« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
flesh of the alligator; but the fact was incontestibly proved on the present occasion; for, on our coming away after dissection, an immense number of people came from the city of Ghazeepore, and having cut the remains of the animal that we had left into small morsels, the whole was almost immediately devoured by the crowd, who seemed delighted with their meal; the bones . picked, and not a particle except the bones and scales were left.”
ON the 8th of June, 1810, we went to Vidée to see the Eiderducks, which had now assembled in great number to nestle: at all other times of the year these birds are perfectly wild. They are protected by the laws, a severe penalty being inflicted on any person who kills one. During the breeding season, the fine is thirty dollars for each bird. As our boat approached the shore, we passed through multitudes of these beautiful fowls, which scarcely gave themselves the trouble to go out of the way. Between the landing place and the old governor's house, the ground was strewed with them, and it required some caution to avoid treading on the nests. The drakes were walking about, uttering a sound very like the cooing of doves, and were even more familiar than the common domestic ducks. All round the house, on the garden wall, on the roofs, and even in the inside of the houses, and in the chapel, were numbers of ducks sitting on their nests. Such as had not been long on the nest, generally left it on being approached; but those that had more than one or two eggs sat perfectly quiet, suffering us to touch them, and sometimes making a gentle use of their bills to remove our hands. When a drake happens to be near his mate, he is extremely agitated when any one approaches her. He passes and repasses between her and the object of his suspicion, raising his head, and cooing. The nests were lined with down, which the duck takes from her own breast; and there is a sufficient quantity laid round the nest, for covering up the eggs when the duck goes to feed, which is generally during the time of low water. The down, which is a valuable article of commerce, is removed at two different times from the nest. Sometimes the poor duck is compelled to provide a fourth lining, and when her down is exhausted, the drake supplies the deficiency. A certain number of eggs is also removed, as they are esteemed a great delicacy. Our good friend at Vidée used to send us two hundred at a time. When boiled hard they are tolerably good, but much inferior to the eggs of common poultry. Swans' eggs, of which we got a few, are superior, and really excellent when boiled hard.
When taken from the nest, the Eider down is mixed with feathers and straws. To separate them, and make the down fit for market, is part of the employment of the women during winter. As soon as the young birds leave the eggs, the duck takes them on her back, and swims to a considerable distance from the shore. She then dives, and leaves the little ones to exercise themselves in swimming about. As soon as they have got the use of their feet in this way, the duck returns and becomes their guide. Several broods, often great numbers, join company, and are seen quite wild for a few weeks; after which, they totally disappear. Long before we left Iceland, there was not a single Eider-duck to be seen. Whither they retire is not known. These birds are found in the Flannel Isles, to the west of the Island of Lewis. They are sometimes seen in Shetland and Orkney, but seldom farther to the south.
THERE is perhaps, no place in the world where those things which are esteemed riches among men, abound more than in the Persian gulf. Its bottom is studded with pearls, and its coasts with mines of precious ore. The island of Bahrein, on the Arabian shore, has been considered the most productive bank of the pearl oysters: but the island of Kharrack now shares the reputation. The fishery extends along the whole of the Arabian coast, and to a large proportion of the Persian side of the gulf. Verdistan, Nabon, and Busheab, on that side, are more particularly mentioned; but indeed it is a general rule, that wherever in the gulf there is a shoal, there is also the pearl oyster.
The fishery, though still in itself as prolific as ever, is not perhaps carried on with all the activity of former years; since it declined in consequence by the transfer of the English market to the banks of the coast of Ceylon. But the Persian pearl is never without a demand; though little of the produce of the fishery comes direct into Persia. The trade has now almost entirely centred at Muscat. From Muscat the greater part of the pearls are exported to Surat; and, as the agents of the Indian merchants are constantly on the spot, and as the fishers prefer the certain sale of their merchandize there to a higher, but less regular, price in any other market, the pearls may often be bought at a less price in India, than to an individual they would have been sold in Arabia. There are two kinds; the yellow pearl, which is sent to the Mahratta market; and the white pearl, which is circulated through Bussorah and Bagdad into Asia Minor, and thence into the heart of Europe ; though, indeed, a large proportion of the whole is arrested in its progress at Constantinople to deck the Sultanas of the Seraglio. The pearl of Ceylon peels off; that of the gulf is as firm as the rock upon which it grows; and though it loses in colour and water 1 per cent. annually for fifty years, yet it still loses less than that of Ceylon. It ceases after fifty years to lose any thing. About twenty years ago the fishery was farmed out by the different chiefs along the coast; thus the Sheiks of Bahrein and of El Katif, having assumed a certain portion of the pearl bank, obliged every speculator to pay them a certain sum for the right of fishing. At present, however, the trade, which still employs a considerable number of boats, is carried on entirely by individuals. There are two modes of speculation; the first, by which the adventurer charters a boat by the month or by the season; in this boat he sends his agent to superintend the whole, with a crew of about fifteen men, including generally five or six divers. The divers commence their work at sun-rise and finish at sun-set. The oysters that have been brought up, are successively confided to the superintendant, and when the business of the day is done, they are opened on a piece of white linen ; the agent of course keeping a very active inspection over every shell. The man who, on opening an oyster, finds a valuable pearl, immediately puts it into his mouth, by which they fancy that it gains a finer water; and, at the end of the fishery, he is entitled to a present. The whole speculation costs about one hundred and fifty piastres a month; the divers getting ten piastres, and the rest of the crew in proportion. The second and the safest mode of adventure is by an agreement between two parties, where one defrays all the expenses of the boat and provisions, &c. and the other conducts the labours of the fishery. The pearl obtained undergoes a valuation, according to which it is equally divided : but the speculator is further entitled by the terms of the partnership to purchase the other half of the pearl at ten per cent. lower than the market price. The divers seldom live to a great age. Their bodies break out in sores, and their eyes become very weak and blood-shot. They can remain under water five minutes; and their dives succeed one another very rapidly, as by delay the state of their bodies would soon prevent the renewal of the exertion. They oil the VOL, VIII. 3 R
orifice of the ears, and put a horn over their nose. In general life they are restricted to a certain regimen; and to food composed of dates and other light ingredients. They can dive from ten to fifteen fathoms, and sometimes even more; and their prices increase according to the depth. The largest pearls are generally found in the deepest water, as the success on the bank of Kharrack, which lies very low, has demonstrated. From such depths, and on this bank, the most valuable pearls have been brought up; the largest indeed which Sir Harford Jones ever saw, was one that had been fished up at Kharrack in nineteen fathoms water. It has been often contested, whether the pearl in the live oyster is as hard as it appears in the market; or whether it acquires its consistence by exposure. I was assured by a gentleman (who had encamped at Congoon close to the bank; and who had often bought the oysters from the boys, as they came out of the water,) that he had opened the shell immediately, and when the fish was still alive, had found the pearl already hard and formed. He had frequently also cut the pearl in two, and ascertained it to be equally hard throughout, in layers like the coats of an onion. But Sir Harford Jones, who has had much knowledge of the fishery, informs me, that it is easy by pressing the pearl between the fingers, when first taken out of the shell, to feel that it has not yet attained its ultimate consistency. A very short exposure, however, to the air gives the hardness. The two opinions are easily reconcileable by supposing, either a misconception in language of the relative term hard (by which one authority may mean everything in the oyster which is not gelatinous, while the other would confine it more strictly to the full and perfect consistency of the pearl,) or by admitting that there may be an original difference in the character of the two species, the yellow and the white pearl; while the identity of the specimen, on which either observation has been formed, has not been noted. The fish itself is fine eating; nor, indeed, in this respect is there any difference between the common and the pearl oyster. The seed pearls, which are very indifferent, are arranged round the lips of the oyster, as if they were inlaid by the hand of an artist. The large pearl is nearly in the centre of the shell, and in the middle of the fish. In Persia the pearl is employed for less noble ornaments than in Europe; there it is principally reserved to adorn the kaleoons or water pipes, the tassels for bridles, some trinkets, the inlaying of looking glasses and toys, for which indeed the inferior kinds are used ; or, when devoted more immediately to their persons, it is generally strung as beads to twist about in the hand, or as a rosary for prayer.
The fishermen always augur a good season of the pearl, when there have been plentiful rains; and so accurately has experience taught them, that when corn is very cheap they increase their demands for fishing. The connexion is so well ascertained (at least so fully credited, not by them only, but by the merchants,) that the prices paid to the fishermen are, in fact, always raised, when there have been great rains. - *
FROM the univerts AL MA. Gazine.
ON the night of the fifth of October, after spending a pleasant evening with a party of Spanish ladies and gentlemen, on board of a fine American merchantship, lying in the mole of Tarragona, I set sail with the gentleman who accompanied me to Montserrat in the Palma packet, a felucca with latine sails, for the island of Majorca, distant about one hundred miles at the nearest point, and about 120 to Palma, the capital. This island is the principal of the Balearic Islands, so called, as it is conjectured, from the remarkable skill of the early natives in using the sling. In addition to Majorca, these islands comprize Minorca, and Ivica. Formentera, Conejera, and a few other diminutive islands, are called the Pityuse Islands. The whole were denominated by the ancients the Iberian and Happy or Fortunate Isles, and formerly composed the kingdom of Majorca.
For our passage to Majorca, we were charged eight dollars, and a dollar for our table. As the wind was very unfavourable, we had an opportunity of observing the advantage of vessels with latine sails, which in these seas, as I was informed, can go expeditiously within two points of the wind. We were nearly four days in performing this little voyage, o: which our fare was excellent. Every evening mass, was performed, accompanied with singing, sufficiently loud to have roused the attention of a privateer, had any been within reasonable distance, even if the darkness of the night had prevented their seeing us. On the 9th in the morning, owing to the state of the wind, we were obliged to run from the Cape de Cala Figuera over to the opposite Cape of Blaco, between which Palma is situated, and so tack up the city, which, with its noble cathedral, churches, various public buildings, and bastions, and the lofty mountains behind, presented a rich and elegant spectacle, enlivened, though not improved