Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

This depends in a measure, also, upon the character of the land upon which the sea breeze blows; for when the surface is arid and the soil barren, the heating power of the sun is exerted with most effect. In such cases the sea breeze amounts to a gale of wind. In the summer of the southern hemisphere the sea breeze is more powerfully developed at Valparaiso than at any other place to which my services afloat have led me. Here regularly in the afternoon, at this season, the sea breeze blows furiously : pebbles are torn up from the walks and whirled about the streets; people seek shelter; the Almendral is deserted, business interrupted, and all communication from the shipping to the shore is cut off. Suddenly the winds and the sea, as if they had again heard the voice of rebuke, are hushed, and there is a great calm.

The lull that follows is delightful. The sky is without a cloud; the atmosphere is transparency itself; the Andes seem to draw near; the climate, always mild and soft, becomes now doubly sweet by the contrast. The evening invites abroad, and the population sally forth—the ladies in ball costume, for now there is not wind enough to disarrange the lightest curl. In the southern summer this change takes place day after day with the utmost regularity; and yet the calm always seems to surprise, and to come before one has had time to realize that the furious sea wind could so soon be hushed. Presently the stars begin to peep out, timidly at first, as if to see whether the elements here below have ceased their strife, and whether the scene on earth be such as they, from their bright spheres aloft, may shed their sweet influences upon. Sirius, or that blazing world Argus, may be the first watcher to send down a feeble ray; then follows another, and another, all smiling meekly; but presently, in the short twilight of the latitude, the bright leaders of the starry host blaze forth in all their glory, and the sky is decked and spangled with superb brilliants! In the twinkling of an eye, and faster than the admiring gazer can tell, the stars seem to leap out from their hiding-places. By invisible hands, and in quick succession, the constellations are hung out ; but first of all, and with dazzling glory, in the azure depths of space appears the Great Southern Cross. That shining symbol

mers.

a

lends a holy grandeur to the scene, making it still more impressive.

Alone in the night-watch, after the sea breeze had sunk to rest, I have stood on the deck under those beautiful skies gazing, admiring, rapt. I have seen there, above the horizon at once, and shining with a splendour unknown to northern latitudes, every star of the first magnitude—save only six—that is contained in the catalogue of the one hundred principal fixed stars of astrono

There lies the city on the sea-shore, wrapped in sleep. The sky looks solid, like a vault of steel set with diamonds! The stillness below is in harmony with the silence above, and one almost fears to speak, lest the harsh sound of the human voice, reverberating through those vaulted "chambers of the south," should wake up echo, and drown the music that fills the soul.

On looking aloft, the first emotion gives birth to a homeward thought: bright and lovely as they are, those, to northern sons, are not the stars nor the skies of fatherland. Lyræ, with his pure white light, has gone from the zenith, and only appears for one short hour above the top of the northern hills. Polaris and the Great Bear have ceased to watch from their posts; they are away down below the horizon. But, glancing the eye above and around, you are dazzled with the splendours of the firmament. The moon and the planets stand out from it; they do not seem to touch the blue vault in which the stars are set. The Southern Cross is just about to culminate. Climbing up in the east are the Centaurs, Spica, Boötes, and Antares, with his lovely little companion, which only the best telescopes have power to unveil. These are all bright particular stars, differing from one another in colour as they do in glory. At the same time, the western sky is glorious with its brilliants too. Orion is there, just about to march down into the sea ; but Canopus and Sirius, with Castor and his twinbrother, and Procyon, 'Argus, and Regulus--these are high up in their course—they look down with great splendour, smiling peacefully as they precede the Southern Cross on its western way. And yonder, further still, away to the south, float the Magellanic clouds, and the “Coal Sacks ”—those mysterious, dark spots in

the sky, which seem as though it had been rent, and these were holes in the “ azure robe of night,” looking out in the starless, empty, black abyss beyond. One who has never watched the southern sky in the stillness of the night, after the sea breeze with its turmoil is done, can have no idea of its grandeur, beauty, and loveliness.

Within the tropics, however, the land and sea breezes are more gentle; and though the night scenes there are not so suggestive as those just described, yet they are exceedingly delightful, and altogether lovely. The oppressive heat of the sun is mitigated, and the climate of the sea-shore is made both refreshing and healthful, by the alternation of those winds, wbich invariably come from the coolest place—the sea, which is the cooler by day, and the land, which is the cooler by night. About ten in the morning the heat

. of the sun has played upon the land with sufficient intensity to raise its temperature above that of the water. A portion of this heat being imparted to the superincumbent air, causes it to rise; when the air, first from the beach, then from the sea, to the distance of several miles, begins to flow in with a most delightful and invigorating freshness.

When a fire is kindled on the hearth, we may, if we will observe the moats floating in the room, see that those nearest to the chimney are the first to feel the draught and to obey it—they are drawn into the blaze. The circle of inflowing air is gradually enlarged, until it is scarcely perceived in the remote parts of the

Now the land is the hearth, the rays of the sun the fire, and the sea, with its cool and calm air, the room ; and thus we have at our firesides the sea breeze in miniature. When the sun goes down the fire ceases ; then the dry land commences to give off its surplus heat by radiation, so that by dew-fall it and the air above it are cooled below the sea temperature. The atmosphere on the land thus becomes heavier than on the sea, and, consequently, there is a wind sea-ward, which we call the land breeze.

MAURY.

room.

WEATHERING CAPE HORN.

TAE first introduction of my reader to the good ship Wales, whereby we pass to the Pacific, is as she is lying at the islands called Foul Weather Group, or the Falkland Islands. Cape Horn weather here begins, and the ship and her company put on their Cape Horn suit. This group of islands is so near the gate of the Pacific, though belonging to the Atlantic side, that an account of a ramble over the moss-covered rocks and penguin roosts of the uninhabited land off which we now lie, is no inappropriate introduction to the island world we are just entering.

Selecting a small indentation or bight in the cliff as a landingplace, what was our surprise to find what we had thought a facing of white stones to be innumerable penguins, standing erect, in the rank and file of battle array, upon the declivity of the rocks, and occupying at least two acres, in dense columns, away back to the moss and grass! It was no easy task to clamber up the steep precipice; but the height once gained, the verdant knolls, hillocks of moss, and various wild flowers that met the eye, more than repaid the toil of ascent. There were tufts of grass and wild daisies in every cleft where mould could form; and higher up, when the summit was fairly gained, there was a large area of many acres thickly covered with mosses and flowers, in a loose black soil of two feet depth. There were wild honeysuckles and geraniums, a kind of dwarf cranberry, numerous flowers of sweet perfume with leaves like the globe-flower, and several kinds of white and yellow heath-flowers and liverworts, of which we now have a graceful bouquet on the cabin table.

After a visit to the penguin quarters, we re-assembled at the boat with much spoil, and reached the ship safely.

To those who have never seen a picture of the penguin, it would be impossible to convey an idea by description of this odd amphibious creature. It has the head, bill, and two web-feet of a bird, and stands erect on land, sometimes two and a half or three

a

feet in height. Penguins have no wings, nor proper feathers, but a covering intermediate between fin and feather, and two fins or flippers like the seal. Their motion on land is by successive hops, in the most awkward manner conceivable. When going down a declivity, the centre of gravity is often thrown too far forward, and away they tumble and scramble and roll till they get to the sea, in which they dive and swim with great celerity. They are often seen singly, or two or three together, far out at sea. Their cry or bark is like the inarticulate human voice; and when it is clear and calm, and no object can be seen all around the horizon, their

cry

will sometimes startle and appal one, sounding as it does, from the surface of the ocean, like the cry of a man in distress. Near the penguin quarter of this island were thousands of ducks sitting upon their eggs, which sailors and passengers destroyed with remorseless cruelty, shooting and knocking down the birds by hundreds in barbarous sport......

A month from the Falkland Islands, and this is the first day of smooth sea and warm sun we have enjoyed during all that time. Long and cold have been the days we have spent battling with the rough winds and mountainous seas off Cape Horn. Between southwest and south-east gales on the one side of the Cape, and northwest on the other, our course has been zig-zag and slow. Happily we have escaped injury, except the loss of a jib-boom, and our ship remains tight in spite of all the straining.

We congratulate ourselves on having weathered the Cape in less time than it often takes, though it be more than is sometimes the fortune of the Cape Horn navigator. One of our seamen had twice before tried the passage, but without success; and after fiftyfour days of most fatiguing warfare with contrary winds, his brig opened at the bow, and the crew were compelled to put about and run for Rio Janeiro, where the damaged vessel and cargo were sold for the benefit of the underwriters, and the voyage abandoned. A frigate was once fifty days off the Cape; and it is not uncommon for vessels to make the Cape once, and after four or five weeks' sailing, to make it again. Hope is predominant that our tempestuous weather is over, and that a fortnight at the utmost will bring

« PredošláPokračovať »