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SALTNESS OF THE SEA.
41 6. The waters themselves," says Derham, in his Physico-Theology, 6 are an admirable work of God, and of infinite use to that part of the globe already surveyed; and the prodigious variety and multitudes of curious and wonderful things observable in its inhabitants of all sorts, are an inexhaustible scene of the Creator's wisdom and power. The vast bulk of some, and prodigious minuteness of others, together with the incomparable contrivance and structure of the bodies of all; the provisions and supplies of food afforded to such an innumerable company of eaters, and that in an element unlikely, one would think, to afford any great store of supplies; the business of respiration performed in a way different from, but equivalent to, what is in land animals; the adjustment of the organs of vision to that element in which the animal liveth: the poise, the support, the motion of the body forwards with great swiftness, and upwards and downwards with great readiness and agility, and all without feet and hands, and ten thousand things besides ; all these things lay before us a glorious and inexhaustible scene of the Divine power, wisdom, and goodness.”
What a number of curious articles are here brought together; to what an extent of meditation might such topics be applied !
The saltness of the sea is a curious circumstance, and even among philosophers it has occasioned much perplexity. I have consulted a variety of writers on the subject; but Dr. Watson, in his Chemical Essays, has afforded me most satisfaction.
SALTNESS OF THE SEA. From him, therefore, an extract of some length shall be given; the young reader will be gratified with the particulars communicated they are marked by a philosophical accuracy:
“ There are few questions respecting the natural history of our globe, which have been discussed with inore attention, or decided with less satisfaction, than that concerning the primary cause of the saltness of the sea. The solution of it had perplexed the philosophers before the time of Aristotle; it surpassed his own great genius; and those of his followers, who have attempted to support his arguments, have been betrayed into very illgrounded conclusions concerning it. Father Kira cher, after having consulted three and thirty authors upon the subject, could not help remarking, that the fluctuations of the ocean itself were scarcely more various than the opinions of men concerning the origin of its saline impregnation. The question does not seem capable of admitting an illustration from experiment; at least no experiments have hitherto been made for that purpose, and therefore we may be the less surprised at its remaining nearly as problematical in the present age, as it has been in any of the preceding. Had there, indeed, any observations been made, three or four centuries ago, ascertaining the saltness of the sea, at any particular time and place; we might, by making, at present, similar observations at the same place, in the same season, have been able to know whether the saltness, at that particular place, was an increasing, decreasing, or any invariable
SALTNESS OF THE SEA. quantity: and this kind and degree of knowledge would have served as a clue to direct us to a full investigation of this matter in general; but it is to be regretted, that no such observations have, till very lately, been made with any tolerable precision.—There are three principal opinions on this subject, which have been maintained by philosophers of modern date.
“ Some, observing that river water, almost in every part of the globe, is, in a greater or less degree, impregnated with sea salt, have thought that the sea has gradually acquired its present quality of salt from the long continued influx of rivers.
“ Other philosophers, observing that large beds of fossile salt are not unfrequent in any quarter of the globe; and conceiving, with great probability, the bottom of the sea to be analogous in its formation to the surface of the earth, have undertaken to derive its saltness from the beds of rock salt, which they have supposed to be situated at its bottom; and they are further of opinion, that without such a permanent saline principle, the sea would long since have become insipid from the fresh water poured into it by an infinity of rivers. Strange! that what, according to the fore-mentioned hypothesis, was thought sufficient to account for the saltness of the sea, should in this be esteemed instrumental in annihilating the saltness already supposed to exist.
“ Boyle unites, as it were, the two preceding hypotheses, and takes the saltness of the sea to be supplied, not only from rocks and other masses 44 DR. FORDYCE'S VIEW OF THE SEA. of salt, which at the beginning were, or in some countries may yet be found either at the bottom of the sea, or at the sides, where the water can reach them; but also from the salt which the rivers, rains, and other waters, dissolve in their passage through divers parts of the earth, and at length carry with them into the sea. Buffon, and the generality of philosophers, acquiesce in the , opinion of Boyle.
“ After all, it may be observed, that we are inquiring into the cause of a phenomenon, which it may be said had no secondary cause at all. It is taken for granted in this disquisition, that the water which covered the globe in its chaotic state, was not impregnated with salt as at present, but quite fresh; now this is an opinion concerning a matter of fact, which can never be proved either way; and surely we extend our speculations very far, when we attempt to explain a phenomenon, primeval to, or coeval with, the formation of the
After the enumeration of these particulars relative to the sea, you will permit me just to call your attention to two writers, who have dwelt on this subject in a moral point of view.
Dr. James Fordyce thus expresses himself in his view of the Sea, and the passage was forcibly suggested to my mind, when contemplating the same grand object at Sidmouth.
“ In this place of security,” says that elegant writer, “ I view unaffrighted, though not unawed, the majęstic ocean, spread out before me. Stu
DR. FORDYCE'S VIEW OF THE SEA. 45 pendous image of thy power, Omnipotent Crew ator! nor less of thy benevolence, Universal Parent! Was it not formed by thee to unite in bonds of mutual intercourse thy wide extended family of mankind;, to carry through various and distant nations the respective productions and discoveries of each, to relieve or diminish their mutual wants, and disseminate the blessings of religion and hu- , manity unto the ends of the earth ? But who can number the tribes, or tell the diversity, of living creatures with which thou hast replenished this mighty receptacle of waters, fitting all to enjoy their native element, and many to supply a rich wholesome nourishment for man? May he receive it with thanksgiving as one of those benefits that, when placed within his power, were intended to employ his industry and strengthen him for thy service ? Nor would I forget to acknowledge that benignant Providence which hath, in so many other ways, rendered the same element conducive to health and comfort, by furnishing stores of salt to season and preserve our food, by refreshing the adjacent coasts with salutary breezes, by invigorating the weak and restoring the diseased, that bathe in its briny waves!”
These observations are much the same as those suggested by Derham, only expressed in more refined language, and sublimed by the fervor of devotion. They may, however, receive still further illustration from the lines of the late Mr. Sharpe, who, in a little piece, describing the beauties of