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backgammon, &c.—for the cabin books, from the most culpable neglect, were either lost or mislaid; the chess men had shared the same fate; as also the backgammon board, that at one time had constituted a necessary part of the cabin furniture. All this might be considered of little importance if on shore; but the dearth of occupation, or rational employment on board ship, (for anticipating we should receive the usual accommodations in all such vessels, we had neglected to have had near at hand any books or other sources of amusement) is always severely felt. As we advanced on our voyage, our stock of anecdote became somewhat exhausted, most of our stories had been twice and oft repeated; every contrary wind added to our weariness and discontent, each day seeming an interminable length in our existence. But such our fate, was attributable to the want of care, or consideration of our captain; for all these et ceteras, so necessary to our comfort on ship board, had been carefully provided in the first instance, by the owners, who only require them to be subsequently looked after, and taken care of; and who usually allocate to the captain for this purpose, and the providing the cabin sea store, one half of each passenger's passage money. The emigrant, or traveller, will learn from this, how very much of his comforts on the voyage, will depend upon the man he may chance to sail with, which should cause him to make inquiry before engaging his passage in any vessel.
We had now reached the latitude of the Western
THE STORMY PETREL. 21
Islands, and heretofore escaped meeting with any very severe or blowing weather; nothing, as yet, to test the capabilities of our gallant ship, or excite the apprehensions of the most timid landsman on board; but of this we had not long to congratulate ourselves. The Procellaria pelagica, the Stormy Petrel, or as they are more familiarly called, the " Mother Carey Chicken," yet why so named, no one could inform us, were unusually numerous and active, skimming to and fro in the ship's wake, for the purpose of picking up any garbage that might perchance fall overboard. The appearance of these birds is considered by seamen most portentous, denoting to the mariner, the near approach of some coming storm, and are generally regarded by them with a kind of superstitious awe, or reverence, as embodying, in their belief, the soul, or spirit of some shipwrecked friend, or departed messmate. They are almost always on the wing, have never been observed to near the land, generally exchanging to an outward from an homeward bound vessel; whilst the place in which they breed, or bring forth their young, has never, we believe, been satisfactorily ascertained.* Their appearance in such unusual and continued numbers on this occasion, was certainly followed by a severe
* The Petrel has been lately described, in the fifth volume of the Nautical Magazine, as of a rusty brown colour, with some white markings; it has a very peculiar way of holding its head, the bill being kept in nearly a vertical position, probably that the eyes may be better able to survey the surface of the water below it, where the bird derives its food. Although in shape not unlike the Swallow, it has not the Swallow tail—the wings are very long, and the feet, except when the bird descends to the surface, are
placed in a horizontal line with the tail, which is spread out, the lower feathers of the back and upper part of the tail are white.
The popular name of Stormy, as a distinguishing prejunct to this bird, has no doubt been given to it on account of its being seen during gales of wind; but it is certainly erroneous to consider that its appearance denotes a tempest; with equal propriety may the opinion be fixed upon the gull tribe, for they are as often observed in stormy weather as the other. The Poetasters of all degrees have seized upon this idea, and we find them accordingly introducing the bird as a sort of genie of the tempest; one specimen is sufficient:
"For I never saw his active fleeting form
And thought of the seaman's wat'ry grave!"
In the calmest weather, in fact in all weather, "blow high or Jblow low," the Petrel may be seen disporting
"O'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea."
From pole to pole it is, par excellence, the "bird of the deep." It has no local "habitat," but its tribe is spread over the whole aqueous portion of the globe, and it is probable, though the fact has never been ascertained, that it frequents the rocky and uninhabited isles, to lay its eggs and rear its young. There are several varieties of the Petrel, some much larger than others, but whether they are migrant or confine themselves to certain latitudes, has not yet been satisfactorily ascertained. Sailors have strange notions that this bird, in the fashion of the marsupial quadrupeds, has a sort of pouch or bag under the wing wherein she deposits her eggs; and considering that she never alights on land, but is constantly, in the strictest sense, an inhabitant of the air, they imagine that the young are there hatched and matured."
This supposition has been lately contended against by Lieut. Williams, R. N., in a communication to the editor of the Nautical Magazine, noticing the foregoing, in which he has endeavoured A HEAVY GALE. 23
and heavy gale of wind, which shortly after set in with considerable force from the south-west, and continued with unabated violence for near twentyfour hours in succession. Our only casualty on board was a foretopsail, in an attempt to close reef it to the yard; and beside the severe rolling, and other heavy motion of the vessel, with an occasional sea that washed our decks, suffered no other inconvenience. The gale, as is sometimes usual, was succeeded by a calm, and variable weather, which, much to our annoyance, and general discomfort, continued for several successive days. We were, however, sometimes amused by the numerous whales, sharks, and merry porpoises, in their wanton tricks playing around, frequently so near, as almost to touch the vessel's side. We had also frequent opportunities of seeing, and indeed of examining the nautilus (argonauta), or as seamen usually term them, " Portuguese Men of War," with a variety of other submarine inhabitants, that occasionally sported round the vessel, as she lay becalmed on her wide expansive bed, with her sails indolently flapping to and fro against the mast.
to explain what has heretofore remained in incertitude and doubt. The following are the gallant Lieutenant's own words:
'* Mother Carey's Chickens.
"Sir,— At page 330 of your April number (of 1836) an allusion is made to these extraordinary birds, and the writer says that although the fact has never been ascertained, they are supposed to frequent rocky and uninhabited isles to lay their eggs and rear their young. I am happy to be able to bear testimony to the fact, that they do frequent such isles for the above purpose.
"While employed on the coast of Newfoundland, in the year 1827, we had occasion to moor a small vessel I was in charge of, off Wadham Cove. The island which forms it is very small and rocky, with here and there a little soil, on which there is generally nothing but a species of grass. But we found the place completely occupied by sea-fowl. Soon after sunset there appeared to come out of the ground. a great number of Mother Carey's Chickens, and, supposing that they had nests there, we immediately commenced a search for them. We were not long in discovering that these birds made holes in the ground to lay their eggs in, which generally consisted of three or four. The mouth of the hole was invariably just large enough to admit one bird at a time, and the stench proceeding from it was very offensive, we were also much disturbed I remember by their noise at night."
If there is any situation, save actual shipwreck, in which a vessel may be placed at sea, more truly distressing, and ungrateful to the feelings of those on board, than another, it is surely the calm, that immediately succeeds heavy blowing weather. The swell, that still rolls undisturbed, mocks each effort of man to subdue its influence, and in despite of his authority, continues to disturb the peaceful serenity of all else around, by the violent, and incessant rolling of the unfortunate bark, until every plank and timber in her frame, groans under the infliction. It is frequently the case, especially in the Bay of Biscay, that vessels in the most settled calm, but under the influence of a heavy Atlantic swell, are nearly thrown upon their "beam ends," and otherwise suffer far greater injury, particularly in their spars and rigging, than could result from the severest storm.
There are two understood routes from the British