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POSITION WITH REGARD TO ENGLAND.
ing midway between this place and Marseilles, their position would be dou bly dangerous, as a line of communication would be then formed across this part of the Mediterranean, thus separating Gibraltar from Malta, our two most important stations, and materially interrupting our communication with India, whether by the Red Sea, or the Euphrates.
With all this, Algiers has its use The soirees at Paris sing the praises of Mareschal Bourmont; it forms a pabulum for public excitement, so necessary to the existence of a Frenchman, and may serve to keep down the fever of another revolution. It is the “refugium peccatorum” of all France; its wonders swell the pages of the Revue Afrique, and it gives something more to think about than inventing infernal machines, or cutting the throat of the citizen king, to say nothing of its influence on the all-important subject of dress, as appears from the number of the Petit Courier des Dames for November, 1838, which observes, that “the taste of the Parisian dandies is more warlike than that of the ladies, the favourite colours being • Abd-el-Kader,' sand of the desert,' and 'gris d'Afrique.'”
This great conquest reminds me strongly of the story of the canny Scot, who having sold a horse to his friend, and the money being paid, was requested to tell the purchaser if he had any
faults. “ Why, he has gotten but jist twa,” said he ; "the
first is, that when turned out to graze, he's no very easily cotch.”
“ Oh! as to that,” replied the friend, “ I can easily manage it, but the other ?” Why, the other is, that when he is cotched, he's no worth a baubee.”
In concluding the few observations I made during my short stay in this delightful country, I beg to say, that the foregoing remarks are not dictated in an unfriendly spirit; my only feeling is that of regret, that where so wide, so inviting a field for improvement was opened, so little has been effected; but the prospect, however imperfect, of civilizing this country, is cheering. Science will, no doubt, be benefitted—the collection of the Jardin des Plants enriched, and means may be afforded to reach the interior, which in a great measure is still to us a terra incognita.
The Coast of Sicily-Marsala—Quarantine–Medusæ— Their powers of sight
Cuvier—A dolphin hunt—Arrival at Malta—Harbour of La Valetta - Departure from Malta—Candia-Shores of Egypt.
DECEMBER 28th. We stood across the bay, and bade farewell to Algiers. As the evening of the first of January approached, we neared the coast of Sicily, which at some distance appeared a collection of separate islands, the extreme lowness of the shore in some places between the mountains giving rise to this delusion. We were now beginning to experience the exhilarating influence of a warmer atmosphere, and to witness and appreciate the glowing beauties of a Claude Lorraine sky, and the varying tints of a Mediterranean sunset. The lower animals seemed to feel the animation imparted by returning spring, as the sea was now alive with myriads of its many-hued mollusca, that during the noon-tide heat rose to the surface; and at night the crest of every wave was fringed with the metallic lustre of phosphoric light.
The island of Maritimo and the town of Marsala we passed within view, and shaped our course towards Malta, but during the next two days the whole appearance of the weather changed; the sky became clouded, dark, and louring, and the wind cold and variable.
On the morning of the 3rd, the wind was “dead on end," after which it came on to blow so hard, that although nearly half-way to Malta, we were forced to run back, and anchor in the roadstead of Marsala, to escape the fury of a blast which seemed as if each wayward sister had risen from her Scottish heath, and sent a wind to drive us from
Viewed from our present position, this place had a cold, bleak appearance, probably increased by the effects of the late gale. A good harbour is much wanting here, and could be formed without incurring any very great expense, by raising and joining the present break-water to the shore opposite the wharf.
The vessels lying here were mostly English, engaged in the wine trade, the only commerce of the place. Wishing to visit the town and neighbouring quarries, we applied for permission to land. After some hours' delay, a board of health, composed of the butchers, bakers, and barbers of the town, made their appearance at the lazaretto, and hearing that we had but just arrived from Barbary, appeared particularly horrified at the thought of
admitting so much plague and pestilence amongst them, and consequently imposed a quarantine of twenty-one days upon us; at the same time, each member of the board kindly informed us of their trades and occupations, and solicited our patronage during our captivity. We got off some provisions, and remained at anchor, ready to go to sea the moment the wind favoured.
As far as I have yet seen or heard, I know of few stations that offer a greater source of interest and profit to the marine naturalist, than Marsala and the coast of Sicily generally. To-day (Jan. 4) the water is literally swarming with medusæ of all shapes and colours, but more particularly the beautiful pink and blue rhizostoma.
These extraordinary animals surrounded the vessel in such quantities, that several could be captured at one haul of a bucket. By the alternate expansion and contraction of their umbrella-shaped tops, they progress through the water in a slanting direction, generally about a foot from the surface
; but what struck me as remarkable was, that they possess an
undoubted perception of objects at some distance ;* for in swimming or
* The acalephæ in which this sense was most apparent, were the cyanæa labiche, and this perception of objects arose not only from the percussion of the water, by any thing thrown into it, but also from any piece of rope or pole held steadily in their way. Professor Ehrenberg has already shown that certain modifications of eyes exist in other members of the medusa family, particularly the medusa aurita.