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Our Australian Cousins
Chapter II


Singapore—My impressions of the island—Start for Australia— Among the islands—Torres Straits—Our captainPassengers and Chinese doctor—Somerset—Looking hack—Colonial evi­dences—A hush dandy—The pearl shell fishery—The diver's boats and details of the fishing—The pearl oyster— .Incidents of the fishing—Curious facts in natural history— Sharks.

Early in the morning of the 1st of February, 1877, we. sighted Singapore island. The approach to the harbour was beautiful in the extreme : bold, rocky islets, wooded down to the water's edge, scattered all about, and the shipping looming against the sky in the far distance. "We had a strong tide rushing like a mill- race against us, and as we neared the narrow opening leading to the harbour, the vistas of crag and wooded height, with red and white bungalows peeping at us from every turn, were very striking. What a Babel as we slowly drew up to the wharf! Jews, Malays, Negroes, Chinamen, all chattering as loudly as they could—a perfect torrent of sound.

The town lies some two miles from the wharf, and we drove up between low marshy flats now covered by the tide, but which at low water are a dank, reeking mass of dense vegetation and evil-smelling mud and refuse.

The principal hotel is the Hotel de l'Europe; but if the management have not improved, since I trod its uneven pavements with aching feet, I would advise intending visitors to Singapore to give it a wide berth. The table was wretchedly supplied; the Chinese boys who act as servants were insolent in their demeanour, and insufficient in number to yield good attendance. The hotel is finely situated, facing the bay, with a good maidan and promenade in front; but the management was simply execrable. The charges, moreover, were excessive, and during the eight days- that some of my friends remained there, the bedrooms were neither swept nor garnished. When one servant was told that he would be complained of to the proprietor, he coolly answered, "All right, you wish you make row. Master no care. I no care! " nor did the appeal unto Caesar himself mend matters. He curtly gave us to understand that we didn't know when we were well off.

It is an invidious thing to make comparisons, and an unthankful task to find fault; but several of our fellow-passengers, more fortunate, found good food, cheerful rooms, and every consideration paid to their comfort at the Clarendon, another hotel of more modest proportions than the Hotel de l'Europe, but its superior in comfort, courtesy and cleanliness. It is only fair to add that since my visit, I have seen friends who tell me that the situations are now re­versed, and that under a new management the Hotel de l'Europe is all that the most fastidious traveller might require.

We were not sorry when we shook the dust of Singapore from our feet, and embarked on board the "So­merset," one of the Eastern and Australian Company's steamers, for Sydney. I had a happy reunion and hospitable reception from relations in Singapore; but the heat was excessive, and the moist atmosphere bad for a rheumatic invalid. The island, so far as climate goes, is perhaps the most equable spot in all our vast empire. During the whole circle of the year the temperature does not vary more than three degrees at any season. The nights are steamy and hot. The atmosphere is relaxing. Markets are but poorly sup­plied, and living is not cheap. I was not particularly enamoured of Singapore from my short acquaintance with it. But I was weak and in pain, and that may have tinged my impressions. Our route in the "Somerset" took us past the town of Rhio, founded by the Dutch as a free port to rival Singapore, but which has never attained much importance. Past Karimata island, a bold towering mountainous spot, we steamed through the Java Sea, passing Bamean island, with its mountain summit lost in a snowy mantle of fleecy cloud, and on the 11th sighted Madura, an island on the Java coast.

Next morning, we were lucky enough to get a fine view of Mount Bator, an active volcano on the island of Balli. On nearly all of these islands in this marvellous archipelago, numerous traces of very recent volcanic action arc manifest, and passengers by the Torres Straits mail route may often see the hazy outline of floating clouds of smoke on the distant islands, show­ing where the internal fires are at work, and evidencing eruptive agencies in a state of irrepressible activity. Through the glasses, we could see the smoke and flame of Mount Bator quite distinctly, and marked the rugged scaurs down which the boiling lava rushes, when there is any great sudden upheaval of the molten seething mass in Pluto's cauldron far below. The sail through these

waters is very pleasant and beautiful. For several days we never for a moment lost sight of land, and the succession of beautiful islands, with their mountains, bays, forests, villages, and abrupt indenta­tions, all shrouded in the soft, gauzy, greyish tint of distance, that softened the outlines, and toned down the colours, presented an ever-fresh study, an ever- shifting panorama of delightful scenery.

On Monday, the 19th, we reached the entrance to Torres Straits, where we anchored during the night, the navigation through the straits being intricate and dangerous. The survey of this part of the great high­way of waters is indeed still far from being complete ; there are many hidden shoals, dangerous reefs, and treacherous currents, whose existence are not marked on the charts. Since the regular establishment of a line of mail steamers, however, every successive trip adds something to the knowledge of our hydrographers, and the Queensland government, in conjunction with the Imperial authorities, are even now engaged in a comprehensive survey of the route, which will in time make the charts of these intricate waters as reliable as those of the more open and ancient pathways of commerce through the dominions of old Father Neptune.

Our captain was a short, bull-headed, irascible Old salt, of the Captain Crosstree pattern. Our skipper may have been a very good sailor, but he was a most grumpy and unpleasant companion. He was a capital hand at whist, and won with ready good-humour; when his cards were bad, however, his taciturnity was very portentous, until at length, if the run of ill-luck con­tinued, he would dash down his hand, splutter out a few oaths, and hurry off to the bridge to see "how her head" was. A steady adherence to these tactics brought the worthy captain out considerably to the good, when points were reckoned up.

The "Somerset" was a capital sea boat, but too small for passenger requirements in tropical latitudes. The cabins were close, hot, and infested with cockroaches, red ants, and rats. The supply of ice too might have been on a more liberal scale, and the cookery would have borne some improvement, without risk of running into the charge of prodigality. The European steerage passengers had to sleep on deck, and herd with the Chinese, who swarmed about the forepart of the vessel. There was one jolly fat little fellow, of a superior grade amongst them. He was a Chinese doctor, and his fellows treated him with great deference, but his method of diagnosis would rather have puzzled the inductive philosophers. His theory of disease was this:—All disease was simply "matter in the wrong place." The particular matter out of which any specific disease originated was a clot of blood. How to discover and remove these supererogatory clots, was the business of his life. He professed to be gifted with a sort of clairvoyant power. Our pig-tailed Galen could read his fellow-man like a book. He could see right through you with those glittering, beady, rat-like eyes of his. His mode of operations with a patient- was somewhat after this fashion:—He looked at you from head to foot, made you put out your tongue, slapped your chest, cracked your joints, and felt you all over in regular orthodox fashion. Then he professed to draw a diagram of your internal economy, and if you were very bad, or if he wished to impress you with that idea, he sprinkled a liberal supply of dark marks over the diagram, each of which represented a clot of blood, and the occult seat of some mysterious malaise. Being sufficiently impressed with the gravity of your symptoms as represented by the number of clots, he next prescribed some abominable mixture, and after you had swallowed this in sufficient quantity, he would give you another diagram showing the fatal spots all cleared off, and your convalescence was accomplished. The amount of indescribable stuff that you had to swallow would vary with the limits of your purse, the extent of your credulity, and the measure of your patience. Would it be believed that in Sydney, some time after my arrival in Australia, I found a Chinese doctor pursuing exactly these tactics, and finding numbers of dupes who believed all his profes­sions, and paid their money for exactly such treatment as I have above described ?

The E. and A. company have been very unfortunate in losing two of their finest vessels, the "Singapore" and the "Queensland," yet they have carried out their contracts honourably and with credit, and they deserve well at the hands of the Australian colonies. Our bull-necked little captain, however, seemed to fancy that his passengers were in some occult way respon­sible for these disasters; and that the loss might in some measure be made up by cutting off our ice supply, denying us the luxury of the punkah, and docking us as often as he could of an occasional slice of ham, or supplementary pot of preserves. Where passenger traffic is counted, it is, in sober earnest, a very short-sighted policy to be parsimoniously inclined in the matter of table allowance. A genial, pleasant captain, with good cookery and a clean, well-supplied table, will often cover a multitude of sins, even including the greatest bete noir of all, slow steaming.

On the 20th we anchored off Somerset, the most northerly township in Australia. Here once again did I gaze on the mightiest island of our world, the last grand continent being inundated by the resistless Anglo-Saxon flood, that seems destined to pour its vivifying and fertilizing wave over every portion of this great globe of ours.

I remembered me of my former farewell to Australia, twelve long years ago. Ay de mi! what changes during that period! I remembered the wild, gusty, squally murk and obscurity in which we had taken our farewell of Cape Leuwin; and a flood of recollections poured over my mind as I realized all the stirring changes and incidents of my chequered career since then.

My thoughts were enough sad. Then, I had been in the full flush of youthful hope and vigour. The world was all before me, with not a care to dim the horizon. Light in heart as in pocket, and the bound­ing pulse and vigorous step gave token of a stalwart frame as yet untouched by sickness and suffering. And here I was back in Australia, once more a wanderer, on the face of the earth, shattered in health, not overburdened with worldly wealth, away from all my friends and acquaintances, the past gone beyond recall, and the future all dark and unknown before me. What wonder if I felt a little melancholy, and inclined to take rather a sombre view of my surroundings. However, the courage and renewed hope of returning health were already at work, assisting to raise my spirits, and though my limbs and joints still refused to bear me as buoyantly and briskly as of yore, I dismissed my gloomy forebodings, and prepared to accept what fate might throw in my way, if not with lively gratitude and eager anticipation, yet with calm forti­tude and philosophical resignation.

Somerset, at the time of my visit, was not a place calculated to strike a stranger with any exaggerated ideas of greatness and grandeur. Somehow it seemed the very embodiment of those vague, half-formed ideas which one is apt to associate with the word colonial. The houses were of the hut order of architecture. The alignments of the streets were not easily distinguish­able from what is euphoniously termed "scrub and stumps." Horticulture seemed to be carried on after a somewhat primitive fashion. Pumpkins were the staple article of vegetable produce, and seemed to grow anywhere; and pigs and poultry rather outnumbered the biped inhabitants. The first purely colonial evi­dence that struck me was the Billycock hat and the slop clothing. Could any one who has travelled in other countries ever mistake the distinctive features of colonial dress? It is something unique, and unap­proachable in its tawdry shabbiness and unrelieved ugliness. A colonial hat seldom seems natty or new, glossy or neat. There are few lines of grace about the garments, and they somehow seem ill-fitting, shrunken, sordid, and mean. The country as yet is so thinly inhabited in these remote parts, that for the dwellers in the bush ready-made clothing or none is the only choice.

A bush dandy is a wonderful sight, resplendent in all the colours of the rainbow; frilled shirt front, much embroidered; velvet tie of cerulean blue, picked out with red and yellow like a stick of candy at a village fair; trousers tight at the hips, swelling at the thighs, narrowing again at the knee, and widening out over the calf and ancle into a bell-mouthed, blunderbuss shape; the material being a well-defined cross check highly prononce both in pattern and hue. The waistcoat is generally worn very open, to display the ornamented shirt bosom, which, however, betrays an ignorance of the laundress's art, and is, at times, sug­gestive of tobacco juice and a damp chest. The vest, moreover, is only considered enragle if it be composed of some velvet, satin, or silk texture, with a warp of cotton thread running conspicuously through it into a gaudy sprigged flower-pattern. The coat is short in the sleeves, square cut as to tails; the waist and but­tons corresponding thereto are perched high up in the small of the back, and cuffs, collar, lappets, and edges are everywhere liberally bound and bordered with braid, while the eternal Billycock, much dinted, battered, and besmeared round the circumference with grease and perspiration, crowns the edifice, and completes the costume. If a real high-class dandy of the first water, be sure a pair of patent leather dancing-boots, a brass ring, a riding-whip, a silver watch, and several golden charms, a nugget pin, and a cricket-belt of wool and bead-work will not be wanting as accessories.

The crew had now commenced to take in cargo, and we had time to look about. The township of Somerset is beautifully situated on the shores of a narrow strait between Albany island and the main land. The town­ship itself barely deserves the name, being but a scat­tered collection of detached huts, and the permanent population, I fancy, could not have topped a total of. thirty at the outside. Any little importance it possesses it derives from its being the depot for the Torres Straits pearl shell fishery ; but it had even then been decided to abolish Somerset as a station, and form another on some of the islands further west, where the tides would not be so strong, and the situation would be more sheltered.

Already, at the time of my visit, Somerset was showing all the signs of incipient decay. The gardens were relapsing into jungle, and most of the houses had been half destroyed by the ravages of the destructive white ant, which here teems in innumerable millions. At some distance from the shore these ant-hills, which stud the slopes in every direction, looked exactly like the white monumental stones and mute memorial mounds in some vast cemetery; and rising as they do in countless cones and pinnacles on every slope and undulating brae, they give an aspect of extraordinary funereal ghostliness to the place.

At that time there were about sixty large sea-boats, cutters, schooners, yawls, and what not, employed in the staple industry of the straits—the pearl shell fish­ing. The shelling stations are scattered through the Torres Straits' groups of islets, and give employment to nearly eight hundred men. What a jumble of na­tionalities have we here ! Runaway sailors and deser­ters from the marine of every civilized state; South Sea Islanders, Papuans, Lascars, Malays, Chinamen, Coreans, and even negroes from the West Indies. Tragedies are not uncommon, and it needs a man of dauntless courage and iron nerve to stow himself away out of the world for a time as "boss" of a shelling station. Of such material were made the bold bucca­neers of bygone story. It is, however, fast becoming a settled industry, and law and order reign among the mixed melange of nationalities.

Dredging has now been in many cases introduced but formerly nearly all the shell was procured by naked Malay and Polynesian divers in shallow patches of from two to three fathoms depth of water. These shallows have now become nearly exhausted. All the accessible shoal water banks have been stripped bare of every saleable shell, and. the diving is now done by professional divers, aided by the latest and best diving apparatus, and in from ten to thirteen fathoms of water. Large capital is invested in the trade, which is in the hands chiefly of a few Sydney merchants.

The pearl oyster is a very large mollusc, the shell weighing as much sometimes as eight pounds. The shells are found both singly and in patches on a muddy bottom, and in places where the tides do not run very strong. The diver generally walks along the bottom, often for miles at a time, until he strikes a patch. The boat overhead is pulled slowly along, so as to keep pace with the submerged pioneer far below. What a weird, fanciful sort of an existence this must be! What a hero for a novelist like Victor Hugo, for instance! How the imagination fires up as one fancies all the strange aquatic monsters and submarine marvels that disclose themselves through the glazed bars of the diver's helmet.

The Kanaleas or South Sea Islanders make the best divers, and large numbers of them are employed in the fishery. The men of the Torres Straits islands are a big-limbed, swarthy, strong set of savage-looking fel­lows. They bear long curved lines of tattoo marks upon their arms, and from the shoulders down to their hips. The upper cartilage of the nose is slit in a V- shaped fashion :—what for, I was not able to discover; in English eyes it certainly does not add to their beauty.

The divers are paid fair wages, and get a small share of profits. Any pearls that may be found, they are allowed to appropriate to themselves as perquisites, the owners not considering it worth their while to go in for anything but the shell itself. We saw a few very fine pearls that an Austrian Jew, a dealer in precious stones—had bought—one in particular was a big pear-shaped pearl of great lustre and beauty. I believe he only paid fifteen shillings for it. It was worth as many pounds, he said. In general, however, the pearls found here are irregular in outline, and lack lustre.

According to quality, the shell, cleaned, and all the outside callosities and roughnesses chipped off, fetches from 802. to 1402. per ton in the London market. It is risky, and the returns are precarious. Rations are very expensive, and a spell of bad weather will often put the balance on the wrong side of the ledger. Competition, too, is brisk, and unless more discrimina­tion be used, and a less wasteful mode of fishing be adopted, the time is not far distant, when the Torres Straits Pearl Fishery will be numbered among the industries of the past.

It seems to me that as in the Trincomalee fishery, there should be licences granted, a close season of two years at a time, inaugurated; and some method introduced. Unless some such steps be taken, the supply bids fair to be very soon exhausted, and a promising and lucrative industry imped out of existence. All this might be obviated by a little wise prevision and rational adherence to natural require­ments. One cannot in this world both "eat their cake and have it," and it is a bad policy at all times, " to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs."

After writing the above, I gathered fuller details of the actual manner of working at the shelling stations from an experienced old shell-fisher in Sydney, and as the subject is of interest, I give here the substance of his information.

The boats employed in the fishery have a capacity of about seven or eight tons register. They are built in Sydney (where indeed some capital boat-building work can be turned out) and they are invariably, or nearly so, lugger-rigged. They are sent down to the Straits by the Eastern and Australian mail steamers, and are well fitted, and admirably adapted for the rather rough work in which they have to be used.

The various firms who are engaged in the shell trade show a keen rivalry with each other, and are constantly on the outlook to secure favourable stations, and prolific patches of shell. The station is formed on the mainland, or on some of the numerous islands that stud the coast. It is a lonely life and a hazardous : when the station has been formed, the boats are sent out on their mission of collecting the precious shell, rifling the treasure-caves of the mysterious main. The usual position of affairs is here reversed, and instead of hoary old Neptune appropriating the spoils and treasure-trove of the unwary mariner, his own secret cells and inmost hidden recesses are pryed into, and ruthlessly despoiled by the universal robber—man.

Seven men are told off to each boat, and constitute the orthodox crew. All are under the orders of the captain, who is also the diver, and generally. the owner of the diving dress, gear, and apparatus con­nected with it. The full equipment of a boat such as we have described, when properly and fully found in every necessary, is about 5001. Several firms employ six, seven and eight boats. It will thus be seen that considerable capital is embarked in the trade.

One of the crew has to attend entirely to the wants and requirements of the diver or captain. He is called the signal-man or tender; he receives the signals from the diver, when anything is wanted from below, and indeed much of the safety of the adventurous diver, and consequent success of the expedition, depends on the presence of mind, nerve, and fertility in resource, of the signal-man. The diver is supplied with air from the boat, pumped down to him by means of an air-pump, which is worked by two of the men, who are specially attached to this service. As the signal comes up,—"Pump faster; I want more air,"—"Too much air,"—"Haul up," or "Slack down," or what­ever the signal may be,—the signal-man gives the corresponding orders to the other members of the crew, and very strict discipline prevails while fishing is going on. The duty of the fifth man is to attend to an endless rope, running over a revolving drum, and to the rope two bags are attached; the one going down empty, as the other ascends to the surface full of shell. The sixth member of the crew looks after the buoy or anchor, as the case may be, devoting his attention to the working of these exclusively, and the seventh, and sole remaining member of the party, acts as spare man to relieve the men at the pumps if-the work is heavy, and he also acts as cook and sutler for the rest. Each boat carries a fortnight's provisions, and the waning stock is replenished every fortnight from the station, by a tender used for that purpose. It also takes the shell which has been collected back to the station. These provision tenders are large, roomy, well-built, fast-sailing, admirable sea-boats. They are most suitably adapted for the trade, and are capital craft in a heavy sea.

As the shell comes up, it is tumbled into the bottom of the boat, and the men afterwards open the shell with a large knife made for the purpose. The fish part is scooped bodily out into a tub, and forms the perquisite of the diver. The beard of the oyster forms a thick fringe round the edges of the shell, and this is chopped off by the fishermen. The diver searches carefully through the pulpy contents of his tub for stray pearls. The fish are all carefully and thoroughly washed up; the meat and water are strained off with the utmost care. All the contents of the tub undergo a searching scrutiny, and if any pearls are found, they are appropriated by the diver. The proprietor of the fishing station never sees them. They are the exclusive pickings of the diver himself.

The shells in this rough state are then taken aboard the tender and carried to the station. Here they are landed and when dry are divided. The internal part of the shell, the valuable inner portion, is soft when the oyster is newly caught, and if the two shells were to be divided then, the result would be, as my infor­mant put it, much the same as if you were to pull two fresh loaves or hot rolls asunder. The chances are that one shell would rob the other; part of one would adhere to the other, and the beautiful pearly surface would be spoilt. The shells are, therefore, not divided till they have dried and " set hard." The next step is to scrape off all the rough outside excrescences, and the single shells are then scrubbed clean in salt water, with rough brushes or cocoa-nut husks. They are then stacked away in the drying house. The drying process has to be done under shelter, the sun's heat being too direct and tropical. The rays of the sun would utterly spoil the shell if it were exposed in the open air. The heat cracks and blisters the shell, and renders it quite unsaleable.

A very curious fact in natural history is testified to by all the fishermen. It would seem that travellers in Russia are not the only creatures who are troubled with parasites. Every individual shell, the men assure me, have a tender in the shape of an attendant crustacean. As the pilot fish attends the shark, or the jackall the lion; so does the pearl oyster suffer the penalty of greatness, and has an incubus, an old man of the sea, to bear, in the shape of a small active crab. Every oyster that is opened contains one of these combative little intruders. The oyster feeds with open mouth, in thedirection of the current. Seizing his opportunity, the crab pops in at the open door, and like a bailiff in possession, refuses thence­forth to be ejected. The most experienced fishermen think that this unwelcome intruder by keeping up a constant irritation, eventually kills the luckless oyster; but the fact is curious and interesting, that without an exception every live shell got in these fisheries, contains this parasitic crab.

Another no less destructive and unwelcome foe attacks the poor oyster from the outside. He is hard pressed by foes, both without and within, and when man brings his skill and ingenuity also to bear on his capture and destruction, little wonder indeed, that the pearl shell oyster is fast disappearing from its ancient haunts. The outside foe is a small thread-like worm, which fastens itself to the outside of the shell. It is a borer,and begins operations by perforating the shell,and once ensconced in the substance thereof, it seems there to find congenial sustenance, and rapidly enlarges its sheath and its dimensions, very much after the manner of theleech. It burrows, and perforates the shell in all direc­tions. I have seen the bed made by this destructive worm, fully as big as the thickness of my middle finger. The worm is black in colour, all the shells are pierced with minute little holes in the outside circumference. In some cases the worm penetrates right through all the layers of the shell, reaches the soft inside and kills the fish. It bores and works much as the cobra does in the timber of a ship's bottom, and may be of the same species of marine insect.

The tides in these narrow seas run at a rate of over five miles an hour, so that the actual fishing time is con­fined to about an hour, or an hour and a half, at full tide and slack water. Occasionally the diver will come upon a patch of dead shell, whirled into a depres­sion of the sea floor, by some submarine eddy or swirl, among the reefs. The floor of the sea there is irregular in outline. The oysters are commonly found on a hard bottom, composed of coral and sand. The debris of this is of a clayey tenacious consistency, sticky and glutinous, of a bluish colour. On this a species of alga grows very thickly, attaining a uniform length of about eighteen inches. On this sea-grass, the best shells are found. To find them in this ground, the diver has to walk in a stooping posture, feeling for them with his hands, as he cannot see through the submarine jungle, as it were. Immediately on being touched, the pearl fish close their gaping portals. The hand of the diver is not unfrequently caught thus, as in a spring trap, and with such pressure as often to draw blood. In such a case he has no resource but to draw his knife and free his imprisoned digits, by severing the strong contractile muscle of the powerful bivalve. Often the diver lifts the anchor, carries it along with, him, the boat slowly following his track. When he finds shell, or is groping for it, he puts down the anchor, and commences quartering his ground, as far as the length of his air tubing will allow him, just like a pointer quartering for game. The hands are the only parts of the body exposed. These suffer from the attacks of a very frequently encountered enemy, a thin sinuous worm-like sea-snake, of from six to twelve feet in length. These sea-serpents are not venomous, but they haunt the algce in great numbers, and the diver will have half a dozen sometimes biting at his hand at once, and will actually be compelled to retire discom­fited from the attacks of these guerilla skirmishers underneath the wave. More commonly he rids himself of their unwelcome and persistent attentions, by taking out his ready knife and bisecting his assailants.

According to the divers, the pearl fish is a constant traveller. He wanders about in search of nutriment. They are never found stuck in the mud, or 'firmly attached to the bottom. Open-mouthed, they seem to commit themselves to the strong currents, and are drifted about at the mercy of the waves. The features of a patch will thus change in the course of a single tide, and in his submarine travel, the diver continually comes across single specimens of the fish he is in search of, taking a solitary ramble by themselves, roam­ing in quest of adventure, we can easily imagine, like any knight errant or Paladin of old.

The most dreaded enemy the diver has to encounter is the shark. Instances of his savage ferocity, his boldness, his fierce hunger for blood, might be given, enough to fill my book. As an actual fact deaths from sharks' attacks are infrequent. Billy Summers had a wonderful story to tell me, of one of his Kanalea boys, who jumped overboard and caught a shark by the tail, and held on to it long enough to enable his comrades to spear the monster. Billy thought I believed him. I told him I would be sure to mention -the fact in my book, and I now keep my promise.

The sharks seldom attack the. divers, if these keep moving about. Sometimes the adventurous groper among the submarine vegetation, feels a shudder of apprehension, as the huge bulk .of a sixteen or eighteen footer glides slowly past him, almost brushing his bath­ing dress. They are uncanny monsters! Lives are not often sacrificed, as I have said, but many a diver has lost hand or arm, by these fierce scourges of the sea. Going along the edge of a reef, my informant told me he has often seen numbers of large crawfish peer­ing at him from crevices among the coral. Once or twice he has stuck 'them with his knife, and in the act of conveying them to his bag some huge shark has swooped down with the speed of light, and snatched away the captured crawfish. Altogether the shark is an ugly customer; and the divers whenever possible are fain to give him a wide berth, their lives depending on the caprice of, perhaps without exception, the most ruthless and savage monster in the wide range of created beings.


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