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The Ocean and Its Wonders

The Ocean and Its Wonders

Author:R. M. Ballantyne


There is a voice in the waters of the great sea. It calls to man continually. Sometimes it thunders in the tempest, when the waves leap high and strong and the wild winds shriek and roar, as if to force our attention. Sometimes ...
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  There is a voice in the waters of the great sea. It calls to mancontinually. Sometimes it thunders in the tempest, when the waves leaphigh and strong and the wild winds shriek and roar, as if to force ourattention. Sometimes it whispers in the calm, and comes rippling on theshingly beach in a still, small voice, as if to solicit our regard. Butwhether that voice of ocean comes in crashing billows or in gentlemurmurs, it has but one tale to tell,--it speaks of the love, and power,and majesty of Him who rides upon the storm, and rules the wave.

  Yes, the voice of ocean tells but one tale; yet there are many chaptersin that wonderful story. The sea has much to say; far more than couldpossibly be comprehended in one volume, however large. It tells us ofthe doings of man on its broad bosom, from the day in which he firstventured to paddle along shore in the hollow trunk of a tree, to the daywhen he launched his great iron ship of 20,000 tons, and rushed out tosea, against wind and tide, under an impulse equal to the unitedstrength of 11,500 horses. No small portion of the ocean's tale this,comprising many chapters of deeds of daring, blood, villainy, heroism,and enterprise. But with this portion of its story we have nothing todo just now. It tells us, also, of God's myriad and multiformcreatures, that dwell in its depths, from the vast whale, whose speed isso great, that it might, if it chose, circle round the world in a fewdays, to the languid zoophyte, which clings to the rock, and bears moreresemblance to a plant than to a living animal.

  The sea has secrets, too, some of which it will not divulge until thatday when its Creator shall command it to give up its dead; while othersit is willing to part with to those who question it closely, patiently,and with intelligence.

  Among the former kind of secrets are those foul deeds that have beenperpetrated, in all ages, by abandoned men; when no human ears listenedto the stifled shriek, or the gurgling plunge; when no human eyes beheldthe murderous acts, the bloody decks, the blazing vessels, or the finalhiss of the sinking wrecks.

  Among the latter kind of secrets are the lives and habits of thecreatures of the deep, and the causes and effects of those singularcurrents of air and water, which, to the eye of ignorance, seem to benothing better than irregularity and confusion; but which, to the mindsof those who search them out, and have pleasure therein, are recognisedas a part of that wonderful, orderly, and systematic arrangement ofthings that we call Nature: much of which we now know, more of which weshall certainly know, as each day and year adds its quota to the sum ofhuman knowledge; but a great deal of which will, doubtless, remain forever hidden in the mind of nature's God, whose ways are wonderful, andpast finding out. It is the latter class of secrets to which we purposedirecting the readers attention in the following pages.

  On approaching so vast a subject, we feel like the traveller who,finding himself suddenly transported into the midst of a new andmagnificent region, stands undecided whither to direct his steps in theendlessly varied scene. Or, still more, like the visitor to our greatInternational Exhibition of _1862_, who,--entering abruptly thatgigantic palace, where were represented the talent, the ingenuity, timewealth, and industry of every people and clime,--attempts, in vain, tosystematise his explorations, or to fix his attention. It is probablethat, in each of these supposed cases, the traveller and visitor,resigning the desire to achieve what is impossible, would givethemselves up to the agreeable guidance of a wandering and waywardfancy.

  Let us, reader, act in a somewhat similar manner. Let us touch here,and there, and everywhere, on the wonders of the sea, and listen to suchnotes of the Ocean's Voice as strike upon our ears most pleasantly.