Denizens of the Deep (continued)
Phosphorescent light plays a most important part in the deep sea, and is correlated with the prevailing red and brown colours of deep sea organisms. Phosphorescent organs appear sometimes to act as a bull's eye lantern to enable particles of food to be picked up, and at other times as a lure or a warning. All these peculiar adaptations indicate that the struggle for life may not be much less severe in the deep sea than it is in the shallower waters of the ocean.
Let us now proceed to study in detail some of the wondrous and peculiar creatures observed by the Williamson Submarine Expedition. Certain of these creatures have now been seen and photographed in their native haunts for the first time. Over a hundred little known fish were photographed, and these have aroused the keenest interest in scientific and photographic circles. Mr. Charles Townsend, the curator of the Aquarium in New York, has spent many hours over the photographs taken by the Williamson brothers, and has found one or two specimens which have never been seen or photographed before. Included among the strangest, the ugliest, and the most beautiful fish, are the cowfish, moon fish, parrot fish, angel fish, butterfly fish, fool fish, scorpion fish, jolt heads, trigger fish, trunkfish, doctor fish, shark suckers, sea horses, squirrel fish, bog fish, and a host of others.
Of course, it will be altogether impossible to describe within the compass of a book of this size all the various animals that were seen and filmed; we can but select a few of the most interesting and the most peculiar, in order to give our readers some idea, if only a meagre one, of the beauty and diversity of ocean life.
An examination of the foundation of the dock walls, which were constructed some twenty years ago, was made. Much of the foundation was found to be little the worse for its long immersion. But other portions were discovered to have been eaten away to an alarming extent, and it is believed that the destruction of the piles is the work of an extremely small creature called the cobra worm.
The sawfish lives in tropical and semi-tropical waters. The snout, which is exceedingly hard, projects out for several feet. It is flat on both sides, and has along the two edges a number of strong teeth that are sharp in front and flat behind. It provides the fish with a formidable means of defence, for with this weapon it can tear pieces of flesh off its victim, or, if it chooses, rip its prey open. One specimen has been obtained having a saw six feet long and one foot broad at the base. Armed with such a dangerous weapon, the sawfish even dares to measure its strength with a whale, and fisher men who visit the seas where these two ocean potentates encounter each other assert that the meeting is always followed by a combat of the most singular kind, in which the activity of the sawfish is a match for the ponderous strength of the whale. Occasionally the sawfish dashes itself with such force against the side of a ship that its saw is broken in the timber. In the Natural History Museum, at South Kensington, may be seen the blade of a sawfish embedded in the timber of a vessel. From the length of the saw, it will be gathered that some of the sawfish grow to a large size.
To capture a sawfish is no easy matter. The natives have to be exceedingly wary in the way in which they handle this creature when they have dragged it to the side of the boat, after having harpooned it. With one sudden and unexpected convulsive movement of its formidable weapon it can lop off a man's arm or inflict a very dangerous wound, which, in most cases, is likely to prove septic.