Fragments of science, V. 1-2
by John Tyndall
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On the morning of the 16th we sighted the fort and lighthouse of Marsa el Kibir, and beyond them the white walls of Oran lying in the bight of a bay, sheltered by dominant hills. The sun was shining brightly; during our whole voyage we had not had so fine a day. The wisdom which had led us to choose Oran as our place of observation seemed demonstrated. A rather excitable pilot came on board, and he guided us in behind the Mole, which had suffered much damage the previous year from an unexplained outburst of waves from the Mediterranean. Both port and bow anchors were cast in deep water. With three huge hawsers the ship's stem was made fast to three gun-pillars fixed in the Mole; and here for a time the "Urgent" rested from her labours.

M. Janssen, who had rendered his name celebrated by his observations of the eclipse in India in 1868, when he showed the solar flames to be eruptions of incandescent hydrogen, was already encamped in the open country about eight miles from Oran. On December 2 he had quitted Paris in a balloon, with a strong young sailor as his assistant, had descended near the mouth of the Loire, seen M. Gambetta, and received from him encouragement and aid. On the day of our arrival his encampment was visited by Mr. Huggins, and the kind and courteous Engineer of the Port drove me subsequently, in his own phaeton, to the place. It bore the best repute as regards freedom from haze and fog, and commanded an open outlook; but it was inconvenient for us on account of its distance from the ship. The place next in repute was the railway station, between two and three miles distant from the Mole. It was inspected, but, being enclosed, was abandoned for an eminence in an adjacent garden, the property of Mr. Hinshelwood, a Scotchman who had settled some years previously as an Esparto merchant in Oran. [Footnote: Esparto is a kind of grass now much used in the manufacture of paper.] He, in the most liberal manner, placed his ground at the disposition of the party. Here the tents were pitched, on the Saturday, by Captain Salmond and his intelligent corps of sappers, the instruments being erected on the Monday under cover of the tents.

Close to the railway station runs a new loopholed wall of defence, through which the highway passes into the open country. Standing on the highway, and looking southwards, about twenty yards to the right is a small bastionet, intended to carry a gun or two. Its roof I thought would form an admirable basis for my telescope, while the view of the surrounding country was unimpeded in all directions. The authorities kindly allowed me the use of this bastionet. Two men, one a blue-jacket named Elliot, and the other a marine named Hill, were placed at my disposal by Lieutenant Walton; and, thus aided, on Monday morning I mounted my telescope. The instrument was new to me, and some hours of discipline were spent in mastering all the details of its manipulation.

Mr. Huggins joined me, and we visited together the Arab quarter of Oran. The flat-roofed houses appeared very clean and white. The street was filled with loiterers, and the thresholds were occupied by picturesque groups. Some of the men were very fine. We saw many straight, manly fellows who must have been six feet four in height. They passed us with perfect indifference, evincing no anger, suspicion, or curiosity, hardly caring in fact to glance at us as we passed. In one instance only during my stay at Oran was I spoken to by an Arab. He was a tall, good-humoured fellow, who came smiling up to me, and muttered something about 'les Anglais.' The mixed population of Oran is picturesque in the highest degree: the Jews, rich and poor, varying in their costumes as their wealth varies; the Arabs more picturesque still, and of all shades of complexion—the negroes, the Spaniards, the French, all grouped together, each race preserving its own individuality, formed a picture intensely interesting to me.

On Tuesday, the 20th, I was early at the bastionet. The night had been very squally. The sergeant of the sappers had taken charge of our key, and on Tuesday morning Elliot went for it. He brought back the intelligence that the tents had been blown down, and the instruments overturned. Among these was a large and valuable equatorial from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. It seemed hardly possible that this instrument, with its wheels and verniers and delicate adjustments, could have escaped uninjured from such a fall. This, however, was the case; and during the day all the overturned instruments were restored to their places, and found to be in practical working order. This and the following day were devoted to incessant schooling. I had come out as a general stargazer, and not with the intention of devoting myself to the observation of any particular phenomenon. I wished to see the whole—the first contact, the advance of the moon, the successive swallowing up of the solar spots, the breaking of the last line of crescent by the lunar mountains into Bailey's beads, the advance of the shadow through the air, the appearance of the corona and prominences at the moment of totality, the radiant streamer; of the corona, the internal structure of the flames, a glance through a polariscope, a sweep round the landscape with the naked eye, the reappearance of the soar limb through Bailey's beads, and, finally, the retreat of the lunar shadow through the air.

I was provided with a telescope of admirable definition, mounted, adjusted, packed, and most liberally placed at my disposal by Mr. Warren De La Rue. The telescope grasped the whole of the sun, and a considerable portion of the space surrounding it. But it would not take in the extreme limits of the corona. For this I had lashed on to the large telescope a light but powerful instrument, constructed by Ross, and lent to me by Mr. Huggins. I was also furnished with an excellent binocular by Mr. Dallmeyer. In fact, no man could have been more efficiently supported.

It required a strict parcelling out of the interval of totality to embrace in it the entire series of observations. These, while the sun remained visible, were to be made with an unsilvered diagonal eye-piece, which reflected but a small fraction of the sun's light, this fraction, being still further toned down by a dark glass. At the moment of totality the dark glass was to be removed, and a silver reflector pushed in, so as to get the maximum of light from the corona and prominences The time of totality was distributed as follows:

1. Observe approach of shadow through the air: totality.

2. Telescope 30 seconds.

3. Finder 30 seconds.

4. Double image prism 15 seconds.

5. Naked eye 10 seconds.

6. Finder or binocular 20 seconds.

7. Telescope 20 seconds.

8. Observe retreat of shadow.

In our rehearsals Elliot stood beside me, watch in hand, and furnished with a lantern. He called out at the end of each interval, while I moved from telescope to finder, from finder to polariscope, from polariscope to naked eye, from naked eye back to finder, from finder to telescope, abandoning the instrument finally to observe the retreating shadow. All this we went over twenty times, while looking at the actual sun, and keeping him in the middle of the field. It was my object to render the repetition of the lesson so mechanical as to leave no room for flurry, forgetfulness, or excitement. Volition was not to be called upon, nor judgment exercised, but a well-beaten path of routine was to be followed. Had the opportunity occurred, I think the programme would have been strictly carried out.

But the opportunity did not occur. For several days the weather had been ill-natured. We had wind so strong As to render the hawsers at the stern of the "Urgent" as rigid as iron, and to destroy the navigating lieutenant's sleep. We had clouds, a thunder-storm, and some rain. Still the hope was held out that the atmosphere would cleanse itself, and if it did we were promised air of extraordinary limpidity. Early on the 22nd we were all at our posts. Spaces of blue in the early morning gave us some encouragement, but all depended on the relation of these spaces to the surrounding clouds. Which of them were to grow as the day advanced? The wind was high, and to secure the steadiness of my instrument I was forced to retreat behind a projection of the bastionet, place stones upon its stand, and, further, to avail myself of the shelter of a sail. My practised men fastened the sail at the top, and loaded it with boulders at the bottom. It was tried severely, but it stood firm.

The clouds and blue spaces fought for a time with varying success. The sun was bidden and revealed at intervals, hope oscillating in synchronism with the changes of the sky. At the moment of first contact a dense cloud intervened; but a minute or two afterwards the cloud had passed, and the encroachment of the black body of the moon was evident upon the solar disk. The moon marched onward, and I saw it at frequent intervals; a large group of spots were approached and swallowed up. Subsequently I caught sight of the lunar limb as it cut through the middle of a large spot. The spot was not to be distinguished from the moon, but rose like a mountain above it. The clouds, when thin, could be seen as grey scud drifting across the black surface of the moon; but they thickened more and more, and made the intervals of clearness scantier. During these moments I watched with an interest bordering upon fascination the march of the silver sickle of the sun across the field of the telescope. It was so sharp and so beautiful. No trace of the lunar limb could be observed beyond the sun's boundary. Here, indeed, it could only be relieved by the corona, which was utterly cut off by the dark glass. The blackness of the moon beyond the sun was, in fact, confounded with the blackness of space.

Beside me was Elliot with the watch and lantern, while Lieutenant Archer, of the Royal Engineers, had the kindness to take charge of my note-book. I mentioned, and he wrote rapidly down, such things as seemed worthy of remembrance. Thus my hands and mind were entirely free; but it was all to no purpose. A patch of sunlight fell and rested upon the landscape some miles away. It was the only illuminated spot within view. But to the north-west there was still a space of blue which might reach us in time. Within seven minutes of totality another space towards the zenith became very dark. The atmosphere was, as it were, on the brink of a precipice, being charged with humidity, which required but a slight chill to bring it down in clouds. This was furnished by the withdrawal of the solar beams: the clouds did come down, covering up the space of blue on which our hopes had so long rested. I abandoned the telescope and walked to and fro in despair. As the moment of totality approached, the descent towards darkness was as obvious as a falling stone. I looked towards a distant ridge, where the darkness would first appear. At the moment a fan of beams, issuing from the hidden sun, was spread out over the southern heavens. These beams are bars of alternate light and shade, produced in illuminated haze by the shadows of floating cloudlets of varying density. The beams are practically parallel, but by an effect of perspective they appear divergent, having the sun, in fact, for their point of convergence. The darkness took possession of the ridge referred to, lowered upon M. Janssen's observatory, passed over the southern heavens, blotting out the beams as if a sponge had been drawn across them. It then took successive possession of three spaces of blue sky in the south-eastern atmosphere. I again looked towards the ridge. A glimmer as of day-dawn was behind it, and immediately afterwards the fan of beams, which had been for more than two minutes absent, revived. The eclipse of 1870 had ended, and, as far as the corona and flames were concerned, we had been defeated.

Even in the heart of the eclipse the darkness was by no means perfect. Small print could be read. In fact, the clouds which rendered the day a dark one, by scattering light into the shadow, rendered the darkness less intense than it would have been had the atmosphere been without cloud. In the more open spaces I sought for stars, but could find none. There was a lull in the wind before and after totality, but during the totality the wind was strong. I waited for some time on the bastionet, hoping to get a glimpse of the moon on the opposite border of the sun, but in vain. The clouds continued, and some rain fell. The day brightened somewhat afterwards, and, having packed all up, in the sober twilight Mr. Crookes and myself climbed the heights above the fort of Vera Cruz. From this eminence we had a very noble view over the Mediterranean and the flanking African hills. The sunset was remarkable, and the whole outlook exceedingly fine.

The able and well-instructed medical officer of the "Urgent," Mr. Goodman, observed the following temperatures during the progress of the eclipse:

Hour Deg.

11.45 56

11.55 55

12.10 54

12.37 53

12.39 52

12.43 51

1.5 52

1.27 53

1.44 56

2.10 57

The minimum temperature occurred some minutes after totality, when a slight rain fell.

The wind was so strong on the 23rd that Captain Henderson would not venture out. Guided by Mr. Goodman, I visited a cave in a remarkable stratum of shell-breccia, and, thanks to my guide, secured specimens. Mr. Busk informs me that a precisely similar breccia, is found at Gibraltar, at approximately the same level. During the afternoon, Admiral Ommaney and myself drove to the fort of Marsa el Kibir. The fortification is of ancient origin, the Moorish arches being still there in decay, but the fort is now very strong. About four or five hundred fine-looking dragoons were looking after their horses, waiting for a lull to enable them to embark for France. One of their officers was wandering in a very solitary fashion over the fort. We had some conversation with him. He had been at Sedan, had been taken prisoner, but had effected his escape. He shook his head when we spoke of the termination of the war, and predicted its long continuance. There was bitterness in his tone as he spoke of the charges of treason so lightly levelled against French commanders.

The green waves raved round the promontory on which the fort stands, smiting the rocks, breaking into foam, and jumping, after impact, to a height of a hundred feet and more into the air. As we returned our vehicle broke down through the loss of a wheel. The Admiral went on board, while I remained long watching the agitated sea. The little horses of Oran well merit a passing word. Their speed and endurance, both of which are heavily drawn upon by their drivers, are extraordinary.

The wind sinking, we lifted anchor on the 24th. For some hours we went pleasantly along; but during the afternoon the storm revived, and it blew heavily against us all the night. When we came opposite the Bay of Almeria, on the 25th, the captain turned the ship, and steered into the bay, where, under the shadow of the Sierra Nevada, we passed Christmas night in peace. Next morning 'a rose of dawn' rested on the snows of the adjacent mountains, while a purple haze was spread over the lower hills. I had no notion that Spain possessed so fine a range of mountains as the Sierra Nevada. The height is considerable, but the form also is such as to get the maximum of grandeur out of the height. We weighed anchor at eight A.M., passing for a time through shoal water, the bottom having been evidently stirred up. The adjacent land seemed eroded in a remarkable manner. It has its floods, which excavate these valleys and ravines, and leave those singular ridges behind. Towards evening I climbed the mainmast, and, standing on the cross-trees, saw the sun set amid a blaze of fiery clouds. The wind was strong and bitterly cold, and I was glad to slide back to the deck along a rope, which stretched from the mast-head to the ship's side. That night we cast anchor beside the Mole of Gibraltar.

On the morning of the 27th, in company with two friends, I drove to the Spanish lines, with the view of seeing the rock from that side. It is an exceedingly noble mass. The Peninsular and Oriental mail-boat had been signalled and had come. Heavy duties called me homeward, and by transferring myself from the "Urgent" to the mail-steamer I should gain three days. I hired a boat, rowed to the steamer, learned that she was to start at one, and returned with all speed to the "Urgent." Making known to Captain Henderson my wish to get away, he expressed doubts as to the possibility of reaching the mail-steamer in time. With his accustomed kindness, he however placed a boat at my disposal. Four hardy fellows and one of the ship's officers jumped into it; my luggage, hastily thrown together, was tumbled in, and we were immediately on our way. We had nearly four miles to row in about twenty minutes; but we hoped the mail-boat might not be punctual. For a time we watched her anxiously; there was no motion; we came nearer, but the flags were not yet hauled in. The men put forth all their strength, animated by the exhortations of the officer at the helm. The roughness of the sea rendered their efforts to some extent nugatory: still we were rapidly approaching the steamer. At length she moved, punctual almost to the minute, at first slowly, but soon with quickened pace.

We turned to the left, so as to cut across her bows. Five minutes' pull would have brought us up to her. The officer waved his cap and I my hat. 'If they could only see us, they might back to us in a moment.' But they did not see us, or if they did, they paid us no attention. I returned to the "Urgent," discomfited, but grateful to the fine fellows who had wrought so hard to carry out my wishes.

Glad of the quiet, in the sober afternoon I took a walk towards Europa Point. The sky darkened and heavy squalls passed at intervals. Private theatricals were at the Convent, and the kind and courteous Governor had sent cards to the eclipse party. I failed in my duty in not going. St. Michael's Cave is said to rival, if it does not outrival, the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky. On the 28th Mr. Crookes, Mr. Carpenter, and myself, guided by a military policeman who understood his work, explored the cavern. The mouth is about 1,100 feet above the sea. We zigzagged up to it, and first were led into an aperture in the rock, at some height above the true entrance of the cave. In this upper cavern we saw some tall and beautiful stalactite pillars.

The water drips from the roof charged with bicarbonate of lime. Exposed to the air, the carbonic acid partially escapes, and the simple carbonate of lime, which is hardly at all soluble in water, deposits itself as a solid, forming stalactites and stalagmites. Even the exposure of chalk or limestone water to the open air partially softens it. A specimen of the Redbourne water exposed by Professors Graham, Miller, and Hofmann, in a shallow basin, fell from eighteen degrees to nine degrees of hardness. The softening process of Clark is virtually a hastening of the natural process. Here, however, instead of being permitted to evaporate, half the carbonic acid is appropriated by lime, the half thus taken up, as well as the remaining half, being precipitated. The solid precipitate is permitted to sink, and the clear supernatant liquid is limpid soft water.

We returned to the real mouth of St. Michael's Cave, which is entered by a wicket. The floor was somewhat muddy, and the roof and walls were wet. We soon found ourselves in the midst of a natural temple, where tall columns sprang complete from floor to roof, while incipient columns were growing to meet each other, upwards and downwards. The water which trickles from the stalactite, after having in part yielded up its carbonate of lime, falls upon the floor vertically underneath, and there builds the stalagmite. Consequently, the pillars grow from above and below simultaneously, along the same vertical. It is easy to distinguish the stalagmitic from the stalactitic portion of the pillars. The former is always divided into short segments by protuberant rings, as if deposited periodically, while the latter presents a uniform surface. In some cases the points of inverted cones of stalactite rested on the centres of pillars of stalagmite. The process of solidification and the consequent architecture were alike beautiful.

We followed our guide through various branches and arms of the cave, climbed and descended steps, halted at the edges of dark shafts and apertures, and squeezed ourselves through narrow passages. From time to time we halted, while Mr. Crookes illuminated with ignited magnesium wire, the roof, columns, dependent spears, and graceful drapery of the stalactites. Once, coming to a magnificent cluster of icicle-like spears, we helped ourselves to specimens. There was some difficulty in detaching the more delicate ones, their fragility was so great. A consciousness of vandalism, which smote me at the time, haunts me still; for, though our requisitions were moderate, this beauty ought not to be at all invaded. Pendent from the roof, in their natural habitat, nothing can exceed their delicate beauty; they live, as it were, surrounded by organic connections. In London they are curious, but not beautiful. Of gathered shells Emerson writes:

I wiped away the weeds and foam, And brought my sea-born treasures home But the poor, unsightly, noisome things Had left their beauty on the shore, With the sun, and the sand, and the wild uproar.

The promontory of Gibraltar is so burrowed with caverns that it has been called the Hill of Caves. They are apparently related to the geologic disturbances which the rock has undergone. The earliest of these is the tilting of the once horizontal strata. Suppose a force of torsion to act upon the promontory at its southern extremity near Europa Point, and suppose the rock to be of a partially yielding character; such a force would twist the strata into screw-surfaces, the greatest amount of twisting being endured near the point of application of the force. Such a twisting the rock appears to have suffered; but instead of the twist fading gradually and uniformly off, in passing from south to north, the want of uniformity in the material has produced lines of dislocation where there are abrupt changes in the amount of twist. Thus, at the northern end of the rock the dip to the west is nineteen degrees; in the Middle Hill, it is thirty-eight degrees; in the centre of the South hill, or Sugar Loaf, it is fifty-seven degrees. At the southern extremity of the Sugar Loaf strata are vertical, while farther to the south they actually turn over and dip to the east.

The rock is thus divided into three sections, separated from each other by places of dislocation, where the strata are much wrenched and broken. These are called the Northern and Southern Quebrada, from the Spanish 'Tierra Quebrada,' or broken ground. It is at these places that the inland caves of Gibraltar are almost exclusively found. Based on the observations of Dr. Falconer and himself, an excellent and most interesting account of these 'caves, and of the human remains and works of art which they contain, was communicated by Mr. Busk to the meeting of the Congress of Prehistoric Archaeology at Norwich, and afterwards printed in the 'Transactions' of the Congress. [Footnote: In this essay Mr. Busk refers to the previous labours of Mr. Smith, of Jordan Hill, to whom we owe most of our knowledge of the geology of the rock.] Long subsequent to the operation of the twisting force just referred to, the promontory underwent various changes of level. There are sea-terraces and layers of shell-breccia along its flanks, and numerous caves which, unlike the inland ones, are the product of marine erosion. The Ape's Hill, on the African side of the strait, Mr. Busk informs me has undergone similar disturbances. [Footnote: No one can rise from the perusal of Mr. Busk's paper without a feeling of admiration for the principal discoverer and indefatigable explorer of the Gibraltar caves, the late Captain Frederick Brome.]


In the harbour of Gibraltar, on the morning of our departure, I resumed a series of observations on the colour of the sea. On the way out a number of specimens had been collected, with a view to subsequent examination. But the bottles were claret bottles, of doubtful purity. At Gibraltar, therefore, I purchased fifteen white glass bottles, with ground glass stoppers, and at Cadiz, thanks to the friendly guidance of Mr. Cameron, I secured a dozen more. These seven-and-twenty bottles were filled with water, taken at different places between Oran and Spithead.

And here let me express my warmest acknowledgments to Captain Henderson, the commander of H.M.S. "Urgent," who aided me in my observations in every possible way. Indeed, my thanks are due to all the officers for their unfailing courtesy and help. The captain placed at my disposal his own coxswain, an intelligent fellow named Thorogood, who skilfully attached a cord to each bottle, weighted it with lead, cast it into the sea, and, after three successive rinsings, filled it under my own eyes. The contact of jugs, buckets, or other vessels was thus avoided; and even the necessity of pouring out the water, afterwards, through the dirty London air.

The mode of examination applied to these bottles has been already described. [Footnote: On Dust and Disease, p. 168.] The liquid is illuminated by a powerfully condensed beam, its condition being revealed through the light scattered by its suspended particles. 'Care is taken to defend the eye from the access of all other light, and, thus defended, it becomes an organ of inconceivable delicacy.' Were water of uniform density perfectly free from suspended matter, it would, in my opinion, scatter no light at all. The track of a luminous beam could not be seen in such water. But 'an amount of impurity so infinitesimal as to be scarcely expressible in numbers, and the individual particles of which are so small as wholly to elude the microscope, may, when examined by the method alluded to, produce not only sensible, but striking, effects upon the eye.'

The results of the examination of nineteen bottles filled at various places between Gibraltar and Spithead, are here tabulated:

No. Locality Colour of Sea Appearance in Luminous beam

1 Gibraltar Harbour Green Thick with fine particles

2 Two miles Clearer green Thick with very from Gibraltar fine particles

3 Off Cabreta Point Bright green Still thick, but less so

4 Off Cabreta Point Black-indigo Much less thick, very pure

5 Off Tarifa Undecided Thicker than No. 4

6 Beyond Tarifa Cobalt-blue Much purer than No. 5

7 Twelve miles Yellow-green Very thick from Cadiz

8 Cadiz Harbour Yellow-green Exceedingly thick

9 Fourteen miles Yellow-green Thick, but less so from Cadiz

10 Fourteen miles Bright green Much less thick from Cadiz

11 Between Capes Deep Indigo Very little matter, St. Mary and Vincent very pure

12 Off the Burlings. Strong green Thick, with fine matter

13 Beyond the Burlings Indigo Very little matter, pure

14 Off Cape Finisterre Undecided Less pure

15 Bay of Biscay Black-indigo Very little matter, very pure

16 Bay of Biscay Indigo Very fine matter. Iridescent

17 Off Ushant Dark green A good deal of matter

18 Off St. Catherine's Yellow-green Exceedingly thick

19 Spithead Green Exceedingly thick

Here we have three specimens of water, described as green, a clearer green, and bright green, taken in Gibraltar Harbour, at a point two miles from the harbour, and off Cabreta Point. The home examination showed the first to be thick with suspended matter, the second less thick, and the third still less thick. Thus the green brightened as the suspended matter diminished in amount.

Previous to the fourth observation our excellent navigating lieutenant, Mr. Brown, steered along the coast, thus avoiding the adverse current which sets in, through the Strait, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. He was at length forced to cross the boundary of the Atlantic current, which was defined with extraordinary sharpness. On the one side of it the water was a vivid green, on the other a deep blue. Standing at the bow of the ship, a bottle could be filled with blue water, while at the same moment a bottle cast from the stern could be filled with green water. Two bottles were secured, one on each side of this remarkable boundary. In the distance the Atlantic had the hue called ultra-marine; but looked fairly down upon, it was of almost inky blackness—black qualified by a trace of indigo.

What change does the home examination here reveal? In passing to indigo, the water becomes suddenly augmented in purity, the suspended matter becoming suddenly less. Off Tarifa, the deep indigo disappears, and the sea is undecided in colour. Accompanying this change, we have a rise in the quantity of suspended matter. Beyond Tarifa, we change to cobalt-blue, the suspended matter falling at the same time in quantity. This water is distinctly purer than the green. We approach Cadiz, and at twelve miles from the city get into yellow-green water; this the London examination shows to be thick with suspended matter. The same is true of Cadiz harbour, and also of a point fourteen miles from Cadiz in the homeward direction. Here there is a sudden change from yellow-green to a bright emerald-green, and accompanying the change a sudden fall in the quantity of suspended matter. Between Cape St. Mary and Cape St: Vincent the water changes to the deepest indigo, a further diminution of the suspended matter being the concomitant phenomenon.

We now reach the remarkable group of rocks called the Burlings, and find the water between the shore and the rocks a strong green; the home examination shows it to be thick with fine matter. Fifteen or twenty miles beyond the Burlings we come again into indigo water, from which the suspended matter has in great part disappeared. Off Cape Finisterre, about the place where the 'Captain' went down, the water becomes green, and the home examination pronounces it to be thicker. Then we enter the Bay of Biscay, where the indigo resumes its power, and where the home examination shows the greatly augmented purity of the water. A second specimen of water, taken from the Bay of Biscay, held in suspension fine particles of a peculiar kind; the size of them was such as to render the water richly iridescent. It showed itself green, blue, or salmon-coloured, according to the direction of the line of vision. Finally, we come to our last two bottles, the one taken opposite St. Catherine's lighthouse, in the Isle of Wight, the other at Spithead. The sea at both these places was green, and both specimens, as might be expected, were pronounced by the home examination to be thick with suspended matter.

Two distinct series of observations are here referred to—the one consisting of direct observations of the colour of the sea, conducted during the voyage from Gibraltar to Portsmouth: the other carried out in the laboratory of the Royal Institution. And here it is to be noted that in the home examination I never knew what water was placed in my hands. The labels, with the names of the localities written upon them, had been tied up, all information regarding the source of the water being thus held back. The bottles were simply numbered, and not till all of them had been examined, and described, were the labels opened, and the locality and sea-colour corresponding to the various specimens ascertained. The home observations, therefore, must have been perfectly unbiassed, and they clearly establish the association of the green colour with fine suspended matter, and of the ultramarine colour, and more especially of the black-indigo hue of the Atlantic, with the comparative absence of such matter.

So much for mere observation; but what is the cause of the dark hue of the deep ocean? [Footnote: A note, written to me on October 22, by my friend Canon Kingsley, contains the following reference to this point: 'I have never seen the Lake of Geneva, but I thought of the brilliant dazzling dark blue of the mid-Atlantic under the sunlight, and its black-blue under cloud, both so solid that one might leap off the sponson on to it without fear; this was to me the most wonderful thing which I saw on my voyages to and from the West Indies.']

A preliminary remark or two will clear our way towards an explanation. Colour resides in white light, appearing when any constituent of the white light is withdrawn. The hue of a purple liquid, for example, is immediately accounted for by its action on a spectrum. It cuts out the yellow and green, and allows the red and blue to pass through. The blending of these two colours produces the purple. But while such a liquid attacks with special energy the yellow and green, it enfeebles the whole spectrum. By increasing the thickness of the stratum we may absorb the whole of the light. The colour of a blue liquid is similarly accounted for. It first extinguishes the red; then, as the thickness augments, it attacks the orange, yellow, and green in succession; the blue alone finally remaining. But even it might be extinguished by a sufficient depth of 'the liquid.

And now we are prepared for a brief, but tolerably complete, statement of that action of sea-water upon light, to which it owes its darkness. The spectrum embraces three classes of rays—the thermal, the visual, and the chemical. These divisions overlap each other; the thermal rays are in part visual, the visual rays in part chemical, and vice versa. The vast body of thermal rays lie beyond the red, being invisible. These rays are attacked with exceeding energy by water. They are absorbed close to the surface of the sea, and are the great agents in evaporation. At the same time the whole spectrum suffers enfeeblement; water attacks all its rays, but with different degrees of energy. Of the visual rays, the red are first extinguished. As the solar beam plunges deeper into the sea, orange follows red, yellow follows orange, green follows yellow, and the various shades of blue, where the water is deep enough, follow green. Absolute extinction of the solar beam would be the consequence if the water were deep and uniform. If it contained no suspended matter, such water would be as black as ink. A reflected glimmer of ordinary light would reach us from its surface, as it would from the surface of actual ink; but no light, hence no colour, would reach us from the body of the water.

In very clear and deep sea-water this condition is approximately fulfilled, and hence the extraordinary darkness of such water. The indigo, already referred to, is, I believe, to be ascribed in part to the suspended matter, which is never absent, even in the purest natural water; and in part to the slight reflection of the light from the limiting surfaces of strata of different densities. A modicum of light is thus thrown back to the eye, before the depth necessary to absolute extinction has been attained. An effect precisely similar occurs under the moraines of glaciers. The ice here is exceptionally compact, and, owing to the absence of the internal scattering common in bubbled ice, the light plunges into the mass, where it is extinguished, the perfectly clear ice presenting an appearance of pitchy blackness. [Footnote: I learn from a correspondent that certain Welsh tarns, which are reputed bottomless, have this inky hue.]

The green colour of the sea has now to be accounted for; and here, again, let us fall back upon the sure basis of experiment. A strong white dinner-plate had a lead weight securely fastened to it. Fifty or sixty yards of strong hempen line were attached to the plate.

My assistant, Thorogood, occupied a boat, fastened as usual to the davits of the "Urgent," while I occupied a second boat nearer the stern of the ship. He cast the plate as a mariner heaves the lead, and by the time it reached me it had sunk a considerable depth in the water. In all cases the hue of this plate was green. Even when the sea was of the darkest indigo, the green, was vivid and pronounced. I could notice the gradual deepening of the colour as the plate sank, but at its greatest depth, even in indigo water, the colour was still a blue-green. [Footnote: In no case, of course, is the green pure, but a mixture of green and blue.]

Other observations confirmed this one. The "Urgent" is a screw steamer, and right over the blades of the screw was an orifice called the screw-well, through which one could look from the poop down upon the screw. The surface-glimmer, which so pesters the eye, was here in a great measure removed. Midway down, a plank crossed the screw-well from side to side; on this I placed myself and observed the action of the screw underneath. The eye was rendered sensitive by the moderation of the light; and, to remove still further all disturbing causes, Lieutenant Walton had a sail and tarpaulin thrown over the mouth of the well. Underneath this I perched myself on the plank and watched the screw. In an indigo sea the play of colour was indescribably beautiful, and the contrast between the water, which had the screw-blades, and that which had the bottom of the ocean, as a background, was extraordinary. The one was of the most brilliant green, the other of the deepest ultramarine. The surface of the water above the screw-blade was always ruffled. Liquid lenses were thus formed, by which the coloured light was withdrawn from some places and concentrated upon others, the water flashing with metallic lustre. The screw-blades in this case played the part of the dinner-plate in the former case, and there were other instances of a similar kind. The white bellies of porpoises showed the green hue, varying in intensity as the creatures swung to and fro between the surface and the deeper water. Foam, at a certain depth below the surface, was also green. In a rough sea the light which penetrated the summit of a wave sometimes reached the eye, a beautiful green cap being thus placed upon the wave, even in indigo water.

But how is this colour to be connected with the suspended particles? Thus. Take the dinner-plate which showed so brilliant a green when thrown into indigo water. Suppose it to diminish in size, until it reaches an almost microscopic magnitude. It would still behave substantially as the larger plate, sending to the eye its modicum of green light. If the plate, instead of being a large coherent mass, were ground to a powder sufficiently fine, and in this condition diffused through the clear sea-water, it would also send green light to the eye. In fact, the suspended particles which the home examination reveals, act in all essential particulars like the plate, or like the screw-blades, or like the foam, or like the bellies of the porpoises. Thus I think the greenness of the sea is physically connected with the matter which it holds in suspension.

We reached Portsmouth on January 5, 1871. Then ended a voyage which, though its main object was not realised, has left behind it pleasant memories, both of the aspects of nature and the kindliness of men.



[Footnote: A Discourse delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, April 4, 1873.]

It is one of the disadvantages of reading books about natural scenery that they fill the mind with pictures, often exaggerated, often distorted, often blurred, and, even when well drawn, injurious to the freshness of first impressions. Such has been the fate of most of us with regard to the Falls of Niagara. There was little accuracy in the estimates of the first observers of the cataract. Startled by an exhibition of power so novel and so grand, emotion leaped beyond the control of the judgment, and gave currency to notions which have often led to disappointment.

A record of a voyage in 1535 by a French mariner named Jacques Cartier, contains, it is said, the first printed allusion to Niagara. In 1603 the first map of the district was constructed by a Frenchman named Champlain. In 1648 the Jesuit Rageneau, in a letter to his superior at Paris, mentions Niagara as 'a cataract of frightful height.' [Footnote: From an interesting little book presented to me at Brooklyn by its author, Mr. Holly, some of these data are derived: Hennepin, Kalm, Bakewell, Lyell, Hall, and others I have myself consulted.] In the winter of 1678 and 1679 the cataract was visited by Father Hennepin, and described in a book dedicated 'to the King of Great Britain.' He gives a drawing of the waterfall, which shows that serious changes have taken place since his time. He describes it as 'a great and prodigious cadence of water, to which the universe does not offer a parallel.' The height of the fall, according to Hennepin, was more than 600 feet. 'The waters,' he says, 'which fall from this great precipice do foam and boil in the most astonishing manner, making a noise more terrible than that of thunder. When the wind blows to the south its frightful roaring may be heard for more than fifteen leagues.' The Baron la Hontan, who visited Niagara in 1687, makes the height 800 feet. In 1721 Charlevois, in a letter to Madame de Maintenon, after referring to the exaggerations of his predecessors, thus states the result of his own observations: 'For my part, after examining it on all sides, I am inclined to think that we cannot allow it less than 140 or 150 feet,'—a remarkably close estimate. At that time, viz. a hundred and fifty years ago, it had the shape of a horseshoe, and reasons will subsequently be given for holding that this has been always the form of the cataract, from its origin to its present site.

As regards the noise of the fall, Charlevois declares the accounts of his predecessors, which, I may say, are repeated to the present hour, to be altogether extravagant. He is perfectly right. The thunders of Niagara are formidable enough to those who really seek them at the base of the Horseshoe Fall; but on the banks of the river, and particularly above the fall, its silence, rather than its noise, is surprising. This arises, in part, from the lack of resonance; the surrounding country being flat, and therefore furnishing no echoing surfaces to reinforce the shock of the water. The resonance from the surrounding rocks causes the Swiss Reuss at the Devil's Bridge, when full, to thunder more loudly than the Niagara.

On Friday, November 1, 1872, just before reaching the village of Niagara Falls, I caught, from the railway train, my first glimpse of the smoke of the cataract. Immediately after my arrival I went with a friend to the northern end of the American Fall. It may be that my mood at the time toned down the impression produced by the first aspect of this grand cascade; but I felt nothing like disappointment, knowing, from old experience, that time and close acquaintanceship, the gradual interweaving of mind and nature, must powerfully influence my final estimate of the scene. After dinner we crossed to Goat Island, and, turning to the right, reached the southern end of the American Fall. The river is here studded with small islands. Crossing a wooden bridge to Luna Island, and clasping a tree which grows near its edge, I looked long at the cataract, which here shoots down the precipice like an avalanche of foam. It grew in power and beauty. The channel spanned by the wooden bridge was deep, and the river there doubled over the edge of the precipice, like the swell of a muscle, unbroken. The ledge here overhangs, the water being poured out far beyond the base of the precipice. A space, called the Cave of the Winds, is thus enclosed between the wall of rock and the falling water.

Goat Island ends in a sheer dry precipice, which connects the American and Horseshoe Falls. Midway between both is a wooden hut, the residence of the guide to the Cave of the Winds, and from the hut a winding staircase, called Biddle's Stair, descends to the base of the precipice. On the evening of my arrival I went down this stair, and wandered along the bottom of the cliff. One well-known factor in the formation and retreat of the cataract was immediately observed. A thick layer of limestone formed the upper portion of the cliff. This rested upon a bed of soft shale, which extended round the base of the cataract. The violent recoil of the water against this yielding substance crumbles it away, undermining the ledge above, which, unsupported, eventually breaks off, and produces the observed recession.

At the southern extremity of the Horseshoe is a promontory, formed by the doubling back of the gorge excavated by the cataract, and into which it plunges. On the promontory stands a stone building, called the Terrapin Tower, the door of which had been nailed up because of the decay of the staircase within it. Through the kindness of Mr. Townsend, the superintendent of Goat Island, the door was opened for me. From this tower, at all hours of the day, and at some hours of the night, I watched and listened to the Horseshoe Fall. The river here is evidently much deeper than the American branch; and instead of bursting into foam where it quits the ledge, it bends solidly over, and falls in a continuous layer of the most vivid green. The tint is not uniform; long stripes of deeper hue alternating with bands of brighter colour. Close to the ledge over which the water rolls, foam is generated, the light falling upon which, and flashing back from it, is sifted in its passage to and fro, and changed from white to emerald-green. Heaps of superficial foam are also formed at intervals along the ledge, and are immediately drawn into long white striae. [Footnote: The direction of the wind with reference to the course of a ship may be inferred with accuracy from the foam-streaks on the surface of the sea.] Lower down, the surface, shaken by the reaction from below, incessantly rustles into whiteness. The descent finally resolves itself into a rhythm, the water reaching the bottom of the fall in periodic gushes. Nor is the spray uniformly diffused through the air, but is wafted through it in successive veils of gauze-like texture. From all this it is evident that beauty is not absent from the Horseshoe Fall, but majesty is its chief attribute. The plunge of the water is not wild, but deliberate, vast, and fascinating. From the Terrapin Tower, the adjacent arm of the Horseshoe is seen projected against the opposite one, midway down; to the imagination, therefore, is left the picturing of the gulf into which the cataract plunges.

The delight which natural scenery produces in some minds is difficult to explain, and the conduct which it prompts can hardly be fairly criticised by those who have never experienced it. It seems to me a deduction from the completeness of the celebrated Thomas Young, that he was unable to appreciate natural scenery. 'He had really,' says Dean Peacock, 'no taste for life in the country; he was one of those who thought that no one who was able to live in London would be content to 'live elsewhere.' Well, Dr. Young, like Dr. Johnson, had a right to his delights; but I can understand a hesitation to accept them, high as they were, to the exclusion of

That o'erflowing joy which Nature yields To her true lovers.

To all who are of this mind, the strengthening of desire on my part to see and know Niagara Falls, as far as it is possible for them to be seen and known, will be intelligible.

On the first evening of my visit, I met, at the head of Biddle's Stair, the guide to the Cave of the Winds. He was in the prime of manhood—large, well built, firm and pleasant in mouth and eye. My interest in the scene stirred up his, and made him communicative.

Turning to a photograph, he described, by reference to it, a feat which he had accomplished some time previously, and which had brought him almost under the green water of the Horseshoe Fall. 'Can you lead me there to-morrow?' I asked. He eyed me enquiringly, weighing, perhaps, the chances of a man of light build, and with grey in his whiskers, in such an undertaking. 'I wish,' I added, 'to see as much of the fall as can be seen, and where you lead I will endeavour to follow.' His scrutiny relaxed into a smile, and he said, 'Very well; I shall be ready for you to-morrow.'

On the morrow, accordingly, I came. In the hut at the head of Biddle's Stair I stripped wholly, and re-dressed according to instructions,—drawing on two pairs of woollen pantaloons, three woollen jackets, two pairs of socks, and a pair of felt shoes. Even if wet, my guide assured me that the clothes would keep me from being chilled; and he was right. A suit and hood of yellow oilcloth covered all. Most laudable precautions were taken by the young assistant who helped to dress me to keep the water out; but his devices broke down immediately when severely tested.

We descended the stair; the handle of a pitchfork doing, in my case, the duty of an alpenstock. At the bottom, the guide enquired whether we should go first to the Cave of the Winds, or to the Horseshoe, remarking that the latter would try us most. I decided on getting the roughest done first, and he turned to the left over the stones. They were sharp and trying. The base of the first portion of the cataract is covered with huge boulders, obviously the ruins of the limestone ledge above. The water does not distribute itself uniformly among these, but seeks out channels through which it pours torrentially. We passed some of these with wetted feet, but without difficulty. At length we came to the side of a more formidable current. My guide walked along its edge until he reached its least turbulent portion. Halting, he said, 'This is our greatest difficulty; if we can cross here, we shall get far towards the Horseshoe.'

He waded in. It evidently required all his strength to steady him. The water rose above his loins, and it foamed still higher. He had to search for footing, amid unseen boulders, against which the torrent rose violently. He struggled and swayed, but he struggled successfully, and finally reached the shallower water at the other side. Stretching out his arm, he said to me, 'Now come on.' I looked down the torrent, as it' rushed to the river below, which was seething with the tumult of the cataract. De Saussure recommended the inspection of Alpine dangers, with the view of making them familiar to the eye before they are encountered; and it is a wholesome custom in places of difficulty to put the possibility of an accident clearly before the mind, and to decide beforehand what ought to be done should the accident occur. Thus wound up in the present instance, I entered the water. Even where it was not more than knee-deep, its power was manifest. As it rose around me, I sought to split the torrent by presenting a side to it; but the insecurity of the footing enabled it to grasp my loins, twist me fairly round, and bring its impetus to bear upon my back. Further struggle was impossible; and feeling my balance hopelessly gone, I turned, flung myself towards the bank just quitted, and was instantly, as expected, swept into shallower water.

The oilcloth covering was a great incumbrance; it had been made for a much stouter man, and, standing upright after my submersion, my legs occupied the centre of two bags of water. My guide exhorted me to try again. Prudence was at my elbow, whispering dissuasion; but, taking everything into account, it appeared more immoral to retreat than to proceed. Instructed by the first misadventure, I once more entered the stream. Had the alpenstock been of iron it might have helped me; but, as it was, the tendency of the water to sweep it out of my hands rendered it worse than useless. I, however, clung to it by habit. Again the torrent rose, and again I wavered; but, by keeping the left hip well against it, I remained upright, and at length grasped the hand of my leader at the other side. He laughed pleasantly. The first victory was gained, and he enjoyed it. 'No traveller,' he said, 'was ever here before.' Soon afterwards, by trusting to a piece of drift-wood which seemed firm, I was again taken off my feet, but was immediately caught by a protruding rock.

We clambered over the boulders towards the thickest spray, which soon became so weighty as to cause us to stagger under its shock. For the most part nothing could be seen; we were in the midst of bewildering tumult, lashed by the water, which sounded at times like the cracking of innumerable whips. Underneath this was the deep resonant roar of the cataract. I tried to shield my eyes with my hands, and look upwards; but the defence was useless. The guide continued to move on, but at a certain place he halted, desiring me to take shelter in his lee, and observe the cataract. The spray did not come so much from the upper ledge, as from the rebound of the shattered water when it struck the bottom. Hence the eyes could be protected from the blinding shock of the spray, while the line of vision to the upper ledges remained to some extent clear. On looking upwards over the guide's shoulder I could see the water bending over the ledge, while the Terrapin Tower loomed fitfully through the intermittent spray-gusts. We were right under the tower. A little farther on the cataract, after its first plunge, hit a protuberance some way down, and flew from it in a prodigious burst of spray; through this we staggered. We rounded the promontory on which the Terrapin Tower stands, and moved, amid the wildest commotion, along the arm of the Horse-hoe, until the boulders failed us, and the cataract fell into the profound gorge of the Niagara River.

Here the guide sheltered me again, and desired me to look up; I did so, and could see, as before, the green gleam of the mighty curve sweeping over the uipper ledge, and the fitful plunge of the water, as the spray between us and it alternately gathered and disappeared. An eminent friend of mine often speaks of the mistake of those physicians who regard man's ailments as purely chemical, to be met by chemical remedies only. He contends for the psychological element of cure. By agreeable emotions, he says, nervous currents are liberated which stimulate blood, brain, and viscera. The influence rained from ladies' eyes enables my friend to thrive on dishes which would kill him if eaten alone. A sanative effect of the same order I experienced amid the spray and thunder of Niagara. Quickened by the emotions there aroused, the blood sped exultingly through the arteries, abolishing introspection, clearing the heart of all bitterness, and enabling one to think with tolerance, if not with tenderness, on the most relentless and unreasonable foe. Apart from its scientific value, and purely as a moral agent, the play was worth the candle. My companion knew no more of me than that I enjoyed the wildness of the scene; but as I bent in the shelter of his large frame he said, 'I should like to see you attempting to describe all this.' He rightly thought it indescribable. The name of this gallant fellow was Thomas Conroy.

We returned, clambering at intervals up and down, so as to catch glimpses of the most impressive portions of the cataract. We passed under ledges formed by tabular masses of limestone, and through some curious openings formed by the falling together of the summits of the rocks. At length we found ourselves beside our enemy of the morning. Conroy halted for a minute or two, scanning the torrent thoughtfully. I said that, as a guide, he ought to have a rope in such a place; but he retorted that, as no traveller had ever thought of coming there, he did not see the necessity of keeping a rope. He waded in. The struggle to keep himself erect was evident enough; he swayed, but recovered himself again and again. At length he slipped, gave way, did as I had done, threw himself towards the bank, and was swept into the shallows. Standing in the stream near its edge, he stretched his arm towards me. I retained the pitchfork handle, for it had been useful among the boulders. By wading some way in, the staff could be made to reach him, and I proposed his seizing it. 'If you are sure,' he replied, 'that, in case of giving way, you can maintain your grasp, then I will certainly hold you.' Remarking that he might count on this, I waded in, and stretched the staff to my companion. It was firmly grasped by both of us. Thus helped, though its onset was strong, I moved safely across the torrent. All danger ended here. We afterwards roamed sociably among the torrents and boulders below the Cave of the Winds. The rocks were covered with organic slime, which could not have been walked over with bare feet, but the felt shoes effectually prevented slipping. We reached the cave and entered it, first by a wooden way carried over the boulders, and then along a narrow ledge, to the point eaten deepest into the shale. When the wind is from the south, the falling water, I am told, can be seen tranquilly from this spot; but when we were there, a blinding hurricane of spray was whirled against us. On the evening of the same day, I went behind the water on the Canada side, which, after the experiences of the morning, struck me as an imposture.

Still even this latter is exciting to some nerves. Its effect upon himself is thus vividly described by Bakewell, jun: 'On turning a sharp angle of the rock, a sudden gust of wind met us, coming from the hollow between the fall and the rock, which drove the spray directly in our faces, with such force that in an instant we were wet through. When in the midst of this shower-bath the shock took away my breath: I turned back and scrambled over the loose stones to escape the conflict. The guide soon followed, and told me that I had passed the worst part. With that assurance I made a second attempt; but so wild and disordered was my imagination that when I had reached half way I could bear it no longer.' [Footnote: 'Mag. of Nat. Hist,' 1830, pp. 121, 122.]

To complete my knowledge I desired to see the fall from the river below it, and long negotiations were necessary to secure the means of doing so. The only boat fit for the undertaking had been laid up for the winter; but this difficulty, through the kind intervention of Mr. Townsend, was overcome. The main one was to secure oarsmen sufficiently strong and skilful to urge the boat where I wished it to be taken. The son of the owner of the boat, a finely-built young fellow, but only twenty, and therefore not sufficiently hardened, was willing to go; and up the river, it was stated, there lived another man who could do anything with the boat which strength and daring could accomplish. He came. His figure and expression of face certainly indicated extraordinary firmness and power. On Tuesday, November 5, we started, each of us being clad in oilcloth. The elder oarsman at once assumed a tone of authority over his companion, and struck immediately in amid the breakers below the American Fall. He hugged the cross freshets instead of striking out into the smoother water. I asked him why he did so, and he replied that they were directed outwards, not downwards. The struggle, however, to prevent the bow of the boat from being turned by them, was often very severe.

The spray was in general blinding, but at times it disappeared and yielded noble views of the fall. The edge of the cataract is crimped by indentations which exalt its beauty. Here and there, a little below the highest ledge, a secondary one juts out; the water strikes it and bursts from it in huge protuberant masses of foam and spray. We passed Goat Island, came to the Horseshoe, and worked for a time along its base, the boulders over which Conroy and myself had scrambled a few days previously lying between us and the cataract. A rock was before us, concealed and revealed at intervals, as the waves passed over it. Our leader tried to get above this rock, first on the outside of it. The water, however, was here in violent motion. The men struggled fiercely, the older one ringing out an incessant peal of command and exhortation to the younger. As we were just clearing the rock, the bow came obliquely to the surge; the boat was turned suddenly round and shot with astonishing rapidity down the river. The men returned to the charge, now trying to get up between the half-concealed rock and the boulders to the left. But the torrent set in strongly through this channel. The tugging was quick and violent, but we made little way. At length, seizing a rope, the principal oarsman made a desperate attempt to get upon one of the boulders, hoping to be able to drag the boat through the channel; but it bumped so violently against the rock, that the man flung himself back and relinquished the attempt.

We returned along the base of the American Fall, running in and out among the currents which rushed, from it laterally into the river. Seen from below the American Fall is certainly exquisitely beautiful, but it is a mere frill of adornment to its nobler neighbour the Horseshoe. At times we took to the river, from the centre of which the Horseshoe Fall appeared especially magnificent. A streak of cloud across the neck of Mont Blanc can double its apparent height, so here the green summit of the cataract shining above the smoke of spray appeared lifted to an extraordinary elevation. Had Hennepin and La Hontan seen the fall from this position, their estimates of the height would have been perfectly excusable.


From a point a little way below the American Fall, a ferry crosses the river, in summer, to the Canadian side. Below the ferry is a suspension bridge for carriages and foot-passengers, and a mile or two lower down is the railway suspension bridge. Between ferry and bridge the river Niagara flows unruffled; but at the suspension bridge the bed steepens and the river quickens its motion. Lower down the gorge narrows, and the rapidity and turbulence increase. At the place called the' Whirlpool Rapids' I estimated the width of the river at 300 feet, an estimate confirmed by the dwellers on the spot. When it is remembered that the drainage of nearly half a continent is compressed into this space, the impetuosity of the river's rush may be imagined. Had it not been for Mr. Bierstaedt, the distinguished photographer of Niagara, I should have quitted the place without seeing these rapids; for this, and for his agreeable company to the spot, I have to thank him. From the edge of the cliff above the rapids, we descended, a little, I confess, to a climber's disgust, in an 'elevator,' because the effects are best seen from the water level.

Two kinds of motion are here obviously active, a motion of translation and a motion of undulation—the race of the river through its gorge, and the great waves generated by its collision with, and rebound from, the obstacles in its way. In the middle of the river the rush and tossing are most violent; at all events, the impetuous force of the individual waves is here most strikingly displayed. Vast pyramidal heaps leap incessantly from the river, some of them with such energy as to jerk their summits into the air, where they hang momentarily suspended in crowds of liquid spherules. The sun shone for a few minutes. At times the wind, coming up the river, searched and sifted the spray, carrying away the lighter drops, and leaving the heavier ones behind. Wafted in the proper direction, rainbows appeared and disappeared fitfully in the lighter mist. In other directions the common gleam of the sunshine from the waves and their shattered crests was exquisitely beautiful. The complexity of the action was still further illustrated by the fact, that in some cases, as if by the exercise of a local explosive force, the drops were shot radially from a particular centre, forming around it a kind of halo.

The first impression, and, indeed, the current explanation of these rapids is, that the central bed of the river is cumbered with large boulders, and that the jostling, tossing, and wild leaping of the water there, are due to its impact against these obstacles. I doubt this explanation. At all events, there is another sufficient reason to be taken into account. Boulders derived from the adjacent cliffs visibly cumber the sides of the river. Against these the water rises and sinks rhythmically but violently, large waves being thus produced. On the generation of each wave, there is an immediate compounding of the wave-motion with he river-motion. The ridges, which in still water would proceed in circular curves round the centre of disturbance, cross the river obliquely, and the result is that at the centre waves commingle, which have really been generated at the sides. In the first instance, we had a composition of wave-motion with river-motion; here we have the coalescence of waves with waves. Where crest and furrow cross each other, the motion is annulled; where furrow and furrow cross, the river is ploughed to a greater depth; and where crest and crest aid each other, we have that astonishing leap of the water which breaks the cohesion of the crests, and tosses them shattered into the air. From the water level the cause of the action is not so easily seen; but from the summit of the cliff the lateral generation of the waves, and their propagation to the perfectly obvious. If this explanation be correct, the phenomena observed at the Whirlpool Rapids form one of the grandest illustrations of the principle of interference. The Nile 'cataract,' Mr. Huxley informs me, offers more moderate examples of the same action.

At some distance below the Whirlpool Rapids we have the celebrated whirlpool itself. Here the river makes a sudden bend to the north-east, forming nearly a right angle with its previous direction. The water strikes the concave bank with great force, and scoops it incessantly away. A vast basin has been thus formed, in which the sweep of the river prolongs itself in gyratory currents. Bodies and trees which have come over the falls, are stated to circulate here for days without finding the outlet. From various points of the cliffs above, this is curiously hidden. The rush of the river into the whirlpool is obvious enough; and though you imagine the outlet must be visible, if one existed, you cannot find it. Turning, however, round the bend of the precipice to the north-east, the outlet comes into view.

The Niagara season was over; the chatter of sightseers had ceased, and the scene presented itself as one of holy seclusion and beauty. I went down to the river's edge, where the weird loneliness seemed to increase. The basin is enclosed by high and almost precipitous banks—covered, at the time, with russet woods. A kind of mystery attaches itself to gyrating water, due perhaps to the fact that we are to some extent ignorant of the direction of its force. It is said that at certain points of the whirlpool, pine-trees are sucked down, to be ejected mysteriously elsewhere. The 'water is of the brightest emerald-green. The gorge through which it escapes is narrow, and the motion of the river swift though silent. The surface is steeply inclined, but it is perfectly unbroken. There are no lateral waves, no ripples with their breaking bubbles to raise a murmur; while the depth is here too great to allow the inequality of the bed to ruffle the surface. Nothing can be more beautiful than this sloping liquid mirror formed by the Niagara, in sliding from the whirlpool.

The green colour is, I think, correctly accounted for in the last Fragment. While crossing the Atlantic in 1872-73 I had frequent opportunities of testing the explanation there given. Looked properly down upon, there are portions of the ocean to which we should hardly ascribe a trace of blue; at the most, a mere hint of indigo reaches the eye. The water, indeed, is practically black, and this is an indication both of its depth and of its freedom from mechanically suspended matter. In small thicknesses water is sensibly transparent to all kinds of light; but, as the thickness increases, the rays of low refrangibility are first absorbed, and after them the other rays. Where, therefore, the water is very deep and very pure, all the colours are absorbed, and such water ought to appear black, as no light is sent from its interior to the eye. The approximation of the Atlantic Ocean to this condition is an indication of its extreme purity.

Throw a white pebble into such water; as it sinks it becomes greener and greener, and, before it disappears, it reaches a vivid blue-green. Break such a pebble into fragments, each of these will behave like the unbroken mass; grind the pebble to powder, every particle will yield its modicum of green; and if the particles be so fine as to remain suspended in the water, the scattered light will be a uniform green. Hence the greenness of shoal water. You go to bed with the black Atlantic around you. You rise in the morning, find it a vivid green, and correctly infer that you are crossing the bank of Newfoundland. Such water is found charged with fine matter in a state of mechanical suspension. The light from the bottom may sometimes come into play, but it is not necessary. A storm can render the water muddy, by rendering the particles too numerous and gross. Such a case occurred towards the close of my visit to Niagara. There had been rain and storm in the upper lake-regions, and the quantity of suspended matter brought down quite extinguished the fascinating green of the Horseshoe.

Nothing can be more superb than the green of the Atlantic waves, when the circumstances are favourable to the exhibition of the colour. As long as a wave remains unbroken no colour appears; but when the foam just doubles over the crest, like an Alpine snow-cornice, under the cornice we often see a display of the most exquisite green. It is metallic in its brilliancy. But the foam is necessary to its production. The foam is first illuminated, and it scatters the light in all directions; the light which passes through the higher portion of the wave alone reaches the eye, and gives to that portion its matchless colour. The folding of the wave, producing as it does, a series of longitudinal protuberances and furrows which act like cylindrical lenses, introduces variations in the intensity of the light, and materially enhances its beauty.


We have now to consider the genesis and proximate destiny of the Falls of Niagara. We may open our way to this subject by a few preliminary remarks upon erosion. Time and intensity are the main factors of geologic change, and they are in a certain sense convertible. A feeble force acting through long periods, and an intense force acting through short ones, may produce approximately the same results. To Dr. Hooker I have been indebted for some specimens of stones, the first examples of which were picked up by Mr. Hackworth on the shores of Lyell's Bay, near Wellington, in New Zealand. They were described by Mr. Travers in the 'Transactions of the New Zealand Institute.' Unacquainted with their origin, you would certainly ascribe their forms to human workmanship. They resemble knives and spear-heads, being apparently chiselled off into facets, with as much attention to symmetry as if a tool, guided by human intelligence, had passed over them. But no human instrument has been brought to bear upon these stones. They have been wrought into their present shape by the wind-blown sand of Lyell's Bay. Two winds are, dominant here, and they in succession urged the sand against opposite sides of the stone; every little particle of sand chipped away its infinitesimal bit of stone, and in the end sculptured these singular forms. [Footnote: 'These stones, which have a strong resemblance to works of human art, occur in great abundance, and of various sizes, from half-an-inch to several inches in length. A large number were exhibited showing the various forms, which are those of wedges, knives, arrow-heads, &c, and all with sharp cutting edges.

'Mr. Travers explained that, notwithstanding their artificial appearance, these stones were formed by the cutting action of the wind-driven sand, as it passed to and fro over an exposed boulder-bank. He gave a minute account of the manner in which the varieties of form are produced, and referred to the effect which the erosive action thus indicated would have on railway and other works executed on sandy tracts.

'Dr. Hector stated that although, as a group, the specimens on the table could not well be mistaken for artificial productions, still the forms are so peculiar, and the edges, in a few of them, so perfect, that if they were discovered associated with human works, there is no doubt that they would have been referred to the so-called "stone period."'—Extracted from the Minutes of the Wellington Philosophical Society, February 9, 1869.]

The Sphynx of Egypt is nearly covered up by the sand of the desert. The neck of the Sphynx is partly cut across, not, as I am assured by Mr. Huxley, by ordinary weathering, but by the eroding action of the fine sand blown against it. In these cases Nature furnishes us with hints which may be taken advantage of in art; and this action of sand has been recently turned to extraordinary account in the United States. When in Boston, I was taken by my courteous and helpful friend, Mr. Josiah Quincey, to see the action of the sand-blast. A kind of hopper containing fine silicious sand was connected with a reservoir of compressed air, the pressure being variable at pleasure. The hopper ended in a long slit, from which the sand was blown. A plate of glass was placed beneath this slit, and caused to pass slowly under it; it came out perfectly depolished, with a bright opalescent glimmer, such as could only be produced by the most careful grinding. Every little particle of sand urged against the glass, having all its energy concentrated on the point of impact, formed there a little pit, the depolished surface consisting of innumerable hollows of this description.

But this was not all. By protecting certain portions of the surface, and exposing others, figures and tracery of any required form could be etched upon the glass. The figures of open iron-work could be thus copied; while wire-gauze placed over the glass produced a reticulated pattern. But it required no such resisting substance as iron to shelter the glass. The patterns of the finest lace could be thus reproduced; the delicate filaments of the lace itself offering a sufficient protection. All these effects have been obtained with a simple model of the sand-blast devised by my assistant. A fraction of a minute suffices to etch upon glass a rich and beautiful lace pattern. Any yielding substance may be employed to protect the glass. By diffusing the shock of the particle, such substances practically destroy the local erosive power. The hand can bear, without inconvenience, a sand-shower which would pulverise glass. Etchings executed on glass with suitable kinds of ink are accurately worked out by the sandblast. In fact, within certain limits, the harder the surface, the greater is the concentration of the shock, and the more effectual is the erosion. It is not necessary that the sand should be the harder substance of the two; corundum, for example, is much harder than quartz; still, quartz-sand can not only depolish, but actually blow a hole through a plate of corundum. Nay, glass may be depolished by the impact of fine shot; the grains in this case bruising the glass, before they have time to flatten and turn their energy into heat.

And here, in passing, we may tie together one or two apparently unrelated facts. Supposing you turn on, at the lower part of a house, a cock which is fed by a pipe from a cistern at the top of the house, the column of water, from the cistern downwards, is set in motion. By turning off the cock, this motion is stopped; and, when the turning off is very sudden, the pipe, if not strong, may be burst by the internal impact of the water. By distributing the turning of the cock over half a second of time, the shock and danger of rupture may be entirely avoided. We have here an example of the concentration of energy in time. The sand-blast illustrates the concentration of energy in space. The action of flint and steel is an illustration of the same principle. The heat required to generate the spark is intense; and the mechanical action, being moderate, must, to produce fire, be in the highest degree concentrated. This concentration is secured by the collision of hard substances. Calc-spar will not supply the place of flint, nor lead the place of steel, in the production of fire by collision. With the softer substances, the total heat produced may be greater than with the hard ones, but, to produce the spark, the heat must be intensely localised.

We can, however, go far beyond the mere depolishing of glass; indeed I have already said that quartz-sand can wear a hole through corundum. This leads me to express my acknowledgments to General Tilghman, who is the inventor of the sand-Blast. [Footnote: The absorbent power, if I may use the phrase, exerted by the industrial arts in the United States, is forcibly illustrated by the rapid transfer of men like Mr. Tilghman from the life of the soldier to that of the civilian. General McClellan, now a civil engineer, whom I had the honour of frequently meeting in New York, is a most eminent example of the same kind. At the end of the war, indeed, a million and a half of men were thus drawn, in an astonishingly short time, from military to civil life.] To his spontaneous kindness I am indebted for some beautiful illustrations of his process. In one thick plate of glass a figure has been worked out to a depth of three eighths of an inch. A second plate, seven eighths of an inch thick, is entirely perforated. In a circular plate of marble, nearly half an inch thick, open work of most intricate and elaborate description has been executed. It would probably take many days to perform this work by any ordinary process; with the sand-blast it was accomplished in an hour. So much for the strength of the blast; its delicacy is illustrated by this beautiful example of line engraving, etched on glass by means of the Blast.

This power of erosion, so strikingly displayed when sand is urged by air, renders us better able to conceive its action when urged by water. The erosive power of a river is vastly augmented by the solid matter carried along with it. Sand or pebbles, caught in a river vortex, can wear away the hardest rock potholes' and deep cylindrical shafts being thus produced. An extraordinary instance of this kind of erosion is to be seen in the Val Tournanche, above the village of this name. The gorge at Handeck has been thus cut out. Such waterfalls were once frequent in the valleys of Switzerland; for hardly any valley is without one or more transverse barriers of resisting material, over which the river flowing through the valley once fell as a cataract. Near Pontresina, in the Engadin, there is such a case; a hard gneiss being there worn away to form a gorge, through which the river from the Morteratsch glacier rushes. The barrier of the Kirchet above Meyringen is also a case in point. Behind it was a lake, derived from the glacier of the Aar, and over the barrier the lake poured its excess of water. Here the rock, being limestone, was in part dissolved; but added to this we had the action of the sand and gravel carried along by the water, which, on striking the rock, chipped it away like the particles of the sand-Blast. Thus, by solution and mechanical erosion, the great chasm of the Finsteraarschlucht was formed. It is demonstrable that the water which flows at the bottoms of such deep fissures once flowed at the level of their present edges, and tumbled down the lower faces of the barriers. Almost every valley in Switzerland furnishes examples of this kind; the untenable hypothesis of earthquakes, once so readily resorted to in accounting for these gorges, being now for the most part abandoned. To produce the Canons of Western America, no other cause is needed than the integration of effects individually infinitesimal.

And now we come to Niagara. Soon after Europeans had taken possession of the country, the conviction appears to have arisen that the deep channel of the river Niagara below the falls had been excavated by the cataract. In Mr. Bakewell's 'Introduction to Geology,' the prevalence of this belief has been referred to. It is expressed thus by Professor Joseph Henry in the 'Transactions of the Albany Institute:' [Footnote: Quoted by Bakewell.] 'In viewing the position of the falls, and the features of the country round, it is impossible not to be impressed with the idea that this great natural raceway has been formed by the continued action of the irresistible Niagara, and that the falls, beginning at Lewiston, have, in the course of ages, worn back the rocky strata to their present site.' The same view is advocated by Sir Charles Lyell, by Mr. Hall, by M. Agassiz, by Professor Ramsay, indeed by most of those who have inspected the place.

A connected image of the origin and progress of the cataract is easily obtained. Walking northward from the village of Niagara Falls by the side of the river, we have to our left the deep and comparatively narrow gorge, through which the Niagara flows. The bounding cliffs of this gorge are from 300 to 350 feet high. We reach the whirlpool, trend to the north-east, and after a little time gradually resume our northward course. Finally, at about seven miles from the present falls, we come to the edge of a declivity, which informs us that we have been hitherto walking on table-land. At some hundreds of feet below us is a comparatively level plain, which stretches to Lake Ontario. The declivity marks the end of the precipitous gorge of the Niagara. Here the river escapes from its steep mural boundaries, and in a widened bed pursues its way to the lake which finally receives its waters.

The fact that in historic times, even within the memory of man, the fall has sensibly receded, prompts the question, How far has this recession gone? At what point did the ledge which thus continually creeps backwards begin its retrograde course? To minds disciplined in such researches the answer has been, and will be—At the precipitous declivity which crossed the Niagara from Lewiston on the American to Queenston on the Canadian side. Over this transverse barrier the united affluents of all the upper lakes once poured their waters, and here the work of erosion began. The dam, moreover, was demonstrably of sufficient height to cause the river above it to submerge Goat Island; and this would perfectly account for the finding by Sir Charles Lyell, Mr. Hall, and others, in the sand and gravel of the island, the same fluviatile shells as are now found in the Niagara River higher up. It would also account for those deposits along the sides of the river, the discovery of which enabled Lyell, Hall, and Ramsay to reduce to demonstration the popular belief that the Niagara once flowed through a shallow valley.

The physics of the problem of excavation, which I made clear to my mind before quitting Niagara, are revealed by a close inspection of the present Horseshoe Fall. We see evidently that the greatest weight of water bends over the very apex of the Horseshoe. In a passage in his excellent chapter on Niagara Falls, Mr. Hall alludes to this fact. Here we have the most copious and the most violent whirling of the shattered liquid; here the most powerful eddies recoil against the shale. From this portion of the fall, indeed, the spray sometimes rises without solution of continuity to the region of clouds, becoming gradually more attenuated, and passing finally through the condition of true cloud into invisible vapour, which is sometimes reprecipitated higher up. All the phenomena point distinctly to the centre of the river as the place of greatest mechanical energy, and from the centre the vigour of the fall gradually dies away towards the sides. The Horseshoe form, with the concavity facing downwards, is an obvious and necessary consequence of this action. Right along the middle of the river the apex of the curve pushes its way backwards, cutting along the centre a deep and comparatively narrow groove, and draining the sides as it passes them. [Footnote: In the discourse the excavation of the centre and drainage of the sides action was illustrated by a model devised by my assistant, Mr. John Cottrell.] Hence the remarkable discrepancy between the widths of the Niagara above and below the Horseshoe. All along its course, from Lewiston Heights to its present position, the form of the fall was probably that of a horseshoe; for this is merely the expression of the greater depth, and consequently greater excavating power, of the centre of the river. The gorge, moreover, varies in width, as the depth of the centre of the ancient river varied, being narrowest where that depth was greatest.

The vast comparative erosive energy of the Horseshoe Fall comes strikingly into view when it and the American Fall are compared together. The American branch of the river is cut at a right angle by the gorge of the Niagara. Here the Horseshoe Fall was the real excavator. It cut the rock, and formed the precipice, over which the American Fall tumbles. But since its formation, the erosive action of the American Fall has been almost nil, while the Horseshoe has cut its way for 600 yards across the end of Goat Island, and is now doubling back to excavate its channel parallel to the length of the island. This point, which impressed me forcibly, has not, I have just learned, escaped the acute observation of Professor Ramsay. [Footnote: His words are: 'Where the body of water is small in the American Fall, the edge has only receded a few yards (where most eroded) during the time that the Canadian Fall has receded from the north corner of Goat Island to the innermost curve of the Horseshoe Fall.'—Quarterly Journal of Geological Society, May 1859.] The river bends; the Horseshoe immediately accommodates itself to the bending, and will follow implicitly the direction of the deepest water in the upper stream. The flexures of the gorge are determined by those of the river channel above it. Were the Niagara centre above the fall sinuous, the gorge would obediently follow its sinuosities. Once suggested, no doubt geographers will be able to point out many examples of this action. The Zambesi is thought to present a great difficulty to the erosion theory, because of the sinuosity of the chasm below the Victoria Falls. But, assuming the basalt to be of tolerably uniform texture, had the river been examined before the formation of this sinuous channel, the present zigzag course of the gorge below the fall could, I am persuaded, have been predicted, while the sounding of the present river would enable us to predict the course to be pursued by the erosion in the future.

But not only has the Niagara River cut the gorge; it has carried away the chips of its own workshop. The shale, being probably crumbled, is easily carried away. But at the base of the fall we find the huge boulders already described, and by some means or other these are removed down the river. The ice which fills the gorge in winter, and which grapples with the boulders, has been regarded as the transporting agent. Probably it is so to some extent. But erosion acts without ceasing on the abutting points of the boulders, thus withdrawing their support and urging them gradually down the river. Solution also does its portion of the work. That solid matter is carried down is proved by the difference of depth between the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, where the river enters it. The depth falls from 72 feet to 20 feet, in consequence of the deposition of solid matter caused by the diminished motion of the river. [Footnote: Near the mouth of the gorge at Queenston, the depth, according to the Admiralty Chart, is 180 feet; well within the gorge it is 132 feet.]

The annexed highly instructive map has been reduced from one published in Mr. Hall's 'Geology of New York.' It is based on surveys executed in 1842, by Messrs. Gibson and Evershed. The ragged edge of the American Fall north of Goat Island marks the amount of erosion which it has been able to accomplish, while the Horseshoe Fall was cutting its way southward across the end of Goat Island to its present position. The American Fall is 168 feet high, a precipice cut down, not by itself, but by the Horseshoe Fall. The latter in 1842 was 159 feet high, and, as shown by the map, is already turning eastward, to excavate its gorge along the centre of the upper river. P is the apex of the Horseshoe, and T marks the site of the Terrapin Tower, with the promontory adjacent, round which I was conducted by Conroy. Probably since 1842 the Horseshoe has worked back beyond the position here assigned to it.

In conclusion, we may say a word regarding the proximate future of Niagara. At the rate of excavation assigned to it by Sir Charles Lyell, namely, a foot a year, five thousand years or so will carry the Horseshoe Fall far higher than Goat Island. As the gorge recedes it will drain, as it has hitherto done, the banks right and left of it, thus leaving a nearly level terrace between Goat Island and the edge of the gorge. Higher up it will totally drain the American branch of the river; the channel of which in due time will become cultivable land. The American Fall will then be transformed into a dry precipice, forming a simple continuation of the cliffy boundary of the Niagara gorge. At the place occupied by the fall at this moment we shall have the gorge enclosing a right angle, a second whirlpool being the consequence. To those who visit Niagara a few millenniums hence I leave the verification of this prediction. All that can be said is, that if the causes now in action continue to act, it will prove itself literally true.


Fig. 6.


A year or so after I had quitted the United States, a man sixty years of age, while engaged in painting one of the bridges which connect Goat Island with the Three Sisters, slipped through the rails of the bridge into the rapids, and was carried impetuously towards the Horseshoe Fall. He was urged against a rock which rose above the water, and with the grasp of desperation he clung to it. The population of the village of Niagara Falls was soon upon the island, and ropes were brought, but there was none to use them. In the midst of the excitement, a tall powerful young fellow was observed making his way silently through the crowd. He reached a rope; selected from the bystanders a number of men, and placed one end of the rope in their hands. The other end he fastened round himself, and choosing a point considerably above that to which the man clung, he plunged into the rapids. He was carried violently downwards, but he caught the rock, secured the old painter and saved him. Newspapers from all parts of the Union poured in upon me, describing this gallant act of my guide Conroy.



[Footnote: A discourse delivered at the Royal Institution of Great Britain on June 9, 1876.]

THE first published allusion to the Parallel Roads of Glen Roy occurs in the appendix to the third volume of Pennant's 'Tour in Scotland,' a work published in 1776. 'In the face of these hills,' says this writer, 'both sides of the glen, there are three roads at small distances from each other and directly opposite on each side. These roads have been measured in the complete parts of them, and found to be 26 paces of a man 5 feet 10 inches high. The two highest are pretty near each other, about 50 yards, and the lowest double that distance from the nearest to it. They are carried along the sides of the glen with the utmost regularity, nearly as exact as drawn with a line of rule and compass.'

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