Depth of twenty Fathom, the rocky Bottom is plainly seen, and in calm Weather I have distinctly and with much Pleasure beheld Variety of Fish sporting amidst Groves of Corallines and numerous other submarine Shrubs, growing from the rock Bottom, amongst infinite Variety of beautiful Shells, Fungus, Astroites &c. Amongst these submarine Productions there were at certain Places, great Plenty of the Lenticula Marina, growing to the Rocks; this Plant is remarkable for the great Quantities of it, with which the Atlantick Sea is in many Places covered.

As usually the clearest Waters afford the wholsomest and best Fish, consequently it might be expected that at the Bahamas, where the Water is so remarkable transparent, there Fish there maight be at least as wholsom as those on the Coasts of Florida, where the water is not so limpid, but many of the Bahamians have dearly experienced the Contrary, several Kinds of their Fish being so poysonous that they have direful Effects on those who eat them. In some particular Places they are Poison, yet in other places not a mile distant, they are eat with Impunity; but Experience has taught them to distinguish the Places that afford good and bad: From what Cause the Poison in these Fish is, I never could hear accounted for, or so much as conjectured: Possibly the following Observation may give some light to the Enquiry. In procuring from the Bottom of teh Sea six or eight Fathom deep, some Corallines and other Sea Productions for their extraordinary Oddness and Beauty; the Man that dived for them, happen'd to rub his Belly with his Hands, that had gathered Slime from the Corals he brought up; he immediately felt such Uneasiness, that casting himeself on the Sand, he wallowed in destracted Postures, crying out with the excessive Torture it put him to, tho' the Sharpness of the Pain lasted not longer than a Quarter of an Hour. This Coral grows on the Rocky Bottom of the Sea, some Leagues from Land, as well as near the Shore: While young they are soft and pliant, but harden to the Consistence of Stone, some of them grow above six Feet high, and branch into various Forms, some resembling the palmed Horns of deer, others round Horns, with various other odd Forms, one Plant producing not more than one of these Resemblance, every kind sporting after the Manner peculiar to it: All these different formed Corals are of like Consistence, and are covered alike with the same Mucilage, or acrimonious Slime, which with much handling and daubing one Fingers with, it causes to swell, with such prickling Smart, that it is very painful; in Places noted for Fish being poisonous, these Plants most abound: From the Guts of the Sea-Unicorne, or Trumpet Fish, ans some others that are not esteemed good, I have taken much of this Coral in small Pieces, some being almost digested: It has a sulphureous and very noxious Smell, which it retains after the Slime is dried up, and lain in the Sun and Air several Months: At first it is yellow, but being some time exposed to the Air, turn white.

Neither Providence, nor any of the Bahama Islands have either Rivers or Springs, the Deficiency of which is supplied with Rain Water, contained in Reservoirs of Rock, placed by Nature on all or most of the Islands; this Water is so shaded with Trees, and Shrubs, that it is clear, cool and is esteemed wholsome.

It is no wonder that such unhospitable rocky Islands should be sufficient of the Numbers and Variety of Animals that the Continent abounds with, for except a few Beasts of use that have been introduced there: (such as Horses, Cows, Sheep, Goats, Hogs, and Dogs) all that are Aborigines are Guana's, Lizards, Land Crabs, Coneys and Rats, which last probably were brought by Ships: Of Land-Birds I did not observe above nine or ten Sorts, except migratory Sea-Birds, which also frequent other Coasts.

The shallow Seas encompassing these Islands, on the Contrary are as remarkable for their Abundance and Variety of its Watery Inhabitants, exceeding in Number of Species, and excelling in the Elegance of their Colours and Marks, but inferior in Wholsomness and Goodness of Taste to the Fish in more Northern Latitudes. Adequate to this, frequent Opportunities has confirmed to me, that as the Productions of Nature in general are very scanty near the Arctic Circle, there is a Gradation of Increase at every Degree of Latitude approaching the Tropick, and tho' the Distance of one Degree may not be sufficient to percieve it, yet four or five Degrees makes it evidently appear, not only by the greater Number of Species of of terrestrial Animals, but of Fish and Vegetables, which by how much nearer the torrid Zone, so much the more numerous they are. And I think it is not improbable that the numerous Species of Creatures that inhabit between the Tropicks, far exceed in Number all the rest of the Terrestrial World.

xlii
next page previous page