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The Ocean and its Wonders   By: (1825-1894)

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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 it whispers in the calm, and comes rippling on the shingly beach in a still, small voice, as if to solicit our regard. But whether that voice of ocean comes in crashing billows or in gentle murmurs, 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 chapters in that wonderful story. The sea has much to say; far more than could possibly be comprehended in one volume, however large. It tells us of the doings of man on its broad bosom, from the day in which he first ventured to paddle along shore in the hollow trunk of a tree, to the day when he launched his great iron ship of 20,000 tons, and rushed out to sea, against wind and tide, under an impulse equal to the united strength 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 to do just now. It tells us, also, of God's myriad and multiform creatures, that dwell in its depths, from the vast whale, whose speed is so great, that it might, if it chose, circle round the world in a few days, to the languid zoophyte, which clings to the rock, and bears more resemblance to a plant than to a living animal.

The sea has secrets, too, some of which it will not divulge until that day when its Creator shall command it to give up its dead; while others it 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 been perpetrated, in all ages, by abandoned men; when no human ears listened to the stifled shriek, or the gurgling plunge; when no human eyes beheld the murderous acts, the bloody decks, the blazing vessels, or the final hiss of the sinking wrecks.

Among the latter kind of secrets are the lives and habits of the creatures of the deep, and the causes and effects of those singular currents of air and water, which, to the eye of ignorance, seem to be nothing better than irregularity and confusion; but which, to the minds of those who search them out, and have pleasure therein, are recognised as a part of that wonderful, orderly, and systematic arrangement of things that we call Nature: much of which we now know, more of which we shall certainly know, as each day and year adds its quota to the sum of human knowledge; but a great deal of which will, doubtless, remain for ever hidden in the mind of nature's God, whose ways are wonderful, and past finding out. It is the latter class of secrets to which we purpose directing 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 and magnificent region, stands undecided whither to direct his steps in the endlessly varied scene. Or, still more, like the visitor to our great International Exhibition of 1862 , who, entering abruptly that gigantic palace, where were represented the talent, the ingenuity, time wealth, and industry of every people and clime, attempts, in vain, to systematise his explorations, or to fix his attention. It is probable that, in each of these supposed cases, the traveller and visitor, resigning the desire to achieve what is impossible, would give themselves up to the agreeable guidance of a wandering and wayward fancy.

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 such notes of the Ocean's Voice as strike upon our ears most pleasantly... Continue reading book >>

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