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Singularities of the Sea.
The sea is too generally considered only in a terrible light, without reflecting on the wonders and blessings it so visibly presents to us. It is certainly true, that the sea is one of the most dreadful elements; when the tempest roars, its waves swell mountains high, and ships are driven by them on banks of sand or rocks, where they are dashed to pieces. The whirlpools, or those masses of water which make the ships turn rapidly round with their current, and end in sinking or swallowing them up; those whirlpools are occasioned by great cavities in the sea, where rocks and different currents meet. No less dangerous are the water-spouts which the wind · raises from the sea up to the sky. They hover in the
air above the ocean, and the wind whirls them round with violence; they often burst with a great noise, and do much mischief to vessels at sea; they frequently break the masts, tear the sails, and sink the ship. But we should be very ungrateful to attend only to the mischief the sea does us, without deigning to reflect on the magnificent works of the Lord, and on his goodness, which shines forth even in the depths of the abyss.
The first thing worthy of remark is the saltness of the sea. It is such, that a pound of water contains - two ounces of salt. This salt quality, be the cause of it what it may, was necessary for several purposes: it prevents the water from corrupting, and contributes to make it strong enough to bear the greatest burdens to be conveyed from one place to another. The colour also of the sea-water deserves our observation; it is not the same every where. The different insects, marine plants, the mixture of many things which the rivers wash into the sea, vary its colour here and there. When it is calm, it sometimes appears strewed with brilliant stars. The track of a ship, which cuts the waves, is often luminous, and seems as a river on fire. These phenomena must be partly attributed to sulphureous particles, oily and inflammable substances in the sea; , and partly to shining insects. Every day, or rather in the space of 25 hours, the sea twice rises and falls... When the tide rises, it is called the flood; and when it returns it is the fall or ebb. This phenomenon is attended with several remarkable circumstances. There are always a flux and reflux at the same time in two parts of the globe, and those are opposite to each other. The tide is always lowest when we are in the first and last quarter of the moon; and our highest tides are generally three days after the new or full moon. However it may proceed from accidental causes, that the tide is sooner and higher one time than another, it is still certain, that great advantages result to us from it, both in purifying the water, and being useful for navigation. And wonderful as this is, there is much more to interest us. If we consider the contents of the sea, a new world appears; and the number of beings of which it is composed is prodigious. The aquatic animals are not indeed so varied in their species as the terrestrial; but they surpass them in size, and their life is longer than those of the earth or air. The elephant and ostrich are small in comparison of the whale, which is the largest fish the sea contains. Its length is often from 60 to 70 feet. It lives as long as an oak, and consequently no land animal's life can be compared to it. Who could even give a list of the several sorts of animals which live at the bottom, and towards the surface of the sea? Who could tell their number; or describe their form, construction, - size, and use ?: qpste tri puta .!***, it is,
two-thirds of our globe. The seas are not only great reservoirs of water, but also, by means of vapours which arise out of them, sources of rain, snow, and other such meteors.' How much wisdom 'there appears in the connexion the seas have with each other, and the continual motion the Creator has impressed upon them! There are found in the sea, rocks, valleys, caves, plains, springs, rivers, plants, and animals. The islands in the sea are only the tops of a long chain of mountains. And when we consider that the sea has been less examined than any other part of the globe, we have reason to believe, that it contains still a number of wonders, to which neither the understanding nor the senses of man are adequate; but which all prove the power and wisdom of God. Let us then adore him who has every where, in the ocean, as well as upon earth, fixed monuments of his greatness. ini.' ' i '
Several Things remarkable in Animals...
The different instincts and properties of animals are a very interesting study. But, to'a reflecting being, it is something more than merely an agreeable object. The animal operations teach him to trace them back to a wisdom he cannot fathom, because it surpasses all human conception. This is the effect I wish to produce, by pointing out the singularities observable in certain animals...
The manner in which birds and insects lay their eggs is worth remarking. The grasshopper, the lizard, the tortoise, and crocodile, never trouble themselves about their eggs, nor the young ones that
are in them. They lay their eggs in the earth, and leave the heat of the sun to batch them. Other aninials, by a natural instinct, lay their eggs in places where their young find food the moment they are born. The mothers are never mistaken. The butterfly, proceeding from the caterpillar, will not lay its eggs on meat, nor will the fly which lives on meat, lay her eggs on cabbage. Certain animals are so careful of their eggs, that they carry them with them wherever they go. The spider, called the wanderer, carries hers in a little silken bag. When they are hatched, they range themselves in a particular order on their mother's back, who goes about with this load, and continues to take care of them for some time. Certain flies lay their eggs in the bodies of living insects, or in the nests of those insects. It is well known, that there is not a plant which does not serve to feed and lodge many insects. A certain fly pierces an oak-leaf, and lays an egg in the hole it has made. This wound appears quickly to close; but as the egg enlarges, the place of its confinement increases also, and this excrescence they call the gallnut: so that the insect finds both lodging and food as soon as it is born. The care of animals for their young is scarcely credible; and their love of them sometimes surpasses their love of life. With what tenderness the quadrupeds nurse their young! They cure their wounds by licking them; they convey them from one place to another; when any danger threatens, they guide and defend them. What great pains the mothers take to procure them meat! The sea-dog, during a storm, conceals its young under its stomach, whence they come out again when the fright is over. Each species of animals has its peculiar inclinations and wants. Let us, for example, consider those which are obliged to seek their food in the water, and particularly the aquatic birds. Nature has covered their wings with a glutinous oil, through which the water cannot penetrate; by this means they are not so much wetted in diving, as to prevent their flying. The proportion also of their bodies differs from that of other birds. Their legs are placed more behind, that they may stand up in the water, and stretch their wings above it. To enable them to swim, their feet are furnished with webs. For the purpose of diving, they have been given a particular form of body; and for that of seizing their prey, nature has provided them with large bills and long necks. The nautilus is a sort of shellfish, something like a snail. When it wishes to ascend, it places itself on the fore part of its shell; and to make itself lighter, it throws out the water. If it wishes to descend, it withdraws into the bottom of its house, which then fills with water and becomes heavy. If it wishes to sail, it turns its shell, which becomes a little gondola, and then stretches out a thin, slight membrane, which swells in the wind, and serves as a sail. Perhaps, from the nautilus, mankind have learned the art of navigation. . It is with the actions of animals as with their form and make; the same wisdom which proportioned their bodies, or their limbs, and appointed them a common use, has also planned the different actions we see them perform, and directs them towards that purpose for which they were created. When, therefore, I observe the instinct and the industry of animals, I feel a sentiment of veneration, gratitude, and respect, for their Creator.