[ocr errors]

THE INSTINCTS OF FISHES. Fishes, it is said, appear inferior to beasts and birds in acuteness of sensation and instinctive sagacity; but how is this reconcileable with that tenderness, care, and solicitude, (which nothing can exceed,) which the common whale


HE THAT MADE A MITE MAY FORM A KRAKEN; that HE WHO FORMED THE SMALLEST INSECT MAY MAKE ANY THING. The following, selected from a number of testimonies related by naturalists, serve to throw some light on the subject; and I leave the reader to draw his own conclusions. In 1187, we are informed by LARAY, that a mermaid was fished up on the coast of Suffolk, and kept by the governor six months. --One day it made its escape, and plunging into the sea was never heard of afterwards. A mermaid is said to have been caught in the Baltic, in 1531, and sent as a present to SIGISMOND, king of Poland, with whom it lived three days, and was seen by all his court.

PLINY says: " that the Ambassador to AUGUSTUS, from Gaul, declared that such sea-women were often seen in their neighbourhood.” THEODORUS Gaza relates, “thai when he was in the Morea, such a woman was driven on that coast by a violent storm; that he saw her, and she was very well looked ; that she sighed, and seemed very much concerned when a number of people came round her; that he had pity on ber, and caused the people to stand at a distance; that she profited by the opportunity; and by the help of her fins and rolling she got into the water and got off.” Mr VALENTYN, minister of the gospel at Amboya na, a person esteemed by the Dutch of Batavia, among whom he lived several years, as a man of perfect veracity, declares, that he, the captain, purser, and mate of the ship, (on their voyage from Bata via to Europe, in 1714,) saw a creature which they supposed to be some shipwrecked person, seemingly sitting with his back to them, but who, on being disturbed by the noise of the people on the fore-castle

, as the ship bore down towards him, plụnged down, head foremost, and got out of sight; but the man on the mast-head declared that he saw Irim for the space of 200 yards, and that he had a very long tail

. To these I will just add two, of more modern date, being in our own time, our own neighbourhood; and one of them being from that early correspondent, who now rests from his labours, to whose worth and character we have such ample testimony in page 562 of our first volume. The first I shall produce, although the most recent

, as to the time in which it is said to have appeared, is that of Miss MACKAY, daughter of the Rev. DAVID MACKAT, minister of Reay, in Caithness, who says, in a letter to a lady to whom she writes, May 25th, 1809, that, while she and another young lady were walking by the sea shore, on the 12th of January, about noon, “our attention was attracted by seeing three people, who were on a rock at some diso tance, showing signs of terror and astonishment at something they saw in the water,

on approaching them we distinguished, that the object of their wonder was a face resembling the human countenance,

evinces for her young. She suckles and nurses them with the greatest affection, takes them with her wherever she goes ; when pursued she carries them on her back, and


M M 2

which appeared floating on the waves." After this she goes on to describe the face, head, throat, and arms, which it seems were all the parts of which this lady had any distinct view, and which appear to have resembled the human in an extraordinary degree.

The other is extracted from a letter from Mr W. MUNRO, schoolmas. ter of Thurso, addressed to Dr. TORRENCE, and dated 9th June, 1809, and is as follows : “ About twelve years ago, when I was a parochial schoolmaster at Reay, in the course of my walking on the shore of Şanside Bay, being a fine warm day in summer, I was induced to extend my walk towards Sanside Head, when my attention was arrested by the appearance of a figure resembling an unclothed human female, sitting upon a rock extending ino the sea, and apparently in the action of combing it's hair, which flowed around it's shoulders, and of a light brown colour.--The resemblance which the figure bore to it's prototype in all it's visible parts, was so striking, that had not the rock on which it was sitting been dangerous for bathing, I would have been constrained to have regarded it as really a human form, and to an eye unaccustomed to the situation it must have undoubtedly been considered 15 such. The head was covered with hair of the colour above-menfioned, and shaded on the crown, the forehead round, the face plump, the cheeks ruddy, the eyes blue, the mouth and lips of a natural form, resembling those of a man, the teeth I could not discover, as the mouth was shut; the breasts and abdomen, the arms and fingers, of the size of a full grown body of the human species; the fingers, from the action in which the hands were employed, did not appear to be webbed, but as to this I am not positive. It remained on the rock three or four minutes after I observed it, and was exercised during that period with combing it's hair, which was long and thick, and of which it appeared proud, and then dropped into the sea, which was level with the abdomen,' from whence it did not re-appear to me. 'I had a distinct view of it's features, being at no great distance on an Eminence above the rock on which it was sitting, and the sun brightby shining. Immediately before it's getting into it's natural element

seemed to have observed me, as the eyes were directed towards the eminence on which I stood. It may be necessary to remark, that previous to the period I beheld this object, I had heard it frequently reported by several persons, and some of them persons whose veracity I never heard disputed, that they had seen such a phenomenon as I have described, though then, like many others, I was not disposed to credit their testimony on this subject. I can say of a truth, that it was only by seeing the phenomenon I was perfectly convinced of it'sexistence."-In corroboration of the authenticity of these letters, which may be found at large in several periodical publications of the time, see the testimony of the Rev. Mr. Mackay, in a letter to the Secretary of the Glasgow Philosophical Society, dated 8th October, 1809, in the Lady's Magazine for that year. 15.11.2015

supports them with ber fins; when wounded, she will not relinquish her charge, and when obliged to plunge, in midst of her agovies will clasp them more closely, and sink with them to the bottom*. The fidelity of whales to each other is also said to exceed even what we observe in birds; and GOLDSMITH relates an instance, in which a female whale being wounded whilst her attached partner was reclining by her side, on beholding the object of his tenderness falling a victim to the harpooners, he stretched himself upon her body, and participated in her fate. It is curious to remark what sagacity the fiony tribes display in seeking out the most proper places for de positing their spawn. The Salvo on her journey up the river will suffer ne obstacle that she can possibly surmount to oppose her progress to the place al her destination, and in order to attain it, will spring over taracts several feet high. In going upwards she wil keep at the bottom where the current is weakest, and when she returns, will avail herself of its strength at the top, by swimming near the surface!

The migrations of different kinds of fishes are truly astonishing, and it is pleasing to remark, that it is when fat and in season for eating, that they are taught so instinc tively to throng our bays and creeks, while they disperse to the remotest quarters of the globe when lean and emaciated. 6. WHO,” in the words of the celebrated HER· VEY,

“ WHO bids these creatures evacuate the shores, and disperse themselves into all quarters, when they be

and recalls the undisciplined vagrants, as soon as they

Mr. WALLER, in his beautiful poem of The Summer Islands, Jates a story, in which the maternal tenderness of the Whale is not affectingly displayed. --A whale and her cub had got into an atae the sea, where, by the defection of the tide, they were entirely en: closed. The people on shore beheld their situation, and drove down upon them in boats, with such weapons as could be hastily collected The animals were soon severely wounded, and the sea tinged with their blood. After several attempts to escape, the old one forced over the shallow into the depths of the ocean ; but though in safety bei self, she could not bear the danger that awaited her young one: therefore rushed in once more where the smaller animal was confine, and as she could not carry it off, seemed resolved to share its danger. 'The tide however coming in, both were enabled to escape from thes enemies, after sustaining a number of wounds.


are improved into desirable food ?-WHO appoints the rery scene of our ambush to be the place of their rendezvous, so that they come like volunteers to our nets ? Surely the furlough is signed, the summons issued, and the point of reunion settled by a Providence ever indulgent to mankind; ever studious to treat us with dainties, and load is with benefits.Not only do the Herrings, the poor man's feast, visit our shores at stated periods, and solicit us by their numbers to partake of the bounties of provilence, but the Pilchard, the Mackerel, the Lamperies, the Tunnies, and the Salmon, are regular in their migrations,

At the time the Land Crabs of the West Indies arrive upon the coast to deposit their eggs, numerous fishes of different kinds punctually attend, as if timeously advised of the exact ime when they might expect their annual supply, and greediy devour many of the eggs before they are hatched. Fishes, in order to be fed, have been taught to assemble at the side of a pond by the sound of a bell*. The Lamprey makes holes in the gravelly bottom of the river previous to depositing her ova :--The Sea-Dog, in a storm, is said to conceal her young under her belly. c A curious circumstance has been observed relative to the young Sharks, that: when pursued, they will, on the appearance of danger, take refuge in the belly of the mother. It is asserted by PLINY, that the Fishing Frog bides itself in muddy water, and makes use of a singular artifice to secure her prey :--The Ink Fish seems to be well informed of the use she ought to make of her natural bottle, and when parsued discharges its contents in the way of her foe. The Aborescent Star-fish, like the Spider, spreads out her net in order to en--tangle her unwary victim :And the little Thresher, in order to get the better of his formidable antagonist, tumbles neck over heels, and falls down with astonishing force on the back of the Whale, while his ally the Sword-fish wounds him from underneath.

MM 3

5 THE Dr. GEORGE SERGER asserts, that having taken a walk with some friends in the fine gardens of the Archbishop of Saltzburg, the gardener conducted them to a very clear piece of water, in which no fish were at first to be seen, but that the man had no sooner rung am little bell, than a multitude of trouts came together from all parts of the pond to take what he had brought them, and disappeared as soon as they had eat it up.

THE USES OF FISHES. to skennies Although it has been said, that to preserve their own existence, and to continue it to their posterity, fills up the whole circle of their pursuits, and that a ceaseless desire of food seems to be their ruling impulse, yet we are not to consider Fishes as insulated creatures, unconnected with the general concerns and affairs of the world; as merely formed for the propagation of their kind, and to pursue, and be pursued, each other's prey."--No: these also act an important and most essential part in the great theatre of the aniverse, and woe be to the inhabitants of the earth did multitudes of Fishes not abound in its waters. We have already had occasion to notice the necessity of 2 speedy decomposition of the parts of putrescent bodies or land, and notwithstanding the saline quality of its waters and perpetual agitation which prevents them for a time, the bad effects of such accumulated loads of filth and nastiness, as are continually pouring into the sea, mast soon be apparent, were it not for those numerous herds of fishes, which in every quarter, glide with rapidity through the liquid expanse, and catch and devour almost every thing of a digestible nature that comes in their way. For this purpose that amazing fecundity may have been bestowed upon them, and for this purpose those voracious appetites given, that, however remote the situation, or disgusting the substance that enters the watery element, it might quickly meet an eye eager to catch it, and a living ! tomb to swallow and strip it of its noxious qualities.

As an article of food the finny tribes are greatly to be prized, and it is matter of thankfulness, that the benefits they impart are most extensively diffused; for while our lakes, and rivers, and streams, abound with tliese living treasures, the ocean conveys them in myriads to the ends of the earth, and presents the bounties of an indulgent pa. rent to his numerous children, however scattered among the isles of the sea ; and if the Turbot has been styled for its exquisite relish, the Pheasant of the waters, the Sturgeon, even in pickle, has been denominated a royal luxury, and the Salmon is held in much esteem by the great, the poor have reason to bless the Almighty for an abundant supply of cheap, wholesome, and nutricious food, in those prodigi


foad, in those

« ElőzőTovább »