The Coral Architect (continued)
So peculiar and fantastic is the coral scenery on the sea bed, that one fancies oneself in a land of fairy enchantment. Here is a description of some fairy grottoes which will help you to form a mental picture of the delightful scenery on the bed of the ocean. "You look down, and see a steep, irregular wall, extending deeper into the ocean than the eye can follow, and broken into lovely grottoes and holes and canals, through which the resplendent fishes of the brightest blue or gold flit fitfully between the lumps of coral. The sides of the natural grottoes are entirely covered with endless forms of tender coloured coral, but all beautiful, and all more or less of the fingery or branching species, known as madrepores. It is really impossible to draw or describe the sight."
There are various kinds of coral, as well as nearly every variety of colour. The fan coral is so called because of its resemblance to that article formerly in great favour with ladies. Sometimes this specimen of branch coral looks like a dwarf tree on the top of a hill. Some corals take the form of palms, which bend to the current as it sweeps onwards; others are something like a whip in shape. Brain coral is to be seen in the West Indian seas; this kind has been so named because in shape it bears a wonderful resemblance to the human skull. Then there are stags' horn corals, which remind one of the arrangement of the antlers on a stag's head. Another kind is the star coral, whose name is self-explanatory. The organ pipe coral takes its name from the regular arrangement of its cylindrical dark crimson tubes side by side.
Coral may be red, white, pink, black, pale yellow, purple, green, or brown. Red coral is found extensively in the Mediterranean Sea, and is exported to India and China, where it is largely used for ornamental purposes. From the commercial point of view the most valuable coral is the rose-pink. This quality of coral will be sold for as much as £100 or £120 a pound, whereas the same quantity of ordinary red coral will fetch only about £2. Black coral is found principally in the great Barrier Reef of Australia. At Jeddah, in Arabia, there is a black coral fishery which extends fifty miles north and south.
The word "coral” carries our thoughts “far from home to fair isles in tropical seas-isles connected in our memories with tales of shipwrecked mariners and hair-breadth escapes, of dashing waves and peaceful lagoons, of bread-fruit trees and waving palms, of perpetual sunshine and endless holidays, of Robinson Crusoe adventures and interesting islanders, of poisoned arrows and ferocious sharks."
Coral is found all over the world: In the Mediterranean Sea, in the West Indies, in the Fiji and other Pacific Islands, out in the Atlantic, and off the north-eastern shores of Australia. Have you ever wondered how the beautiful coral reefs, of which you may have heard, have been constructed? The way in which they have been formed is not at all difficult to understand. The coral, while it is alive, secretes a substance called carbonate of lime, and has the power of depositing this chemical compound in solid masses. Now, the coral polyp, instead of living inside this mass, as one would expect it to do, after the manner of shellfish, prefers to live outside, clothing the hard substance with a kind of soft, transparent jelly. The co-operative principle underlies all the actions of the coral polyp: They live and work together in communities, and as time goes on the amount of carbonate of lime secreted accumulates, and, while doing this, assumes different forms, often, indeed, branching out in various directions, as a tree does when it is growing.