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But the mountains are still the earth. There man may live on the proceeds of the chase or of his industry. There he may
build himself an house. There flourish plants and animals with which he is familiar. He inarches there with a firm foot. The very dangers that threaten him—the precipice, and the torrent, and the storm, and the avalanche—are only an enlargement, so to speak, of those which everywhere surround him. In a word, he is as much at home on the mountain-peak as in his own fields; the form and aspect alone are different.
But it is otherwise with the ocean. He who has never seen it can form no just conception of it. Vainly does he seek a resemblance in the masterpieces of the painter's art, in the great rivers, the great lakes, the vast extent of the plains, landes, or prairies. Nothing can ever paint to him the liquid immensity. Brought face to face with ocean, he will remain speechless and stupefied. And what will it be if he goes down to the deep in ships, loses sight of earth, and finds himself suspended between the water and the sky, sustained above the abyss by a few planks ? Over his head, the infinite space; under his feet, a capricious and shifting element-capricious, at least, in appearance----to-day, calm, benign, and motionless; to-morrow, furious and implacable, hurling one against another its foam-crested waves, longing to engulf his frail bark in their formidable embrace.
It is then that he will feel the sentiment of his own weakness growing upon him, with the idea of infinity. His temerity will at first astonish and terrify him. He will think with admiration of the forgotten hero who first dared to launch himself upon the sea in a boat, and confront the unknown; of those who, bolder still, undertook the desperate enterprise of discovering the end, the boundary of the watery desert-sailing, sailing from the other side of the world, until they should meet with the land seen by the mind's eye beyond the horizon.
Then the tranquil courage of the seamen, their skilful manoeuvres, their familiarity with this great living Thing, which they both know and love; all this tends by degrees to reassure him. He would fain count for something in their bold and enlightened task.
A certain enthusiastic pride will succeed the humble dread of his first moments; he will enjoy man's fierce struggle against the elements. If a storm break forth, he will rejoice to witness it, as a young soldier, after the first few musket-shots, feels a fierce delight in the battle. And as the soldier, when once more seated by his fireside, proudly exclaims : "I was in that war; I fought on such and such a famous field ;” he too, in his turn, will cry, "I have beheld the sea ; and not only from the harbour, the pier, and the summit of the cliff
, but I have seen it beneath my feet; I have seen it alternately serene and stormy, agitated and asleep; I have bounded o'er the waves to the roaring of the tempest; I have struggled against it—and here I am!”
This indeed is a fortunate man, for he has seen the Ocean. But has he seen it truly? No. For Ocean is not, like the mountains, an accident on the surface of the earth; it is a world, two and a half times as large as our own, if we consider only its surface, and it envelops ours on every side. It is a world which nourishes legions of strange beings in its depths, in its madreporic forests.
It is a world which man, after so many centuries, at the cost of so many sacrifices, scarcely begins to know, far from having conquered it.
Like to the great gods of the ancient barbarians of the North and the East, Ocean—a greedy and terrible power-makes us pay every year by hundreds of human lives for the favours it bestows upon us, the rights which we arrogate over it. How many has the enormous Sphinx devoured of those who have attempted to divine its enigmas, to pierce its mysteries! What matters it? on, and goes forward. The human eye has penetrated that formidable night. Science already comprehends the laws which govern the marine world and connect it with the terrestrial, the part which the seas play in the universal equilibrium.
It has done more. By a series of inductions based on an examination of the constitution of our globe, it has succeeded in ascending to the origin of things; in unlocking, so to speak, the archives of nature, and composing a history of the ocean : an hypothetical history, undoubtedly, in many points, but so logical, so
The work goes govern them,
satisfactory to the mind, so harmonious with existing facts, that we cannot refuse to it at least a very high degree of probability.
In the book now before the reader we attempt, in the first place, to retrace this sublime history, to relate the birth of Ocean, its revolutions and successive transformations.
Next we study Ocean in its actual condition ; its regular or tumultuous movements, the causes which produce and the laws which
Exploring afterwards the shores of the seas, their surface, and even their abysses, we see developed the prodigious series of beings which inhabit them : fantastic plants; rudimentary animals scarcely distinguishable from plants; microscopical creatures which swarm in incalculable myriads, agitate, labour, and multiply,– molluscs, crustaceans, fish, reptiles, gigantic amphibians, even birds ; for among the winged race there are hundreds of species which belong to the marine not less than to the aërial world.
Finally, we show the Ocean ploughed in every direction, excavated in its depths and explored by man, and exercising a powerful influence on the progress of science and civilization ; less, indeed, by the immense riches which it offers to our greed, than by the obstacles which it opposes to our encroachments, and by the problems which it proposes for us to solve.
[The Translator has only to add, that in rendering M. Mangin's highly interesting and comprehensive work into English he has not considered it necessary to follow the original very closely, but, in order to adapt it to the wants of the English reader, and to make it more complete as a survey of the life and history of the ocean, has made numerous interpolations and additions, amounting probably to a fifth of the whole
He has also been careful to bring down the information to the latest date, and to exhibit the results of the most recent scientific research. He therefore trusts it will, in its present shape, be considered an agreeable and useful addition to the family library, and a convenient manual for the student and general reader.
W. H. D. A.