R. Cadwallader Smith.

Within the Deep Cassell's Eyes and No Eyes Series, Book VIII online

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pieces of green and purple seaweed. He takes the pieces in his mouth,
pushing them about until the shape is to his liking. Having got his
nursery to the right size and shape, the little builder next fastens it
together. How can he do this? What mortar can he find in the sea? It is
quite simple. He uses threads, which come from his own body. He swims
round the nest, again and again; and, each time, a thread is spun,
binding the clump of weed into a safe, tight nest for the eggs. When the
task is done there is a weed-nursery about the size of your fist. Now
all is ready for the eggs to be laid by the female Stickleback. You
would expect them to be kept in a hole amid the nest, would you not?
Instead of that, they are tucked a few here, a few there, in the weed.

Then the father Stickleback mounts guard. Woe betide any small fish
looking for a dinner of Stickleback eggs! The gallant little sentry will
rush at him, with spines as stiff as fixed bayonets, ready to do battle
to the death. When the young are hatched out he still keeps guard. They
are not allowed out of the nursery for some time. The watchful parent
forces them back if they try to wander out into the perils of the
shore-pool.

[Illustration: _Photo: A.F. Dauncey_. SKATE'S EGG CASE]

Let us look at another nest-builder - the Sand Goby, or Spotted Goby, He
is common enough in the pools at low tide, but not easy to find. You can
look at him, yet not see him! For he takes the same colour as the rocks
and sands of his home. Amid the glinting lights and shadows of his
rock-pool, with a background of sand, rock, and weed, this little fish
is nearly invisible. Of course it is a dodge, and a useful one, to
escape the eye of the enemy!

Perhaps you will not think the Spotted Goby so clever at nest-building
as the Stickleback. He likes to use a "ready-made" house, whereas the
Stickleback finds his own "bricks and mortar." In the pools of the shore
there is no lack of houses to let, the empty homes of shell-fish are
there in plenty. So the little Goby, when nesting time comes, hunts
round for the empty shell of a Cockle lying with its hollow side to the
sand.

This shell is to be used as the roof for the nursery. The Goby's next
task is to make a hole beneath the shell. He sets to work and, by
scooping out the sand, makes a hole about as large as a marble. To keep
the sand from tumbling in, he smears the hole with slime, which soon
binds hard like mortar. Now the nursery is nearly ready; but a
passage-way is made, passing under the edge of the shell, and then, to
make things quite safe, the whole roof is covered with sand: it then
looks more like a bump in the sand than a fish-nursery.

The female Goby enters the nest, and leaves her eggs in it; and then the
little father fish is left in charge. He rests on the sand, near the
entrance. When the little ones appear, he seems to think he has done his
duty. So away, he swims, not staying, like the father Stickleback, to
guard the youngsters. Again we see that the father, and not the mother,
is the builder and nurse.

[Illustration: CORALS OF MANY KINDS.]

That very strange creature, the Pipe-fish, has the most peculiar nursery
of all. He uses no building material! No made-up nest of weed or sand
for him! No, he prefers to carry his eggs in his pocket. To be more
exact, there is a small pouch under his body, and there the eggs are
kept until they hatch. Meanwhile, the Pipe-fish goes about his affairs
in the pool as if nothing particular had happened. You will see more
about this funny little fish when we come to our lesson on "The Fish of
our Rock-pools."


EXERCISES

1. What are the eggs of the Skate and the Dog-fish like? 2. How does the
Sea-stickleback build his nest? 3. Where would you find the Sand Goby,
the Pipe-fish, and the Sea-stickleback? 4. How does the Sand Goby build
its nest?



LESSON V

THE OGRE OF THE DEEP

The ogre of the fairy-tale is bad enough, but, for evil looks, the
Octopus is worse still. With his tough, brownish skin, knobbed like the
toad's back, his large staring eyes, his parrot's beak, and ugly bag of
a body, the Octopus is a horrid-looking creature. Add to this eight long
arms twisting and writhing like snakes, and you have an idea of the most
hideous inhabitant of the deep.

Then, like the ogre, the Octopus lives in a cave, and goes forth at
night to claim his victims. He tears them to pieces, and returns to his
dark cavern when daylight comes.

Before seeing how this ugly monster lives, eats, breathes and fights, we
must know something of the way he is made. In the first place, it may
surprise you to know that the Octopus's body is made on the same plan as
that of the snail. The ogre of the ocean and the Garden Snail are second
cousins! Their family name - _mollusc_ - means _soft-bodied._

But there are such numbers of molluscs that we split them up into
different orders, just as a big school is split into classes. The
Octopus belongs to an order of molluscs with a long name, which only
means _head-footed._ Why is he called head-footed? The snail, as you
know, has one broad foot under its body. The foot of the Octopus is
divided into eight strips. These long strips are set round his head,
hence the name head-footed. Because there are eight of these long feet
he is named _octo-pus_ or eight-feet.

The feet - or arms, or tentacles, as they are called - are joined at their
base by a skin. It makes a sort of webbing. In the centre of this is a
horny beak, usually of a brownish colour. It is just like a parrot's
beak, only of thinner and lighter stuff. There are two parts to it, the
top one curving down over the lower one. Behind this beaked mouth is a
hard, rasping tongue. On each side of the head is a big, staring eye;
and behind the ugly head is the ugly body, like a bag.

The Octopus breathes by means of gills. Water enters through a big hole
under the head, passes over the gills, and out again through a _funnel_,
or _siphon_. Now the Octopus can make good use of this siphon. Sometimes
he is attacked, and wishes to "make himself scarce." So he sends the
water rapidly through the siphon; the force is enough to jerk him
quickly backwards, his "arms" trailing behind.

The Octopus and his relations have another dodge as well. They possess a
bag of inky fluid. By mixing this ink with the spurt of water from the
funnel, the Octopus leaves a thick cloud behind him. The enemy is lost
in this dark cloud, while the Octopus darts safely away.

[Illustration: THE OCTOPUS - A MONSTER OF THE DEEP]

Having no armour to protect him, and no shelly home like that of the
snail, the Octopus is an easy prey to large fish, Seals and Whales. So
this trick of shooting backwards, hidden in a cloud of ink, must be of
great use. Soldiers and sailors use clouds of smoke to baffle their
enemy in battle. The Octopus uses clouds of ink.

Sharks, Conger Eels, and Whales are able to fight the Octopus and eat
his soft body; but small fish and Crabs keep away from the ogre if they
can. This is not easy, for he hides away under rocks, watching with his
great eyes for passing prey. If anything comes near enough, out flicks a
long, tapering, snaky arm, and holds the victim tight.

Down the inside of each arm are nearly three hundred round suckers. Each
one acts like those leather suckers with which boys sometimes play. Once
fixed, it is nearly impossible to unloose them, without chopping or
tearing the arm to pieces. First one and then another sucker takes hold,
and the wretched victim is drawn up to the ogre's beak, with no chance
of escape.

When one sees the grasping power of even a small Octopus, it is easy to
believe that a large one would be a dangerous enemy. The strongest
swimmer would stand no chance: those clinging arms could hold two or
three men under water.

[Illustration: WHALING.]

Luckily, the Octopus has no wish to attack people. It is not fierce. But
to the Crabs it must seem an awful ogre. I once watched an Octopus on
the lookout for food. It had its lair between two rocks, its twining
arms showing outside, its eyes and body in the shadow. Along came a
Crab, scuttling near the rocks. He spied the ogre, at once stopping and
raising his claws as Crabs do, like a boxer ready to fight. The Crab
having strong pincers, and a good suit of armour, I expected to see him
fight for life. But no! Like poor Bunny chased by the dreaded Stoat, the
Crab gave in as soon as the ogre flicked him with an arm. The suckers
gripped him fast and, still holding up his claws, he was drawn into the
den of his dreadful enemy.

Although armed with a beak, the Octopus seems not to use it against the
Crab. He prefers to pull the poor Crab to pieces with his strong arms,
and then to pick up the crab-meat with the hooked beak. When full-fed,
he retires to his den; he sometimes pulls shells and stones over the
entrance, and rests within until hungry.

In this strange order of molluscs there are dwarfs and giants. One kind
is never more than two inches long, others are vast monsters. The
Octopus is big enough and ugly enough to make one shudder to see him,
but the real ogre of the deep is the Giant Cuttle-fish, beside which the
Octopus is a tiny mite.

These Giant Cuttles have ten arms, two of them being very long. The
Octopus's body is round, like that of a fat spider, while the Cuttle has
a long body. The Cuttle has many sharp claws on its arms, besides
numbers of big, strong suckers. It holds and tears its prey at the same
time. Its staring eyes are like big black lanterns on each side of the
head. The head twists this way and that, so that nothing escapes the
glare of those horrible eyes.

Lurking in the dark depths of the sea, these Giant Cuttles wait for
large fish, Crabs, or even their own relations, to come near. Like
hideous, gigantic Spiders, they are the terror of the ocean caverns.
They are so large that they have few enemies to fear. Indeed, it is
surprising that any animal dares to attack such a monster, but that
other giant, the Sperm Whale, dives deep to the home of the Cuttles,
purposely to attack and eat them.

The Sperm Whale _must_ attack these big creatures in order to get enough
food. He has such a huge, barn-like body to fill, that only these big
Cuttles will satisfy him. Whale-hunters sometimes catch a glimpse of
terrific combats between these giants of the deep. The Sperm wins the
battle, for he is nearly always found to contain great pieces of the
ogre's arms.

Although the Octopus and the Cuttle are related to the Snail and Whelk,
they have no shell. Their bodies are naked. Neither do they grow a
backbone, or skeleton; but, inside the body, the Cuttle has a plate of
chalk, which you may find on the shore. Some kinds have a long strip of
transparent substance, like a large feather. Fishermen use the smaller
kinds of Cuttle as bait. You will find it quite easy to cut out the
"beaks" and "bone" for yourself, or the fishermen will not mind saving
them for you.


EXERCISES

1. What is the meaning of the words "mollusc" and "octopus"? 2. How does
the Octopus capture its prey? 3. How does the Octopus escape its
enemies? 4. What creatures prey on the Cuttle and Octopus?



LESSON VI

THE WHALE

Now and again Whales are washed up on our coasts, and then we can see
how huge is this strange monster of the deep. It is by far the largest
of all living animals. Once on the land it is quite helpless; it cannot
regain its home in the waters, and slowly dies. It is shaped like a
fish, and its home is in the sea, so no wonder it has often been called
a fish.

If by chance the Whale is held under water, it drowns. It has no gills,
like those of the fish, to take air from the water; it is a mammal, a
creature that must breathe the free air just as other mammals. Nature is
full of surprises. And here she surprises us with a mammal most
marvellously fitted to live a fish-like life.

The Whale dives to great depths in search of food, and stays under water
for a long time. But it is forced to rise again, and breathe at the
surface. To do this, it need not put its head and mouth out of water,
for its nostril is at the top of the head.

As the Whale forces used-up air from its nostril - or "blow-hole," as it
is called - it mixes with water; this causes a jet or spout of water to
rise some distance into the air. The blow-hole is closed by a stopper or
valve, opening to let the air in or out, but closing to shut out the
water.

Some of the Whale family are enormous, and some are small. A large Sperm
Whale may grow to be ninety feet long, and its weight would be nearly
two hundred tons! This huge creature would look like a deep barge in the
water.

These Sperm Whales love to swim in herds, or schools. As many as three
hundred have been seen in one school, old "bulls" and "cows," and their
young ones swimming together far out at sea. It has been noticed that
they all spout, or breathe, at the same time, and then dive to great
depths. The old ones seem to know that their babies cannot stay under
water as long as a full-grown Whale can, and they all rise at the same
time. These youngsters may be nearly thirty feet long; but they gambol
like so many kittens, twisting and turning over and over, and throwing
themselves into the air. Most Whales are happy creatures, enjoying their
roving life in the free ocean.

You can well imagine that a Whale as big as a barge needs huge dinners.
We should not be far wrong if we guessed that he would need about a ton
of food every day. Where is he to get all that food? It is said that he
feeds mostly on the Cuttle-fish, that giant cousin of the Octopus, who
haunts the dim caverns of the deep. The Sperm is of enormous strength,
and is as fierce as he is strong. Otherwise he would not dare to face
the awful, clinging arms of the Cuttle, that ogre of the deep sea.

The Sperm Whale has a great, blunt head, a huge mouth, and a throat
large enough to swallow a man. His clumsy-looking head contains oil, so
does the deep layer of blubber with which his body is covered.

For the sake of this oil, the Sperm has always been hunted. But he is
not easily overcome. He fights hard for life; and many a whaling boat
has been dashed to pieces with one blow from the powerful tail of a
hunted Sperm.

This great tail is set cross-wise, not upright like the tail of a fish.
It is of immense power, and divided into two big "flukes," as they are
called. With strong up-and-down strokes the tail propels the monster
along at a great pace. It also shoots him down to his feeding place in
the depths of the sea, and up again to fill his lungs with sweet fresh
air. The fins, or paddles, are used only as balancers, and to protect
the young.

These Sperm Whales inhabit warm seas, but others of the Whale family
haunt colder regions. The greatest of these is the Right Whale, or
Greenland Whale, a monster whose bulk rivals that of the Sperm.

Now it is very strange that this, the largest member of the whole
kingdom of animals, should live on some of the smallest creatures of the
sea, and that the mouth and throat of this monster should be so made
that he can eat only this minute food, food like that which the tiny
Herring eats.

In some parts of those cold northern seas the water is coloured in bands
of red and blue. If you took up a bucketful, you would find that the
colour was due to myriads of tiny creatures. Amongst these are other
myriads of small animals, each of less size than a house-fly. The larger
ones are there to feed on the smaller ones. And that mass of small life
is the food of this mountain of fat and flesh, the Greenland Whale.

He swims through the sea with his mouth gaping open, like a great
cavern, and soon thousands of the little creatures are inside. Then his
tongue comes forward. It is of immense size, and it pushes out all the
sea water from his mouth. But the small animals remain inside! For the
water is forced through a wonderful sieve, made of fringed plates, which
hangs from his upper jaw. Instead of having teeth in his mouth, as many
Whales have, the Greenland Whale has this sieve of "whalebone." Of
course it is a large sieve, to fill so large a mouth. Yet it is never in
the way, being neatly packed away at the top of the mouth, one plate
over the other, when not in use.

The mass of small animals, held back by this peculiar sieve, then slides
down his throat, which is a tube about as wide as a boy's wrist! We said
just now that Nature was full of surprises. Is it not surprising to find
a gigantic Whale feeding in this way! Inside the great mouth the
_Remora_? or Sucking Fish, is often found. This fish has an oval sucker
on its head, by which it fixes itself to Whales, or even to the hull of
a ship. It has fins, and can swim perfectly well, but prefers to live in
this lazy way.

The Whalebone Whales lead a peaceful, happy life, though not without
dangers. The bitter cold of their northern home is nothing to them, for
are they not snug in a deep blanket of blubber? To obtain food, they
merely swim along with open mouth. These peaceful giants do not know how
to fight for their lives, like the Sperm Whales. So, when man came,
hunting the Greenland Whale for oil and "whalebone," he found an easy
victim.

They have other enemies, besides man. The Killer Whale is one of the
fiercest, swiftest terrors of the sea. It is tiny, compared with the
Greenland Whale, but much quicker and more cunning. Several Killers band
together and spring to the attack at the same time, Like wild cats, they
dash at the poor helpless Whale, and tear its sides with terrible curved
teeth.

The Sword-fish and Thresher Shark also help to destroy this harmless
giant of the deep. The Sword-fish pierces it with his pointed "beak";
the other slashes the sides of the wretched Whale with its long tail. It
is said, by those who have seen such a fight, that the Thresher's tail
cuts deep into the Whale's sides.

[Illustration: THE SUCKING FISH]

In all parts of the wide sea there are Whales of one kind or another. We
have looked briefly at the Sperm and Greenland Whales, and the Killer
Whale. Besides these there is the Narwhal, or Sea-unicorn, with a
wonderful tusk, which is really a big tooth, some six feet long. Another
one, the Bottle-nose Whale, has a long, narrow "beak," and is sometimes
washed up on our shores. The Pilot Whale is also seen in herds in our
seas.

Another visitor, the Rorqual, is not welcomed by the fishermen. This big
fellow follows the shoals of Mackerel and Herring. He lives on them,
swallowing as many at each gulp as would fill several big baskets. The
fishermen can spare him the fish. But it is another matter when he swims
through valuable nets, tearing through them as if they were so much
cobweb.

The commonest Whale of our seas is that small one, the Common Dolphin,
who is a midget some five or six feet long. You may have seen Dolphins,
for they swim near the surface, and may often be noticed not far from
the shore. Like the Rorquals, they follow the Herring and Mackerel
shoals. Now and again they dash into the nets, and are shown in the
fish-market.


EXERCISES

1. Describe how the Whale breathes. 2. What food do the Sperm and
Greenland Whales eat? 3. How does the Greenland Whale eat its food? 4,
Give the names of five kinds of Whale.



LESSON VII

TIGERS OF THE SEA

[Illustration: A CORAL REEF.]

The monsters of the Shark family, fortunately for us, live in warm seas,
and so are not often found near the shores of Great Britain. But our
seas contain smaller Sharks of various kinds, and in greater number than
most people imagine.

Sharks are fierce hunters. Many a poor sailor or diver has been torn to
pieces and devoured by these ravenous tigers of the deep. Some Sharks
are of great size and immense power; they are by far the largest of all
living fish; and no animal in the whole kingdom of animals owns such a
terrible death-trap of a mouth as the Shark. It is, in some kinds of
Shark, armed with seven rows of teeth with keen edges and points!

Sometimes a Shark follows a steamer in the open sea, day after day,
waiting for whatever may chance his way; and it is astonishing what
strange objects he will swallow. These monsters are often caught on a
hook baited with a lump of meat, and are hauled to the steamer's deck.
One Shark was found to contain all the rubbish that had been pitched
overboard; tin cans, a bundle of old coats, a piece of rope, old bones,
and so on. What a fierce hunger must have driven the Shark to swallow
such a meal as that!

Before we look at some of these fierce creatures, whom everyone
dislikes, we will say a word for them. Nature meant them to be
_scavengers_, to clean up the sea. And this they do. Dead and decaying
flesh is a danger, and the Shark, ever hungry, clears it away quickly.

Now and again fishermen bring a big Shark to port, and hang him in the
market - not for sale, but as a "show." The Blue Shark is the one most
often displayed like this. See how his mouth is set, well under the
head, as in all Sharks; and notice the shape of the body. It tells of
speed and strength in the water; its pointed, tapering form reminds one
of the racing yacht.

[Illustration: THE WHITE RAY]

What is this fierce fellow doing so near our coast? He is often found
off Cornwall - too often, thinks the fisherman. This Shark comes to seek
the same prey as the fisherman - the shoals of Mackerel and Pilchard (a
cousin of the Herring). Where the shoals go, the Blue Shark follows. The
silly Mackerel, all crowded together, have no chance to escape their
awful foe. They are nearly as helpless as a flock of sheep with a tiger
in their midst.

[Illustration: THE ELECTRIC RAY]

If the Shark comes across a mass of Mackerel or Pilchards in a net, he
looks on them as a fine feast. Dashing at them, he tears the net to
pieces, swallowing lumps of netting with great mouthfuls of fish. Small
wonder the fisherman detests this savage visitor which causes him such
serious loss of time and money. He naturally looks on Sharks as useless
"vermin," to be destroyed whenever possible.

[Illustration: _Photo: A. F. Dauncey_. DOG-FISH EGG CASE]

The Fox Shark, or Thresher, is another fierce visitor to these shores.
This savage hunter comes after the Herrings, Pilchards and Sprats. It is
said to hunt these useful little fish in a strange way. As you know,
they travel in shoals. The Thresher swims rapidly round and round them.
Nearer and nearer it comes to the unlucky little fish, and they crowd
together, huddling up in a helpless mass. The Thresher adds to their
panic by _threshing_ the water with its terrible tail. And then, as you
can well imagine, it dashes at them and devours an enormous meal. Half
the length of the Thresher is tail. Not long ago there was landed at one
of our fishing ports a Thresher Shark of half a ton, its tail being over
ten feet in length. Even the great Whale has reason to fear the fierce
lashings of that long, whip-like weapon!

Our commonest Sharks are those small ones known as Dog-fish, which you
can often see at any fish market. They are good to eat, though not used
much as food. Though small in size, they are large in appetite and
fierce in nature. Like savage dogs, they hunt in packs, waging war
against the Whiting, Herring and other fish.

[Illustration: THE SHARK]

There are several kinds of these small Sharks, known as Spur-dog, Smooth
Hound, Greater-spotted and Lesser-spotted Dog-fish, and Tope. And you
will hear fishermen call them by such names as "Rig," "Robin Huss," and
"Shovel-nose." Fisher-folk dislike Sharks, the Dog-fish among them. All
those creatures, like the Cormorant, Seal, and Shark, which catch fish
for breakfast, dinner and supper, are rivals of the fisherman. He often
pulls up his line to find but a part of a fish on the hook - the rest was
snatched by a "dog." At times his nets are torn by these nuisances, when
they attack the "catch" of fish. Or his lines come up from the deep all
tangled round and round a writhing Dog-fish, which had swallowed the
baited hook.

We come now to those flat Sharks, whose flesh you may have tasted. No
Sharks are nice-looking, but these flat ones - the Skates or Rays - are
really hideous, Many of them are of great size and strength, and armed
with spines on their bodies (_see_ p. 52, No. 3) as well as teeth in
their ugly jaws. They have broad, flat bodies, with wide "wings," and a
long thin tail. The whole shape reminds you of a kite, and you would
hardly know the Ray or Skate as the Shark's first cousin.

Yet it is only a Shark with flattened body, and whose side fins are so


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Online LibraryR. Cadwallader SmithWithin the Deep Cassell's Eyes and No Eyes Series, Book VIII → online text (page 2 of 4)