Page images
PDF
EPUB

Art. II.-Reise um die Erde, ausgeführt auf dem koniglich

Preussischen Seehandlungs-Schiffe Prinzess Louise, conimandirt von Capitain W. Wendt, in den Jahren 1830, 1931, und

1832. Von Dr. F. J. F. Meyen. Q vols. 4to. Berlin. 1834. W E quite agree with Boswell, that one is carried away with

the general, grand, and indistinct notion of a voyage round the world. Let Johnson talk as he will, there is a misty vastness about such enterprises, a sense of the marvellous and dangerous inextricably mixed up with them, that delights and expands the mind, even though, particularly since the recent multiplication of circumnavigators, we may not be well able to justify our impressions to ourselves by any rational hope of fresh and really valuable discovery. But a voyage round the world by a German differs materially from a voyage round the world by an Englishman: they see with different eyes, and refer to different standards of comparison, so that the same objects which have begun to grow wearisome in the descriptions of our own countrymen, may strike again with all the interest of novelty when placed in the point of view taken by a foreigner. The truth of this observation will appear from the passages we are about to quote from the book before us; which is the work of a scientific gentleman, of competent intelligence, commissioned to accompany a Prussian expedition in the double capacity of surgeon and naturalist.

• Twice already' (says he in his Preface) • had the royal Prussian flag circumnavigated the globe, before I had the happiness to be attached to a trading expedition, undertaken, chiefly with a view to South America and China, by orders of the Royal Merchant-Marine. The splendid ship which was destined for this adventure has the honour, to bear the august name of Princess Louisa, having been christened after her Royal Highness the youngest daughter of his Majesty our King, by marriage the Princess Frederick of the Netherlands. Once already had this ship successfully circumnavigated the earth, and wherever we touched she was received as a familiar guest.'

The politeness with which this gentleman speaks of the ship which had the honour to bear the august name of a Prussian princess, &c., bears no very distant analogy to that of the Frenchman (mentioned by Miss Edgeworth) who talks of the earthquake that bad the honour to be noticed by the Royal Society ;' but it is only on very rare occasions that Dr. Meyen indulges in this style.

Although' (he continues) the object of our expedition was quite different from that of voyages of scientific discovery, still, through the gracious favour of his Majesty the King, many opportunities have been afforded me of visiting places which had remained more or less unknown to the scientific public; I therefore consider it a duty to communicate a detailed report. I have divided my materials into a personal narrative and a scientific department; the former occupies the two volumes which I now publish: the other will appear hereafter.'

communicate many,

He begins with his departure from Berlin: the following are his reflections on that occasion :

On July the 28th, 1830, at nine o clock in the evening, we left Berlin, attended by the good wishes of relations, friends, and acquaintances. It is not easy to sketch the leave-taking on beginning a journey of such extent as we contemplated. The hope of seeing the paradisiacal regions of the world-of mounting the heaven-aspiring Cordilleras, with their mighty summits and volcanoes-of seeing the natives of the South Sea in their state of nature-of visiting the farstretching country of the Chinese, rich in singularities of all kinds ; all these are thoughts which so vividly engage the heated fancy of a young man who has devoted himself to the study of nature, that it is not until the moment of departure, not until the hour of leave-taking, that he becomes sensible of the difficulty of separating himself from the circle of ordinary resort, of tearing himself away from all with which he is connected by the ties of blood, of friendship, and of tenderness. In such moments, forebodings arise in the soul of man, from which he cannot guard himself. We quitted home, and, by an unlucky accident, received no letters during the whole period of the voyage; and what revolutions, what national calamities, had been in the interval endangering the peace of Europe !'

Notwithstanding our traveller's vivid expectations from the New World, he devotes several pages to objects, now familiar to most of us, in the Old; as the badness of the road between Berlin and Hamburgh-the beauty (which he greatly exaggerates) of the suburban villas on the banks of the Elbe — and the attachment (which he unduly depreciates) of the citizens of Hamburgh to the official costume, wigs, lace-collars, and so forth, of their forefathers. He has also inserted a tabular view of the coffee trade of Hamburgh and Altona, from 1815 to 1829; from which it clearly and satisfactorily appears that the yearly imports are 324 millions of pounds; and the exports and home consumption-321 millions!!

At the mouth of the Elbe, off Cuxhaven, they stop to take in water; a highly important 'ceremony, upon which Dr. Meyen avails himself of the opportunity to expatiate :

· Although every one who has been long at a time on shipboard knows the value of good water, it must notwithstanding be observed, that messieurs the captains, in taking in water, set to work with singularly little care. The health of the whole crew, on an expedition of this extent, is dependent on the quality of the provisions and water; if these be good, the people can resist even the worst climate for a much longer period than otherwise. In the ports of North Germany, however, there prevails a prejudice, that pure spring water keeps good, on sea voyages, a much shorter time than river water; the captains constantly adduce their own experience in proof of this doctrine, and the practice continues as of old. Still we would fain contradict this apparent experience of mariners, and recommend pure spring water as preferable: the truth is, that only for convenience' sake, have mariners adopted the rule of taking the water which lies nearest at hand: in other words, they are reluctant to sacrifice a single hour to such objects, although a great and salutary enjoyment might be thereby preserved for the whole crew, during the melancholy time they are to pass in open sea. At some places, particularly in tropical countries, we were compelled during our voyage to take in spring water, and it was precisely this which kept best and longest, But it is hard to cure seamen of their prejudices; nowhere do ingrained habits hold out longer than amongst them. On the many plans which have been recommended to them for preserving and purifying the water, in case of necessity, they bestow no attention whatever ; nay, these remain absolutely unknown to the greater part of the very class for whose benefit they have been suggested. The keeping of water in iron casks has long been practised in the English navy, and is proved to be highly advantageous; to all appearance, however, there is not, at the present moment, a singie ship in the whole German marine that makes use of iron water-casks.

At length we tind ourselves at sea, but on a voyage most inauspiciously begun; it was nine days before the Princess Louisa came off Dover, which with a fair wind might easily have been reached in two; and they afterwards met with considerably delay and danger in beating down the Channel.' Their first point of destination on leaving it was the Canary Isles, where their attention was particularly attracted to the extraordinary phenomena presented by the shooting-stars of the south ; which, according to Humboldt, often drag after them a tail of twelve or fifteen seconds in length. Dr. Meyen says, that as he was once riding at the foot of the Cordilleras, a common shooting-star fell so deep, that it remained for some time visible between him and the shade of the mountains.

Soon after leaving the Canaries they began to fall in with large masses of the weeds which so much surprised and confounded Columbus and his crew. Our author says that he has examined many thousands of them, and is convinced that Alexander von Humboldt errs in supposing them to be plants originally growing at the bottom of the sea, and detached by fish or the motion of the waves. “They have evidently unfolded their young buds swimming, and thrown out roots and leaves, but both of the same quality, in all directions.' Amongst a host of other strange animals, they here also began

to

to meet with some of those species of Physalia, the pungent influence of whose touch was alluded to in our late article on Bennett's Wanderings. But the German has an anecdote on this head, even more remarkable than any of our countryman's :

• How dangerous this singular animal can become to men may be learnt from an incident which our friend Captain Wendt related to us. It was during the first voyage of the Princess Louisa round the world that in the neighbourhood of the equator a particularly large and beautiful sea-blister passed the ship; a young sailor, of distinguished courage and great hardihood, sprang naked into the sea to catch the animal; he drew near to and seized it, when instantly the creature grasped the naked body of the swimmer with its three-feetlong suckers. The young man, extremely frightened, probably also feeling at the same time the burning pain over his whole body, cried for help, and was only just able to reach the side of the ship, to be drawn up. The animal was torn from him, and his skin rubhed clean, but the pain and cutaneous inflammation became so violent, that a fever, accompanied by delirium, followed, and doubts were entertained of his recovery. The young man, saved for once, did not evade his destiny ; grown too bold from hardihood, he afterwards fell from the mast, and found a wretched death.'

Dolphins, too, gambolled round the ship, Aying-fish skimmed across it, and our acquaintance the pilot-fish kept swimming directly before the keel, apparently attending to show us the way, (says Dr. Meyen,) just as it is wont to wait upon the shark. Probably the shark, to which it had belonged, had been recently caught; for want of a better occupation, therefore, it acted as guide to the ship-a remarkable instinct of this animal which I shall take a future opportunity to describe. We turn at once to the passage in which this promise is fulfilled, the rather that we believe naturalists are still in doubt as to the peculiar habits of this fish, and that here again our German gives us more distinct details than we had been able to gather from Mr. Bennett :

• The pilot swims constantly in front of the shark; we ourselves have seen three instances in wliich the shark was led by the pilot. When the sea-angel [query, de vil ?] neared the ship, the pilot swam close to the snout or near one of the breast.fins of the animal; sometimes he darted rapidly forwards or sidewards as if looking for something, and constantly went back again to the shark. When we threw overboard a piece of bacon fastened on a great hook, the shark was about twenty paces from the ship. With the quickness of lightning the pilot came up, smelt at the dainty, and instantly swam back again

to the shark, swimming many times round his snout and splashing, as · if giving him exact information as to the bacon. The shark now began to put himself in motion, the pilot showing him the way, and in a

moment

moment he was fast upon the hook. Once we watched a pilot for many days who kept constantly swimming close before the keel of the ship. The sailors sav, as of a thing well known and familiar, that such a fish so situated has lost his shark, and is seeking another. Upon a later occasion, we observed two pilots in sedulous attendance on a blue shark, which we caught in the Chinese Sea. It seems probable that the pilot feeds on the shark's excrement, keeps his company for that purpose, and directs his operations solely from this selfish view.'

From what is here said, it seems that the pilot-fish leads the shark much as Lord John Russell leads the present Oppositionupon similar principles, with similar expectations, and, we hope and trust, with a similar result.

Neither must we omit to mention the sailing-fish, of which Dr. Meyen records a peculiarity which has escaped Mr. Bennett, and which we do not remember to have seen recorded elsewhere. He says that this fish can protrude its mouth in the form of a cylinder, draw it back again, and change it into an elongated shape. On approaching the Brazils, they discover the Abrolhosbank by the thermometer, although, half an hour after the first change in the temperature of the water was remarked, a line of 390 feet was thrown, and no bottom found. They anchor in the bay of Rio Janeiro, and watch impatiently for an opportunity of landing.

• During the night a little breeze sprung up, by aid of which the ship was brought farther into the bay, within full view of the town. We thought the night would never end-we could hardly make up our minds to wait for morning to revel in the aspect of this favoured spot. The day appeared at last, but the whole coast was covered with the thickest mists: only the summits of the highest mountains emerged, and, with their dark green, were illumined by the rising sun; by degrees the veil of mist began to rise more and more, and one landscape after another came to view. This great bay is surrounded on every side with mountains, which are covered with the most beautiful vegetation; in the middle, little hilly islands rise out of the dark-green water, on whose heights stand proud palm trees; and more than a league in breadth stretches the fair city of Rio, on the south bank of the bay. The innumerable churches of the town with their towers ; the magnificent convents, which are built upon the points of the nearest mountains, and with their white colours stand out to such advantage from the dark green of tropical vegetation; the lofty mountains which glance out in the back-ground of the town and are still covered with their primæval woods, and the mountains on the west of the bay, which are known under the name of the Organ and Star mountains, and lift themselves terrace-like in their range-all these things combined make this scene under a tropical sky one of the most beautiful in the world.'

« PreviousContinue »