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REE



LDER 4-



0HOU Hast most traitorous!;? cor-
rupted me jtaum of fKe realm,
in erecting a grammar scKool :
and vJKereas, before, our forefathers
Kad no ofner books but me score and
talty, fnou hast caused printing to be
used ; and, contrar? to me King, nis
crov?n and digni^>, 4iou Kast built a

paper-mill. A7;/^ Henry VI.





Malm



Haaljtugton, i. <2L



ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF



BY
CHARLES FREDERICK HOLDER, LL. D.

AUTHOR OF LIFE OF CHARLES DARWIN,
ELEMENTS OF ZOOLOGY, THE IVORY KING, LIVING LIGHTS, ETC.



WITH MANY ILL US TR A TIONS




NEW YORK

D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
1899



COPYRIGHT, 1892,
BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.



ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED
AT THE APPLETON PRESS, U. S. A.



PREFACE.



THE adventures and incidents of the follow-
ing story do not belong to the realm of fiction.
They are the actual happenings in the daily life
of several boys, one of whom, the author, resided
for five or six years upon a small key of the
great coral-reef that stretches away into the Gulf
of Mexico from the Florida Peninsula. A por-
tion of nearly every day was spent in floating
over the coral gardens, for which the locality is
famous, or in hunting or fishing for the strange
animals which there found a home. The excur-
sions were made, as described, under the guid-
ance of a naturalist who, while a surgeon in the
army and stationed at the post, was studying the
corals and other animals of the reef, and who
relied not a little upon the young naturalists

(iii)

M202991



iv ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

and divers to collect the specimens in which he
was interested, and which, at the request of
Professors Agassiz and Baird, ultimately found
their way into the Smithsonian Institution, the
Museum of Comparative Zoology at Cambridge,
and other institutions of science throughout the
country. The recollections of these days the
swimming-trips along coral banks, exciting chases
after turtle and shark, visits to the haunts of the
sea-gull, dives to the home of the queen conch in
the deep lagoon are still fresh in the author's
memory, and it is hoped that some of the enthu-
siasm of the boy naturalists of the reef, in out-
door studies, may be imparted to the young read-
ers of this volume.

For a few illustrations taken from Elements
of Zoology, written by the author jointly with
J. B. Holder, the undersigned is indebted to the
American Book Company, publishers of that
work.

C. F. H.

PASADENA, CAL., July, 1892.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I.

PAGE
THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE 3

CHAPTER II.

IN THE CORAL COUNTRY 27

CHAPTER III.

ON THE OUTER REEF 49

CHAPTER IV.

A RACE WITH A WATERSPOUT . . . . . . .73

CHAPTER V.

THE BEATING OF THE JACKS 102

CHAPTER VI.
RIDING A SHARK 120

CHAPTER VII.
THE TALKING-FISH 132

CHAPTER VIII.

THE DISAPPEARING ISLAND 147

(v)



vi ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.
CHAPTER IX.

PAGE
TOM AND THE MAN-OF-WAR 104

CHAPTER X.

THE MYSTERY OF EAST KEY . . . . . . 183

CHAPTER XI.
THE ISLE OF BIRDS 194

CHAPTER XII.
CATCHING A MAN-EATER 217

CHAPTER XIII.

A TURTLE TURN 232

CHAPTER XIV.
THE PET-HOUSE 244

CHAPTER XV.
HAULING THE SEINE 255

CHAPTER XVI.
THE HURRICANE .... . 2G7



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.



PAGE

"A large fish, like a monster bird, rose partly out of the

water'' Frontispiece

Paublo 5

The Antennarius marmoratus and its floating nest formed of

Gulf-weed 17

Anthea cereus 21

Sea-anemone and its young 22

A jelly-fish 26

Fort Jefferson 29

An uninvited passenger 30

Inside Fort Jefferson 32

Green turtle 36

The "Conch boys" catching turtles 38

Hawksbill or shell turtle .- . . 43

A game of leap-frog 45

Astrcea pallida 53

Multiplication of polyps by spontaneous fission . . . .54
Remoras clinging by their sucking-disk to the under part of a

shark 58

Sea-fan, or gorgonia 64

Spider-crab 65

Edible crab 72

Porpita pacifica 79

Velella Umbosa 80

Preparation .83

(vii)



I

viii ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

PAGE

Perpetration ^4

Frigate-bird ,85

Cyprcea moneta ,88

Black echinus eating into a rock 88

Sea-cucumbers ,89

Fierasfer and young ,90

Branch coral ,93

Sea-egg 101

Tellina radiata 105

Toad-fish 106

Diagram of the growth of a sea-squirt or ascidian . . .115
Tom went headlong over the bow . . . . .118

Meandrina cerebriformis 123

Marine cray-fish .124

An octopus running > 126

Argonaut with the shell. Argonaut without the shell . .129

Octopus punctatus 130

Pearly nautilus 131

The sea-porcupine 135

The porcupine as a balloon . .136

Scallop > 142

Shells of living foraminifera 143

Brittle star t 144

Jelly-fish .145

The basket-fish '. ! ! ! 157

Sword-fish and saw-fish 159

The bill or gar-fish ICO

The sea-horse p 162

Flamingo and nest .174

Portuguese man-of-war . ..... .177

Parrot-fish e 182

Common salt-water mussel. The dancing scallops . . . 200
Oysters, showing different stages of growth . . . .202

Ocypoda, a marine crab that lives on land 205

Gecarcinus rusticola, a land-crab 207

Marine hermit-crab 210

Frigate-bird 212

The decorator . 215



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. i x

PAGE

The blue shark 219

The pet shark 227

Walking-stick 230

Craw-fish 233

The lophius 246

Meandrina convexa 247

Sea birds 249

Dana's astrangia . 254

Decorating in captivity 259

Luminous fish of the deep sea ....... 263

Horseshoe-crab in trouble ... o .... 266



ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.



CHAPTER I.

THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE.

Leaving Key West The expedition Catching a kingfish The
Marquesas Graining a Tartar In the wake of a big ray The
spoonbill A small Sargasso sea The nest of a fish The float-
ing coral Animal flowers The dancing cranes A sea of fire
The ames of animals.

LL aboard for the Tuguses ! "
shouted a jolly-faced col-
ored man.

" All aboard ! " echoed three
youthful voices.

The hawsers were cast off,
the jib run merrily up by. willing-
hands, and the trim schooner
Tortfagas bore away down Key
West Harbor, headed for Gar-
den Key, the land's end of the
great Florida reef the key of
the Gulf of Mexico.

The Tortugas was a Government schooner




4 ALONG THE FLORIDA EEEF.

yacht, commanded by Captain David Ellis, and
carried the mail from Key West to the end of
the reef, being the only regular means of com-
munication. On this trip the passengers com-
prised Dr. Bassett, his son Tom, and Dick and
Harry Edmonston, companions of the latter and
sons of the commanding officer of the district.
The doctor was an enthusiastic naturalist. His
object in visiting the great reef was to study
the corals and collect specimens of all the ani-
mals found here ; and the boys were looking
forward to exciting and novel experiences in
aiding in the practical work of collecting in the
months to follow.

The wind was fair, and the Tortugas was
soon bowling along with a mass of foain under
her bow, starting the flying-fishes, and even
attracting the attention of the sleeping pelicans
that floated in the water here and there. By
the docks and wharves of the Spanish- American
town they rushed, passing Fort Taylor, with its
frowning guns, then bearing away by the Sand
Key light and heading, as the captain said, for
" sundown."




THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE. 5

"What you young geinmen like fo' sup-
per ? " asked Paublo, the cook, as the boys
passed the galley. " Grunt,
hogfish, grouper, snapper,
conch, green turtle ? "

"111 take kingfish,"
said Dick.

" So will I," said Tom.

"Dat's always de way," rejoined Paublo;
" de only fish I ain't got. But I kin cotch one ;
dish yer's a great place fo' kingfish," added the
obliging cook, taking out a stout line from a
locker and fastening a bright silvery sardine
to the hook ; " an' if one of you young gem-
men will hold de line I'll git de fryin'-pan
scotched."

"I'll hold it," said Harry, taking the line
from the jolly Paublo, who went off to the gal-
ley, singing softly :

" Ham fat, ham fat,

Frying in de pan,
Ham fat, ham fat,

Cotch him if you can.
Oh ! git you in de kitchen

As quick as ebber can,



6 ALONG THE FLORIDA EEEF.

Hoochie koochie koocliie,
I'm de ham-fat man."

Harry seated himself on the rail, line in
hand, watching the last receding cocoanut trees
of Key West. He had almost forgotten the
kingfish, when a mighty jerk nearly pulled him
overboard.

" I've got him ! " he cried. But that looked
doubtful, as the fish gave a powerful surge, tak-
ing the line through his fingers at a rate that
made them burn. Captain Ellis luffed the
schooner, and they shortly had the kingfish
alongside. It proved to be a fine specimen,
about three feet long, of a steel-blue and silver
color, with a long and rakish jaw.

"Don' lift him by de line," cried Paublo,
who came running from the galley, unship-
ping on the way a pair of grains which hung in
the shrouds, " or you'll tear out his jaw. Now,
hold him up."

Harry and Tom raised the fish slightly,
while Paublo hurled the barbs into its neck;
and by the combined efforts of the three the fish
was lifted to the deck, where it thrashed around



THE LAND OP THE DANCING CRANE. 7

and gave them all a lively few moments, dodg-
ing its tail. Paublo now took it in hand, and
before long a rich odor floated aft that told of a
coming dinner and a good one.

Other kingfish were caught during the after-
noon, the ground proving, as Paublo had said,
one of the best. When the boys had wearied
of hauling in big fish they joined the doctor,
who told them something about Garden Key
their destination and home for months to come,
and, as it turned out for the doctor and Tom, a
residence of six or seven years.

"In 1818," he began, "Florida belonged to
Spain ; but in the following year it was pur-
chased by our Government for five million dol-
lars. This was considered a large sum at the
time, but at present, with its valuable fisheries
on the reef, the orange-grove industry of the
main-land, the harbors and resorts, it is ssen
to have been very cheap; in fact, Key West
alone could not be purchased for that sum.

"Having obtained the new possession, our
Government found it necessary to fortify it ; so
in 1847 the central island of the Tortugas group



8 ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

was selected, and Fort Jefferson begun. There
was an old-fashioned light-house there, as well as
a cottage, which is mentioned in one of Coop-
er's novels. Previous to this time the island
had been the resort of buccaneers and outlaws
from all lands, who were finally driven away by
the ships of our West India squadron.

"The islands are called Tortugas, which
means in Spanish i turtle,' because they have al-
ways been famous as the breeding-grounds of
the green and loggerhead turtles. They are
called keys, which is a corruption of the Spanish
cayo, an inlet. Some call the group the Dry
Tortugas, as there are no springs there, all the
drinking water being caught in cisterns. Tor-
tugas is sixty miles from Key West, and be-
tween the islands is the Marquesas."

"Will it be possible for us to stop over at
the Keys ? " asked the doctor of the captain,
who stood near.

" I think so, sir," was the reply. " The way
things look we shall just about reach there and
be caught in a dead calm."

The captain's prophecy came true. The



THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE. 9

wind gradually died away ; the booms creaked
and slashed to and fro as the schooner rolled
in the ground swell ; the reefing points beat a
merry tattoo on the listless sails, and at sun-
down the Gulf, as far as the boys could see, was
a sea of glass, the sun going down ainid splen-
dors they had never dreamed of.

Paublo took a belay ing-pin and began tapping
on the foremast, advising the boys to whistle for
the wind ; and Captain Ellis assured them that
these two methods never failed in his experience
to raise the wind if kept up long enough a
truism which was appreciated later on.

But, despite the shrill calls and the tattoo
on the foremast, the surface of the Gulf re-
mained as smooth as a mirror ; and finally even
Paublo became discouraged and brought out his
violin, whiling away the time with song and
dance. Finally, with the stars and the South-
ern Cross gleaming brightly, the party turned
in, to awake the next morning and see over the
rail a group of islands resting like gulls upon
the water.

" We managed to reach here in the night,"



10 ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

said Captain Ellis, joining them ; " and as there
is no wind you may as well go ashore."

The boys were only too delighted, and after
a hurried breakfast the little dinghy was low-
ered away, and they were soon pulling up the
blue channel that skirted the Key. The Keys
were picturesque islands, with white, sandy
beaches, covered with a mass of low bay -cedars.

When nearly opposite a little bay, some cu-
rious fins were seen cutting the water.

" Sharks ! " exclaimed Dick, looking over his
shoulder.

" I think so," replied Tom, wisely.

" Don't make any noise, boys ! " whispered
Dick, as he made a long lead or sounding-line
fast to the thwarts, then with grains in hand
stood prepared for action, as the boat neared the
mysterious fins.

" Here's one coming this way," he added,
raising the pole as he spoke. Hardly had he
uttered the words when a great black body ap-
peared near the bow and he let drive, with a
result that almost appalled them. A large fish,
in appearance like a monster bird, rose partly



THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE. 11

out of the water, coming down with a crash that
sounded like the blast of a small cannon. The
waves rocked the boat violently, and the occu-
pants were thrown down in a body by the sud-
den shock. Tom had been holding the coil of
rope, but had fortunately remembered to throw
it overboard, leaving the end fast to the bow.

" That's not a shark ! " said Dick, as he
picked himself up from the bottom of the boat.

"I should say not," retorted Harry; "but
what do you suppose it is ? Just see it go ! "

The fish was rushing away, making the
water foam and boil.

"Stand by the line," shouted Tom, "it will
be taut in a second ! "

" Away we go ! " cried Dick.

And go they did. For now the fish, had
taken the whole length of line and, with a sud-
den jerk, on rushed the dinghy, bow under, at
race-horse speed.

" Cut the rope ! " shouted Dick, excitedly,
picking himself up for the third time. " He'll
capsize us."

" Hold on a minute," said Tom, who had



12 ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

caught the line at the notch ; " I've got the
hatchet, and when I'm sure he's too much for us
I'll cut the rope."

But just then they heard Paublo calling to
them from the schooner, between his rounded
hands and at the top of his voice :

"Cut de line! cut de line! don't let him
foul de line. It's a devil-fish ! "

The boat tore along the channel at a rapid
rate, but as it turned a curve the excited boys
saw that their strange steed was rushing to its
own destruction, for the channel ended in a mud
flat.

They were right. In its terror the great fish
ran up on the dead coral in about one foot of
water. The line slackened all at once, and the
boys now put out their oars and, after stopping
the boat's headway, pulled off to watch the
dying fish that was beating the water furiously.
Its head was fully exposed, and, as they pulled
in range, Dick put a load of buckshot into it
and ended its struggles.

When, shortly after, the doctor and Paublo
were brought ashore, and they all walked round



THE LAND OP THE DANCING CRANE. 13

to view their capture, Paublo said : " I thought
it was a devil-fish ; but it's pretty near it one
of de biggest rays I ever see. Sometimes dey
cotch 'em here fifteen foot across, an' dey git
foul with anchors an' tow smacks about in a
mighty mystrus fashion."

" Are you joking ? " asked Harry doubt-
ingly.

"No," said the doctor, answering for Pau-
blo. " I know of a case myself where a manta
fouled the anchor of a good-sized schooner and
towed it for a mile before it cleared. The fish
has two curious projections," he continued,
" which are sometimes called claspers ; these oc-
casionally are fouled with cables, and the fish
rushes away in blind terror, towing the vessel,
much to the astonishment of the sailors. -Sev-
eral cases have been known on the reef."

The boys carried away the tail as a souvenir,
and then pulled around to the sandy beach off
which the schooner was anchored.

" Give way hard ! " said Paublo, who had
the stroke oar, and with a rush the boat was
sent on the beach, whereupon the boys all



14 ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

tumbled out and hauled her above the water-
line.

They started at once to explore the beach,
and soon came upon an old wreck, which the
tides had evidently driven higher and higher,
year after year, until it was now high and dry,
the haunt of crabs and gulls, which had evi-
dently taken complete possession. Tom noted
one bird of so brilliant a red that he determined
to secure it. A shot from his gun brought it
down with a broken wing. It started for the
water at once, but Tom dashed into the surf and
caught it just in time.

" Isn't it a splendid fellow to set up in our
collection ? " asked Tom enthusiastically. " It's
a spoonbill, isn't it ? "

" Yes," the doctor replied, " and a fine speci-
men, too. Its feathers, you see, are blood-red,
and its bill is spread out at the end, not unlike
the bowl of a spoon. Hence its name, the ro-
seate spoonbill."

After a stroll, followed by a rest on the
beach, the party took to the boat again, intend-
ing to make a circuit of the little island. As



THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE. 15

they pushed out, Harry said, looking down
through the clear water :

" The bottom of the sea is as beautiful as a
garden."

" Yes," rejoined the doctor ; " the corals, fans,
plumes, and sea- weeds are the plants ; the Gulf
Stream moves through their branches as wind
plays through the trees on land; and as land
plants absorb the excess of carbonic gas, these
marine forms secrete the lime salts, rejecting the
soluble salts of sodium and other substances
that are not necessary for them. The land
plants purify the air so that we can breathe it,
and the animal-gardens do a similar work in the
ocean, purifying the sea-water, keeping down
the excess of salts that would be unwholesome
for the fishes and other animals."

" And how about the animal life, doctor ? "
inquired Dick.

" The likeness holds good," replied the doc-
tor, " for there are many curious similarities.
The seals, manatees, and whales are the cows of
the sea ; the sharks are the eagles ; the crabs are
the insects ; the bird-of -paradise finds a worthy



1G ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

imitator in the fantastic angel-fish which we
shall see among these very coral reefs. For
every animal on land there is in the sea some
creature which seems to fulfill the same office,
though, of course, under changed conditions."

The conversation was here interrupted by
the dinghy coming to a sudden standstill. It
had run into a great bunch of sea-weed.

" It's a regular Sargasso sea," said Tom,
laughing. "We could almost use this as an
anchor."

"That has been done with some species,"
answered his father. "There is found near
Tierra del Fuego a gigantic sea-weed called
Macrocystis pyrifera, which grows in water two
hundred and forty feet deep, and is so firmly
rooted that vessels during smooth water are fre-
quently made fast to it."

Here Dick, who had been towing after him
a mass of the weed, suddenly noticed that some
spherical pieces of the weed had been separated
from the rest. Seizing one of them, he tossed it
into the boat,

" Here's a marine base-ball," said he.



THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE. 17

"This is a very interesting find, Richard,"
said the doctor, picking it up. "Your marine







The Antennarius marmoratus and its floating nest, formed of Gulf- weed.
Fish natural size, the nest reduced.



18 ALONG THE FLORIDA 11EEF.

base-ball is really the nest of a peculiar fish,
about four inches long, which lives on the sur-
face of the water in this gulf -weed. The nest
is made up, as you see, of pieces of sargassum,
wound in and out, and matted together in a cu-
rious fashion, and then held in its spherical shape
by bands of a glutinous secretion from the fish
that look like strings of jelly."

When the nest had been opened, the eggs
of the fish were found fastened to the leaves in
great numbers ; and Dick, who still retained
some of the loose pieces, w ? as fortunate enough
to find the odd fish itself.

"It is the Antennarius" said the doctor;
"and a more curious fellow could scarcely be
imagined. You will notice that he mimics the
color of the sea- weed."

" And see," added Dick, " these things that
look like bits of the weed on its head and fins
are really part of its flesh."

The doctor had placed the prize in a pail
of water, and, continuing, said : " They are
slow swimmers, you see," as the fish moved
lazily about, " and prefer to lie undisturbed



THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE. 19

among the protecting branches of the sea-
weed."

" I should like to see the baby fish when
they are hatched," said Harry ; " there must be
a thousand of them."

"More than that," replied the doctor. "If
all the eggs of fishes w r ere hatched, or if all the
young grew up, there would not be water enough
on the earth to float them. There is always a
fish of some kind that preys upon each particu.
lar species, and they in turn are devoured by
others. There must, therefore, be many born, if
any are to survive. But, without this check to
the increase, the fish would multiply with mar-
velous rapidity. Suppose, for instance, the egg
of the cod, which lays by trustworthy calcula*
tions over nine millions of eggs, should all be
hatched and grow to maturity, the bodies of the
cod alone would, before many years, seriously
impede navigation."

The boys concluded that it was fortunate so
many fish enjoyed a cod-fish diet.

The boat had now nearly completed the
round of the island when, on making a sudden



20 ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.

turn, they came upon a number of white cranes
and gannets. The cranes rose quickly, but Tom,
the sportsman, who usually had his gun ready,
brought one down, very neatly, on the wing.
The stupid gannets had not moved even yet,
and Tom declared that they well deserved the
name of "boobies." The boys pulled out and
picked up the body of the crane. It was a
beautiful white bird, with a yellow patch on its
breast.

" It is a heron," said the doctor ; " and this
yellow spot on its breast is supposed by some
observers to be capable of giving out a bright
phosphorescence in the dark."

" Don't shoot ! " said Harry, as Tom took aim
at the gannets, who were still regarding their
strange visitors in stupid amazement. " Let me
start them."

Taking a large piece of coral which he had
picked up on the beach, he threw it toward the
birds. The gannets rose slowly, as the coral
splashed up the water, but, to the great astonish-
ment of the boys, the coral, instead of sinking,
floated lightly on the water like a piece of wood.



THE LAND OF THE DANCING CRANE. 21

"All stones don't sink," said the doctor,
laughing to see Harry's look of surprise. " That
coral doesn't mean to be left out of our collec-
tion ; seriously, I think we had better keep the
specimen," he added ; and the floating coral was
again picked up.

"But what is it and why is it doctor?"
asked Harry.

"It is what might be called the skeleton of
the coral called Meandrina spongiosa" explained
the doctor; "and when the animals die it be-
comes bleached. It is very porous, and the

pores being full of air,
the coral floats easily on
the water."

" Hold on a minute,"
said Dick, as the boat
grated over some branch-
coral, knocking off thou-

Anthea cereus (Opelet). gandg Q f tipg> The ^

gliy was stopped, and Dick, leaning over the
side, tore off a branch of dead coral. Hanging
to it was a beautiful anemone. Dick handed it
to the doctor, who placed it in a glass of water.




ALONG THE FLORIDA REEF.



Very soon the anemone threw out its beautiful
tentacles, which were like the petals of a flower.

" It is more like a flower than an animal,"
remarked Harry.

" Yes," said the doctor, " and related to the
corals. You can form a very good idea of the
coral animals from this
anemone, which differs
from the coral polyp
mainly in the fact that it
does not secrete lime.
They all belong to the
class Actinozoa. The
body, as you see, is a
cylinder, its top fringed with tentacles, and di-


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Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderAlong the Florida reef → online text (page 1 of 11)