout was borne across the waters. The sound
  of four hundred and fifty voices was heard above the roar of the
  tempest. “Three cheers for the _Vandalia_!” was the cry that warmed
  the hearts of the dying men in the rigging.

  The shout died away upon the storm, and there arose from the
  quivering masts of the sunken ship a response so feeble it was
  scarcely heard upon the shore. Every heart was melted to pity. “God
  help them!” was passed from one man to another. The cheer had hardly
  ceased when the sound of music came across the water. The _Trenton’s_
  band was playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The thousand men on sea
  and shore had never before heard strains of music at such a time as
  that. An indescribable feeling came over the Americans on the beach
  who listened to the notes of the national song mingled with the
  howling of the storm.

  But the collision of the _Trenton_ and _Vandalia_, instead of
  crushing the latter vessel to pieces, proved to be the salvation of
  the men in the rigging. When the _Trenton’s_ stern finally struck
  the side of the _Vandalia_, there was no shock, and she swung around
  broadside to the sunken ship. This enabled the men on the _Vandalia_
  to escape to the deck of the _Trenton_, and in a short time they were
  all taken off.

  The storm had abated at midnight, and when day dawned there was no
  further cause for alarm. The men were removed from the _Trenton_ and
  provided with quarters on shore.

  During the next few days the evidences of the great disaster could be
  seen on every side. In the harbor were the wrecks of four men-of-war:
  the _Trenton_, _Vandalia_, _Adler_, and _Eber_; and two others, the
  _Nipsic_ and _Olga_, were hard and fast on the beach and were hauled
  off with great difficulty. The wrecks of ten sailing-vessels also lay
  upon the reefs. On shore, houses and trees were blown down, and the
  beach was strewn with wreckage from one end of the town to the other.

Ever since men began to go to sea lights have been placed on shore to
guide them to a landing-place; but in early times these were nothing
more than fires on headlands, kindled, perhaps, by the wives and
children of the captain and his crew of neighbors, when these mariners
were expected home. These friendly services became a little more
systematic when merchants began to risk their property on the water;
and on the shores of the Mediterranean, which we have found to be the
cradle of civilized navigation and trade, harbor-beacons were erected
in very early times as guides to a safe anchorage.

  The giant statue known as the Colossus, at Rhodes, is supposed to
  have been used as a beacon and lighthouse, a fire burning in the
  palm of its uplifted colossal hand at night. Although the account of
  the Colossus is only a matter of guesswork, it is historically true
  that in those ages of ignorant heedlessness of the need of beacons,
  a lighthouse was built so grand in proportions, so enduring in
  character, that it became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the
  World, and outlived all the others, save the Pyramids, by centuries,
  and in some ways has never been excelled by any similar structure
  in modern times, unless it be by our mammoth marble monument to
  Washington. This was the lighthouse built on the little island of
  Pharos by Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, two hundred and eighty
  years before Christ, to guide vessels into the harbor of Alexandria.
  From all descriptions, it must have closely resembled our Washington
  monument; for it was built of white stone, was square at the base,
  and tapered toward the apex. Open windows were near its top, through
  which the fire within could be seen for thirty miles by vessels at

The destruction of these beacons in the general smash and ruin that
seem to have overtaken the world when the Roman empire went to pieces
is only indicative of the way the darkness of barbarism returned and
enveloped the minds as well as the works of men, until light broke
through the clouds again with the rise of organized sea-powers in
Western Europe. Then beacons were gradually rebuilt, but in almost all
cases by private hands—the feudal lords of coast estates, the master
or authorities of sea-ports, the monks in monasteries near dangerous
landings, and now and then the king at his principal port, setting up
marks for steering by day and lighting fires on dark nights. Most of
the latter were hardly more than tar-barrels, which would burn brightly
in a gale, and the better class were towers of stonework, on top of
which a mass of coal was ignited in an iron cage, and kept stirred into
brightness by a watcher.

It was an easy matter to imitate such beacons, and wreckers would
often set up false lights. Many a fearful tradition has come down of
the doings of wreckers, not only in England and Spain, but in America
and in the East. One of their tricks, when they saw a ship approaching
in the evening, was to hang a lantern upon a horse’s neck, and let
him graze, well-hobbled, along the beach. This would appear like the
rocking of a lantern on a vessel at rest—what is called a riding or
anchor light; and, deceived by this promise of a safe anchorage, the
stranger would not discover that he had been cheated until his keel
struck a reef or sandbar, and the pirates had begun their villainous
attack. It is said to have been a device of this kind which caused
the wreck in 1812, on the Carolina coast,—whose islands and lagoons
are reputed to have been infested by such ruffians, there known as
“bankers,”—of a vessel carrying the beautiful Theodosia Burr, daughter
of Aaron Burr, and wife of Governor Alston of South Carolina. Her death
at the hands of these men is illustrated on page 172.

During the reign of Henry VIII of England, an association of mariners
called, in short, the Guild of the Trinity was chartered and given
various powers and privileges in connection with the newly instituted
royal navy and dockyards. It encouraged coast-lights, and in 1573 Queen
Elizabeth formally placed authority to erect and govern lighthouses and
coast beacons in the hands of this corporation, and there it remains
to this day; for its headquarters, Trinity House, on Tower Hill, in
London, are a recognized office of the British government, answering to
our Lighthouse Board.

It was not long before it encouraged the founding of a permanent light
on Eddystone Shoals, a group of reefs near Plymouth, exceedingly
dangerous because they lie precisely in the track of ships bound
up or down the English Channel, yet almost invisible. Upon the
mere standing-room afforded by the crest of this rock, Sir William
Winstanley managed to erect, two hundred years ago, a tower of wood
and iron trestle-work, bolted to its foundation and carrying a glass
room or lantern containing a coal-grate, eighty feet above low-water
mark. This was completed in 1698. One winter’s experience convinced
him that it needed strengthening, and in 1699 a case of masonry was
built about the tower, and made solid to the height of twenty feet,
while the whole structure was increased to the height of one hundred
and twenty feet. Then, it is related, Winstanley boasted that the sea
had not strength enough to tear it down, and all England rejoiced in
so noble a beacon; but we now know that the construction was faulty,
in its large diameter, polygonal outline, excess of ornament, and
lack of weight. While Sir William was within it making repairs, four
years later, the memorable hurricane of November 20, 1703, swept the
coast, and left scarcely a trace of the tower. Its value had been
proved, however, and it was replaced, in 1706, by a straight-sided
tower of oaken timbers, weighted in their lower courses by stone. This
was designed by an engineer named Rudyerd, and lasted until burned
down in 1755; and engineers say it was better for its place than was
the round, solid-based stone tower of Smeaton that followed it, and
became so celebrated. This was finished in three years, and in 1760 was
lighted, not by a fire, as of old, but by candles—the first use of such
an illuminant. This truly illustrious lighthouse remained until a few
years ago, when it became so racked by the assaults of the sea as to
be unsafe. It was then replaced by the one that stands there to-day,
rivaling its magnificent neighbor on the Biscay shore opposite, the
lighthouse of Carduan, which was built to support a bonfire of oak, but
has remained to be lighted successively by oil-lamps, by gas-burners,
and finally by electricity.




A somewhat similar history belongs to some of the lighthouses on this
side of the Atlantic. The first one regularly set up in the United
States was that on the north side of the entrance to Boston harbor,
erected in 1716; but many others go back to Colonial days—that on
Sandy Hook, for instance. Perhaps the most interesting history is
attached to the light on Minot’s Ledge, in Boston harbor. This is a
dangerous reef, concealed at high water and so exposed that the problem
of lighting it was much the same as that presented at Eddystone, Bell
Rock, Dhu Heartach, and other well known islets on the British coast.

The first lighthouse on Minot’s Ledge was built in 1848, and was an
octagonal tower resting on the tops of eight wrought-iron piles sixty
feet high, eight inches in diameter, and sunk five feet into the rock.

  These piles were braced together in many ways, and, as they offered
  less surface to the waves than a solid structure, the lighthouse was
  considered by all authorities upon the subject to be exceptionally
  strong. Its great test came in April, 1851. On the fourteenth of that
  month, two keepers being in the lighthouse, an easterly gale set in,
  steadily increasing in force.... On Wednesday, the sixteenth, the
  gale had become a hurricane; and when at times the tower could be
  seen through the mists and sea-drift, it seemed to bend to the shock
  of the waves. At four o’clock that afternoon an ominous proof of the
  fury of the waves on Minot’s Ledge reached the shore—a platform which
  had been built between the piles only seven feet below the floor of
  the keeper’s room. The raging seas, then, were leaping fifty feet in
  the air. Would they reach ten feet higher?—for if so, the house and
  the keepers were doomed. Nevertheless, when darkness set in the light
  shone out as brilliantly as ever, but the gale seemed, if possible,
  then to increase. What agony those two men must have suffered! How
  that dreadful abode must have swayed in the irresistible hurricane,
  and trembled at each crashing sea! The poor unfortunates must have
  known that if those seas, leaping always higher and higher, ever
  reached their house, it would be flung down into the ocean, and they
  would be buried with it beneath the waves.


  To those hopeless, terrified watchers the entombing sea came at last.
  At one o’clock in the morning the lighthouse bell was heard by those
  on shore to give a mournful clang, and the light was extinguished. It
  was the funeral knell of two patient heroes.

  Next day there remained on the rock only eight jagged iron stumps.

Thus, everywhere, and in all latitudes, the beacons and wooden towers
and huge pyramids of long ago have given place to slender spires of
solid masonry, holding powerful signals perhaps hundreds of feet above
the waves, and visible as far as the curve of the earth’s surface
will permit. Yet in place of the sturdy bonfire of oak, or the huge
iron cage full of coals, there is only a single lamp, whose rays are
gathered by deep reflectors into a compact bundle of unwasted rays, and
doubled and redoubled by rows of magnifying lenses until they can dart
to the furthest horizon in a strong beam of steady light. No longer
does the mariner trust to his wife to kindle the tar-barrel to guide
him home. He knows that nowhere is his government more watchful of
its subjects than in its lighthouse service, and that he may trust to
having that bright signal to welcome him in the darkness, as well as he
can trust his own eyes to see it. The United States alone expends over
$2,500,000 annually in looking after her lighthouses, lightships, and


Indeed, these beacons have become so thickly planted that it has been
found necessary to distinguish between them in order to avoid mistaking
one for another. At first this was done by doubling, as in the case of
New York’s “Highland Lights,” or the twin lights of Thatcher’s Island
off Cape Ann, or even trebling them as at Nauset, on Cape Cod, but
now the display is made to vary. Thus some of them are simply fixed
white lights; some are white and revolve—the whole lantern on the
summit of the tower being turned on wheels by machinery, and the flame
disappears for a longer or shorter time; while others are white “flash”
lights, glancing only for an instant, and then lost for a few seconds,
or giving a long wink and then a short one with a space of darkness
between. Some lighthouses show a steady red light; others, alternate
red and white. By these colors and varying periods of appearance and
disappearance (noted on charts, and published by the government in a
general seaman’s guide called the “Coast Pilot”), navigators know which
light they are looking at when several are in sight. For daylight
recognition the towers may be painted half black and half white, or in
stripes or bands or spirals, like the big barber’s pole in front of St.
Augustine, Florida.

It is impossible here to describe in detail the beautiful machinery
by which the rays from the large but simple argand kerosene lamp are
condensed into a single beam and projected through the Fresnel system
of condensers and lenses, and by which the revolution and “flashing”
are effected. Petroleum has superseded all other oils for general use,
but electricity is now being extensively employed in the illumination
of coast lights, especially in France, where they are introducing new
principles, such as producing lightning-like flashes with a certain
recognized regularity, and waving stupendous search-light beams in
the sky, so that the approach to the coast may be seen when the land
and lighthouse themselves are still below the horizon. If you have an
opportunity to go into the lantern of a lighthouse, by all means take
advantage of it; and if you can be there when a storm is raging, or
when, on some misty night, the lantern is besieged by migrating birds,
you will never forget the scene.

On some especially dangerous—because hidden—shoals, reefs, or bars,
like those off Nantucket or the extreme point of Sandy Hook, it may be
out of the question or bad policy to erect a lighthouse. Here its place
is taken by anchoring a stout vessel, built to withstand the severest
weather, and arranged to carry lanterns at its mastheads.

These are called “lightships,” and they are manned by a crew of keepers
who have a very monotonous and uncomfortable time of it; yet in some
cases men have spent twenty years or more in the service.

The most desolate and dangerous lightship station is that of No. 1,
Nantucket. “Upon this tossing island, out of sight of land, exposed
to the fury of every tempest, and without a message from home during
all the stormy months of winter, and sometimes even longer, ten
men, braving the perils of wind and wave, and the worse terrors of
isolation, trim the lamps whose light warns thousands of vessels from
certain destruction, and hold themselves ready to save life when the
warning is vain.”

Seven years ago Mr. Gustav Kobbé, and the artist, William Taber, spent
several days on the lightship and gave a graphic account of the life
there, which I wish I were able to quote in full.

The anchorage is twenty-four miles out at sea beyond Sankaty head,
at the extremity of the shoals and rips which make all that space of
water beyond the visible coast of Nantucket fatal to ships, hundreds of
which are known to have been beaten to pieces on its treacherous bars.
She is moored to a 6500-pound mushroom anchor by a chain two inches in
thickness, yet she has been torn adrift twenty-three times, and has
wandered widely before returning or being overtaken.

“No. 1, Nantucket New South Shoals,” to quote Mr. Kobbé,

  is a schooner of two hundred and seventy-five tons, one hundred and
  three feet long, with twenty-four feet breadth of beam, and stanchly
  built of white and live oak. She has two hulls, the space between
  them being filled through holes at short intervals in the inner side
  of the bulwarks with salt.... She has fore-and-aft lantern-masts
  seventy-one feet high, including topmasts, and directly behind each
  of the lantern masts a mast for sails forty-two feet high. Forty-four
  feet up the lantern-masts are day-marks, reddish brown hoop-iron
  gratings, which enable other vessels to sight the lightship more
  readily. The lanterns are octagons of glass in copper frames five
  feet in diameter, four feet nine inches high, with the masts as
  centers. Each pane of glass is two feet long and two feet three
  inches high. There are eight lamps, burning a fixed white light, with
  parabolic reflectors in each lantern, which weighs, all told, about
  a ton. Some nine hundred gallons of oil are taken aboard for service
  during the year. The lanterns are lowered into houses built around
  the masts. The house around the main lantern-mast stands directly
  on the deck, while the foremast lantern-house is a heavily-timbered
  frame three feet high. This is to prevent its being washed away by
  the waves the vessel ships when she plunges into the wintry seas.
  When the lamps have been lighted and the roofs of the lantern-houses
  opened,—they work on hinges, and are raised by tackle,—the lanterns
  are hoisted by means of winches to a point about twenty-five feet
  from the deck. Were they to be hoisted higher they would make the
  ship top-heavy.


  A conspicuous object forward is the large fog-bell swung ten feet
  above the deck. The prevalence of fog makes life on the South Shoal
  Lightship especially dreary. During one season fifty-five days out of
  seventy were thick, and for twelve consecutive days and nights the
  bell was kept tolling at two-minute intervals.

The actual work to be done is small, the daily cleaning of the lamps
requiring only two or three hours, and other chores being very light,
and the men nearly die of loneliness and “nothing to do.” It is
pathetic to read how intense and friendly an interest they take in a
single red buoy anchored near them; and they admit that fog is dreaded
more because it hides this neighbor than for any other reason.

Mr. Kobbé tells us that the emotional stress under which this crew
labors can hardly be realized by any one who has not been through a
similar experience.

  The sailor on an ordinary ship has at least the inspiration of
  knowing that he is bound for somewhere; that in due time his vessel
  will be laid on her homeward course; that storm and fog are but
  incidents of the voyage: he is on a ship that leaps forward full of
  life and energy with every lash of the tempest. But no matter how
  the lightship may plunge and roll, no matter how strong the favoring
  gales may be, she is still anchored two miles southeast of the New
  South Shoal.


  Besides enduring the hardships incidental to their duties aboard the
  lightship, the South Shoal crew have done noble work in saving life.
  While the care of the lightship is considered of such importance to
  shipping that the crew are instructed not to expose themselves to
  dangers outside their special line of duty, and they would therefore
  have the fullest excuse for not risking their lives in rescuing
  others, they have never hesitated to do so. When, a few winters ago,
  the _City of Newcastle_ went ashore on one of the shoals near the
  lightship, and strained herself so badly that although she floated
  off, she soon filled and went down stern foremost, all hands,
  twenty-seven in number, were saved by the South Shoal crew and kept
  aboard of her over two weeks, until the story of the wreck was
  signaled to some passing vessel and the lighthouse tender took them
  off. This is the largest number saved at one time by the South Shoal,
  but the lightship crew have faced great danger on several other

This is, perhaps, the extreme picture of lightship life, but apart
from the prolonged isolation and continuous roughness of the water,
the experiences of the men off Sandy Hook and elsewhere are not
greatly removed from it, and no philanthropy is more worthy of support
than that which seeks to mitigate the loneliness of these exiles by
providing them with reading matter. The Lighthouse Board provides a
small circulating library for these ships, and contributions of books
and files of illustrated periodicals will be gratefully received and
put to good use by the Superintendent of the Lighthouse Service in

[Illustration: THE FOG-BELL.]

But there are times—and they occur very frequently in northern
waters—when fogs which no light can penetrate envelop sea and coast,
and that is the most dangerous of all times to an approaching ship.
The only means by which a warning can be given, in such an emergency,
is by sound. In many places bells are rung, but often the place to be
avoided is so situated that the roar of the surf would drown a bell’s
note, and then fog-horns are blown. These fog-horns are of a size so
immense, and voices so stentorian, that it requires a steam engine to
blow them, and they utter a booming, hollow blast, a dismal note as we
hear it when we are safe on the land, but sweet to the anxious captain
whose vessel is laboring through the gloom under close-reefed topsails,
and uncertain of her exact position. One kind of these horns is very
complicated in its structure, and screeches in a rough, broken blare,
a note far-reaching beyond any smooth, whistling sound that could be
made. This shriek is so hideous, so ear-splitting, when heard near at
hand, that no name bad enough to express it could be found; so its
inventors went to the other extreme, and called it a siren, after those
most enchanting of sweet singers who tried to entice Ulysses out of his
course. This name is opposite in a double sense, indeed, for the sirens
of old lured sailors to wreck, while our siren hoarsely bids them keep
off. Finally, buoys, which at first were simply tight casks, but now
are usually made of boiler-iron, are anchored on small reefs, to which
are hung bells, rung constantly by the tossing of their support; and on
other reefs buoys are fixed having a hollow cap so arranged that when a
big wave rushes over, it shuts in a body of air, under great and sudden
pressure, which can only escape through a whistle in the top of the
cap, uttering a long warning wail to tell its position.

It is in such times as this that the pilot comes out strong.

A pilot is a man who has made himself thoroughly acquainted with
certain waters where navigation is dangerous, and who is licensed
by some proper authority, after training and examination, to direct
vessels in safety in entering harbors or passing through other
intricate places. A ship-captain may be an excellent navigator, but
he is not expected to know every rock and sandbar crouching under the
waves, and all the twistings and turnings of the entrance and channel
of a foreign harbor, especially as these channels are subject to
constant change. In this country, indeed, although coasting-vessels may
refuse a pilot, the law will not permit captains coming from or bound
to a foreign port to do so; and if any accident happens when no pilot
is aboard the insurance money will not be paid, and the ship’s officers
may be punished.


Pilots, then, are important men and are able to charge very high prices
for their services (generally rated according to the draft of the
vessel), and their profession is so organized and guarded that not only
must a man be thoroughly competent, but he must wait for a vacancy in
the regular number before he will be admitted to their ranks.

Their method of work is very exciting. A dozen or so together will
form the crew of a trim, stanch schooner, provisioned for a fortnight
or more, which can outsail anything but a racing yacht, and is built
to ride safely through the highest seas. A few steamers are coming
into use, but the procedure is much the same. You will now and then
see one of these beautiful little vessels sailing up the quiet harbor,
threading its way through the black steamers and sputtering tug-boats
and great ships, as a shy and graceful girl walks among the guests at a
lawn party, and you know from its air as well as the big number on its
white mainsail that it is a pilot boat, even if it does not carry the
regular pilot-flag, which in the United States is simply the “union” or
starry canton of the ensign.


But these fine schooners and the brave men they carry are rarely in
port. Their time is spent far in the offing of the harbor, cruising
back and forth in wait for incoming ships, and the New York pilots
often go two and three hundred miles out to sea, and in storms may
be blown much farther away. Other pilot-boats are waiting also, and
the lookout at the reeling mast-head must keep the very keenest watch
upon the horizon. Suddenly he catches sight of a white speck which
his practised eye tells him is a ship’s top-sails, or of a blur upon
the sky that advertises a steamer’s approach. The schooner’s head is
instantly turned toward it, and all the canvas is crowded on that she
will bear, for away off at the right a second pilot-boat, well down, is
also seen to be aiming at the same point and trying hard to win.

The first pilots of New York harbor were stationed at Sandy Hook, and
visited incoming vessels in whale-boats; and many a stately British
frigate or colonial trader was forced to wait anxiously outside the
bar, rolling and tossing in the sea-way, or tacking hither and yon,
hoping for a glimpse of that tiny speck where flashing oars told of
the coming pilot. It is in this way, as the late Mr. J. O. Davidson,
the artist, who knew all about such things, told us in “St. Nicholas”
(January, 1890), that many vessels are still met, off some of our
smaller harbors, and at the mouth of the Mississippi River. There the
waters of the great river pouring into the Gulf of Mexico through the
Port Eads Jetties make a turbulent swell with foam-crested billows that
roll the stoutest ship’s gunwale under, even in calm weather; yet the
little whale-boats, swift and buoyant, dash out bravely in a race for
the sail on the distant horizon, for there are two pilot-stations at
the Jetties, and it is “first come first engaged.”

Sometimes, on the other hand, it is the ship that looks for the
pilot, cruising about with the code-letters P T flying from her
signal-halyards in token of her need. She may even run past a
pilot-boat in the night and get into danger without being aware of it.
To prevent this, says Mr. Davidson, the pilots burn what is known as a
“flare” or torch, consisting of a bunch of cotton or lamp-wick dipped
in turpentine, on the end of a short handle. It burns with a brilliant
flame, lighting up the sea for a great distance and throwing the sails
and number of the pilot-boat into strong relief against the darkness.
On a dark clear night, the reddish glare which the signal projects on
the clouds looks like distant heat lightning.

Having sighted his vessel, the pilot whose turn it is to go on duty
hurries below and packs the valise which contains such things as he
wishes to take home, for this is his method of going ashore; and when
he has departed, if he is the last one of the pilot-crew, the little
vessel returns herself to port in charge of the sailing-master, cook,
and “boy,” to refit and take on a new set of men.

The storm may be howling in the full force of the winter’s fury, and
the waves running “mountain-high,” but the pilot must get aboard by
some means. It is rough weather indeed when his mates cannot launch
their yawl and row him to where he can climb up the stranger’s side
with the aid of a friendly rope’s end.


Yet frequently this is out of the question. Then a “whip” is rigged
beyond the end of a lee yard-arm, carrying a rope rove through a
snatch-block, and having a noose at its end. The steamer slows her
engines, or the ship heaves to, and the pilot-schooner, under perfect
control, runs up under the lee of the big ship, as near as she dares
in the gale. Then, just at the right instant, a man on the ship’s
yard hurls the rope, it is caught by the schooner, the pilot slips one
leg through the bowline-noose, and a second afterward the schooner has
swept on and he is being hoisted up to the yard-arm, but generally
not in time to save himself a good ducking in the coaming of some big
roller. Going on shipboard in this fashion is not favorable to an
imposing effect; nevertheless, the pilot is welcomed by both crew and
passengers, who admire his courage and trust his skill, but smile at
the high hat beloved of all pilots.

Now the pilot is master—stands ahead of the captain even—and his
orders are absolute law. He inspects the vessel to form his opinion
of how she will behave, and then goes to the wheel or stands where
best he can give his orders to the steersman and to the men in the
fore-chains heaving the sounding lead. He must never abandon his post,
he must never lose his control of the ship, or make a mistake as to
its position in respect to the lee-shore, or fail to be equal to every
emergency. If it is too dark and foggy and stormy to see, he must feel;
and if he cannot do this he must have the faculty of going right by
intuition. To fail is to lose his reputation if not his life. This is
what is expected of pilots, and this is what they actually do in a
hundred cases, the full details of any one of which would make a long
and thrilling tale of adventurous fighting for life.

It is to help pilots and navigators of all sorts to avoid the perils
that beset them that governments not only spend large sums in surveying
coasts and harbors, publishing charts and descriptions, and maintaining
lighthouses and lightships, but mark out bars and channels with
floating guides, and their borders with shore-beacons and “ranges,” to
form so many finger-posts for the right road. Were it not for these
sign-posts no ship could safely enter any commercial harbor in the
world; and it will be valuable to quote somewhat from an article, with
capital illustrations, written for “St. Nicholas” (March, 1896) by an
officer of the United States Navy, Lieut. John M. Ellicott, since it
describes how the long, winding approaches to one of the greatest ports
of the world are marked out by day and by night—I mean the harbor of
New York.

  Suppose, then, that we are on a big transatlantic steamer approaching
  the United States from Europe.... Having secured his pilot, it is the
  captain’s next aim to make a “land-fall”—that is to say, he wishes to
  come in sight of some well-known object on shore, which, being marked
  down on his chart, will show him just where he is and how he must
  steer to find the entrance to the harbor.

  A special lighthouse is usually the object sought, and in approaching
  New York harbor it is customary for steamers from Europe to first
  find, or sight, Fire Island Lighthouse. This is on a sandy island
  near the coast of Long Island. When, therefore, the liner steams
  in sight of Fire Island Light she hoists two signals, one of which
  tells her name and the other the welfare of those on board. The
  operator then telegraphs to the ship’s agents in New York that she
  has been sighted, and that all on board are well or otherwise. [Other
  despatches go to the newspapers, who have observing stations and
  telegraph arrangements here and at Sandy Hook.]


  The ship’s course is then laid to reach the most prominent object at
  the harbor entrance, in this case Sandy Hook Lightship. She is easily
  recognized. The course from this lightship to the harbor entrance
  is laid down on the chart “west-northwest, one quarter west,” and,
  steering this course, a group of three buoys is reached. One is
  a large “nun,” or cone-shaped, buoy, painted black and white in
  vertical stripes; another has a triangular framework built on it, and
  in the top of this framework is a bell which tolls mournfully as the
  buoy is rocked; while the third is surmounted by a big whistle....
  These mark the point where ocean ends and harbor begins, and can be
  found in fair weather or in fog by their color and shape, or noise.
  They are the mid-channel buoys at the entrance to Gedney Channel, the
  deep-water entrance to New York harbor. Here it may be noted that
  mid-channel buoys in all harbors in the United States are painted
  black and white in vertical stripes, and, being in mid-channel,
  should be passed close to by all deep-draft vessels. At this point
  the pilot takes charge.

  Ahead the water seems now to be dotted in the most indiscriminate
  manner with buoys and beacons, and on the shores around the harbor,
  far and near, there seem to be almost a dozen lighthouses. If,
  however, you watch the buoys as the pilot steers the ship between
  them, you will soon see that all those passed on the right-hand side
  are _red_, and all on the left are _black_. Where more than one
  channel runs through the same harbor, the different channels are
  marked by buoys of different shapes. Principal channels are marked by
  “nun” buoys, secondary channels by “can” buoys, and minor channels by
  “spar” buoys.

  [Illustration: NUN BUOYS.]

  [Illustration: CAN BUOYS.]

  [Illustration: SPAR BUOYS.]

  Gedney Channel is a short, dredged lane leading over the outer bar,
  or barrier of sand, which lies between harbor and ocean. Its buoys
  are lighted at night by electricity, through submarine cables, the
  red ones with red lights, the black ones with white lights. Moreover,
  a little lighthouse off to the left, known as Sandy Hook Beacon,
  has in its lamp a red sector which throws a red beam just covering
  Gedney Channel. Thus this channel can be passed through in safety by
  night as well as by day. If it is night the pilot knows when he is
  through it by the change of color in Sandy Hook Beacon light from
  red to white. Then he looks away past that light to his left for
  two fixed white lights on the New Jersey shore and hillside, known
  as Point Comfort Beacon and Waackaack Beacon, for he knows that by
  keeping them in range, that is to say, in line with one another and
  himself, and by steering toward them he is in the main ship channel.
  By day the main ship channel buoys would guide him, as in Gedney
  Channel, but at night these buoys are not lighted.

  Only a short distance is now traversed when the ship comes to a point
  where two unseen channels meet. This is indicated by a buoy having
  a tall spindle, or “perch,” surmounted by a latticed square. From
  here, if she continues on her course, she will remain in the main
  ship-channel, which, although deeper, is a more circuitous route into
  port; so, if she does not draw too much water, she is turned somewhat
  to the right, and, leaving the buoy with the perch and square on her
  right, because it is red, she is steered between the buoys which mark
  Swash Channel. If it were night this channel would be revealed by two
  range-lights on the Staten Island shore and hillside, known as Elm
  Tree Beacon and New Dorp Beacon, both being steady-burning, white
  lights; but we are entering by daylight, and when half-way through
  Swash Channel we notice a buoy painted red and black in horizontal
  stripes. To this is given a wide berth by the pilot. It is an
  “obstruction” buoy marking a shoal spot or a wreck.

[Illustration: OBSTRUCTION BUOY.]

Channel buoys are all numbered in sequence from the sea inward, the
red ones with even, and the black ones with odd numbers, and the
larger ones are anchored with “mushrooms” while the smaller have
“sinkers” of iron or stone. They are made of iron plates in water-tight
compartments, so that if punctured by an over-running ship or some
other accident, they will not be likely to sink. In harbors where ice
forms in winter, large summer buoys are replaced in winter by a smaller
sort less liable to be torn adrift. Buoys do go adrift, however, now
and then, and sometimes take a voyage across the ocean or far down
the coast before they can be found by the tenders of the Lighthouse
Service, which is constantly looking after these and other marks.
Lieutenant Ellicott tells us that all changes in the position of buoys
or lightships, or the placing of new buoys to mark a change of channel,
or an obstruction, are published promptly in pamphlets called “Notices
to Mariners,” which are distributed as quickly as possible through well
organized means of communication. A few years ago one of the largest of
our handsome new cruisers was approaching New York harbor from the West
Indies in a light fog. Sandy Hook Lightship had been found, the usual
course laid for Gedney Channel, and the ship was steaming onward at
full speed, her captain, having been inspector of that very lighthouse
district but a short time before, feeling that he knew his way into
that port better than the most experienced pilot. Presently, however,
he was startled by the alarming cry of _breakers ahead_! A large hotel
also loomed up, and, as the ship was backed full speed astern, all
hands realized that they had barely escaped running high and dry on
Rockaway Beach. When the vessel got into port it was learned that Sandy
Hook Lightship had been moved considerably from its old position, and
that the notice of this change had failed to reach the captain of the
cruiser before he sailed from the West Indies.


Shipwrecks still occur, however, in spite of lighthouses and sirens
and buoys and coast-surveys; therefore we add to our precautions
arrangements to help those cast away. Societies to save wrecked persons
have existed, it is said, for many centuries in China, but in Europe
they are hardly a hundred years old. The early humane societies, like
that of Great Britain, placed life-boats and rescuing gear in certain
shore towns, and organized crews, who promised to go out to the aid of
any lost ship, and to take good care of the persons rescued.

In America, however, our coasts are so extensive, and so much of the
dangerous part of them is far away from villages, or even a farmhouse,
that the government has been obliged to do whatever was necessary. Thus
came about the Life Saving Service, which now has its stations close
together along our whole sea-coast, and upon the great lakes, covering
more than ten thousand miles in all.

Each of these stations is a snug house on the beach, tenanted by a
keeper and six men, all of whom are chosen for their skill in swimming,
and in handling a boat in the surf—something every man who “follows the
sea” cannot do successfully. Beaching a boat through surf is an art.


During all the season, from October till May, two men from each station
are incessantly patrolling the beach at night, each walking until he
meets the patrolman from the next station. No matter how foul the
weather, these watchmen are out until daylight looking for disasters.
The moment they discover a vessel ashore, or likely to become disabled,
they summon their companions and hasten to launch their boat. These
boats are of two kinds. On the lakes and on the steep Pacific coast
is used the very heavy English life-boat, fitted with masts and sails
if necessary, which a steam tug is required to tow to the scene of
the wreck, unless it is close in shore. But upon our flat, sandy
Atlantic beaches only a lighter kind of surf-boat, made of cedar,
can be handled. This is built with air-cases at each end and under
the thwarts, so that it cannot sink. The station men drag it on its
low wagon to the scene of its use, unless horses are to be had, and
when it is launched they sit at the six oars, each with his cork belt
buckled around him, and his eye fixed on the steersman, who stands in
the stern, ready to obey his slightest motion of command, for rowing
through the angry waves that dash themselves on a storm-beaten beach
is a matter requiring extraordinary skill and strength. Then, when the
vessel is reached, comes another struggle to avoid being struck and
crushed by the plunging ship, or the broken spars and rigging pounding
about the hull. But skill and caution generally enable the crew to
rescue the unfortunate castaways one by one, though frequently several
trips must be made, in each one of which every surfman risks his life,
and in many a sad case loses it; yet there is no lack of men for the


It is a common occurrence, however, that the sea will run so high that
no boat could possibly be launched. Then the only possibility of rescue
for the crew is by means of a line which shall bridge the space between
the ship and the land before the hull falls to pieces. We read in old
tales of wrecks of how some brave seaman would tie a light line around
his waist, and dare the dreadful waves, and the more dreadful undertow,
to save his comrades. If he got safely upon the beach, he drew a hawser
on shore and made it fast. Now we do not ask this; but with a small
cannon made for the purpose, a strong cord attached to a cannon-ball is
fired over the ship, even though it be several hundred yards distant.
Seizing this line as it falls across their vessel, the imperiled
sailors haul to themselves a larger line, called a “whip,” which they
fasten in a tackle-block in such a way that a still heavier cable can
be stretched between the wreck and the land and made fast.

Then by means of a small side-line and pulleys a double canvas bag,
shaped like a pair of knee-breeches, is sent back and forth between
the ship and the shore, bringing a man each time, until all are
saved. Should there be many persons on board, though, and great haste
necessary, instead of the breeches-buoy a small covered metallic boat,
called the life-car, is sent out, into which several persons may get
at once. These varied means are so skilfully employed, that now hardly
one in two hundred is lost of those whose lives are endangered on the
American coasts.




The grandest sea-chase is that after the whale—the most gigantic of
mammals, the most extraordinary in appearance and habits, and the most
valuable to man, for the capture of one may mean ten times as much
reward as the ivory of an elephant or the rarest otter-skin would
afford, and perhaps a hundred times as much, if ambergris be found
within its body.

Men have had the hardihood to chase these huge and often savage
creatures in their own turbulent element, and with the most primitive
weapons, ever since the art of navigation was acquired.

The Japanese and other Asiatics of the western shore of the North
Pacific have dared to go out in rowboats and attack the largest
whales since the origin of their traditions, and they had a method of
entangling these leviathans in nets, which must have produced exciting
scenes, as the monster struggled amid the bloody turmoil of waters to
free himself from the innumerable connected cords that embarrassed his
movements, rather than subdued his strength, until his life ebbed away
through a hundred wounds.

[Illustration: AN OLD WHALER.]

On the Alaskan coast, and southward as far as Oregon, the Indians, and
especially those of the Queen Charlotte Islands and the coasts of the
Strait of Juan de Fuca, were accustomed, hundreds, perhaps thousands
of years ago, to go far away into the ocean in their dug-out canoes,
searching for and spearing the whales with lances made of flint or
bone, having detachable barbed heads. These were attached to shafts by
rawhide lines, and to the shafts were attached buoys of large inflated
bladders. When the animal was struck, the heavy pole would drive the
lancehead through the skin and then fall off. The barbs would not only
hold the instrument there, but cause it to work deeper and deeper, and
the whale, darting away or diving, would be so impeded by dragging
the poles and buoys after him, that he would soon return to receive
other darts, and so, between loss of blood and exhaustion, would
ultimately be killed. It is extremely interesting to read the stories,
gathered by early travelers from the lips of the Indians,—old Haidas
or Makahs are living yet who have taken part in such nerve-testing
canoe-chases,—of their fights with this gigantic foe far from land, and
their hair’s-breadth escapes; and it is not strange that many quaint
ceremonies were devised to placate the waters and the power of the
whale-god in advance, and to honor the sea-hunters when they returned.

The Greenlanders and Eastern Eskimos do not seem to have been able
in their small skin boats to conquer the largest sort of whales, but
the smaller ones, such as the white whale, fell to their spears in a
similar way; and they took great pains to secure any dead or stranded
cetacean that came within their reach, the bones of which were as
valuable to them, in the absence of wood, as were the flesh, oil, and

The history of European whaling begins with the excursions of the
Basques, who, as long ago at least as the tenth century, were
accustomed to go out from their shore-towns in search of the southern
right whale which frequents the Bay of Biscay and its offing. Doubtless
their boats were small, half-decked, lugger-rigged “shyppes,” carrying
ten to fifteen men, and looking much like many of the Channel fishermen
of to-day. This “fishery” supplied all Europe during the Middle Ages
with the whalebone and oil which were among the luxuries of the rich at
that time; but by the time the sixteenth century had arrived, whales
had become so scarce in the Eastern Atlantic—where now they are almost
extinct—that this industry must have ceased had not the Cabots shown
the way to Newfoundland, to whose shores the Basques at once extended
their voyages with excellent results, for in those days whales were
commonly seen all along the American shore of the North Atlantic. But
this remote fishery would have been too precarious and costly to be
of great consequence had it not been for the early efforts, related
in Chapter V, to find a passage to the East north of the continents.
The earliest of these failed, but they brought back reports that the
edge of the frozen sea abounded in whales, and men rushed into this
newly discovered field of wealth, as, centuries later, they abandoned
everything in headlong haste to go to the gold-fields of California,
Australia, South Africa or the Yukon Valley.

The English did their best to monopolize the whale fishery at once, but
the Dutch sent war-vessels, and in a fleet action almost at the edge of
the ice in 1618 the Dutch conquered and opened the seas to all comers,
while separate districts on the coast of Spitzbergen were assigned to
each nationality. The English interest in the fishery declined, but the
Dutch increased their attention to it, taking over one thousand whales
each year. “About 1680,” we read, “they had two hundred and sixty
vessels and fourteen thousand seamen employed. Their fishery continued
to flourish on almost as extensive a scale until 1770, when it began
to decline, and finally, owing to the war, came to an end before the
end of the century.” The Germans were always associated with them, and
continued to send a whaling fleet to Barentz Sea and the Jan Mayen
waters until 1873. Meanwhile the Greenland whaling-grounds had begun to
attract British whalemen, followed by the Danes in the early part of
the last century; then this local industry fell off, but was revived
about 1800, remained prosperous for many years, and is still the
support of Peterhead and a few other Scotch ports.


The abundance of whales near the coast was one of the prime
inducements held out to colonists by North America, where whales
often appeared close to the shore, or in harbors, as occasionally they
do yet. Here, at first, whale-fishing was pursued wholly in rowboats
launched from the beach. Many shore towns owned whaleboats and gear,
each with its trained crew, and some kept a regular lookout, day by
day, whose duty it was promptly to announce the appearance of any whale
in the offing. Such was the case at Southampton, Long Island, for many
years, and even now, occasionally, the town-crew there rushes away
through the breakers after some stray visitor amid the excitement of
the whole neighborhood, but this happens only at intervals of several

Before the end of the seventeenth century, however, the people of
Nantucket Island were wont to cruise about the neighboring ocean for
right whales, their voyage lasting six weeks or so as a rule, and
now and then they would pick up a sperm whale. By the middle of the
eighteenth century, however, sperm whaling was no longer profitable
in the Northern Atlantic, while the Greenland grounds were overrun by
European ships. American fishermen therefore turned their attention to
the West, and for many years confined themselves mainly to catching the
sperm whale, finding at first their best “grounds” in the south-middle
Pacific. When the War of Independence came on, Nantucket was the
leading whaling-port of the country, but all the New England towns
were more or less engaged, and no less than three hundred and sixty
vessels, large and small, were out. The Revolutionary War nearly
destroyed the industry, and before it could well revive, the War of
1812 again subjected the whaling-ships to capture by English privateers
and men-of-war all over the world. After that, however, they spread
all over the Southern seas, and between 1840 and 1850 more than seven
hundred were flying the flag of the United States.

The whaling vessels were large, stanch craft, usually bark-rigged,
distinguished by their old-fashioned shape, weather-stained, smoky
appearance, enormous boats swinging from end to end of the ship from
lofty davits, and try-works forward. They kept longer than any one
else many relics of rigging, custom, and language, belonging to the
seamanship of earlier generations; and no sea-peril could daunt either
the vessel or its crew. They would sail on voyages lasting two or
three years, and sometimes would circumnavigate the globe and return
without having touched at a port. As a rule, however, they would gain
part of a cargo, and then go to some port, ship it to London or New
York, and refit for a new voyage. The profits of a trip were thus very
great sometimes, but other trips were attended only by expense and




The capture of whales in those days had more danger if not more
excitement than now, for the only method was by rowing after them,
helped by the sails, in the 28-foot, double-ended rowboats made for the
purpose (of which every vessel carried six or eight), and sinking into
their vitals darts and lances until they died. They were then towed
to the vessel’s side, held by tackle from the yard-arms in a suitable
position, and cut up. The oil in early days was packed in casks, but
later has been run into iron tanks built into the hold, after having
been tried out of the blubber in the great caldrons set in brick on the
forward deck, which gave a whaler so peculiar an appearance, at all
times, and would lead any one to suppose her on fire while the process
of trying-out was going on, and the great volumes of black smoke caused
by the use of whale-fat and waste as fuel were drifting to leeward.

One of the best accounts of a chase published is that by the late
Temple Brown, of the United States Fish Commission, in an article in
“The Century” for February, 1893, from which I am permitted to make an

  While cruising on the coast of New Zealand, one day about 11.30
  A. M., the lookout at the main hailed the deck with: “Thar sh’
  b-l-o-w-s! Thar sh’ b-l-o-w-s! Blows! B-l-o-w-s!”

  “Where away?” promptly responded the officer of the deck.

  “Four points off the lee bow! Blows sperm-whales! Blows! Blows!” came
  from aloft.

  “How far off?” shouted the captain, roused out of his cabin by the
  alarm, as his head and shoulders appeared above deck. “Where are they
  heading?” he continued, as he went up the rigging on all-fours.

  “Blows about two miles and a half off, sir,” replied Mr. Braxton,
  the mate, looking off the lee-bow with his glasses, “and coming to
  windward, I believe.”

  “Call all hands!” said the captain. “Haul up the mainsail, and back
  your main-yards. Hurry up there! Get your boats ready, Mr. Braxton!”

  At the first alarm the men came swarming up the companionway of the
  forecastle, divesting themselves of superfluous articles of clothing,
  and scattering them indiscriminately about the deck. Rolling up
  their trousers, and girding their loins with their leather belts,
  taking a double reef until supper-time, they flitted nervously
  here and there in their bare legs and feet, observing every order
  with the greatest alacrity, and holding themselves in readiness to
  go over the side of the vessel at the word of command. There is
  a certain order, systematic action, or red tape, observed on all
  first-class whaling-vessels, however imperfectly disciplined some of
  the boat-crews may be. The captain indicates the boats he wishes to
  attack the whales; the boat-header (an officer) and the boat-steerer
  (the harpooner) take their proper positions in the boat, the former
  at the stern and the latter at the bow, while suspended in the
  davits. At the proper moment the davit-tackles are run out by men on
  deck, and the boats drop with a lively splash; the sprightly oarsmen
  meantime leap the ship’s rail, and, swinging themselves down the
  side of the vessel, tumble promiscuously into the boats just about
  the time the latter strike the water. Although it may be said that
  there is a general scramble, there is not the least confusion. Every
  person and thing has the proper place assigned to it in a whaleboat;
  the officer has full command, but he is subject to the orders of the
  captain, who signals his instructions from the ship, usually by means
  of the light sails. The manner of going on to a whale, the number of
  men and their positions in the boat, and the kind of instruments and
  the manner of using them, have been perpetuated in this fishery for
  more than two centuries.

  “Clear away the larboard and bow boats!” shouted the captain. “Get in
  ahead of the whales, Mr. Braxton, if you can. Here, cook, you and
  cooper lend a hand there with them davy-taycles. Are you ready? Hoist
  and swing your boats.”

  Down went the larboard boat and the bow boat almost simultaneously.

  “Shove off! Up sail! Out oars! Pull ahead!” were the orders from
  Mr. Braxton, the officer of the larboard boat, in rapid succession.
  “Let’s get clear of the ship. Come, bear a hand with that sail, do,”
  he added, coaxingly, with his eye on the third mate’s boat. “Don’t
  let ’em get in ahead of us.”

  “All right, sir; here you go, sheet,” replied Vera, the harpooner,
  a well-developed and intelligent American-Portuguese, with his
  accustomed good spirits.

  Hastily laying aside his paddle, like a tiger couchant, with eager
  eyes upon his prey, he picked up his harpoon, and stood erect, his
  tall, muscular frame swaying above the head of the boat. He placed
  his thigh in the clumsy-cleat,—a contrivance to steady the harpooner
  against the motions of the waves,— and with his long, springy
  arms turned and balanced the harpoon-pole previous to poising the
  instrument in the air.... Under the motive power of sail and paddle
  the space between the boat and whale was rapidly diminishing, and
  apparently they would soon come into collision. The enormous head
  of the cetacean, as it plowed a wide furrow in the ocean, and the
  tall column of vapor rising from the blow-holes, as it spouted ten
  or twelve feet in the air, were to be seen right ahead; the expired
  air, as it rushed like steam from a valve, could be heard near by;
  the bunch of the neck and the hump were plainly visible as they rose
  and fell with the swell of the waves; and the terrible commotion of
  the troubled waters, fanned by the gigantic flukes, left a swath of
  foaming and dancing waves clearly outlined upon the surface of the

  Mr. Braxton laid the boat off gracefully to starboard, and the
  mastodonic head of a genuine spermaceti whale loomed up on our port
  bow. The junk was seamed and scarred with many a wound received in
  fierce and angry struggles for supremacy with individuals of its own
  species, or perhaps with the kraken; the foaming waters ran up and
  down the great shining black head, exposing from time to time the
  long, rakish under-jaw; but what small eyes!

  “Now!” shouted the officer, as if Vera was a half-mile off, instead
  of about twenty-five feet. “Give him some, boy! Give him—!” But his
  well-trained and faithful harpooner had already darted the harpoon
  into the glistening black skin just abaft the fin; the boat was
  enveloped in a foam-cloud—the “white water” of the whalemen, stirred
  up by the tremendous flukes of the whale.

  “Stern all!” shouted the officer; and the boat was quickly propelled
  backward by the oarsmen, to clear it from the whale. “Are you fast,

  “Fust iron in, sir; can’t tell second,” replied Vera; but the
  zip-zip-zip of the line as it fairly leaped from the tub and went
  spinning round the loggerhead and through the chocks, sending up
  a cloud of smoke produced by friction, indicated the presence of
  healthy game.

  “Wet line! wet line!” shouted Mr. Braxton, as he went forward to kill
  the whale, and Vera came aft to steer the boat, unstepping the mast
  on his way; for all whales are now struck under sail. The whale,
  however, soon turned flukes, and went head first to the depths below.
  Meantime, the other whales had taken the alarm, and with their noses
  in the air, were showing a “clean pair of heels” to windward.

  The boat lay by awaiting the “rising” of the cetacean. Twenty minutes
  passed, twenty-five, stroke-oarsman began to feel hungry; thirty,
  thirty-five, and still the line was either slowly running out or
  taut; but soon it began to slacken. “Haul line! haul line!” said
  the officer, peering into the water. “He’s stopped.” The line was
  retrieved as fast as possible and carefully laid in loose coils on
  the after platform. “Haul line, he’s coming! Coil line clear, Vera!”
  said Mr. Braxton, shading his eyes with his hand and looking over the
  gunwale at an immense opaque spot beginning to outline itself in the
  depths below.




  “Look out! Here he comes! Stern all! Look out for whale!”

  But the mate’s injunctions were received too late. The whale, fairly
  out of breath, came up with a bound and a puff, scattering the water
  in all directions, and catching the keel of the boat on the bunch of
  its neck. The boat bounded from this part of the whale’s anatomy to
  the hump, and, careening to starboard, shot the crew first on the
  whale’s side and then into the water. The stroke-oarsman now began
  to feel wet. The whale, terrified beyond measure by the tickling
  sensation of the little thirty-foot boat creeping down its back,
  caught the frail cedar craft on one corner of its flukes, and tossed
  it gracefully, but perhaps not intentionally, into the air, as one
  would play with a light rubber ball. As the boat descended, with one
  tremendous “side wipe” of the mighty caudal fin, and with a terrible
  crash that was heard on the ship nearly two miles away, the whale
  smashed it into kindling-wood.

[Illustration: A WHALE-BOAT CUT IN TWO.]

This is only one of the exciting tales Mr. Brown has to tell, and the
history of whaling in every country could add many more. He tells us
that approaching a whale at all times is like going into battle, and
says that many of the deeds remembered by old hands were purely heroic,
since the danger might have been avoided by declining to attack the
animal under the especially hazardous conditions that often present

The persecution suffered by whales of all kinds in all parts of the
world made the more valuable kinds so scarce by the middle of the
present century that many voyages were almost fruitless, not only by
reason of small catches, but because the substitutes invented for
whalebone, and the constantly increasing use of mineral oils had
lowered prices to an almost ruinous level. The American fleets suffered
with the rest, until during the Civil War they were nearly swept from
the seas by the ravages of the _Shenandoah_ and other Confederate

Since then there has been only a partial revival, accompanied by a good
many changes. A few Scotch and German whalers still go to the northern
seas, working in the ice, and some American vessels from the Eastern
States, and a greater number from California search the Pacific and
the waters off Alaska. All or nearly all of these whalers are provided
with steam-propellers, having an arrangement by which they can lift the
screw out of water and use their sails for ordinary purposes. Many of
them chase with a steam-launch instead of the old-fashioned whaleboats,
and save their men the back-straining labor of towing a prize perhaps
two or three miles to the ship. In place of the hand harpoon they have
several forms of swivel-guns and shoulder-guns discharging harpoons and
explosive darts by gunpowder, so that a large share of the danger as
well as the labor is saved to modern whalemen, who are also much better
housed and fed in their large iron steamships than those used to be who
wrestled with scurvy in the grim old hulks of half a century ago.

The ships that go up through Davis Straits now frequently winter
there, in order to be on hand in May to meet the whales that appear in
the first open water, to which the men drag their boats over the ice
between their ships and the first open channels. For the same purpose
many vessels of the American fleet are accustomed to pass the winter in
company under the shelter of islands near the mouth of the Mackenzie
River. Here they have a rendezvous where buildings have been erected
and means for social comfort have been established, such as billiard
tables, books, etc. These western vessels do not force their way into
and through the ice, as do those among the eastern archipelagoes,
but operate in comparatively open water, as long as it lasts, along
the edge of the paleocrystic ice. Delaying the departure of those
who mean to return to the Pacific and home until the last moment, it
occasionally happens that some are caught and frozen in. These are
usually destroyed, but thus far their crews have managed to escape
either to more fortunate vessels or to the shore, where, at Point
Barrow, the government has built and keeps furnished a strong house,
with stores, fuel, and provisions, as a refuge for shipwrecked mariners.

Walrus-hunting is not much followed nowadays by civilized seamen,
though the animal is still of great value to the Eskimo and Siberians.
It has become very scarce in easily accessible waters, but is
occasionally taken by whalers, who find a market for the ivory of its

Sealing is an industry which still claims considerable attention from
the Scandinavians and Scotchmen who go to the coasts and waters about
Spitzbergen, Jan Mayen, and Greenland, as well as to nearer resorts,
in pursuit of several species yielding oil and valuable hides; and in
the North Pacific the pursuit of the fur seal still occupies many small
vessels, but seems likely to come soon to an end. Antarctic seals are
practically extinct.

The industry of fishing is probably one of the oldest in the world,
and it remains among the most important, for the fisheries not only
furnish a vast amount of nutritious and pleasant, yet remarkably cheap,
food, but many other things useful to mankind. Hence it is not strange
to find that in all the early reports of the discovery of new lands
and waters that followed one another so rapidly from the fourteenth to
the eighteenth centuries, the fish and other sea-animals to be found
were always given a prominent place in the list of valuable assets
pertaining to each locality. Even the Spaniards and Portuguese, in
their insane rush for gold and silver, to the neglect and ruin of
everything else, had to pay some little attention to fishing and allied
industries in both the East and West Indies; while in the case of the
exploitations of new regions by the calmer, more prudent people of
western Europe—the British, French, Dutch and Scandinavians,—the value
of the harvest of the sea was really more in view, at first, than that
of the land, at least when they began to visit and colonize North
America. Take, as an example, the history of St. Pierre, Miquelon, and
the others that form a group of islets in the Gulf of Newfoundland,
half way between Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. Mr. S. G.
W. Benjamin, in whose “Cruise of the _Alice May_” you may find many
interesting and picturesque materials for an account of them, tells
us a French settlement was begun on St. Pierre as early as 1604, and
that tradition says the islands were resorted to by the Basques two
centuries before that, as is very likely true.

  In 1713 the colony numbered three thousand souls, and had become a
  very important fishing port. In that very year St. Pierre was ceded
  to Great Britain, together with Newfoundland, the French being merely
  allowed permission to dry their fish on the adjacent shores. But when
  the victory of Wolfe resulted in the loss of Canada to France, she
  was once more awarded this little group of isles lying off Fortune
  Bay, to serve as a depot for her fishermen. The French now gave
  themselves in earnest to developing the cod-fisheries, determined,
  apparently, that what they had lost on land should be made up by the
  sea. In twelve years the average exportation of fish amounted to six
  thousand quintals, giving employment to over two hundred smacks,
  sailed by eight thousand seamen. The English recaptured the isles
  in 1778, destroyed all the stages and store-houses, and forced the
  inhabitants to go into exile. The peace of Versailles restored St.
  Pierre to France in 1783, and the fugitives returned to the island
  at the royal expense. The fisheries now became more prosperous than
  ever, when the war of ’93 once more brought the English fleets to
  St. Pierre. Again the inhabitants were forced to fly. By the peace
  of Amiens, in 1802, France regained possession of this singularly
  evanescent possession, and lost it the following year, when the town
  was destroyed. In 1816 St. Pierre and Miquelon were finally re-ceded
  to France, in whose power they have ever since remained.

[Illustration: CURING FISH AT ST. PIERRE.]

As these islands were of no use to any one for any other purpose, all
this struggle for their possession was in order to retain the privilege
and naval control of fishing in those waters. The French government has
carefully fostered this interest ever since, and now the islands not
only have a settled population of several thousand, but at the height
of the season sometimes as many as ten thousand strangers (sailors and
fishermen) congregate at the principal port, St. Pierre, which is one
of the most important centers in the world for the marketing, curing,
and export of sea-caught fish.

Of all waters those of the North Atlantic seem to excel in useful
fishes; from the oil-shark hand-lining off the coast of Lapland, or the
sardine-catching of Spain, to Yankee sword-fishing, this ocean is alive
with fish and fishermen, on both sides and at all seasons of the year.

The whole coast of Norway supports this industry, especially around the
far northern Lafoden Islands. The North Sea, shallow and cold, is the
home of many valuable species that are sought by extensive fleets from
Denmark, Holland, and the north of France, while thousands of British
sailors make a living along their own eastern coasts and among the
islands north of Scotland; but the waters on all sides of the British
Isles are fishing waters, especially the English and Irish channels
and the western lochs of Scotland; the herring-catch alone is worth
eight and a half millions of dollars a year, while Great Britain’s
mackerel-catch amounts to two millions, and her share of the codfishery
to another two millions. Nearly half of all the products of British
fisheries are obtained by the use of the beam-trawl—a huge dredge-like
bag-net, handled and towed by steamers in pretty deep water, which
scoops in everything near the bottom, where the most desirable
sea-fishes stay. Among the prizes are the turbot and sole—toothsome and
valuable species not known along American shores.

More southerly are the profitable fisheries for pilchards, sprats, and
especially sardines—little fishes taken in vast numbers and canned or
preserved in various ways. The abundance of sardines, a recent writer
tells us, may be inferred from the fact that the Spanish fishermen
take annually about one hundred thousand tons of these little fishes,
having a value of from $400,000 to $600,000. A peculiar method of
capturing the sardines at night prevails in the Adriatic. The location
of the shoals of fish is literally felt out by a light sounding-line,
and by means of the attraction of a fire of resinous pine the fish are
slowly coaxed into some creek or estuary and surrounded with a seine.
The demand for wood for use in this and other night fisheries causes a
serious drain on the neighboring pine-forests.

The _great_ fishery of the Mediterranean, however, is that for
tunnies—huge fishes allied to mackerel, sometimes weighing several
hundredweight, and regarded in America as poor food. They have been
taken by means of pounds and strong enclosing nets ever since classical
antiquity, and preserved tunny flesh is still popular in Spain, Italy,
and North Africa, while the same fish is the object of one of the
principal sea-industries of Japan.

But important as are the catching, preserving, and utilization of
these and many other European fishes, they are far outranked by the
marine fisheries for the cod and its relatives, the halibut, haddock,
hake, etc., in waters about Newfoundland, Labrador, and Iceland, where
also great quantities of mackerel, herring, and other food fishes
are regularly obtained. The principal grounds are on the Banks of
Newfoundland, which have been resorted to for more than three hundred
years by men from both continents.


The Banks of Newfoundland are a series of shoals—submerged islands,
in fact—which lie off the northeastern coast of America from Cape Cod
to the farther end of Newfoundland. The shallowness of the water over
them makes them advantageous places for fishing, because many of the
species caught remain near the bottom, and in deep water are therefore
beyond convenient reach. It is possible, also, to anchor there—often a

But just here are presented some of the worst perils to which fishermen
are exposed. Nowhere are old ocean’s storms worse than on these Banks,
where the sand is sometimes stirred five hundred feet below the
surface. The best fishing comes in winter—the season of the heaviest
gales. The vessels must anchor close together, too, for the areas of
good fishing are small, and if one breaks its hawser, or the anchor
drags, there is great danger of drifting afoul of some neighbor, which
is likely to end in the destruction of both. Then there is ever present
the danger, in these latitudes of almost ceaseless fog, of being run
down by the transatlantic steamers, in whose track the fishing fleets
must anchor. The skipper keeps his bell tolling, or a great horn
blowing, but if a steamer comes down the wind her lookout will hardly
be able to hear it before it is too late to stop or change the course
of the monster rushing at full speed through the thickness of mist and
flying spray. “Before anything can be done the relentless iron prow
cuts into the schooner, which for a moment quivers and then disappears
into the depths.... One of these great iron ships might cut the bows
off a fishing schooner of sixty or eighty tons and not, perhaps,
experience a sufficient shock to alarm the passengers sleeping calmly
in their staterooms.”

The vessels which go upon this perilous quest are the stanchest,
swiftest, and withal handsomest little vessels that sail our seas.
Their rig is adapted to this purpose, and spreads almost as much canvas
as a racing-yacht, which, in fact, on this side of the Atlantic has
been modeled from Banks fishermen. The best of them probably are those
hailing from Gloucester, Mass., and these are never used for any other

The old-fashioned hand-line fishing, such as still holds a place in the
mackerel fisheries—although even there it has given way in most vessels
to purse-netting,—is no longer practised in the American codfishery,
which now uses the trawl-line altogether, by which the men have added
to the hardship and danger of their adventurous life as well as to its

This trawl is not a huge dredge as is the beam-trawl of the North
Sea fishermen, from which it has unfortunately copied its name, but
is a strong rope between three and four hundred feet long, having at
each end an anchor and a flag-buoy. It is so arranged that when it is
stretched out and anchored the line will be several fathoms beneath the
surface. To this line, at intervals of six feet or so, are hung short
lines, each carrying a stout hook. When the fishing-ground has been
reached, the captain anchors his vessel, or, if the weather permits, he
sails gently to and fro. Previously, six trawls have been baited with
clams brought from home, and one put in each of the six small boats
which the vessel carries. Two men now put off in each of these boats
and anchor the trawls at convenient distances from each other, in such
a way that the trawl-line, with its fringe of hooks, shall be stretched
taut and at the proper depth. How long they stay down depends on the
weather—five or six hours, or from evening until morning, is the usual
period. Then the men go out, and taking up the anchors at one end, haul
each trawl into the boat, coiling it in the bottom and taking off the
hooks each captive fish as fast as they come to it.


Simple as this sounds, it is terribly hard work. The trawls are heavy
and stiff, and armed with dangerously sharp hooks. The busiest season
is midwinter, and no dread of cold or danger must stop the fisherman,
who boldly ventures in his little dory into the teeth of a howling
snow-storm and fast increasing gale, piling the water “mountain-high”
about him and encasing his body in a sheet of icy spray; this must
he do, in spite of discomfort and the imminent risk of death, if he
would save from destruction his valuable trawls and the booty they may
have hooked for him. A fine day on the Banks of Newfoundland is a rare
thing; fog and snow and icy gales are the rule, and only the boldest
courage, endurance, and skill will enable a man to resist that ocean
and wrest from it his self-support. A vivid picture of the hardships
and dangers of fishing on the Banks is to be found in Rudyard Kipling’s
story, “Captains Courageous.”

The intrepid and skilful voyages of our whalers and fishermen, daring
every fatigue and danger in the open sea, have been schools for the
best seamen of the world. Every nation is glad to draw these sailors
into their navies, and it is they who make the bravest yet most
cautious captains of our merchant marine, showing to their comrades
and to landsmen splendid examples of heroism and fortitude. _This_ is
the schooling I meant when I said that in its industries we get not
only food, but formation of character, from old Ocean,—and this is the
highest result attainable from either land or sea.

[Illustration: shipwreck]



The ocean was the home of the first living thing, either plant or
animal, that appeared on our planet; seaweeds and salt-water animals
are found in much older rocks than any that contain the fossils of land
life. Moreover, though called a “wide waste of waters,” and seeming a
complete desert as we gaze upon its restless surface on a dull morning,
there is a greater number of animals and plants by count, and quite
as large a variety, under the waves as above them, and the bottom of
the sea—at all events near its margin—is more populous than any bit of
woods you ever saw.

There exists in our ponds and ditches a race of plants so minute
that it requires a powerful microscope to examine them. Under this
instrument it is seen that they have delicate, flinty shells or armor,
which is of a great variety of forms,—coiled, globular, boat-shaped,
spindle-like, and so on,—and always beautifully sculptured. These
minute and beautiful diatoms, as they are called, move about freely,
and were long supposed to be animals; now they are known to be the
simplest of seaweeds, consisting of only one cell. Since life first
began, these diatoms, and other microscopic plants much like them, have
swarmed not only in the fresh waters, but in all the oceans of the
globe, furnishing food for mollusks and all the lowly animals whose
food is brought into their mouths by the currents. Innumerable, and as
wide-spread as the salt water itself, every one of these myriads of
minute plants has left a record; for its delicate, glass-like shell
was indestructible, and when the bit of life was lost, it sank slowly
down to the bottom. What effect toward perceptible sediment could come
from a thing so small that it would scarcely be felt in your eye? One
or two, or even a million, would go for little; but century after
century, through ages too long for us to comprehend, a steady rain of
these exquisitely engraved particles of flint showered down upon the
still sea-floor, almost as thickly as you have seen motes in a sunbeam,
until there was deposited a layer, many feet in thickness, of nothing
but diatom-skeletons. Though this went on to a greater or less extent
everywhere in the sea, such deposits are not now to be discovered
everywhere, because disturbing causes swept the shells away, or broke
up the floor after it had been laid down; but in various parts of the
world to-day, you may find wide beds of rock made up wholly of such
skeletons, soldered together into hard stone; while in some regions the
mud of our sea-bottom appears to consist of almost nothing else. The
mighty chalk cliffs of Great Britain and the French coast were built up
in precisely this way at the bottom of an ancient sea, whence they have
been lifted, but they are composed of much besides diatoms.

From the simplicity of diatoms the vegetation of the sea can be traced
upward through larger and more complicated kinds of plants until
we reach the enormous algæ that break the gloom of black headlands
by their brilliant tints, and furnish a lurking-place under their
wide-spreading and dense foliage for hosts of marine animals—some
hiding for safety, others to watch for prey.

Seaweeds grow in all latitudes, even close to the pole, but mainly
along the shore, for below the depth of about one hundred fathoms none
but microscopic forms are known. These latter float about, of course,
and many of them have been thought to be animals because they seem able
to move at their own will. They come to the surface as well as haunt
the depths; and the Red Sea takes its name from the fact that a minute
carmine-tinted alga occasionally rises to the surface in throngs so
dense and wide as to tinge the water for miles at a stretch. The same
thing occurs in the Pacific, where the sailors call it “sea-sawdust.”

The proper home of the seaweed, however, is a rocky shore between
tide-marks or just below them, and it is because the eastern coast
of the United States is deficient in rocks—at least south of Cape
Cod—that this is poor in algæ, compared with other regions. The seaweed
has no roots, and only clings to the rock for support; shifting sand
therefore would not hold it, and there are great sandy deserts under
the ocean, bare of algæ, as some land regions are sandy deserts naked
of terrestrial plants.

It often happens, however, that masses of weed will be torn away from
their moorings and set adrift. This does not necessarily kill them,
for they go on flourishing while afloat, and such is supposed to be
the origin of those great areas of “gulfweed” vegetation in mid-ocean
called “sargasso seas.” You will remember that a branch of the Gulf
Stream, striking over toward the Moorish coast of Africa, is turned
southward there, and sweeps down to the equator, then westward again,
circumscribing a broad region in the middle Atlantic whose only
currents go round and round in a slow whirlpool; and here it is that
the gulfweed concentrates in masses sometimes dense enough to impede
the progress of a ship—Columbus reported among the wonders of his first
voyage the trouble he had in sailing through it—and covering an area
between the Azores and the Bahamas as large as the Mississippi valley.
This is the Sargasso Sea ordinarily referred to in books, but it is not
the only one. A thousand miles west of San Francisco there is a similar
collection of floating plants, and others exist under like conditions
in the southern oceans.


These floating meadows, as it were, are chosen as the abode of a
long list of animals that rarely quit the safety and plenty of their
precincts. Among these are innumerable pretty jelly-fishes, sea-worms,
and mollusks without shells, which cling to the buoyant plants, and
perhaps feed solely upon them. Here are to be had in abundance the
fairy-like, rare pteropods, the richly purple janthinas towing their
curious rafts of eggs, and no end of small crabs. Here a small fish,
something like a perch, spends his whole time building a nest like a
bird’s in the tangled weed-masses, and carefully guarding his treasures
against the large marauding fishes that haunt the place to the dread
of its peaceful inhabitants; and here those far-flying birds, the
wandering albatross and the petrels, hover about in search of something
to capture and eat. The Sargasso Sea is an extremely interesting part
of the ocean, except to the luckless sailor becalmed and balked in its
midst, as was Sir John Hawkins when he penned the following quaint
observations, some three centuries ago:

  Were it not for the Moving of the Sea, by the Force of Winds, Tides
  and Currents, it would corrupt all the World. The Experience of
  which I Saw _Anno_ 1590, lying with a Fleet about the Islands of
  Azores, almost Six Months, the greatest Part of the time we were
  becalmed, with which all the Sea became so replenished with several
  sorts of Gellies and Forms of Serpents, Adders and Snakes, as seem’d
  Wonderful; some green, some black, some yellow, some white, some of
  divers Colours, many of them had Life, and some there were a Yard &
  a half, & some two Yards long; which had I not seen, I could hardly
  have believed.

[Illustration: A PIECE OF GULFWEED.

It is inhabited by two sea-slugs, protected by their resemblance to its
leaflets, and by small crustaceans, hydroids, etc.]

In favorable places a surprising variety of seaweeds can be picked out,
and books exist by which you may learn the method of classification
and names of the different species, the chief of which, for America,
is Harvey’s splendid work, published by the Smithsonian Institution.
Not only in the shape and colors of the _fronds_ (as the leaf-like
expansions or branching tufts of the stem are called) do seaweeds
differ greatly among themselves, but in size, varying from many
diminutive or even microscopic sorts to the cable-like growths of
California, which would measure a quarter of a mile in length if
stretched out.

Algæ, as I have said, constitute, with very few exceptions, the whole
vegetation of the salt water, together with a large part of the
vegetation in fresh water; and they serve the same useful purpose there
that land-plants do for the dry parts of the globe, continually making
and throwing off the oxygen which is necessary to keep the water as
well as the air pure. To this end they do a very important work.

This is not the whole of their service in ocean matters, however. I
think it may be said that if it were not for seaweeds animals could not
live in the ocean, as truthfully as that if it were not for herbage no
animals would be able to exist on land. Seaweeds are fed upon directly
by all sorts of salt-water life, from mollusks as big as your thumb
to turtles the size of a dining-table, and they make a shelter for
thousands of little fellows who never leave their shadow.

But this is a small part of the story. The diatoms, and other minute
plants like them, form the main portion, if not all, of the food of
a large number of sponges, polyps, mollusks, and other stationary,
sluggish creatures, that otherwise, so far as I see, would not be able
to live at all. These, in turn, are fed upon by larger predaceous
animals. Thus, though the fishes and cetaceans may never bite a seaweed
themselves (those large marine herbivores, the manatee and dugongs,
subsist almost wholly upon it, however), they depend for food upon
creatures that do. We may say, therefore, that the algæ form the basis
of all ocean life.

Men have been able to make marine plants of service to them also—a
resource more important formerly than now. In the last century, for
example, the kelp trade was the one great industry of the islands at
the west of Ireland and Scotland, employing thousands of persons, and
paying vast revenues to the lordly owners of the shores. Kelp is the
name of any large, leathery sort of seaweed, whose leaves float at or
near the surface, supported by bladder-like expansions; but in this
case the word meant the ashes of any seaweed dried in the sun and then
slowly burned in kilns, clouding the air with huge volumes of strongly
odorous smoke. The slow burning of the seaweed left the ashes fused
into a solid mass, which was broken up like stone before being sold. In
France this substance was called _varec_; and in Spain, where the algæ
were mixed with beach-plants, cultivated for the purpose, and burned in
shallow pits in the ground, it went to market as _barilla_.

In those days, kelp ash was the only source of the valuable alkali
soda needed in manufacturing glass and soap. Then a French chemist
discovered how to make such soda out of common salt, and the kelp
ovens were abandoned, except a few in Scotland, supplying the demand
for iodine and several other chemicals contained in this residuum which
is so rich in iodine, used in photography and in medicine, that a ton
of kelp ash will sometimes yield twenty pounds; yet only about 100,000
pounds are now produced in this way, while five times as much is
obtained by chemical treatment of Chile saltpeter. It is a curious fact
that barbarous people have long chewed seaweeds as a remedy in diseases
for which physicians now prescribe iodine. Iodine is a violet dye,
and the bluish and purple tints of many algæ, shells, and sea-animals
appear to be due to the large amount of this element in sea-water.

Seaweeds and other marine plants, like eel-grass, are collected in
great quantities by farmers in all parts of the world to be used as a
fertilizer. Shell-mud, dead fish, and other marine products are also
of high value as manure, on account of the large proportion of lime,
carbon, and soda which they contain. Indeed, there is a kind of seaweed
growing at great depths called the nullipore, which takes up so much
lime from the water that its substance becomes almost like stone, so
that the plant retains its shape and full size when dried. Some of
these nullipores are beautifully fan-shaped, scarlet or pink, and are
often seen in museums, marked _corallines_.

[Illustration: SEAWEEDS.

1. _Laminaria digitata._ 2. _L. longicruris._]

To return to the gathering of seaweeds by farmers, nowhere is it more
customary than in some parts of New England. Thus the well-known Second
Beach, just east of Newport, is in the fall of the year the scene of
a vast activity in this direction. “It may easily happen,” we are
told, “that the pilgrim to Whitehall, topping the hill on a brilliant
autumn morning, shall come upon a scene in which quiet plays no part.
The seaweed, that harvest which, ripening without labor, is neither
bought nor sold, is setting inshore under the urgings of wind and
tide, and scores of farmers have crowded to the spot to gather it.
An artist could hardly wish a better subject for his pencil than one
of these wild harvestings—the plunging horses, forced far out into
the surf, their slow return, half swimming, half wading, dragging
the heavily loaded rakes which leave behind them a long furrow of
foam, the heaped-up kelp glistening in the sunshine, the oxen, yoked
by fours, waiting for their load, the shouts of the men, the dash,
the excitement, and beyond and above all, the wonderful blues and
iridescent greens which are the peculiar property of Newport waters and
the Newport sky.”

Cattle and horses that are accustomed to rough pastures, like the
Scotch and Irish moors, eat seaweed and thrive on it, especially as
winter fodder, and from several species are derived dishes for our own
tables. The Irish moss, or carrageen,—which is not a moss at all, but
a seaweed,—is the most important of these, and grows on both sides of
the northern Atlantic. In England the market supply comes chiefly from
the western coast of Ireland, while Massachusetts Bay gives America all
that is wanted, principally the red, coral-like _Chondrus crispus_. The
little port of Scituate, Massachusetts, is the chief point of supply,
where many thousands of pounds are gathered. In early June, two or
three hundred men and women go to the rocks at low tide and pick off
the small brown plants, each man getting about a barrel in one day’s
work. When the tide rises, the people get into small boats and pull up
the moss with rakes.

The moss gathered each day is taken to the beach, where a gravelly
space has been prepared, and is spread out to lie bleaching during all
of the next day, when it is taken up, washed in tubs, and again spread
out. The washing and drying in the sun continue for seven days, by
which time it has bleached to a yellowish white. In cookery, jellies,
_blanc mange_, and various methods of boiling in milk and mixing in
soups are used to make it palatable. Besides being of value for food,
carrageen serves to make sizing used by paper-makers, cloth-printers,
hatters, and so on, to clarify beer in the brewery vats, as a medicine,
and to make bandoline for stiffening the hair.

Other species beside the Irish moss serve as food in Europe, generally
in a raw state, often proving the only salty relish which the Irish
peasant has to eat with his potatoes. One of these is the _dulse_
of the Scotch (the _dillisk_ of Ireland), which also abounds in the
Mediterranean, and is there made into a soup. The natives of the South
Sea Islands eat algæ, which are extraordinarily abundant and varied in
Oriental latitudes; and the poor among the Japanese and in the interior
of China, where the weed is sent dried, prize it especially, because it
has a sea flavor and saves salt, which with them is a costly luxury.
These people mix it with vegetables and other materials, to form
thick, delicious soups and dressings. A peculiarly bad-smelling sauce,
prepared from seaweed, is among the exports China sends to Europe as a

Along the shores from Japan to Sumatra grows an alga which the natives
of those coasts dry and keep as long as they please. When the substance
is wanted they steep some of the dried pieces in hot water, where the
weed dissolves, and then, having been taken off the fire, stiffens
into a glue which is said to be the strongest cement in the world.

A kind of false isinglass, also, is a product of the Eastern seaweeds,
and it not only enters into the pastry and confectionery of Chinese
bakers, but serves to varnish and glue thin paper and to stiffen the
light transparent gauzes of fine silk used in making Oriental screens,
fans, hangings, etc., so that painters can decorate them. With a poorer
quality the bamboo stretchers of paper umbrellas, lanterns, and various
toys are smeared to give them hard and polished surfaces.

Seaweed has also been used in the manufacture of paper, and its
complete success in this branch of industry is as yet hindered only
by the difficulty of perfect bleaching. Certain species of it are
utilized in enormous quantities by upholsterers as stuffing for sofas,
chairs, and mattresses; in Japan it is formed into a substitute for
window-glass; ornaments and small articles of use, like knife-handles,
are made by several nations out of large dried seaweeds; and, finally,
albums of preserved fronds are one of the prettiest things to be found
in a naturalist’s cabinet.

The great majority of seaweeds grow between tide-marks, and they
undoubtedly perform an important service in preventing the wear and
tear of the coast in many situations. Some, however, grow in much
deeper waters, and these, also, may serve as breakwaters of no mean
strength. Such is the case, for instance, at San Pedro, near Los
Angeles, California, where the abundant growth offshore forms such a
barrier to the ocean rollers as to turn the open roadstead into a calm
harbor within it.

This belongs to the group of gigantic kelps of which those at the
Falkland Islands and about Tierra del Fuego are other and noted
species. Were it not for the growth of this strong, cable-like, buoyant
plant, large numbers of other plants and sea-animals would find it
impossible to exist exposed to the violence of the South Pacific waves.
Sometimes the stems reach twelve hundred feet in length, and the
bladders by which the immense fronds are buoyed up are as big as kegs.

This gigantic seaweed is plentiful all along the Pacific coast of
America to Alaska, and the natives of our northwest coast used to make
extensive use of it in the way of ropes, etc. It was from this weed
that, by a careful preparation, they made the lines for their harpoons
and deep-sea fishing; and the bladders furnished them ready-made
receptacles for eulachon oil, for water for their seatrips, and for
other liquids.

A California correspondent of the New York “Evening Post” gave a pretty
picture, not long ago, of one of the kelp patches at St. Nicholas
Island, where the beds of this wonderful plant reach out for a mile
or more, growing up from the rocks below and forming an effectual
break; the seas losing their force in their effort to pass through the
submarine meshwork.

  The vines constitute a veritable forest, and, drifting over it in
  fifty or sixty feet of water, you may see a perfect maze of stems
  with broad leaves waving gracefully in the current, forming arbors,
  arches, and colonnades. Here, poised idly, in rich contrast to the
  olive-hued mass, may be seen fish of a bright golden color, others
  in tints of blue and green. The sea swell coming in causes an
  undulatory movement, and the long colonnades seem to melt one into
  another, reappearing in different shapes. When the leaves reach the
  surface, the shore wind, sweeping down from the hills, lifts them
  from the water, and they flutter in the air like mimic sails. Each
  leaf is a study. Many are encrusted with a delicate bryozoön, which
  presents the effect of white lace upon the surface, while a close
  inspection will reveal minute anemones, coiled tubular worms, which
  throw out flower-like organs of exquisite beauty; while flat shells
  lie among them, and crawling here and there are marvels of animal
  life, shell-less mollusks, which so mimic the weed that it is almost
  impossible to distinguish them.


  This protective feature is a characteristic of life among the kelp
  forests that line the entire Pacific shores of North and South
  America, many animals simulating it so perfectly in color that the
  best-trained eyes often fail to observe them. This is especially
  true of the crabs and shell-less mollusks. The latter have not only
  assumed the exact tint of the weed, but are often covered with
  barbels of flesh that simulate the tangles of the substance. Upon the
  backs of the crabs are singular markings in green and white, which
  so resemble the minute incrustations of the kelp that the resultant
  protection is complete. [Compare illustration on page 252.] Each vine
  is fastened to a stone, and the clinging roots shelter hordes of
  creatures of various kinds—deep-water crabs, octopods, starfishes,
  and a host of others.

[Illustration: A MARINE NATURALIST.]



The primitive idea of the ocean was that it was a vast desert, and a
strange disbelief in its being inhabited by more than the very few
forms that everybody was compelled to recognize persisted up to quite
modern times among those who should have known better. Pliny boldly
asserted, for example, that nothing remained in the Mediterranean Sea
unknown to him after he had made a list of 176 marine animals! But now
we know that the sea teems with living beings as densely as do the
fresh waters or the air. In it began the life of the globe, for the
fossil records of the rocks show that the first animals lived in the
ocean, and that ages passed before any of them began to people the
newly formed lands and breathe the atmosphere instead of the air in the
water; and, abundant as oceanic life now is, the paleozoic seas held
immensely greater hordes, of which many forms were giants as compared
with those of our day. Some of the old straight chambered shells were
twelve feet long; and I have seen fossil ammonites, extinct relatives
of our coiled pearly nautilus, which when alive must have been too
heavy for a man to lift. The fishes, too, could tell great stories of
the glory of their ancestors in size and strength and numbers. Some of
them wore solid coats of mail upon their heads, and could do battle
even with the huge swimming reptiles that were the dreaded tyrants of
the Mesozoic deep.

Life in the ocean in those old geologic days was a long guerrilla
warfare—every animal guarding against attack, and at the same time
watching sharply for an opportunity to seize and prey upon some weaker
companion. As for the foraminifers and other microscopic creatures,
they were countless, and their skeletons, singly invisible, have by
accumulation built up great masses of rock, like the chalk-beds of
England and France.

Though lessened in numbers and reduced in size, because the land has
gradually won over to its side many sorts of animals which in former
ages were exclusively confined to the water, and for other reasons, the
sea still holds its share of every “branch” and “class” (except birds,
and it may almost claim some of them, such as the albatross, penguins,
and petrels), and a majority of the “orders” of animal life. Glance at
the catalogue: Foraminifers, sponges, and polyps are chiefly confined
to salt water; starfishes, urchins (or sea-eggs), and the like, wholly
so: mollusks (next higher) are principally oceanic, and the majority
of the crabs inhabit salt water. Among the last-named one species, the
common horse-foot (_Limulus_) of our shores, remains as the solitary
representative of that immense and varied group, the trilobites, which
so crowded the Paleozoic sea-bottom that some rocks—for instance, the
limestones of Iowa—are packed almost as full of their fossils as is a
raisin-box of raisins.

None of the insects is truly marine, yet some of them are seafaring,
truly, for they spend their lives on drifting sea-wrack, or on beaches
just out of reach of the tides; but most of the true worms are dwellers
in the mud of sea-shores and sea-bottoms. No one knows of any land
fishes; but I need not tell you that fishes throng in the fresh waters
as well as in the salt, and that many species inhabit both at different

In respect to the reptiles, of which the ancient oceans contained
gigantic and horrid types, I do not know any now that are truly oceanic
except the turtles, if you leave out the “sea-serpent,” of which we
hear so many wonderful and not quite satisfactory tales. You will hear
of “sea-snakes” in the East Indies, but they are only certain kinds
of serpents which swim well, and pass the most of their time in the
salt water, as several species of our own country do in the rivers and
ponds; all the oriental sea-snakes are venomous.

It is in this manner, too, that we may count certain birds, such as the
petrels, auks, penguins, albatrosses, frigate-birds, and their kin,
as belonging to the ocean. They spend all their life flying over the
waves, seeking their food there, and some of them rarely go ashore,
except to lay their eggs and hatch their young on remote rocks, resting
and sleeping on the billows, when not busy at their hunting. In the
highest rank of all, however, the mammals, several families are natives
of the “great deep”—the whales, dolphins, and porpoises, the seals and
walruses, and the manatees and dugongs. But all these must come to the
surface to breathe, not having gills like fishes, but true lungs.

As it is only within the last thirty years that machinery suitable
for deep-sea dredging has been invented, so it is only lately that we
have been able to learn much as to the population of the ocean beneath
the surface layer and marginal shallows. Now by means of beam-trawls,
dredges, tangle-bars, etc., worked by steam-machinery on shipboard,
naturalists may scrape up the bottom-ooze and obtain living objects
or their bony relics at the depth of even 3000 to 4000 fathoms or more
than four miles, for living beings are found in these profound abysses.
Many scientific expeditions, such as those of the English exploring
steamer _Challenger_, about 1874, have carried out these dredging
investigations, and the United States Fish Commission possesses the
large, specially built, sea-going _Albatross_, provided with all the
necessary apparatus for deep-sea exploration. By means of these and
other vessels an enormous amount of study—all useful in ascertaining
the habits and methods of reproduction of food-fishes—has been carried
on by American marine naturalists.

It appears that as you go further and further from shore, and into
deeper and deeper water, the fewer animals and plants are obtained, and
that very few species indeed which live along shore are to be found
also at a depth greater than about 100 fathoms.


Almost all animals, moreover, have a limited distribution in the
sea, as is the case among those on land, though we cannot always, or
perhaps often, say why the limits we find should exist; one sort of
crab, or mollusk, or polyp, appearing _here_ and another different one
exclusively _there_, when the conditions seem to us very similar, and
no barrier is perceptible. It is not easy to explain why a certain
sort of cowry, for example, should be found only along a particular
strip of coast, when nothing that we can see prevents its extending
its range much further. It is believed that the _temperature_ of the
water is the chief fact which sets these invisible boundaries to the
wanderings of animals living near the surface, only a few of which are
very wide-spread in their distribution. The direction and character of
the ocean currents have much to do with the geographic distribution of
oceanic life, as has been mentioned in Chapter II (page 25).

Now in deep-sea life the case is different. Here temperature cannot be
of so much account, since only a short distance down, the water becomes
almost as cold as ice, and preserves this uniform chill all around
the globe. The life found at a great depth, too, is very wide-spread,
instead of restricted in its range, often occurring in two or more
ocean basins; but here the restriction is an up-and-down one, rather
than horizontal, and the secret is found in the word _pressure_. Few
animals are able to live both in the shallows and under the enormous
weight of sea water three or four miles deep.


This species (_Pelagia cyanella_) is a characteristic oceanic
discophorous medusa, common along the Atlantic coast of the United
States; it is semi-transparent and lustrous pink.]

This has recently (1897) been summed up very clearly by Prof. Arthur P.
Crouch, in an article in “The Nineteenth Century,” from which it will
be worth while to quote a paragraph or two:

  The conditions under which they [that is, deep-sea animals] have
  to live in the abysmal areas seem very unfavorable to animal
  existence. The temperature at the bottom of the ocean is nearly
  down to freezing-point, and sometimes actually below it. There is a
  total absence of light, as far as sunlight is concerned, and there
  is an enormous pressure, reckoned at about one ton to the square
  inch in every 1000 fathoms, which is 160 times greater than that of
  the atmosphere we live in. At 2500 fathoms the pressure is thirty
  times more powerful than the steam pressure of a locomotive when
  drawing a train.[7] As late as 1880 a leading zoölogist explained
  the existence of deep-sea animals at such depths by assuming that
  their bodies were composed of solids and liquids of great density,
  and contained no air. This, however, is not the case with deep-sea
  fish, which are provided with air-inflated swimming-bladders. If one
  of these fish, in full chase after its prey, happens to ascend beyond
  a certain level, its bladder becomes distended with the decreased
  pressure, and carries it, in spite of all its efforts, still higher
  in its course. In fact, members of this unfortunate class are liable
  to become victims to the unusual accident of falling upwards, and no
  doubt meet with a violent death soon after leaving their accustomed
  level, and long before their bodies reach the surface....

  The fauna of the deep sea—with a few exceptions hitherto only known
  as fossils—are new and specially modified forms of families and
  genera inhabiting shallow waters in modern times, and have been
  driven down to the depths of the ocean by their more powerful rivals
  in the battle of life, much as the ancient Britons were compelled
  to withdraw to the barren and inaccessible fastnesses of Wales.
  Some of their organs have undergone considerable modification in
  correspondence to the changed conditions of their new habitats. Thus
  down to 900 fathoms their eyes have generally become enlarged, to
  make the best of the faint light which may possibly penetrate there.
  After 1000 fathoms these organs are either still further enlarged or
  so greatly reduced that in some species they disappear altogether
  and are replaced by enormously long feelers. The only light at great
  depths which would enable large eyes to be of any service is the
  phosphorescence given out by deep-sea animals. We know that at the
  surface this light is often very powerful, and Sir Wyville Thomson
  has recorded one occasion on which the sea at night was “a perfect
  blaze of phosphorescence, so strong that lights and shadows were
  thrown on the sails and it was easy to read the smallest print.” It
  is thought possible by several naturalists that certain portions of
  the sea bottom may be as brilliantly illumined by this sort of light
  as the streets of a European city after sunset.



The large floating object is the phosphorescent, compound, oceanic
hydrozoan _Agalma elegans_, a physophore related to the jellyfishes.
Its tentacles trail over dead corals,—madrepore, brain-corals, etc.;
while the living reef beyond is crowned by branching corals, corallines
and seaweeds.]

One of the most striking examples of this vertical distribution, which
forms layers of animal life, as it were, in the ocean from the abysses
to the shallows, is shown by the coral-reefs. The foundations of these
polyp-built barriers or islands are laid by the millions of minute
individuals of one solid, heavy kind of coral which can flourish only
in pretty deep water. When these have reached their highest growth they
cease to propagate there, and a second kind comes and colonizes upon
the summit of this massive foundation and carries the work a little
farther up. Then these die off, and a third kind plants itself upon
their remains and carries the structure to the top, near the surface
of the sea, where many surface-corals, corallines, and various other
limy and flinty plants and animals help to erect a dry reef, upon which
land vegetation can find a root-hold, and where, after a while, men may
dwell. When these coral-built islands are ring-shaped they are called
_atolls_, and are believed to be living crowns about the summits of
submerged mountains.

Men make use of something in nearly every branch of ocean life, from
humblest to highest. The lowest of all, as I have already said, are the
foraminifers; it is their skeletons which make up our common chalk. A
close ally of theirs is the sponge, of which a dozen or so varieties
are sold in the shops. Sponges come chiefly from the Mediterranean,
the Persian and Ceylonese waters of the Indian Ocean, and from the
Gulf coast of Florida. In the Old World they are obtained chiefly
by diving. Men who are trained from boyhood to this work go out to
the sponge-ground in boats on fine days. Fastening a netting-bag
about their waists, and taking a heavy stone in their hands, they
dive head-foremost to the bottom,—often twelve or fifteen fathoms
below,—tear the sponges from the rocks, and rise with a bagful, to
be dragged almost utterly exhausted into their boat, often fainting
immediately after. This requires them to hold their breath under
the water for two minutes or more; but none but the most expert can
do that, and a diver does not live long. In Florida, however, the
sponge-gatherers do not dive, but go in ships to where the sponges
grow, and then cruise about in small boats, each of which contains
two men: one steers, while the other leans over the side searching
the bottom. In order to see it plainly, he has what he calls a
“water-glass”—a common wooden pail the bottom of which is glass.
Pressing this down into the water a few inches, he thrusts in his face,
and can then perceive everything on the bottom with great distinctness.
When he sees a sponge he thrusts down a long, stout pole, on the end of
which is a double hook, like a small pitchfork, set at right angles to
the handle, and drags up the captive.

The sponges, having been obtained, must be put through long operations
of rotting, beating, rinsing, drying, and bleaching before their
skeletons—the serviceable part—are fit for use. Only a few, however,
out of the large number of species of sponges have any commercial value.

The limy skeletons of the coral polyps form what we term “corals.” The
round white ones and the variously branching ones may come from any
one of several parts of the equatorial half of the globe, and are of
value chiefly as mantel ornaments. The red coral of which necklaces
and other bits of jewelry are made, especially at Naples, is procured
by divers about the shores of Sicily and Sardinia, and its gathering,
cutting and mounting into ornaments, form a flourishing industry in
southern Italy.

Rising in the zoölogical scale to starfishes and sea-urchins, I can
only say that the starfishes interest oystermen because they prey upon
their oysters, and the former often do enormous damage to planted
beds, especially in Long Island Sound. In the old days it was thought
that medicines made out of the “stars” and the “sea-eggs” were very
potent in certain diseases. The trepang—some one of several sorts
of holothurian, an elongated creature related to the starfish, and
covered with a prickly, leathery hide, so that it looks like a sort
of sea-cucumber—which is dried and eaten by the Chinese and Malayans,
belongs here too; considerable quantities of these queer food-creatures
are gathered by the Chinese along the coasts of Mexico, Southern
California and the outlying islands, and are sold in San Francisco
mainly for export to Asia. The sea-urchin itself is eagerly sought as
food by the Indians of the American northwest coast.

Coming to crustaceans—do we not eat crabs gladly, from the “shedder”
to the huge lobster? On the coast of Maine whole villages of sea-side
people get their support almost wholly by catching lobsters and canning
them to send abroad. In Virginia and North Carolina, at certain
seasons, hundreds of men are engaged in catching and shipping crabs
for market, and in Louisiana large factories are devoted to canning
shrimps, which are also extensively used as food in the Old World,
where they are cooked by parching or boiling, and sold by peddlers in
the streets.

This brings us to the mollusks, in our glance at the useful animals of
the ocean; and to prove _their_ importance, it is enough to remind the
reader that these include the “shell-fish” of our coasts—the oyster,
clam, mussel, scallop, cockle, and all the rest—not a few!

I found by my long study of the subject, when, in 1879 and 1880, I
was gathering statistics of the United States shell-fisheries for the
United States Fish Commission and the Tenth Census, that at that time
there were taken from our waters, of oysters alone, almost 23,000,000
bushels each year, worth to the oystermen about $13,500,000. During the
twenty years that have elapsed since that investigation—the figures of
which you may obtain in full in my Report to the Tenth Census upon the
Oyster Industries—these amounts have largely increased.

This business employs over 100,000 persons in this country alone; and
oysters, clams, and other shell-fish are gathered all round the globe,
forming one of the most important of all natural supplies of food. In
the most thickly populated parts of the world the natural supply of
oysters long ago ceased to suffice for the demand, and artificial
propagation and cultivation were resorted to and now prevail on both
sides of the North Atlantic, and to a less degree elsewhere.

[Illustration: STARFISHES AT HOME.

This is the common eastern American form (_Asterias vulgaris_) upper
and under views.]

The Romans, away back in the days of Horace, raised oysters in ponds
along the Italian coast, and Eastern nations preserved the custom
during the middle ages, when Europe was doing little except quarreling
and making pretty pictures on parchment. More recently the French of
the Channel coast took it up, and the English followed, finding that
their natural oyster and mussel beds were becoming exhausted. The same
fate has overtaken our oyster-beds everywhere north of the Chesapeake,
and largely there; so that now nearly all the oysters brought to market
are those which have been raised upon private planted beds, which men
own or lease and attend to as they do to estates on shore; indeed, it
is common to speak of such under-water estates as “farms.”

[Illustration: SEA-SHELLS IN THE SURF.]

An oyster-farm may be conducted in two ways. One is to place upon a
certain space of bottom, in some shallow bay, as many young oysters as
it will conveniently hold. These young oysters, generally hardly bigger
than your thumb-nail, are dredged in summer from certain reefs in deep
water, where the oysters are never allowed to grow to full size; and
to a large extent they are brought northward by the ship-load from
Maryland and Virginia, which have more “seed,” as it is called, than
they need for their own planting. These young oysters, protected from
harm, and having plenty of space to grow, come to a proper size for
market in about three years, and are then gathered by their owners and

Another method is to spread old shells, pebbles, etc., on the bottom,
to which the floating eggs emitted by adult oysters in the neighborhood
adhere. The thick “catch” of infant mollusks hatched from these captive
eggs is then taken up and respread in a more scattered way upon new
ground, and is allowed to grow to maturity. The oysters raised by
either of these methods are of better appearance and taste, as a rule,
than those that grow naturally, because each has room enough to perfect
its proportions.

[Illustration: MELEAGRINA.

_Meleagrina (Avicula) margaritifera._

_b._ byssal foramen or notch; _g._ suspensors of the gills.]

Mussels, clams of many varieties, and even sponges and peak-shells, are
also cultivated to some extent, each according to the plan its natural
habits make advisable. In this way certain great areas of favorable
ocean-bottom have become as valuable as the neighboring shore-land, or
even far more so, if you compare, acre for acre, the yield of the crops
below with those above the water-line.

But mollusks are useful in many other ways than as human food. As they
are known to be the principal food of several valuable fishes, enormous
quantities are devoted to baiting hooks in both hand-lining and
trawling for cod and similar commercial species. The quaint squids are
mollusks, and these are especially useful for bait in certain places
and seasons, and are taken in the North Atlantic in vast numbers for
that purpose.

The shells of mollusks are applied to a surprising variety of purposes,
from paving roads to making shirt-studs, while their natural beauty
has suggested their utilization as ornaments in a hundred ways. We
cut them up by the million into buttons and various small objects,
such as parasol handles, and polish and fashion them into all sorts
of knickknacks, thus giving employment to thousands of persons. Many
ship-loads of shells are brought to New York from the West Indies every
year for such purposes. I need not dwell upon this, but turn to the
interesting subject of pearls.

[Illustration: CASSIDIDÆ.

Helmet-shell (_Cassis flammea_).]

Mother-of-pearl is the bright inside surface, or _nacre_, of the large
oyster that gives us pearls, which are themselves composed of the same
substance formed in a nodule around some intruding substance, like a
grain of sand, which irritates the mollusk’s skin until it is made
smooth and comfortable by this iridescent coating.

Bivalves yielding this beautiful substance exist in various parts of
the world; but in America the only fishery for the pearl-oyster is in
the Gulf of California, and that is by no means as productive as it
used to be. The season for pearl-fishing on the Pacific coast of Mexico
is from June to December, but the diving can be done only in good
weather, and for about three hours at the time of low water, since the
tide there rises twenty feet, which would make a large dive of itself;
and, besides, the currents are troublesome during high water.

[Illustration: SCORPION-SHELL.

(_Pteroceras lambis._)]

At the right hour the Mexicans go out in their canoes, one man of
the four or five in each canoe paddling, while the rest scrutinize
the bottom. It may be rocky and weed-grown, but the water is clear,
and their practised eyes detect a single round oyster where you or I
certainly would overlook a dozen of them. Then down a man goes and
brings up his prize, with perhaps some additional ones. Sixty or eighty
feet is not too deep for these adventurous divers, who will stay a
whole minute upon the bottom. No food is eaten by these men on the day
they dive until their labor has been done.

Western Australia is another fruitful field for pearl-oysters, and
until a few years ago they were taken there by native blackfellows,
diving without weights or any other assistance in any water not more
than ten fathoms deep. The inshore shallows have now been so cleared of
shells that the only profitable industry is to go down in deep water
in diving-dress and make a thorough clean-up of each “patch” where the
shells seem numerous.

The divers find it an interesting and curious world where they
work, but one full of fright and peril. Some men who attempt it are
so unnerved that they will never make a second descent. None can
endure the practice long without ill health resulting; and the native
Australians will never enter a diver’s dress, declining to go down
where it is too deep to dive naked.

[Illustration: MITER-SHELLS.

_a._ _Mitra vulpecula._ _b._ _Mitra episcopalis._]

As for the dangers, drowning by some accident to the apparatus, or
through the stupidity of the boatmen above, is only one of them. The
warm waters in which these men work are the home of the largest and
most deadly sharks, and of various other submarine creatures one would
rather not meet in their own element. Of them all the sharks are most
to be dreaded, especially by the naked men. As a rule, however, they
are easily frightened away, or can be avoided by the clever swimmer,
who quickly stirs up the mud of the bottom, and rises in the fog before
the dull shark discovers that he has gone. East Indians are said to
fight sharks quite fearlessly, stabbing them with a knife as they roll
over preparatory to a close attack. I have read a story to the effect
that formerly the Mexican Indian divers on our western coast used
to take down with them a stick of hard wood about two feet long and
sharpened at both ends. When a shark was encountered from which they
could not readily escape, they would snatch this weapon from their
belts, grasp it in the middle, and thrust it dexterously crosswise
into the widely distended mouth of the monster, opened to seize them.
To shut down his jaws upon such a skewer would undoubtedly discomfit
a shark or anything else; but when one thinks of the time, nerve, and
sure aim it would require to accomplish this feat, he begins to doubt
whether it really ever was tried. I advise you, therefore, to prove the
story better than I have been able to do, before you pin _all_ your
faith to it.



An Australian pearl-diver, writing about this matter in “The Century”
magazine a few years ago, assures us that a fifteen-foot shark,
magnified by the water, and making a bee-line for one, is sufficient to
make the stoutest heart quake, in spite of the assertion that sharks
have never been known to attack a man in a rubber diving-dress. He adds:

  Neither is the sight of a large turtle comforting when one does
  not know exactly what it is, and the coiling of a sea-snake around
  one’s legs, although it has only one’s hands to bite at, is, to say
  the least, unpleasant. A little fish called the stone-fish is one
  of the enemies of the diver. It seems to make its habitation under
  the pearl-shell, as it is only when picking up a shell that any one
  has been known to be bitten. I remember well the first time I was
  bitten by this spiteful member of the finny tribe. I dropped my bag
  of shells, and hastened to the surface; but in this short space of
  time my hand and arm had so swollen that it was with difficulty I
  could get the dress off, and then was unable to work for three days,
  suffering intense pain the while. Afterward I learned that staying
  down a couple of hours after a bite will stop any further discomfort,
  the pressure of water causing much bleeding at the bitten part, and
  thus expelling the poison.

All the oysters when brought ashore are opened in vats of water, and
carefully examined for the pearls they may contain half embedded in
their mantles; but very few reward the diver with gems worth selling
separately or otherwise than by weight as “seed” pearls. Many divers,
therefore, do not themselves take the trouble of opening what they
catch, but sell them unopened at a few cents a dozen, preferring the
small and steady assured income to the chances of failure or a fortune.

The round, flat, beautiful shells are saved, and their sale
(for mother-of-pearl work) brings nearly as much money into the
pearl-fishing communities in the course of a season as is derived from
the pearls themselves.

What beauty, as well as usefulness, have shells! And how wide is the
science (conchology) that deals with them, and tells us not only their
structure and manner of life, but interprets the part which their
extraordinary forms, ornaments, colors, and appendages play in their
“struggle for existence” down in that populous green under-world of the


  I know a picturesque old house [writes a charming pen in one of
  the early volumes of “Scribner’s Monthly”] that has a many-shelved
  pantry devoted to the exhibition and sale of shells, collected in
  many a long voyage to the remotest parts of the five oceans. Apart
  from their scientific interest, their associations with alien races
  and far-off countries, how beautiful these shells are in themselves!
  and how readily might the prevailing vulgarities and absurdities in
  the decoration of glass and porcelain be corrected by studying the
  ceramics of nature! How, for instance, is our sense of cleanliness
  served and our appetite wooed by the extreme smoothness, hardness
  of surface, and pearly white of the oyster-shell! What decoration in
  the part that receives the viand, what metallizing the surface or
  changing it into artificial marble, or covering it up with pictures,
  would take the place of the pure, colorless shell?

  Every species of these shells has a principle of growth, or law of
  form, peculiar to itself and yet based upon some more general law of
  form common to other species.... In the comb of Venus, for instance,
  the initial impulse of structure tends to produce a series of spines
  of a peculiar curvature, and arranged after a certain order that
  involves the use of similar curves. It is interesting to study the
  development of this simple principle into the complex and singular
  form of beauty comprised in the shell itself, the idea being carried
  into the most minute particulars—even the dark markings at the mouth
  being shaped like spines, and every small projection on the surface
  evidently being an arrested development of spines. In the _Murex
  haustellum_, on the contrary, nodules take the place of spines. In
  the _M. endivia_ an entirely different idea is developed. Notice the
  cross-striations. Instead of prolonging themselves into cylindrically
  pointed spines, as in the case of the Venus’ comb, or bunching
  themselves into knobs, as in the _M. haustellum_, they expand into
  wonderful foliated projections, the edges of which are beautifully
  fluted, like the leaves of the lettuce. Another fine effect is
  afforded by the different texture of the inside and outside surfaces,
  down to the smallest foliation, the inner parts exhibiting a polished
  pearly white, and the outside a gray and wrinkled skin. Observe that,
  however rough or dull of hue the outside of a shell, its lips are
  always pure and often flushed with lovely color; for, as a rule (and
  here is another hint to decorators), Nature distinguishes by some
  adornment the most significant parts of her creatures, where life and
  use are centered.... The ocean, indeed, beautifies all it touches.
  Give it any rough shard, and it will so roll it about, and lick it
  with its waves, and smooth it with their soft attrition, that it will
  return you a polished and shapely nodule, exhibiting all the beauty
  of color and surface of which the material is capable.

[Illustration: molluscs and plants]


[7] It does not follow that these creatures are conscious of this
pressure, any more than we are of the pressure upon us of the fourteen
pounds to the square inch of our atmosphere. The point is that they
_do_ feel it when they rise upward to a point where the pressure is
distinctly less, just as we are conscious of a difference when we
ascend in a balloon or climb a very high mountain, and after a time
we find that we cannot go any farther. Land animals therefore have a
vertical limit to their distribution as well as sea animals, and for
analogous reasons.—E. I.

[Illustration: Page heading decoration]


    _Adler_ at Samoa, 200.

    Agalma elegans, 264.

    _Alabama_, the, in action, 136, 158.

    Algæ, typical, 252, 254.

    _Almirante Cochrane_, in action with _Huascar_, 141.

    _America_, the yacht, 158, 195.

    Antarctic scenery, 101.

    Ardois night-signals at sea, 205.

    Argonaut shell, 274.

    Armada, style of ships of the, 115.

    Balloon-sail, 158, 186.

    Battle-ships, modern steel, 134, 142, 144, 147, 150, 153.
      See also LINE-OF-BATTLE SHIPS.

    Beam-trawl for deep-sea dredging, 261.

    Biremes, Roman, 42. See GALLEYS.

    Boat-davits, 223, 232.

    _Bon Homme Richard_, the, 182.

    Bottle-fish, the, 263.

    Bowsprit, the, and its rigs, 38, 63, 113, 120, 158, 175.
      See CUTTERS and SLOOPS.

    Breeches-buoy, method of using, 229.

    Buckeye, or “bugeye,” a, 198.

    Buoys, 225, 226, 227.

    _Cambria_, model of, 195.

    Cameos, shell used for, 270.

    Can-buoys, 225.

    Canoes, 28, 37, 45, 198.

    Caravels, 35, 61, 63, 65, 76.

    Carronade, an old, 185.

    Cassis, a typical, 270.

    “Castles,” fore and aft, on ancient ships, 35, 57, 63, 65,
      112, 113, 115, 119.

    Catboat, a Newport, 195.

    Center-board boats, models of, 195.

    Chain-plates, 172.

    Channels, 172.

    Chart, an early, 54.

    Chinese boats, 32. Compare MALAY BOATS.

    Clewed-up, mainsails, 120, 184.

    Clipper-ship, a, 158, 164.

    Coast, destruction of, by the sea, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 58.

    Collision, scene in a, 202.

    _Columbia_, the, 146.

    Columbus, Christopher, flag-ship of, 63.

    Columbus, Christopher, statue of, 60.

    _Constellation_, 184.

    _Constitution_ frigate, 106, 132.

    Costumes of mariners, 117, 123, 142, 147, 157, 172, 179.

    Cruisers, modern steel, 146, 150, 154, 205.

    Crustaceans of the deep sea, 273.

    Cutters, 188, 191, 193.

    Day-marks (for pilots), 225.

    Deck scenes, modern, 142, 147, 154, 164, 261.

    Deck scenes on old-time vessels, 117, 130.

    Deep-sea dredging apparatus, 261.

    Diatoms, 257.

    Diving-dress, 258.

    Driver (sail). See SPANKER.

    Dynamite-cruiser, in action, 154.

    Earthquake waves, 18, 21.

    _El Chico_, model of, 195.

    Eskimos in summer, 83.

    Felucca, a, 175.

    Fin-keel yachts, models of, 195.

    Fiord, a, in New Zealand, 15.

    Fish-curing at St. Pierre, 243.

    Fishes, deep-sea, 263.

    Fishing-boats, American, 245, 247.

    Fishing-boats, Canadian, 5, 17, 243.

    Fishing-boats, French, 7.

    Fishing-boats of the Mediterranean, 38.

    Fishing-pound, at low tide, 17.

    Flare, burning a, at sea, 221.

    _Flying Dutchman_, the, 57.

    Fog-bell, a, 219.

    Fore-and-aft rig, 221.

    Frigates, 125, 132, 136, 182, 184.

    Full-rigged ship. See SHIP.

    Gaff-topsail, 186, 193, 221. See CUTTERS and SLOOPS.

    Galleons, Spanish, 119.

    Galleys, ancient, 42, 43, 109, 111, 112.

    _Genesta_, the yacht, 191, 195.

    _Gloriana_, model of, 195.

    _Great Harry_, bow of, 113.

    _Guerrière_, frigate, in action, 125.

    Gulfweed and its inhabitants, 252.

    _Halcyon_, the, yacht, 186.

    Hamilcar’s stairway of the galleys, 109.

    Hand-line fishing, 245.

    Helmet-shell, a, 270.

    Homeward-bound pennant, 133.

    “Hove to,” attitude of sails, 37, 247.

    _Huascar_, in action, 141.

    Hydroid, a compound, 264.

    Icebergs and ice-floes, 79, 80, 85, 89, 92, 97, 103, 105.

    _Indiana_, the, 144.

    _Irex_, the yacht, 191.

    Ironclads, early, 134, 138, 139, 141.

    Jellyfish, a typical, 262.

    Jib-sails, 120, 158, 175, 186.

    Jib-staysails, 89, 158, 175, 221.

    _Kearsarge_, the, in action with the _Alabama_, 136.

    Krakatoa, in eruption, 12.

    Lanterns, stern, of old ships, 57, 115.

    Lateen rigs, 28, 35, 37, 38, 61, 181.

    Launch, a steam, 153.

    Leeboard, a, 198.

    Leg-of-mutton sails, 198.

    Life-boat, a self-righting, 230.

    Life-saving service, the, 228, 229, 230.

    Light-houses, 18, 213, 214, 215.

    Light-ship, Nantucket, 217, 218.

    Light-ship, Sandy Hook, 186.

    Line-of-battle ships, wooden, 120, 134.

    Lugsail rigs, 42, 43, 45, 48.

    _Magic_, model of, 195.

    Main chains, 172.

    _Maine_, the, 153.

    Mainsail or main course, 120, 158, 164, 175, 184, 221.

    Malay boats, 28, 181.

    _Maria_, the yacht, 188.

    _Massachusetts_, the, 142.

    Matting sails, 32, 181.

    _Mayflower_, the yacht, 186, 194.

    Medieval vessels, various forms of, 35, 63, 65, 112, 115, 119.

    Meleagrina, 270.

    _Merrimac_, the, 138.

    Midnight sun at sea, 2.

    Midshipmen of 1812, 123.

    Military masts, ancient, 111.

    Military masts, modern, 134, 141, 144, 146, 150, 153, 205.

    Minot’s Ledge lighthouse, 213.

    _Mischief_ model of, 195.

    Miter-shells (Mitra), 270.

    Mizzen, the ancient (compare SPANKER), 63.

    Models of hulls of yachts, 195.

    Mollusks, shells of. See SEA-SHELLS.

    _Monitor_, the, 139.

    Monitors, 139, 149, 150.

    Muleta, a, 38. Compare FELUCCA.

    Murex-shells, 263, 272.

    _Muriel_, the yacht, 193.

    Nelson, portrait of, 129.

    Nelson, signal of, at Trafalgar, 127.

    Nun buoys, 225.

    Obstruction buoy, 226.

    Olive-shell (Oliva), 268.

    Outriggers, forms of, 28, 37.

    Packet, a Liverpool, 160.

    Paper-nautilus, the, 274.

    Pearl-oyster, the, 270.

    Pelagia cyanella, 262.

    Pelican-fish, the, 263.

    Penguins, Antarctic, 101, 103.

    Physophore, a, 264.

    Pilot-boat, 221, 223.

    Pirates, at home, 179.

    Pirates, Malay, 181.

    Proas, Malay, 28, 37.

    Pteroceras lambis, 270.

    _Puritan_, the yacht, 194, 195.

    Raking masts, 188, 198.

    Rapid-fire guns, 147.

    Reefing a topsail, 31.

    Reef-points, 43, 120, 132, 158, 188.

    Rowboats, 45, 236, 239, 248. See also GALLEYS and YAWL.

    Royal sails, 132, 158, 184.

    Sails, decorated, 45, 48, 63.

    Sails, various forms of, 31, 32, 113, 115, 119, 181.
      See also names of sails and rigs.

    Saloon of a modern steamship, 161.

    Saloon of a packet-ship, 160.

    Samoans battling with surf, 208.

    Sandbagger-sloop, a, 197.

    _Sappho_, model of, 195.

    Sargassum, a piece of, 252.

    Schooners, 26,186, 188, 221, 223, 247.

    Scorpion-shell, the, 270.

    Sea-anemones, 273.

    Sea-caves, 10.

    Sea-fights, 74, 106, 111, 115, 117, 119, 125, 130, 136,
      141, 147, 175, 182.

    Search-lights, 150, 153.

    Sea-shells, 268, 270, 271, 272, 274.

    Sea-slugs (Doris), 252.

    Seaweeds, 252, 254.

    _Serapis_, the, 182.

    Ship, a full-rigged, 37, 89, 92, 120, 132, 133, 158, 184, 232, 234.

    Ship of the line. See LINE-OF-BATTLE SHIPS.

    Ship weathering a gale with sails  furled, 8, 56, 89, 207.

    Ships’ boats, 232, 236, 239.

    Sharpie, a, 198.

    Shrouds, 164, 172.

    Sidewheel steamer, a, 21.

    Signal flags, 127.

    Signaling at sea, 205, 206, 221.

    Signal-mast, a, 142.

    Siren, on a steamship, 220.

    Sky-scraper sails, 132, 184.

    Sloops, 24, 186, 194, 197, 199.

    Sloops-of-war, 130, 207.

    Spanker-, driver-, or mizzen-sail, 89, 196.

    Spar buoys, 225.

    Sponsons, 144, 153.

    Starfish, the common, 267.

    Staysails, 221.

    Steam frigates, 136, 138.

    Steamships, modern mercantile, 161, 167, 181, 223.

    Steam-yacht, a, 186.

    Steering oar, a modern, 239.

    Storm scenes, 18, 21, 24, 31, 56, 200, 207, 208, 213, 217, 247.

    Studding-sails, 132, 133, 158, 184.

    Surf, and its effect, 3, 21, 71, 208.

    _Tara_, the yacht, 191.

    _Tecumseh_, the monitor, 149.

    _Theseus_ and _Guerrière_, 125.

    _Thistle_, model of, 195.

    Tides—scene at low tide, 17.

    Topcastles, 63, 111.

    Topgallantsails, 120, 132, 158, 184.

    Topsails, 120, 125, 158, 175.

    Topsails, square, 120,132, 184. (See also SHIPS, FULL-RIGGED.)

    Torpedo-boats, 150, 151.

    Torpedo-boats, submarine, 152.

    Torpedoes and their effect, 149, 150.

    Towing a barge, 170.

    Trying out whale-blubber, 234.

    Turrets, 142, 144, 150, 153.

    Venus’ Comb, 271.

    Very night-signals, 206.

    _Vesuvius_, the, 154.

    Viking ships, 45, 48, 51.

    Volcanoes on the sea-shore, 12.

    _Volunteer_, model of, 186, 195.

    Walking the plank, 172.

    Walruses on the ice, 80.

    Ward-room of a war-ship, 123.

    _Wasp_, in action with _Frolic_, 130.

    _Wasp_, model of the yacht, 195.

    Waves, oceanic, 8, 15, 24, 56, 57.

    Whale, sperm, head of, 240.

    Whaleback, a, 169.

    Whaleboats, 232, 236, 239, 240.

    Whalers, 232-240.

    Whistling buoy, 227.

    Wreck, 130, 149, 202, 229, 230.

    Yachts, models of, 195.

    Yachts, racing, 186, 188, 191, 193, 195.

    Yawl, a ship’s, 105, 223.

    Yawl-rig, the, 197.

[Illustration: Lighthouse]

[Illustration: Page heading decoration]


    Africa, first circumnavigated, 41.

    “America,” origin of the name, 63.

    America, visited by Norsemen, 45, 48.

    America Cup, races for, 190-195.

    American Arctic exploration, 86, 89, 90.

    Atlantic, North, early voyages in, 44.

    Atlantic Ocean, defined, 5.

    Atlantis, the fabled land of, 6.

    _Alert_, Arctic expedition of, 96.


    Algerian pirates, 173.

    Ancient sea-animals, 259.

    Andrée’s Arctic balloon, 100.

    ANIMAL LIFE IN THE SEA, 259-274.

    Animals inhabiting seaweeds, 251, 252, 257.

    Antarctic Ocean, defined, 7.

    Arabic commerce, 43.

    Arabs, as navigators, 52, 57.

    Arctic American coast traced, 81, 82, 83, 88.

    Arctic exploration, 77-100.

    Arctic Ocean, defined, 7.

    Armada, the Spanish, 114-117.

    Armor for ships, 136, 138, 145.

    Astrolabe, the, 53, 73.

    Australia, discovery of, 72, 76.

    Baffin, voyage to Baffin’s Bay, 79, 81.

    Balboa, discovers the Pacific, 64.

    Banks of Newfoundland, fishing on, 245.

    Barataria pirates of Louisiana, 179.

    Barbarossa, the brothers, 171.

    Barbary States, the, 174.

    Barentz and Barentz’s Sea, 78, 91.

    Barks described, 36, 38.

    Battle-ships, modern steel, 140-148.

    Bering, expeditions of, 80.

    Biremes, Greek and Roman, 108.

    Bjärne’s discoveries, 46.

    Boats of the Egyptians, 28, 30, 32.

    Boats of the Phœnicians, 28, 30, 33.

    Boats of early Scandinavians, 29, 30.

    Boats, primitive, 27.

    _Bon Homme Richard_ and _Serapis_, 128.

    Bowsprit sails, 34, 37.

    Brazil, discovery of, 62, 64.

    Brazil, the name, 66.

    Brigs described, 36.

    Buccaneers, career of the, 177.

    Buckeye, or “bugeye,” 198.

    Buoys and channel marks, 225.

    Cabot’s voyage to America, 65, 67.

    Canada discovered, 68.

    Cape Horn, first rounded, 72.

    Cape of Good Hope discovered, 54.

    _Captain_ capsized, 201.

    Caravels of Columbus, 34, 35, 61, 63.

    Carrageen or Irish moss, 255.

    Carthaginians as navigators, 42.

    Cartier discovers Canada, 68.

    Catboat described, 35.

    Center-board, explained, 189.

    _Challenger_ expedition, 10, 272.

    _Chancellor_, voyage of, to the White Sea, 77.

    Charybdis, whirlpool of, 19.

    _Chesapeake_ and _Shannon_, 129.

    Chinese as navigators, 52.

    Clippers, Baltimore, 183.

    Colossus of Rhodes, 211.

    Columbus, Christopher, 59.

    Commerce at sea, history of, 155-170.

    Commerce, early European, 52, 155.

    Commerce, medieval, 156.

    Commerce, modern, 159.

    Compass, the mariner’s, 51.

    _Constitution_, U. S. frigate, 130-133.

    _Constitution_, in the war with Tripoli,174.

    Cook, Captain James, voyage of, 75.

    Copenhagen, battle of, 126.

    Corals and coral polyps, 265.

    Corsairs, the, 172.

    Corte-Real, voyage of, 68.

    Crabs, caught for market, 266.

    Cruisers, service of, 121, 140.

    Currents in the ocean. SEE OCEAN CURRENTS.

    Cutter, rig of a, 35.

    Dampier, voyages of, 73.

    DANGERS OF THE DEEP, 200-230.

    Davis, exploration of Davis’s Strait, 78.

    Decatur’s exploit at Tripoli, 175.

    Deep-sea conditions of life, 263.

    De Long, death of Lieutenant, 95.

    Dias, Bartholomew, voyage of, 53.

    Diatoms described, 249, 257.

    Distribution of animals in the sea, 261.

    “Don’t give up the ship,” 129.

    Drake, Francis, 114, 181.

    Dredging, deep-sea, 260.

    Dynamite-throwing, 154.

    Earthquake-waves, 203.

    East India Companies, 157, 159.

    “East Indiaman,” an, 162.

    East Indian pirates, 180.

    East Indies, the, 69, 71, 74.

    Eddystone lighthouse, 212.

    Egypt’s grain-trade, 156.

    “England expects every man will do his duty,” 126, 127.

    England’s sea-wars, 114, 129, 157.

    Erik the Red, 45.

    Faroes discovered, 44.


    Fishing in the North Atlantic, 244.

    Fin keels, 194, 195.

    Fire-ships, 116.

    Fog-horns and sirens, 219.

    _Fram_, voyage of the, 99.

    Francis Joseph Land, 93, 100.

    Franklin, Sir John, 82, 83, 88.

    French-American naval war, 126.

    Frigates, service of, 121, 122, 130.

    Frobisher, Martin, 77, 114.

    Fundy, tides in the Bay of, 19.

    Galiot, the, 112.

    Galleass, the, 112.

    Galleon, the, 112, 116, 173, 182.

    Galleys, early types of, 107, 111, 112.

    Gallivat, the, 112.

    Geography, early knowledge of, 50.

    _Great Harry_, the, 114.

    Greely, Gen. A. W., Arctic work by, 96.

    Greenland discovered, 45.

    Greenland, coasts explored, 91, 96, 99.

    _Guerrière_, story of the, 131.

    Gulf Stream, the, 22, 23.

    Gulfweed (Sargassum), 251, 252.

    Gunnbjörn, 45.

    Guns of war-ships, 145-148.

    Hall, Charles, Arctic exploration by, 90.

    Hand-line fishing, 245, 246.

    Hanno, expedition of, 42.

    Harbor-beacons, 225.

    Harbor-defense vessels, 140.

    Hawkins, John, 114, 181.

    Henry, the navigator, 52, 53.

    Hittites, the, as navigators, 40.

    Holland, as a sea-power, 118, 122.

    Howard, Admiral, 114, 115.

    Hudson, discoveries by, 78.

    Iceland discovered, 44.

    Indian Ocean defined, 6.

    Instruments for navigation, 52, 57, 73.

    Irish moss, 255.

    Irish sea-wanderers, 44.

    Ironclads, early, 136.

    Jean Bart, the privateer, 182.

    _Jeannette_, voyage of the, 94.

    Kane, Dr. E. K., Arctic exploration by, 86.

    _Kearsarge_ and _Alabama_, 136.

    _Kearsarge_ wrecked, 201.

    Kelp and kelp-ash, 253, 256.

    Kidd, Captain, the pirate, 178.

    Krakatoa, explosion of, 203.

    Kuroshiwo (Japan current), 22, 24.

    Lafitte, the pirate, 189.

    La Plata, Rio, first entered, 69.

    Lateen rigs, 32, 34.

    Lead keels, 194.

    Lee-board, explained, 179.

    Leif Erikson’s voyage, 47.

    Lepanto, victory of, 111.

    Letters of marque, 180.

    Life-saving service, the United States, 227.

    Lighthouses, arrangements for lighting, 216.

    Lighthouses, history of, 211, 212, 213, 254.

    Light-ships, American, 216.

    Line-of-battle ships, 121, 134.

    Live stock carried on long voyages, 163.

    Lockwood reaches “highest north,” 98.

    Lug-sails explained, 133.

    McClure, Arctic exploration by, 84, 87.

    Maelstrom, the, 19.

    Magellan circumnavigates the world, 69.

    Magnetic pole determined, 82.

    Maps, early, 50, 53, 54, 62.

    Masts, names of, 36.

    Medieval ships, 33.

    Mediterranean Sea, defined, 9.

    Melville’s search for _Jeannette_ survivors, 95.

    Mercator, the map-maker, 72.


    Mines, submarine, 148.

    Minot’s Ledge lighthouse, 214.

    Mollusks, utility of, 269.

    _Monitor_, the, 139, 141.

    Morgan, the pirate, 178.

    Mother-of-pearl, 269.

    Murex-shells, 274.

    Myths as to Atlantic islands, 65.

    Nansen, Arctic work of, 99.

    Napoleon’s sea-campaigns, 122.

    Naval warfare, beginning of, 107.

    Naval warfare, medieval, 110.

    Naval warfare, theory of, 118.

    Navigation, prehistoric, 39.

    Navigation, instruments for, 52, 57, 73.

    Navy, Byzantine, 110.

    Navy, French, 122.

    Navy, Greek, 107.

    Navy, English, 113, 119, 129, 183.

    Navy, Roman, 148, 156.

    Nearchus, voyage of, 43.

    Nelson, Admiral Horatio, 122-128.

    Nelson’s famous signal, 126, 127.

    Newfoundland, discovery of, 44, 65, 68.

    Night-signals at sea, 205, 206.

    Nile, battle of the, 124.

    Nordenskjöld’s voyage in the _Vega_, 93.

    Norsemen. See SCANDINAVIANS and VIKINGS.

    North America discovered, 46, 62, 65.

    North Atlantic, exploration of, 78, 80, 91, 99.

    Northeast Passage, search for, 77, 91, 93.

    Northwest Passage, search for, 77, 81, 84, 87.

    North Pacific explored, 75, 80, 84.

    Nova Zembla, 78, 91.


    Ocean, bed of the, 11.

    Ocean, characteristics of, 9.

    Ocean, chemistry of, 14.

    Ocean currents, 20, 23.

    Ocean, depth of, 9.

    Ocean, effects of upon the land, 4.

    Ocean, life in, 259-274.

    Ocean, saltness of, 13.

    _Old Ironsides._ See CONSTITUTION.

    Ooze, oceanic, 13, 274.

    Outriggers, 28.

    Oysters and oyster culture, 266.

    Pacific Ocean, defined, 4.

    Pacific Ocean, discovery of, 64.

    Packet-ships, transatlantic, 160, 165.

    Paddles and oars, 29.

    Paleocrystic Sea, the, 88.

    Parry, Arctic explorations by, 81.

    Payer and Weyprecht, 91.

    Paul Jones, 128.

    Pearl-oyster and pearls, 269.

    Peary, Arctic work of, 99.

    Persians as navigators, 43.

    _Philadelphia_, U. S. frigate at Tripoli, 174.

    Phœnicians as navigators, 41.

    Pilots and their duties, 220-226.

    Piracy, history of, 171-185.

    Piracy in the East Indies, 180.


    _Polaris_, misadventure of, 90.

    Pope, the, divides the earth, 55.

    Portugal as a sea-power, 52, 55.

    Pressure, effects of, in the sea, 262.

    Prester John, 54.

    Privateering, 180, 183, 185.

    Ptolemy, the geographer, 50.

    “Redbeard,” the pirate, 171.

    Rigging of primitive ships, 30.

    ROBBERS OF THE SEAS, 171-185.

    Ross, Arctic explorations by, 81, 82.

    _Royal George_, sunk, 201.

    Rules of the road at sea, 203.

    Russian Arctic coast, the, 79.

    Sails, lateen, 32.

    Sails, names of a ship’s, 36.

    Sails of early ships, 30.

    Sails, square-rigged, 34.

    Sails, two types of, 31.

    St. Lawrence Bay and River discovered, 68.

    St. Pierre and Miquelon, 242.

    Salamis, battle of, 107.

    Samoa, the great storm at, 206-211.

    Sandbagger, a, 197.

    Sardines, fishing for, 244.

    Sargasso Seas, 251.

    Schooners, described, 36, 38.

    Scylla and Charybdis, 19.

    Sealing, 241.

    Search-light, uses of, on war-ships, 150.

    Sea-shells, use and beauty of, 269, 273.

    Sea-snakes, 259.

    Seaweeds, 249-257.


    _Serapis_, fight of the, 128.

    Seventy-four, a, 121.

    Sharks, as a danger to divers, 271.

    Sharpie, characteristics of the, 198.

    Ship-building, development of, 139.

    Ship-chandler, a, 204.

    Ship, sails of a full-rigged, 36.


    Ships’ lanterns and lights, 204.

    Ships, Phœnician, 155.

    Ships, Roman merchant, 156.

    Siberia, explorations north of, 79, 93,  95.

    Signaling at night, 205, 206, 222.

    Sirens, or fog-horns, 219.

    Slave-trade, the, 184.

    Sloop, a, described, 35.

    Solis discovers the La Plata, 69.

    South America, discovery of, 61, 62.

    South Sea. See PACIFIC OCEAN.

    Spanish conquerors in West Indies, 177.

    Spitzbergen, 91, 233.

    Sponges and their taking, 265.

    Spritsail-mast, the, 34.

    Square-rig, examples of, 33.

    Starfishes, damage by, 265.

    Steamships, development of, 165, 168.

    Steamships, ocean courses of, 168.

    Steamships, records of transatlantic, 166.

    Steerage passage, the, 163.

    Steering, methods of, 29.

    Suez Canal, the, 41, 169.

    Table of sea-road distances, 170.

    Tactics, naval, 107, 115, 118, 121, 135.

    Tasman, voyages of, 72.

    Telegraph, submarine, 161.

    Tides, explained, 17.

    Topsail schooner, described, 36.

    Torpedo-boats, 140, 150-154.

    Torpedoes and submarine mines, 148.

    Trafalgar, battle of, 126.

    Trawls described, 246, 272.

    Treasure-ships, Spanish, 173, 178, 182.

    Trepang, or _bêche la mer_, 266.

    Tripoli, bombardment of, 174.

    Triremes, Greek and Roman, 108.

    Tunnies, fishing for, 244.

    Turtles, as a danger to divers, 272.

    United States exploring expedition, 76.

    United States, naval incidents, 128,  174, 183.

    Vasco da Gama, 56, 157.

    _Vega_, voyage of, north of Asia, 93.

    Venice, state barge of, 112.

    Venus’-comb shell, 274.

    Verrazano, voyage of, 68.

    Vespucci, Amerigo, voyages of, 62.

    _Vesuvius_, the dynamite-cruiser, 154.

    Vikings, origin and voyages of, 29, 44.

    Vinland visited, 47.


    Walrus-hunting, 241.


    War-ships wrecked at Samoa, 206-211.

    _Wasp_ and _Frolic_, 129.

    Water-spouts at sea, 202.

    Waves, tides, and currents, 9.

    Weather-stations, international, 96.

    West coast of Africa, 42, 53, 56.

    Weyprecht, Arctic work of, 91.

    Whaleback, the, 169.

    Whaling, history of American, 235.

    Whaling, history of European, 233.

    Whaling, in the North Atlantic, 80, 94.

    Whaling, methods of, 231, 237-241.

    Whaling-vessels, 235.

    Wreckers, doings of, 212.


    Yachting, early history of, 187, 196.

    Yacht-clubs in the United States, 188, 196.

    Yachts, designing racing, 192, 195.

    Yachts, rigs of small, 197.

    Yawl, characteristics of the, 197.

    Zeni, voyages of the, 48.

[Illustration: Coastal scene]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Book of the Ocean" ***

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