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Observations and Adventures in Submarine Diving

by Will Wallace Harney

[Greek: —liphon eponumon te reuma kai petraerephae autoktit' antra.]

ÆSCHYLUS: Prometheus Bound.

Did you ever pause before a calm, bright little pool in the woods, and look steadily at the picture it presents, without feeling as if you had peeped into another world? Every outline is preserved, every tint is freshened and purified, in the cool, glimmering reflection. There is a grace and a softness in the prismatic lymph that give a new form and color to the common and familiar objects it has printed in its still, pellucid depths. Every little basin of clear water by the roadside is a magic mirror, and transforms all that it encloses. There is a vastness of depth, too, in that concave hemisphere, through which the vision sinks like a falling star, that excites and fills the imagination. What it shows is only a shadow, but all things seen are mere shadows painted on the retina, and you have, at such times, a realistic sense of the beautiful and bold imagery which calls a favorite fountain of the East the Eye of the Desert.

The alluring softness of this mimic world increases to sublimity when, instead of some rocky basin, dripping with mossy emeralds and coral berries, you look upon the deep crystalline sea. Each mates to its kind. This does not gather its imagery from gray, mossy rock or pendent leaf or flower, but draws into its enfolding arms the wide vault of the cerulean sky. The richness of the majestic azure is deepened by that magnificent marriage. The pale blue is darkened to violet. Far through the ever-varying surface of the curious gelatinous liquid breaks the phosphorescence, sprinkled into innumerable lights and cross-lights. As you look upon those endless pastures thought is quickened with the conception of their innumerable phases of vitality. The floating weed, whose meshes measure the spaces of continents and archipelagoes, is everywhere instinct with animal and vegetable life. The builder coral, glimmering in its softer parts with delicate hues and tints, throws up its stony barrier through a thousand miles of length and a third as much in breadth, fringing the continents with bays and sounds and atoll islands like fairy rings of the sea. Animate flowers—sea-nettles, sea anemones, plumularia, campanularia, hydropores, confervae, oscillatoria, bryozoa—people the great waters. Sea-urchins, star-fish, sea-eggs, combative gymnoti, polypes, struggle and thrive with ever-renewing change of color; gelatinous worms that shine like stars cling to every weed; glimmering animalcules, phosphorescent medusae, the very deep itself is vivid with sparkle and corruscation of electric fire. So through every scale, from the zoophyte to the warm-blooded whale, the sea teems with life, out of which fewer links have been dropped than from sub-aërial life. It is a matter for curious speculation that the missing species belong not to the lower subsidiary genera, as in terrene animals, but to the highest types of marine life. In the quarries of Lyme Regis, among the accumulations of a sea of the Liassic period, lay the huge skeleton of the Ichthyosaurus, a warm-blooded marine existence, with huge saucer eyes of singular telescopic power, that gleamed radiant "with the eyelids of the morning," "by whose neesings alight doth shine"—the true leviathan of Job. In the same extinct sea is found the skeleton of the Plesiosaurus, a marine lizard of equal size, and warm-blooded, whose swan-like neck and body graced the serene seas of the pre-adamite world. Another was that of the Pterodactyl, the antique aragon, a winged fish. The task of sustaining these existences was too great for old Ocean, and the monsters dropped from the upper end of the chain into the encrusting mud, the petrified symbols of failure. So one day man may drop into the limbo of vanities, among the abandoned tools in the Creator's workshop.

But, however high or low the degree in the scale, one distinguishing feature marks the vital creation in vegetable or animal—an intelligence capable of adjusting itself to the elements about it, and electing its food. The sunflower, even, does not follow the sun by a mechanical law, but, growing by a fair, bright sheet of water, looks as constantly at that shining surface for the beloved light as ever did the fabled Greek boy at his own image in the fountain. The tendrils of the vine seek and choose their own support, and the thirsty spongioles of the root find the nourishing veins of water. Growth, says a naturalist, is the conscious motion of vegetable life. But this theory of kinship, imperfect in the plant, becomes plain and distinct in the animate creation. However far removed, the wild dolphin at play and the painted bird in the air are cousins of man, with a responsive chord of sympathy connecting them.

It is this feeling that sends an exhilarating thrill through the submarine explorer when a school of porpoises frisk by with undulating grace, the marine type of a group of frolicking children. It is the instinctive perception that it is a pure enjoyment to the fish, the healthy glow and laugh of submarine existence. But for that sense of sympathetic nature the flying-fish, reeling porpoise and dolphin would be no more to him than the skipping shuttle in a weaver's loom, the dull impetus of senseless machinery. Self-generated motion is the outward and visible sign of vitality—its wanton exercise the symbol and expression of enjoyment. The poor philosopher who distinguished humanity as singular in the exhibition of humor had surely never heard a mocking-bird sing, watched a roguish crow or admired a school of fish.

This keen appreciation of a kindred life in the sea has thrown its charm over the poetry and religion of all races. Ocean us leaves the o'erarching floods and rocky grottoes at the call of bound Prometheus; Cyrene, with her nymphs, sits in the cool Peneus, where comes Aristaeus mourning for his stolen bees; the Druid washed his hedge-hyssop in the sacred water, and priestesses lived on coral reefs visited by remote lovers in their sundown seas; Schiller's diver goes into the purpling deep and sees the Sea-Horror reaching out its hundred arms; the beautiful Undine is the vivid poetry of the sea. Every fountain has its guardian saint or nymph, and to this day not only the German peasant and benighted English boor thrill at the sight of some nymph-guarded well, but the New Mexican Indian offers his rude pottery in propitiation of the animate existence, the deity of the purling spring.

"Der Taucher," for all the rhythm and music that clothes his luckless plunge, was but a caitiff knight to some of our submarine adventurers. A diver during the bay-fight in Mobile harbor had reason to apprehend a more desperate encounter. A huge cuttle-fish, the marine monster of Pliny and Victor Hugo, had been seen in the water. His tough, sinuous, spidery arms, five fathoms long, wavered visibly in the blue transparent gulf,

Und schaudernd dacht ich's—da kroch's heran,

Regte hundert Gelenke zugleich,

Will schnappen nach mir.

A harpoon was driven into the leathery, pulpy body of the monster, but with no other effect than the sudden snapping of the inch line like thread. It was subsequent to this that, as the diver stayed his steps in the unsteady current, his staff was seized below. The water was murky with the river-silt above the salt brine, and he could see nothing, but after an effort the staff was rescued or released. Curious to know what it was, he probed again, and the stick was wrenched from his hand. With a thrill he recognized in such power the monster of the sea, the devil-fish. He returned anxious, doubtful, but resolute. Few like to be driven from a duty by brute force. He armed himself, and descended to renew the hazardous encounter in the gloomy solitude of the sea-bottom. I would I had the wit to describe that tournament beneath the sea; the stab, thrust, curvet, plunge—the conquest and capture of the unknown combatant. A special chance preserves the mediaeval character of the contest, saving it from the sulphurous associations of modern warfare that might be suggested by the name of devil-fish. No: the antagonist wore a coat-of-mail and arms of proof, as became a good knight of the sea, and was besides succulent, digestible—a veritable prize for the conqueror. It was a monstrous crab.

The constant encounter of strange and unforeseen perils enables the professional diver to meet them with the same coolness with which ordinary and familiar dangers are confronted on land. On one occasion a party of such men were driven out into the Gulf by a fierce "norther," were tossed about like chips for three days in the vexed element, scant of food, their compass out of order, and the horizon darkened with prevailing storm. At another time a party wandered out in the shallows of one of the keys that fringe the Gulf coast. They amused themselves with wading into the water, broken into dazzling brilliance. A few sharks were seen occasionally, which gradually and unobserved increased to, a squadron. The waders meanwhile continued their sport until the evening waned away. Far over the dusk violet Night spread her vaporous shadows:

The blinding mist came up and hid the land,

And round and round the land,

And o'er and o'er the land,

As far as eye could see.

At last they turned their steps homeward, crossing the little sandy key, between which and the beach lay a channel shoulder-deep, its translucent waves now glimmering with phosphorescence. But here they were met by an unexpected obstacle. The fleet of sharks, with a strategical cunning worthy of admiration, had flanked the little island, and now in the deeper water formed in ranks and squadrons, and, with their great goggle eyes like port-fires burning, lay ready to dispute the passage. Armed with such weapons as they could clutch, the men dashed into the water with paeans and shouts and the broken pitchers of fallen Jericho. The violet phosphorescence lighted them on their way, and tracked with luminous curve and star every move of the enemy. The gashed water at every stroke of club or swish of tail or fin bled in blue and red fire, as if the very sea was wounded. The enemy's line of battle was broken and scattered, but not until more than one of the assailants had looked point-blank into the angry eyes of a shark and beaten it off with actual blows. It was the Thermopylae of sharkdom, with numbers reversed—a Red Sea passage resonant with psalms of victory.

There are novel difficulties as well as dangers to be encountered. The native courage of the man must be tempered, ground and polished. On land it is the massing of numbers that accomplishes the result—the accumulation of vital forces and intelligence upon the objective point. The innumerable threads of individual enterprise, like the twist of a Manton barrel, give the toughest tensile power. Under the sea, however, it is often the strength of the single thread, the wit of the individual pitted against the solid impregnability of the elements, the vis inertiae of the sea. It looks as if uneducated Nature built her rude fastnesses and rocky battlements with a special I view to resistance, making the fickle and I unstable her strongest barricade. An example of the skill and address necessary to conquer obstacles of the latter kind was illustrated in Mobile Bay. There lay about a sunken vessel an impenetrable mail of quicksand. It became necessary to sink piles into this material. The obstacle does not lie in its fickle, unstable character, but its elastic tension. It swallows a nail or a beam by slow, serpent-like deglutition. It is hungry, insatiable, impenetrable. Try to force it, to drive down a pile by direct force: it resists. The mallet is struck back by reverberating elasticity with an equal force, and the huge pointed stake rebounds. Brute force beats and beats in vain. The fickle sand will not be driven—no, not an inch.

Wit comes in where weight breaks down. A force-pump, a common old-style fire-engine, was rigged up, the nozzle and hose bound to a huge pile,

to equal which the tallest pine

Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast

Of some great ammiral, were but a wand.

The pump was set to work. The water tore through the nostril-pipe, boring a hole with such rapidity that the tall beam dropped into the socket with startling suddenness. Still breathing torrents, the pipe was withdrawn: the clutching sand seized, grappled the stake. It is cemented in.

You may break, you may shatter the stake, if you will,

but—you can never pull it out.

Perhaps the most singular and venturesome exploit ever performed in submarine diving was that of searching the sunken monitor Milwaukee during the bay-fight in Mobile harbor. This sea-going fortress was a huge double-turreted monitor, with a ponderous, crushing projectile force in her. Her battery of four fifteen-inch guns, and the tough, insensible solidity of her huge wrought-iron turrets and heavy plated hulk, burdened the sleepy waters of the bay. Upon a time she braced her iron jacket about her, girded her huge sides with fifteen-inch pistolry, and went rolling her clumsy volume down the bay to mash Fort Taylor to rubbish and débacle. The sea staggered under her ponderous gliding and groaned about her massive bulk as she wended her awkward course toward the bay-shore over against the fort. She sighted her blunderbusses, and, rolling, grunting, wheezing in her revolving towers like a Falstaff ill at ease, spat her gobbets of flame and death. The poor little water-spaniel fort ran down to the shore and barked at her of course. Cui bono or malo? Why, like Job's mates, fill its poor belly with the east wind, or try to draw out leviathan with a hook, or his tongue with a cord thou lettest down? Yet who treads of the fight between invulnerable Achilles and heroic Hector, and admires Achilles? The admiral of the American fleet, sick of the premature pother, signaled the lazy solidity to return. The loathly monster, slowly, like a bull-dog wrenched from his victim, rolled snarling, lazily, leisurely down the bay, not obeying and yet not disobeying the signal.

All along the sunny coast, like flowers springing up in a battle-field, were rows of little white cottages, tenanted by women and children—love, life and peace in the midst of ruin and sudden death. At the offending spectacle of homely peace among its enemies the unglutted monster eased its huge wrath. Tumbling and bursting among the poor little pasteboard shells of cottages, where children played and women gossiped of the war, and prayed for its end, no matter how, fell the huge globes and cones of murder. Shrieks and cries, slain babes and wounded women on shore; surly, half-mutinous officers and crew on that iron hulk, shocked at the fell work they were set to do; and the glimmer and wash of the bay-water below—that sweet, tranquil, half-transparent liquid, with idle weeds and chips upon it, empty crates and boxes of dead merchandise, sacked of their life and substance by the war, as one might swallow an oyster; the soft veils of shadowy ships and the distant city spires; umbrageous fires and slips of shining sand all mirrored in the soft and quiet sea, while this devilish pother went on. There is a buoy adrift! No, it is a sodden cask, perhaps of spoiling meat, while the people in the town yonder are starving; and still the huge iron, gluttonous monster bursts its foam of blood and death, while the surly crew curse and think of mothers and babes at home. Better to look at the bay, the idle, pleasing summer water, with chips and corks and weeds upon it; better to look at the bubbling cask yonder—much better, captain, if you only knew it! But the reluctant, heavy iron turret groans and wheezes on its pivotal round, and it will be a minute or half a minute before the throated hell speaks again. But it will speak: machinery is fatally accurate to time and place. Can nothing stay it, or stop the trembling of those bursting iron spheres among yon pretty print-like homes? No: look at the buoy, wish-wash, rolling lazily, bobbing in the water, a lazy, idle cask, with nothing in the world to do on this day of busy mischief. What hands coopered it in the new West? what farmer filled it? There is the grunting of swine, lowing of cattle, in the look of the staves. But the turret groans and wheezes and goes around, whether you look at it or not. What cottage this time? The soft lap-lap of the water goes on, and the tedious cask gets nearer: it will slide by the counter. You have a curious interest in that. No: it grates under the bow; it—Thunder and wreck and ruin! Has the bay burst open and swallowed us? The huge, invulnerable iron monster—not invulnerable after all—has met its master in the idle cask. It is blind, imprisoned Samson pulling down the pillars of the temple. The tough iron plates at the bow are rent and torn and twisted like wet paper. A terrible hole is gashed in the hull. The monster wobbles, rolls, gasps, and drinks huge gulps of water like a wounded man—desperately wounded, and dying in his thirsty veins and arteries. The swallowed torrent rushes aft, hissing and quenching the fires; beats against the stern, and comes forward with the rush of that repulse to meet the incoming wave. Into the boats, the water—anywhere but here. She reels again and groans; and then, as a desperate hero dies, she slopes her huge warlike beak at the hostile water and rushes to her own ruin with a surge and convulsion. The victorious sea sweeps over it and hides it, laughing at her work. She will keep it safely. That is the unsung epic of the Milwaukee, without which I should have little to say of the submarine diving during the bay-fight.

The harbor of Mobile is shaped like a rude Innuit boot. At the top, Tensaw and Mobile Rivers, in their deltas, make, respectively, two and three looplike bands, like the straps. The toe is Bonsecour Bay, pointing east. The heel rests on Dauphin Island, while the main channel flows into the hollow of the foot between Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island. In the north-west angle, obscured by the foliage, lay the devoted city, suffering no less from artificial famine, made unnecessarily, than the ligatures that stopped the vital current of trade. Tons of meat were found putrefying while the citizens, and even the garrison, had been starving on scanty rations. Food could be purchased, but at exorbitant rates, and the medium of exchange, Confederate notes, all gone to water and waste paper. The true story of the Lost Cause has yet to be written. North of Mobile, in the Trans-Mississippi department, thousands whose every throb was devoted to the enterprise, welcomed the Northern invaders, not as destroyers of a hope already dead by the act of a few entrusted with its defence, but as something better than the anarchy that was not Southern independence or anything else human.

Such were the condition, period and place—the people crushed between the upper and nether millstones of two hostile and contending civilizations—when native thrift evoked a new element, that set in sharp contrast the heroism of life and the heroism of death, the courage that incurs danger to save against the courage that accepts danger to destroy. The work was the saving of the valuable arms—costing the government thirty thousand dollars per gun—and the machinery of the sunken Milwaukee.5 By a curious circumstance this party of divers was composed partly, if not principally or entirely, of mechanics and engineers who were exempt from military service under the economic laws of the Confederacy, yet who in heart and soul sympathized with the rebellion. They had worked to save for the South: now they were to work and save for the North. It was a service of superadded danger. All the peril incurred from missile weapons was increased by the hidden danger of the secret under-sea and the presence of the terrible torpedoes. These floated everywhere, in all innocent, unsuspicious shapes. One monster, made of boiler iron, a huge cross, is popularly believed to be still hidden in the bay. The person possessing the chart wherein the masked battery's place was set down is said to have destroyed it and fled. Let us hope, however, that this is an error.

Keep in mind, in reading this account, the contrasted picture of peace in Nature and war in man—the calm blue sky; the soft hazy outlines of woods and bay-shore dropping their soft veils in the water; the cottages, suggesting industry and love; the distant city; the delicate and graceful spars of the Hartford; the busy despatch-steamers plying to and fro; the bursting forts and huge ugly monitors; the starry arches of flying shells by night and flying cloud by day; the soft lap of the water; the sensuous, sweet beauty of that latitude of eternal spring; and the soft dark violet of the outer sea, glassing itself in calm or broken into millioned frets of blue, red and starry fire; the danger above and the danger below; the dark mysterious caverns of the sea, rich with coral grots and grove and abounding marine life; the impenetrable gloom of the ship's hold, whose unimaginable darkness and labyrinthine intricacy of machinery set obstacles at every turn and move and step; the darkness; the fury; the hues and shape, all that art can make or Nature fashion, gild or color wrought into one grand tablature of splendor and magnificence. War and peaceful industry met there in novel rivalry, and each claimed its privileges. The captain of the Search said to the officers, while crowding his men behind the turret, with sly, dry humor, "Come, you are all paid to be shot at: my men are not."

More than once the accuracy of the enemy's fire drove the little party to shelter. Though the diver was shielded by the impenetrable fickle element that gave Achilles invulnerability, the air-pump above was exposed, and thus the diver might be slain by indirection. There lay Achilles' heel, the exposed vulnerable part that Mother Thetis's baptism neglected.

The work below was arduous: the hulk crowded with the entangling machinery of sixteen engines, cuddies, ports, spars, levers, hatches, stancheons, floating trunks, bibulous boxes heavy with drink, and the awful, mysterious gloom of the water, which is not night or darkness, but the absence of any ray to touch the sensitive optic nerve. The sense of touch the only reliance, and the life-line his guide.

But the peril incurred can be better understood through an illustrative example of a perilous adventure and a poor return. Officers and men of the unfortunate monitor asked for the rescue of their property, allowing a stipulated sum in lieu of salvage. Among these was a petty officer, anxious for the recovery of his chest. It involved peculiar hazards, since it carried the diver below the familiar turret-chamber, through the inextricabilis error of entangling machinery in the engine-room, groping among floating and sunken objects, into a remote state-room, the Acheron of the cavernous hold. He was to find by touch a seaman's chest; handle it in that thickening gloom; carry it, push it, move it through that labyrinthine obscurity to a point from which it could be raised. To add immeasurably to the intricacy of this undertaking, there was the need of carrying his life-line and air-hose through all that entanglement and obscurity. Three times in that horror of thick darkness like wool the line tangled in the web of machinery, and three times he had, by tedious endeavor, to follow it up, find the knot and release it. Then the door of the little state-room, the throat of exit, was shut to, and around and around the dense chamber he groped as if in a dream, and could find no vent. All was alike—a smooth, slimy wall, glutinous with that gelatinous liquid, the sea-water. The tangled line became a blind guide and fruitful source of error; the hours were ebbing away, drowning life and vital air in that horrible watery pit;

Aut hoc inclusi ligno occultantur Achivi,

or, a worse enemy than the subtle Greek's, death from the suspended air-current. Speed, nimbleness, strength and activity were worthless: with tedious fingers he must follow the life-line, find its entanglements and slowly loosen them, carefully taking up the slack, and so follow the straightened cord to the door. Then the chest: he must not forget that. Slowly he heaves and pushes, now at this, now at the life-line hitching on knob, handle, lever or projecting peg—on anything or nothing in that maze of machinery; by involution and evolution, like the unknown quantity in a cubic equation, through all the twists, turns, assumptions and substitutions, and always with that unmanageable, indivisible coefficient the box, until he reaches the upper air.

In Aesop's fable, when the crane claimed the reward of the wolf for using his long neck and bill as a forceps in extracting a bone from the latter's oesophagus, Lupus suggests that for the crane to have had his head down in the lupine throat and not get it snapped off was reward enough for any reasonable fowl. The petty officer was sufficiently learned in the Lyceum to administer a like return. The stipulated salvage was never paid or offered.

The monitors had small square hatches or man-ports let into the deck, admitting one person conveniently.

Hinc via, Tartanii quae fert Acherontis ad undas.

A swinging ladder, whose foot was clear of the floor, led down into the recesses. A diver, having completed his task, ascended the treacherous staircase to escape, and found the hatch blocked up. A floating chest or box had drifted into the opening, and, fitting closely, had firmly corked the man up in that dungeon, tight as a fly in a bottle. From his doubtful perch on the ladder he endeavored to push the obstacle from its insertion. Two or more equal difficulties made this impossible. The box had no handle, and it was slippery with the ooze and mucus of the sea. The leverage of pushing only wedged it faster in the orifice. The inconstant ladder swayed from it as a fulcrum. Again and again by art and endeavor and angle of push he essayed, and the ladder made sport of it. It was deadly sport, that swing and seesaw on the slippery rungs in the immeasurable loneliness of the silent, shrouded cabin. It was no rush of air, sending life tingling in the blood made brilliant with carmine of oxidation, but the dense, mephitic sough of the thick wool of water. He descended and sat upon the floor to think. Feasible methods had failed, and the sands of his life were running out like the old physician's. Now to try the impracticable. There are heaps of wisdom in the wrong way sometimes, which, I suppose, is the reason some of us like it. The box was out of his reach, choked in the gullet of that life-hole. No spring or leap from floor or ladder could reach its slippery side or bear it from its fixture. The sea had caught him prowling in its mysteries, and blocked him up, as cruel lords of ancient days walled up the intruder on their domestic privacy. Wit after brute force: man and Nature were pitted against each other in the uncongenial gloom—life the stake.

He groped about his prison, glutinous with infusoriae and the oily consistence of the sea. Here a nail, there a block or lever, shaped out mentally by the touch, theorized, studied upon and thrown down. Now a hatchet, monkey-wrench, monkey's-tail, or gliding fish or wriggling eel, companions of his imprisonment. At last the cold touch of iron: the hand encloses and lifts it; its weight betrays its length; he feels it to the end—blunt, square, useless. He tries the other end—an edge or spike. That will do. Standing under the hatch, guided by the ladder to the position, and with a strong swinging, upward blow, the new tool is driven into the soft, fibrous and adhesive pine bottom of the box. On the principle on which your butler's practiced elbow draws the twisted screw sunk into the cobwebbed seal of your '48 port, he uncorks himself. The box pulled out of the hatch, the sea-gods threw up the sponge, that zoophyte being handy.

These few incidents, strung together at random, and embracing only limited experiences out of many in one enterprise, are illustrative, in their variety and character, of this hardy pursuit, and the fascination of danger which is the school of native hardihood. But they give the reader a very imperfect idea of the nature and appearance of the new element into which man has pushed his industry. The havoc and spoil, the continued danger and contention, darken the gloom of the submarine world as a flash of lightning leaves blacker the shadow of the night and storm.

The first invention to promote subaqueous search was the diving-bell, a clumsy vessel which isolates the diver. It is embarrassing, if not dangerous, where there is a strong current or if it rests upon a slant deck. It limits the vision, and in one instance it is supposed the wretched diver was taken from the bell by a shark. It permits an assistant, however, and a bold diver will plunge from the deck above and ascend in the vessel, to the invariable surprise of his companion. An example of one of its perils, settling in the mud, occurred, I think, in the port of New York. A party of amateurs, supported by champagne flasks and a reporter, went down. The bell settled and stuck like a boy's sucker. One of the party proposed shaking or rocking the bell, and doing so, the water was forced under and the bell lifted from the ooze.

But a descent in submarine armor is the true way to visit the world under water. The first sensation in descending is the sudden bursting roar of furious, Niagarac cascades in the ears. It thunders and booms upon the startled nerve with the rush and storm of an avalanche. The sense quivers with it. But it is not air shaken by reflected blows: it is the cascades driven into the enclosing helmet by the force-pump. As the flexile hose has to be stiffly distended to bear an aqueous gravity of twenty-five to fifty pounds to the square inch, the force of the current can be estimated. The tympanum of the ear yields to the fierce external pressure. The brain feels and multiplies the intolerable tension as if the interior was clamped in a vice, and that tumultuous, thunderous torrent pours on. Involuntarily the mouth opens: the air rushes in the Eustachian tube, and with sudden velocity strikes the intruded tension of the drum, which snaps back to its normal state with a sharp, pistol-like crack. The strain is momently relieved to be renewed again, and again relieved by the same attending salutes.

In your curious dress you must appear monstrous, even to that marine world, familiar with abnormal creations. The whale looks from eyes on the top of his head; the flat-fish, sole, halibut have both eyes on the same side; and certain Crustacea place the organ on a foot-stalk, as if one were to hold up his eye in his hand to include a wider horizon. But the monster which the fish now sees differs from all these. It has four great goggle eyes arranged symmetrically around its head. Peering through these plate-glass optics, the diver sees the curious, strange beauty of the world around him, not as the bather sees it, blurred and indistinct, but in the calm splendor of its own thallassphere. The first thought is one of unspeakable admiration of the miraculous beauty of everything around him—a glory and a splendor of refraction, interference and reflection that puts to shame the Arabian story of the kingdom of the Blue Fish. Above him is that pure golden canopy with its rare glimmering lustrousness—something like the soft, dewy effulgence that comes with sun-breaks through showery afternoons. The soft delicacy of that pure straw-yellow that prevails everywhere is crossed and lighted by tints and glimmering hues of accidental and complementary color indescribably elegant. The floor of the sea rises like a golden carpet in gentle incline to the surface; but this incline, experience soon teaches, is an ocular deception, the effect of refraction, such as a tumbler of water and a spoon can exhibit in petty. It is perhaps the first observable warning that you are in a new medium, and that your familiar friend, the light, comes to you altered in its nature; and it is as well to remember this and "make a note on it."

Raising your eyes to the horizontal and looking straight forward, a new and beautiful wealth of color is developed. It is at first a delicate blue, as if an accidental color of the prevailing yellow. But soon it deepens into a rich violet. You feel as if you had never before appreciated the loveliness of that rich tint. As your eye dwells upon it the rich lustrous violet darkens to indigo, and sinking into deeper hues becomes a majestic threat of color. It is ominous, vivid blue-black—solid, adamantine, a crystal wall of amethyst. It is all around you. You are cased, dungeoned in the solid masonry of the waters. It is beauty indeed, but the sombre and awful beauty of the night and storm. The eye turns for relief and reassurance to the paly-golden lustrous roof, and watches that tender penciling which brightens every object it touches. The hull of the sunken ship, lying slant and open to the sun, has been long enough submerged to be crusted with barnacles, hydropores, crustacea and the labored constructions of the microscopic existences and vegetation that fill the sea. The song of Ariel becomes vivid and realistic in its rich word-power:

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes:

Nothing of him that doth fade

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

The transfiguration of familiar objects is indeed curious and wonderful. The hulk, once gaudy with paint and gilding, has come under the skill of the lapidary and sea-artist. It is crusted with emerald and flossy mosses, and glimmers with diamond, jacinth, ruby, topaz, sapphire and gold. Every jewel-shape in leaf, spore, coral or plume, lying on a greenish crystalline ground, is fringed with a soft radiance of silver fire, and every point is tipped in minute ciliate flames of faint steely purple. It is spotted with soft velvety black wherever a shadow falls, that mingles and varies the wonderful display of color. It is brilliant, vivid, changeable with the interferences of light from the fluctuating surface above, which transmogrifies everything—touches the coarsest objects with its pencil, and they become radiant and spiritual. A pile of brick, dumped carelessly on the deck, has become a huge hill of crystal jewelry, lively with brilliant prismatic radiance. Where the light falls on the steps of the staircase it shows a ladder of silver crusted with emeralds. The round-house, spars, masts, every spot where a peak or angle catches the light, have flushed into liquid, jeweled beauty; and each point, a prism and mirror, catches, multiplies and reflects the other splendor. A rainbow, a fleecy mist over the lake, made prismal by the sunlight, a bunch of sub-aqueous moss, a soap-bubble, are all examples in our daily experience of that transforming power of water in the display of color. The prevailing tone is that soft, golden effulgence which, like the grace of a cheerful and loving heart, blends all into one harmonious whole.

But observation warns the spectator of the delusive character of all that splendor of color. He lifts a box from the ooze: he appears to have uncorked the world. The hold is a bottomless chasm. Every indentation, every acclivity that casts a shadow, gives the impression of that soundless depth. The bottom of the sea seems loopholed with cavities that pierce the solid globe and the dark abysses of space beyond. The diver is surrounded by pitfalls, real and imaginary. There is no graduation. The shallow concave of a hand-basin is as the shadow of the bottomless well.

If the exploration takes place in the delta of a great river, the light is affected by the various densities of the double refracting media. At the proper depth one can see clearly the line where these two meet, clean cut and as sharply defined as the bottom of a green glass tumbler through the pure water it contains. The salt brine or gelatinous sea-water sinks weighted to the bottom, and over it flows the fresh river-water. If the latter is darkened with sediment, it obscures the silent depths with a heavy, gloomy cloud. In seasons of freshet this becomes a total darkness.

But even on a bright, sunshiny day, under clear water, the shadow of any object in the sea is unlike any shade in the upper atmosphere. It draws a black curtain over everything under it, completely obscuring it. Nor is this peculiarity lost when the explorer enters the shadow; but, as one looking into a tunnel from without can see nothing therein, though the open country beyond is plainly visible, so, standing in that submarine shadow, all around is dark, though beyond the sable curtain of the shadow the view is clear. Apply this optical fact to the ghastly story of a diver's alleged experience in the cabin of a sunken ship. It is narrated that there was revealed to his appalled sight the spectacle of the drowned passengers in various attitudes of alarm or devotion when the dreadful suffocation came. The story is told with great effect and power, but unless a voltaic lantern is included in the stage furniture, the ghastly tableaux must sink into the limbo of incredibilities.

The cabin of a sunken vessel is dark beyond any supernal conception of darkness. Even a cabin window does not alter this law, though it may be itself visible, with objects on its surface, as in a child's magic-lantern. As the rays of light pass through an object flatwise, like the blade of a knife through the leaves of a book, and may be admitted through another of like character in the plane of the first, so a ray of light can penetrate with deflection through air and water. But becoming polarized, the interposition of a third medium ordinarily transparent will stop it altogether. Hence the plate-glass window under water admits no light into the interior of a cabin. The distrust of sight grows with the diver's experience. The eye brings its habit of estimating proportion and distance from an attenuated atmosphere into another and denser medium, and the seer is continually deceived by the change. He hesitates, halts, and is observant of the pitfalls about him. A gang-plank slightly above the surface of the deck is bordered, where its shadow falls, by dismal trenches. There is a range of hills crossing the deck before him. As he approaches he estimates the difficulty of the ascent. At its apparent foot he reaches to clamber the steep sides, and the sierra is still a step beyond his reach. Drawing still nearer, he prepares to crawl up; his hand touches the top; it is less than shoulder-high.

But perhaps the strongest illustration of the differing densities of these two media is furnished by an attempt to drive a nail under water. By an absolute law such an effort, if guided by sight independent of calculation, must fail. Habit and experience, tested in atmospheric light, will control the muscles, and direct the blow at the very point where the nail-head is not. For this reason the ingenious expedient of a voltaic lantern under water has proved to be impracticable. It is not the light alone which is wanted, but that sweet familiar atmosphere through which we are habituated to look. The submarine diver learns to rely wholly on the truer sense of touch, and guided by that he engages in tasks requiring labor and skill with the easy assurance of a blind man in the crowded street.

The conveyance of sound through the inelastic medium of water is so difficult that it has been called the world of silence. This is only comparatively true. The fish has an auditory cavity, which, though simple in itself, certifies the ordinary conviction of sound, but it is dull and imperfect; and perhaps all marine creatures have other means of communication. There is an instance, however, of musical sounds produced by marine animals, which seems to show an appreciation of harmony. In one of the lakes of Ceylon, Sir Emerson Tennent heard soft musical sounds, like the first faint notes of the aeolian harp or the faint vibrations of a wineglass when its rim is rubbed by a wet finger. This curious harmony is supposed to be produced by a species of testaceous mollusk. A similar intonation is heard at times along the Florida coast.

Interesting as this may be, as indicating an appreciation of that systematic order in arrangement which in music is harmony, it does not alter the fact that to the ears of the diver, save the cascade of the air through the life-hose, it is a sea of silence. No shout or spoken word reaches him. Even a cannon-shot comes to him dull and muffled, or if distant it is unheard. But a sharp, quick sound, that appears to break the air, like ice, into sharp radii, can be heard, especially if struck against anything on the water. The sound of driving a nail on the ship above, for example, or a sharp tap on the diving-bell below, is distinctly and reciprocally audible. Conversation below the surface by ordinary methods is out of the question, but it can be sustained by placing the metal helmets of the interlocutors together, thus providing a medium of conveyance.

The effort to clothe with intelligence subaqueous life must have been greatly strengthened among primitive nations by the musical sounds to which I have referred. Those mysterious breathings were associated with a human will, and gave forebodings from their very sweetness. Everywhere they are associated with a passionate or pathetic mystery, and the widely-spread area over which their island home is portrayed as existing strengthens the conclusion that the strange music of the sea belongs not to Ceylon or Florida or the Mediterranean alone. It affords us another instance, by that common enjoyment of sweet sounds, of the chain of sympathy between all intelligent creatures, and better prepares us for familiar acquaintance with the beings which people the sea. We have prejudices and preconceived ideas to get rid of, whose strength has crystallized into aphorisms. "Cold as a fish" and "fish-eyed" are ordinary expressions. Then the touch of a fish, cold, slippery, serpent-like, causes an involuntary shrinking.

But the submarine diver has a new revelation of piscine character and beauty, and perhaps can better understand the enticings of a siren or fantastic Lurlei than the classical scholar. In the flush of aureal light tinging their pearly glimmering armor are the radiant, graceful, frolicsome inhabitants of the sea. The glutinous or oily exudation that covers them is a brilliant varnish. Their lustrous colors, variety of crystalline tints and beautiful markings and spots, attract the eye of the artist even in the fish-market; but when glowing with full life, lively, nimble, playful, surely the most graceful living creatures of earth, air or sea, the soul must be blind indeed that can look upon them unmoved.

The dull optic seen glazing in the death-throes upon the market-stall, with coarse vulgar surroundings, becomes, in its native element, full of intelligence and light. In even the smaller fry the round orb glitters like a diamond star. One cannot see the fish without seeing its eye. It is positive, persistent, prevalent, the whole animate existence expressed in it. As far as the fish can be seen its eye is visible. The glimmer of scales, the grace of perfect motion, the rare golden pavilion with its jeweled floor and heavy violet curtains, complete a scene whose harmony of color, radiance and animal life is perfect. The minnow and sun-perch are the pages of the tourney on the cloth of gold. There is a fearless familiarity in these playful little things, a social, frank intimacy with their novel visitor, that astonishes while it pleases. They crowd about him, curiously touch him, and regard all his movements with a frank, lively interest. Nor are the larger fish shy. The sheeps-head, red and black groper, sea-trout and other, familiar fish of the sportsman, receive him with frank bonhommie or fearless curiosity. In their large round beautiful eyes the diver reads evidence of intelligence and curious wonder that sometimes startles him with its entirely human expression. There is a look of interest mixed with curiosity, leading to the irresistible conclusion of a kindred nature. No faithful hound or pet doe could express a franker interest in its eyes. Curiosity, which I take to be expressly destructive of the now-exploded theory of instinct, is expressed not only by the eye, but by the movements. As in man there is an eager passion to handle that which is novel, so these curious denizens of the sea are persistent in their efforts to touch the diver. An instance of this occurred, attended with disagreeable results to one of the parties, and that not the fish. The Eve of this investigation was a large catfish. These fish are the true rovers of the water. They have a large round black eye, full of intelligence and fire: their warlike spines and gaff-topsails give them the true buccaneer build. One of these, while the diver was engaged, incited by its fearless curiosity, slipped up and touched him with its cold nose. The man involuntarily threw back his hand, and the soft palm striking the sharp gaff, it was driven into the flesh. There was an instant's struggle before the fish wrenched itself loose from the bleeding member, and then it only swung off a little, staring with its bold black eyes at the intruder, as if it wished to stay for further question. It is hard to translate the expression of that look of curious wonder and surprise without appearing to exaggerate, but the impression produced was that if the fish did not speak to him, it was from no lack of intelligent emotions to be expressed in language.

A prolonged stay in one place gave a diver an opportunity to test this intelligence further, and to observe the trustful familiarity of this variety of marine life. He was continually surrounded at his work by a school of gropers, averaging a foot in length. An accident having identified one of them, he observed it was a daily visitor. After the first curiosity the gropers apparently settled into the belief that the novel monster was harmless and clumsy, but useful in assisting them to their food. The species feed on Crustacea and marine worms, which shelter under rocks, mosses and sunken objects at the sea-bottom. In raising anything out of the ooze a dozen of these fish would thrust their heads into the hollow for their food before the diver's hand was removed. They would follow him about, eyeing his motions, dashing in advance or around in sport, and evidently with a liking for their new-found friend. Pleased with such an unexpected familiarity, the man would bring them food and feed them from his hand, as one feeds a flock of chickens. The resemblance, in their familiarity and some of their ways, to poultry was, in fact, very striking. As a little chick will sometimes seize a large crumb and scurry off, followed by the flock, so a fish would sometimes snatch a morsel and fly, followed by the school. If he dropped it or stopped to enjoy his bonne bouche, his mates would be upon him. Sometimes two would get the same morsel, and there would be a trial of strength, accompanied with much flash and glitter of shining scales. But no matter how called off, their interest and curiosity remained with the diver. They would return, pushing their noses about him, caressingly in appearance if not intent, and bob into the treasures of worm and shell-fish his labor exposed. He became convinced that they were sportive, indulging in dash and play for the fun of it, rather than for any grosser object to be attained.

This curious intimacy was continued for weeks: the fish, unless driven away by some rover of prey of their kind, were in regular attendance during his hours of work. Perhaps the solitude and silence of that curious submarine world strengthened the impression of recognition and intimacy, but by every criterion we usually accept in terrestrial creation these little creatures had an interest and a friendly feeling for one who furnished them food, and who was always careful to avoid injuring them or giving them any unnecessary alarm. He could not, of course, take up a fish in his hand, any more than a chicken will submit to handling; but as to the comparative tameness of the two, the fish is more approachable than the chicken. That they knew and expected the diver at the usual hour was a conclusion impossible to deny, as also that they grew into familiarity with him, and were actuated by an intelligent recognition of his service to them. It would be hard to convince this gentleman that a school of fish cannot be as readily and completely tamed as a flock of chickens.

Why not? The fear of man is no instinctive feeling in the invertebrate creation. The pioneer who penetrates into the uninhabited wilds of our Western frontier finds bird and beast fearless and familiar. Man's cruelty is a lesson of experience. The timid and fearful of the lower creation belong to creatures of prey. The shark, for example, is as cowardly as the wolf.

I thought to speak of other marine creations with which the diver grows acquainted, finding in them only a repetition of the same degree of life he has seen in the upper world. But let it be enough to state the conclusion—as yet only an impression, and perhaps never to be more—that in marine existence there is to be found the counterpart always of some animate existence on earth, invertebrate or radiate, in corresponding animals or insects, between whose habits and modes of existence strong analogies are found. The shrimps that hang in clusters on your hand under the water are but winged insects of the air in another frame that have annoyed you on the land.

Let me dismiss the subject with the brief account of a diver caught in a trap.

In the passion of blind destruction that followed and attended the breaking out of hostilities between the North and the South, as a child breaks his rival's playthings, the barbarism of war destroyed the useful improvements of civilization. Among the things destroyed by this iconoclastic fury was the valuable dry-dock in Pensacola Bay. It was burned to the water's edge, and sunk. A company was subsequently organized to rescue the wreck, and in the course of the submarine labor occurred the incident to which I refer.

The dry-dock was built in compartments, to ensure it against sinking, but the ingenuity which was to keep it above water now served effectually to keep it down. Each one of these small water-tight compartments held the vessel fast to the bottom, as Gulliver was bound by innumerable threads to the ground of Lilliput. It was necessary to break severally into the lower side of each of these chambers, and allow the water to flow evenly in all. The interior of the hull was checkered by these boxes. Huge beams and cross-ties intersected each other at right angles, forming the frame for this honeycombed interior, pigeon-holed like a merchant's desk. It was necessary to tear off the skin and penetrate from one to the other in order to effect this.

It was a difficult and tedious job under water. The net of intersecting beams lay so close together that the passage between was exceedingly narrow and compressed, barely admitting the diver's body. The pens, so framed by intersecting beams, were narrowed and straitened, embarrassing attempts at labor in them, which the cold, slippery, serpent-like touch of the sea-water was not likely to make pleasanter. It folded the shuddering body in its coils, and a most ancient and fish-like smell did not improve the situation. The toil was multiplied by the innumerable pigeon-holes, as if they fitted into one another like a Chinese puzzle, with the unlucky diver in the middle box. It was a nightmare of the sea, the furniture of a dream solidified in woody fibre.

Into one of these crowding holes the diver crawled. There was the tedious work of tearing off the casing to occupy an hour or more, and when it was accomplished he endeavored to back out of his situation. He was stopped fast and tight in his regression. The arrangement of the armor about the head and shoulders, making a cone whose apex was the helmet, prevented his exit. It was like the barb of a harpoon, and caught him fast in the wood. Such a danger is not sudden in its revelation. There is at first only a feeling of impatience at the embarrassment, a disposition to "tear things." In vain attempts at doubling and other gymnastic feats the diver wasted several hours, until his companions above became alarmed at the delay. They renewed and increased their labors at the force-pump, and the impetuous torrent came surging about the diver's ears. It served to complete his danger. It sprung the trap in which he lay enclosed. The inflated armor swelled and filled up the crowded spaces. It stiffened out the casing of the helmet to equal the burden of fifty pounds to the square inch, and made it as hard as iron. He was caught like the gluttonous fox. The bulky volume of included air made exit impossible. It was no longer a labyrinth as before, where freedom of motion incited courage: he was in the fetters of wind and water, bound fast to the floor of his dungeon den. He signaled for the pump to stop. It was the only alternative. He might die without that life-giving air, but he would certainly die if its volume was not reduced. The cock at the back of the helmet for discharging the vessel was out of his reach. The invention never contemplated a case in which the diver would perish from the presence of air.

As the armor worn was made tight at the sleeves with elastic wristbands, his remedy was to insert his fingers under it, and slowly and tediously allow the bubbling air to escape. In this he persevered steadily, encouraged by the prospect of escape. The way was long and difficult, but release certain with the reduction of that huge bulk.

But a new and subtler danger attacked him—the very wit of Nature brought to bear upon his force and ingenuity. It was as if the mysterious sirens of the sea saw in that intellectual force the real strength of their prisoner, and sought to steal it from him while they lulled him to indifference. Inhaling and reinhaling the reduced volume of air, it became carbonized and foul, not with the warning of sudden oppression, but

Sly as April melts to May,

And May slips into June.

The senses, intoxicated by the new companion sent them by the lungs, began to sport with it, as ignorant children with a loaded shell, forgetful of duty and the critical condition of the man. They began to wander in vagaries and delusions. A soft chime of distant bells rang in his ears with the sweet sleepy service of a Sabbath afternoon; the sound of hymns and the organ mingled with the melody and the chant of the sirens of the sea.

There is sweet music here that softer falls

Than petals from blown roses on the grass,

Or night-dew on still waters, between walls

Of shadowy granite in a gleaming pass—

Music that gentler on the spirit lies

Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes.

Here are cool mosses deep,

And through the moss the ivies creep,

And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,

And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

The sensuous beauty, the infinite luxury of repose sung by the poet, filled and steeped his senses. The desire to sleep was intoxicating, delicious, irresistible; and with it ran delicious, restful thrills through all his limbs, the narcotism of the blood. It was partly, no doubt, the effect of inhaling that pernicious air; partly that hibernation of the bear which in the freezing man precedes dissolution; and possibly more than that, something more than any mere physical cause—life perhaps preparing to lay this tired body down, its future usefulness destroyed.

This delicious enervation had to be constantly resisted and dominated by a superior will. One more strenuous effort to relieve that straitened garrison, to release that imprisoned and fettered body, and then, if that failed, an unconditional surrender to the armies of eternal steep. But it did not fail. That constant, persevering tugging of the fingers at the wristbands, pursued mechanically in that strange condition of pleasing stupor, had reduced the exaggerated distensions of the bulbous head-gear. A stout, energetic push set the diver free, and he was drawn to the surface dazed, drowsy, and only half conscious of the peril undergone. But with the rush of fresh, untainted air to the lungs came an emotion of gratitude to the Giver of life and the full consciousness of escape.

And this sums up my sketch illustrative of the peculiar character of marine life, and the hazards of submarine adventure, hitherto known to few, for—well, for divers reasons.