Cornhill Magazine,  3 (1861), 625–35.

Blue Water

[David T Anstead]




Oceanography, Hydrography, Steamships, Serendipity, Natural History, Telegraphy, Physical Geography, Microbiology, Botany, Biogeography, Mapping

People mentioned:

Henry Brooks , Francis L McClintock

    Describes the deep soundings of the North Atlantic made in 1860 by George C Wallich as the naturalist on board hms Bulldog. During these soundings 'a curious and most unexpected [...] accident' revealed the depths at which animals such as star-fish can survive (1,250 fathoms instead of the 500 fathoms previously considered the maximum), and provided a great deal of information on the natural history of the bottom of the ocean (629). The ocean floor is covered with 'a stiff mud, made up of minute shells, which we now know must include the débris of innumerable animals who have permanently resided there', and is inhabited by 'star-fishes, [...] small microscopic animals, [...] industrious worms, [and] small crustaceans' (632). Insists on the 'importance and paramount necessity' of combining 'inquiries into pure natural history' with 'more directly practical investigations', and maintains that 'a sound, practical result is sure to follow from labours so conducted' (635). In particular, natural history can contribute to our knowledge of 'the particulars of that solid floor on which our telegraph cables must be laid' (634). Deep sea ship-worms, for instance, can bore 'through a coating of guttapercha intended to preserve the wire from such contact as would destroy electrical insulation', and constitute 'an enemy more dangerous, and causing a difficulty more serious, than any that has yet presented itself' to 'the permanent preservation of a submarine telegraph cable laid across the bottom of the Atlantic' (632).

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