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ment to the pearls of the coast of Ceralvo in California. As the divers (buzos) lose much of their time in rising to breathe on the surface of the water, and fatigue themselves to no purpose in descending several times to the bottom of the sea, this ecclesiastic proposed to employ in the pearl fishery a diving bell which should serve as a reservoir of atmospheric air, and in which the diver might take refuge whenever he felt the necessity of respiration. Furnished with a mask and a flexible tube he would be enabled to explore the bottom of the ocean breathing the oxygen supplied by this bell at which the tube terminates. During my residence in New Spain I saw a series of very curious experiments made in a small pond near the castle of Chopoltepec in the execution of this project. It was certainly the first time that a diver's bell was ever constructed at a height of 2300 metres* equal to that of the pass of the Simplon. I know not whether the experiments made in the valley of Mexico were ever repeated in the gulf of California, and whether the pearl fishery has been renewed there after an interruption of more than thirty years; for hitherto almost all the pearls supplied by the colonies come from the gulf of Panama.
Among the marine shells of New. Spain, I ought also to mention here the murex of the coast of Tehuantepec in the province of Oaxaca, of which the cloak exudes a purple colouring liquor, and the famous shell of Monterey which resembles the most beautiful haliotis of New Zealand. This shell is to be found on the coast of New California, and particularly between the ports of Monterey and San Francisco. It is employed, as we have already observed, in the fur trade with the inhabitants of Noutka. As to the gasteropode of Tehuantepec, the Indian women collect the purple liquor, following the course of the shore, and rubbing the cloak of the murex with cotton stript of its seed.
The western coast of Mexico, especially that part of the great ocean situated between the gulph of Bayonna, the three Mary islands, and cape Saint Lucas, abound in spermaceti-whales or cachalots, of which the fishery is one of the most important objects of mercantile speculation on account of the extremely high prices given for spermateci (adipocire) by the English and the inhabitants of the United States. The Spanish Mexicans see the cachalot fishers arrive on their coast after a navigation of more than 5000 marine leagues, to whom they incorrectly enough give the appellation of balleñeros (whalers); but they never endeavour to share in the pursuit of these great mammiferous whales. M. Schneider
who is as good a naturalist as he is a learned hellenist, and M. M. de Lacepede and Fleurieu* have given very accurate information as to the whale and cachalot fishery in the two hemispheres. I shall here communicate the most recent knowledge which I could collect during my residence on the shores of the South Sea.
Were it not for the cachalot fishery and the trade in furs of Sea Otters at Noutka, the great ocean would almost never be frequented by the Anglo-Americans and Europeans. Notwithstanding the extreme economy practised in these fishing expeditions, those beyond Cape Horn are too expensive to admit of the black whale being the object of them. The cost of these distant navigations can only be compensated by the high price which necessity or luxury fixes on their returns. Now of all the · oily liquids which enter into trade, there are few so dear as the spermaceti, or the particular substance contained in the enormous caverns of the snout of the cachalot. A single individual of these cetaceous giants yields as much as 125 English barrelst (of 324 gallons each() of
* Voyage de Marchand, T, ii. p. 600, 641.
+ A barrel contains 1.48 hectolitres or nearly 1787 pints of Paris (Recherches sur la Richesse des Nations par Adam Smith, traduction de M. Garnier, T. v. p. 451.)
# This is supposed to be 314. Trans.
spermaceti. Atun containing eight of these barrels or 1024 pints of Paris, used to sell in London before the peace of Amiens at £70 or 280 and during the war at £95 and £100 sterling.
It was not the third expedition of Cook to the north-west coast of the New Continent, but the voyage of James Collnet to the Gallapagos islands, which made known to the Europeans and Anglo Americans the abundance of cachalots in the great ocean to the north of the equator. Till 1788 the whale fishers only frequented the coasts of Chili and Peru. Only: 12 or fifteen vessels then doubled Cape Horn annually for the cachalot fishery, while at the period when I was in the South Sea, there were more than 60 under the English flag alone.
The physeter macrocephalus not only frequents the arctic seas between the coast of Greenland and Davis Straits, it is not only found in the Atlantic Ocean between the banks of Newfoundland and the Azore Islands, where the Anglo Americans sometimes carry on a fishery, but it is also to be found to the south of the equator on the coasts of Brazil and Guinea. It would appear that in its periodical voyages, it approaches more to the continent of Africa than to that of America; for in the environs of Rio Janeiro, and la Bahia whales only are caught. However the cachalot fishery has been much
diminished on the Guinea coast, since navigators have become less afraid of doubling Cape Horn, and since more attention has been paid to the cetaceous fish abounding in the great ocean. Physeters are found in very considerable bands in the channel of Mosambique, and to the south of the Cape of Good Hope; but the animal there is generally small, and the sea rough and agitated, and unfavourable to the operations of the harpooners.
The great ocean unites all the circumstances that render the cachalot fishery both easy and lucrative. It is richer in molluscus, fish, porpoises, tortoises, and sea calves of every species, and offers' more nourishment to cetaceous animals than the Atlantic ocean. Hence these last are there in greater numbers as well as fatter and larger. The calm which prevails during so great a part of the year in the equinoctial region of the South Sea facilitates very much the pursuit of cachalots and whales. The former keep generally near the coasts of Chili, Peru, and Mexico, because the shores are steep (acantiladas) and washed by a sea of great depth. It is a general rule that the cachalot avoids shallows, whereas they are sought after by the whale. For this reason the whale is very frequent on the low coast of Brazil, while the other abounds near the coast of Guinea, which is higher, and every where accessible to large