[Being the Presidential Address delivered before the Members of the Otago Institute, 12th November, 1895.]
Inhabiting as we do one of the outposts of civilisation, an island remote from continental areas, situate in a commanding position in the great Southern Ocean, our thoughts and actions are largely influenced by our essentially marine environment, and, apart from the commercial advantages that an extensive coast-line gives us, most of us have an interest in the exploration and unravelling of the mysteries of the sea. Thanks to the wonderful development of all branches of science during the latter half of the present century, we may now hope for things which only in the days of our fathers would have been deemed impossible. It may perhaps interest you if this evening I briefly trace some of the leading features in the Mstory of geographical exploration by the voyagers of the bygone ages, and finally note some of the results of the most memorable voyage of modern times—a voyage which has done so much to establish the foundations of the science of oceanography—the voyage of H.M.S. “Challenger.”
Commercial reasons have in nearly all cases been the cause which led the hardy sailor to adventure his life in his frail bark amid the dangers of unknown coasts, and in the
dawn of history we find several of the more civilised nations gradually extending their borders, and, though records of their geographical knowledge do not exist, we may feel assured that traditional information was being accumulated concerning local areas.
Geographical knowledge among primitive races is always circumscribed, and essentially local, and we have no glimpse of any considerable maritime discoveries of any extended area, or of any journeys of exploration, until we come to the time when the Phoenicians spread along the shores of the Mediterranean. Before this time they are said by Pliny to have voyaged from island to island in their original abodes within the Persian Gulf by means of rafts.*
Tradition, as well as the earliest records, represent this people as clever navigators long before the oldest Greek or Hebrew records. They are generally supposed to have fully explored the Erythræan Sea before they ventured on the waters of the Mediterranean. The 27th chapter of Ezekiel shows how the trade of the Levant was in their hands; and then, having traversed the Mediterranean and made themselves masters of the commerce of the day, they passed out into the waters of the Great Sea through the Pillars of Hercules, and founded Tartessus as a base for future voyages.
At a later date they went further afield; but a writer about twenty years ago tried to prove in an elaborate paper that the Phoœnicians had reached Central America by way of the north of Australia and Easter Island,† and many similar attempts have been made to extend their voyages to parts of the American Continent. They sailed boldly to the Canaries, and a passage in Theophrastus‡ seems to indicate that the curious patches of floating seaweed known as the Sargasso Sea were known to the ancients. The Phœnicians steered during the night by a star in the Little Bear, which was called by the Greeks in after-times the Phœnician star. The course steered was, however, probably never very far from land. When the Greeks in their turn became a maritime power they directed their course by a position of the constellation of the Great Bear, until, in the time of Thales, they adopted the Little Bear as their guide.
The knowledge of places, currents, dangers, winds, and other cosmographical details must have been handed down by tradition from one generation of sailors to another, and the knowledge received by the Greeks when the Greek civilisation
[Footnote] * Pliny, Hist. Nat., vii., 56.
[Footnote] † Gaffarel, “Compte Rendu du 1er Congrés des Americanistes,” Nancy, 1875.
[Footnote] ‡ Theop., Hist. Plant., iv., 6, 7.
developed must have included many observations and deductions based upon experience of solid value and importance. Yet the brilliant intellects of the Greek philosophers did not construct any very creditable theoretical conception of the scientific problems of the ocean. Together with the facts, no doubt, a number of “travellers' tales” and myths had established themselves; but, as Humboldt says, “Popular myths mixed with history and geography do not belong altogether to the ideal world. If vagueness be one of their characteristics, if the symbols which cover the reality be wrapped in a veil more or less thick, they show, nevertheless, the dawn of cosmography. The statements of primitive history and geography are not entirely ingenious fictions; the opinions which have been formed about the actual world are reflected in them.”
Putting aside, as poetic accretions round the nature-myth of the history of the Golden Fleece, the classic accounts of the voyage of the Argonauts, we come to the poems of the Trojan cycle, and in the Homeric works we find the conceptions of the Greeks at that time as to the Cosmos. He describes the form of the earth as being like the shield of Achilles, with the river Oceanus for its rim.* Mr. Gladstone considers the shape of the shield to have been an oval or a parallelogram. The conception of a great circumfluent river, he thinks, was probably founded on a combination of a double set of reports: the one of great currents setting into the Thalassa or Mediterranean Sea, and seeming to feed it, such as those of Yeni-kale, the Bosphorus, Gibraltar; the other of outer waters, such as the Caspian, the Persian Gulf, and probably the Red Sea. As the external ocean-river served as the support to the celestial vault, we must conclude that these conceptions of the world were derived from Oriental sources. These ideas of an internal sea, with archipelagoes and a surrounding ocean-river, were perpetuated among the people down to the time of Hecatoeus. It is not long, however, before we hear of lands beyond the outer ocean and in Hesiod we may probably see the first germ of the Atlantis myth, now to be rediscussed by the publication of Plongeon's work in Central America.
With the rise of the Grecian power we find mercantile relations opened up with Egypt, the “China” of the civilised world at that period; and about 630 B.C.,† Herodotus tells us, the western portion of the Mediterranean, with the great. Tyrian port of Tartessus, in the south of Spain, became known to the Greeks. The story of the founding of Massilia not only shows the noble sacrifices made by the Phoceans, who abandoned their city rather than submit to the conqueror's yoke, but shows that the voyage of nearly the whole length
[Footnote] * Il., xix., 374.
[Footnote] † Herod., iv., 152.
of the Mediterranean was not dreaded, and that their geographical knowledge of the western end of the sea was probably fairly complete. That there were local difficulties and dangers which rumour and distance unduly magnified was probably expressed by the popular saying in Pindar,* “Neither wise man nor fool gets beyond the Pillars of Hercules.”
It is not necessary to go into the curious fancies of the Ionian school of philosophers concerning the form of the earth. Pythagoras and his followers seem to have been acquainted with the idea of the spherical form of the earth, and it is believed that they adopted this view from the intercourse which enabled them to learn the astronomical information possessed by the Chaldeans and Egyptians.
Scientific inquiry began to emerge from the mists of philosophical speculation, and about four hundred and fifty years before the present era we find a more scientific spirit animating the literary men of the day. At this period appears Herodotus, of Halicarnassus, a great name among the writers of antiquity, who, besides his more common titles of the father of history—and lies—may be regarded as the founder of the science of physical geography. Here in his writings we get the ὀργνıά, the sailor's measure, the fathom, as the measure of both length and depth. In his writings the circumfluent ocean disappears, and he says, “I cannot help laughing a little at those who undertake to describe the contours of the lands without any facts to guide them; for example, who represent the ocean as embracing the entire world in its course—who make it round, as if drawn with a pair of compasses.”† In both his historical and geographical work he seems to have preferred drawing from the living fount of oral tradition, but without perceiving the necessary shortcomings of such a record. In the matter of his credibility, it is necessary to distinguish between the trustworthiness of the historian himself and the trustworthiness of his authorities. As to the former, there is no occasion for doubting his personal good faith, or for disbelieving his assertion that he reproduced faithfully all that he heard. He exercises no scientific criticism of his authorities, nor does he allow for the weakness of oral tradition. But, while we may believe that Herodotus repeated what he had heard, it is impossible to have the same confidence in his authorities. Modern research has shown that he has been led into many mistakes by ignorant or malicious informants, and in his historical writings a distinctly Periclean bias is visible. Further afield were the voyages of Scylax, of Caryanda, down the Indus and into the Persian Gulf; and the expedition sent
[Footnote] * Olymp., iii., 80.
[Footnote] † Herod., iv., 36.
by the Phocean colonists of Massilia to the North Sea, under Pytheas, the illustrious astronomer, who at that distant period had determined the latitude of Massilia with such exactitude that twenty centuries after Gassendi found it correct to within a few seconds. On this adventurous voyage Pytheas coasted Britain and crossed to the German coast, the “amber coasts” of the Baltic. It has been claimed that Pytheas attributed the tidal phenomena he met with to the influence of the moon, thus anticipating Newton by two thousand years.
It is probable that the Carthaginian explorer Himilco had visited or tried to visit the “tin country,” and had passed through the straits northward for the purpose; but there is every reason to believe that any information gained by this expedition was jealously guarded* as long as possible, and that Pytheas had not their experience to assist him. In another direction Nearchus was making a famous voyage of discovery under the auspices of Alexander.
The philosophers of the school of Aristotle came to the conclusion that the earth was a spheroidal body occupying the centre of the universe, round which the other celestial bodies revolve. They were no doubt influenced by the results of the voyages of Euthymenes and Pytheas. They established its spherical form by the fact that all things gravitated towards the centre, and by reference to the shadow of the earth during eclipses.
The habitable world was confined to the temperate zone: all beyond the tropic to the south was uninhabitable from heat, while the land below the Great Bear was uninhabitable from cold. They admitted a temperate zone in the Southern Hemisphere, but do not state if it is inhabited.
Humboldt believed that the following passage must have had much influence in leading up to the discoveries of Columbus: “It appears,” says Aristotle, “those are not so very far wrong who suppose the region about the Pillars of Hercules and that about India to be contiguous, and that there is but one sea (in the part opposite to the inhabited world); and they point by way of proof to the elephants, these animals being found in both regions, though at the extremes of the earth, this fact showing that the extremes are really near each other.†
Aristotle's own researches in the fauna of the ocean were of scientific value, as he named and described more or less minutely 116 kinds of fishes, about twenty-four Crustaceans and worms, about forty Mollusca and Radiates, making a total of 180 species, inhabiting the ægean Sea. His immortal
[Footnote] * Clements Markham, R. Geo. Journal, 1893, vol. i., No. 6.
[Footnote] † Arist., De Coel., ii., 15.
memory is recalled to the zoological student in the masticatory apparatus of Echinus, known as Aristotle's lantern. Such was the authority of the Aristotelean views that they were held and reproduced by the Romans down to the close of the Middle Ages.
All maps or charts previous to Aristotle's time were merely pictorial sketches devoid of scale or proportion; but a pupil of Aristotle's—Dicœarchus—divided the representation of the known world by a longitudinal line in the sense of our equator, along which stadia were marked. By this means it was possible to express relative distances more precisely than formerly. This departure was followed up by Eratosthenes, of Cyrene, director of the library of the museum at Alexandria, who, encouraged by the patronage of the Ptolemies, arranged the geographical facts collected by the generals of Alexander, using the prime longitude of Dicœarchus, which passed through Rhodes. To this he added three others, passing respectively through Alexandria, Syene, and Meroe. He also traced at right angles to these a meridian line passing through Rhodes and Alexandria southwards to Syene viá Meroe. Eratosthenes reformed the principles of geography, and gave it a more systematic form. He adopted the view of Aristotle and Euclid regarding the figure and position of the earth, looking upon it as a sphere placed in the centre of the universe, around which the celestial bodies moved every twenty-four hours, the sun and moon having independent motions of their own. For all practical purposes, his views differed only from those of modern geographers in having a geocentric instead of an heliocentric standpoint.
When the Romans had extended their dominions to Egypt they were able to acquire the geographical knowledge possessed by the school of Alexandria; but the genius of the conquering people was not directed towards scientific research, nor did they encourage navigation and commerce with the same ardour as their predecessors. The science of oceanography was not advanced among them as among the Greeks by the speculations of philosophers, or by the study of natural phenomena for their own sakes. It was only the luxury of imperial Rome, which gave rise to the demand for the varied products of all the countries of the known world, that led to active trade by land and sea. It seems natural to expect that the Romans, who carried their victorious armies throughout nearly all the world known to the ancients, should have left some important documents relating to the physical aspects of nature in the regions over which they extended their conquests. Although the Roman rule extended over a great extent of coast bordering on the Atlantic, they never organized any voyages of discovery into the outer sea, after the manner
of the Carthaginians and Greeks. They were essentially a warlike and practical people, with politicians, jurists, encyclopædists, and historians, but few philosophers who occupied themselves with the operations of nature.
Horace's system of winds, several passages of Virgil on meteorology, the statements concerning geological phenomena in Ovid, and notices of diluvial action on the surface of the globe in Vitruvius, all show, a spirit of observation and inquiry; but, generally speaking, if we deduct what the Romans had received from the Greeks, there is little relating to ocean-ography that can be regarded as original among the writings of Latin authors. The military operations each occasioned a new survey and a new itinerary, though it was not till the reign of Caracalla that these itineraries were elaborated into accurate topographical documents.
As Vivien de St. Martin remarks, never was there such an opportunity for a great work on descriptive geography as during the reign of Augustus. The Roman rule then, spread as it was over more than half of the then known world, and attached to the remainder by political and commercial relations, created most propitious conditions for an undertaking of this kind by furnishing to the geographer a ready means of investigation. A man appeared to carry out the work for which the time was ripe, but the man was a Greek—Strabo, of Amaseia—who, in his seventeen books, has given us the most important geographical work of antiquity.
In the first century of our era was written the earliest work or treatise devoted exclusively to geography. It was written by Pomponius Mela,* a native of Spain. In this work we find the first notice of the opinion, so prevalent in aftertimes, as to an impassable zone intervening between our world and the alter orbis of the Antichthones in the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere. Passing on to the last great geographer of antiquity—Ptolemy—we find him devoting two of his numerous works to geography, and improving the ars delineandi and the tabulas geographicis; and he is the first to use the words “latitude” and “longitude” as purely technical terms. From this point the progress of geographical knowledge is carried on on two separate lines. The great outburst of Mohammedan conquest was followed by an Arabian civilisation, Which had its centres at Baghdad and Cordova. The Arabs brought astronomy and mathematics to bear on its problems, and established observatories. They measured an arc of a great circle of the earth; they studied Ptolemy; they applied themselves to define with accuracy the discoveries of travellers; and thus geography became in their hands a
[Footnote] * De Situ Orbis.
living science. Abulfeda quotes no less than sixty geographical authors, many of whom lived in the thirteenth century.
In European countries the knowledge of geographical facts was limited to a few who were held fast in the chains of theology; and for centuries after the fall of Constantinople the darkness of the “dark ages” engendered strange and erroneous conceptions, which were only dissipated when, with the invention of printing, science once more lifted her head in Europe. The early Fathers of the Church—the autocrats of learning in those days—imagined that they had detected certain discrepancies between the discoveries of science and the words of holy writ. The particular point on which their suspicion fastened was the existence of the Antipodes. It was assumed that no communication was possible, or ever had been possible, between the Northern Hemisphere and any southern part of the globe. Even if other continents existed, they were supposed to be cut off from the European or Asian lands by an ocean lying under the tropical zone, of insupportable heat, and therefore impassable. On this assumption it was impossible that a population could have been derived from the stock of Adam, and consequently the whole theory of its existence was opposed to the language of holy writ, which throughout assumes that God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth (Acts, xvii., 26).
Lactantius, in the fourth century, was so carried away by his zeal for what he believed to be the truth that he impugned the theory of the sphericity of the earth, and denied it as a physical impossibility.*
St. Augustine, while equally determined in his rejection of the Antipodes, is more cautious in the statement of his reasons. He argues that, even if the world is spherical, it does not follow that there should be land on the opposite side of it; and, even if there be land, it does not follow that it should be inhabited—nay, inasmuch as none could cross from this side to that, it must needs be uninhabited.† Geography was henceforth forced into a mould of a pseudo-orthodoxy, and both map-makers and writers were discouraged and fell into a narrow groove until they were forced out of it by the glorious discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The tenacity with which the Patristic doctrines were maintained was exhibited in the treatment which Columbus received. His proposal to circumnavigate the world was referred to a council of divines in Salamanca, who pronounced it to be not only chimerical,
[Footnote] * Instit., iii., 24.
[Footnote] † De Civ. Dei., xvi., 9.
but even profane, as being contrary to Scripture and the opinions of the Fathers. Yet at that time a breach had already been made in the mediæval theory by the progress of maritime discovery: navigators had penetrated into the torrid zone, and had reported it to be not impassable; and thus the very groundwork of the difficulty which the Fathers had experienced had been removed. It may be a matter of surprise that the Arabian system should have coexisted side by side with the Latin and yet have exercised so little influence over it. The inhabitants of Western Europe came into contact with the Arabs in Spain, in the Holy Land during the period of the crusades, and more particularly in Sicily, where one of the most illustrious of their geographers, Edrisi, lived and worked, under the patronage of Roger, Count of Sicily, in the middle of the twelfth century. We do, indeed, meet with occasional notices which show that the Arab system was not wholly unknown, Roger Bacon, in his Opus Majus,* completed in 1267, speaks of Arym, the most important point in the construction of an Arab map, and he shows himself acquainted with its position on the earth's surface, and its use in the study of geography. He was also familiar with the lines of latitude and longitude, and particularly notes that the Latins had not yet adopted the system.
The geographical work of Ptolemy had not yet been rendered accessible to the general body of students by being translated into Latin. The European system was incompatible with scientific principles: nothing less than a revolution was required, and that revolution was effected, partly by the revival of the study of Ptolemy—whose geographical writings were translated into Latin in 1405—and partly by the progress of maritime discovery. It may be of interest to take a passing glance at a peculiar feature of mediæval cartography, in which Jerusalem is represented as occupying the central part of the habitable world. Whether the tenet was originally based on the language of Scripture, or whether the language of Scripture was applied in confirmation of a preconceived opinion, I know not. At all events, it is not the only instance in which men have conferred honour on their holy places by regarding them as occupying the central boss or umbilic of the habitable world. It was thus that the Greeks regarded their Delphi—ὀμφαλὸς χθονός—† the Hindoos their Merou, and the Persians their Kangdiz. It was not unnatural, therefore, that the Jews, and still more the Christians, should attribute the same property to Jerusalem, which
[Footnote] * Jebbs, edition Venice, 1750, p. 134.
[Footnote] † Pind., Pyth., vi., 3; cf. Soph., œd. Tyr., 480; and æscb., Choeph., 1034.
for centuries had been the focus of their aspirations, their anxieties, and their most earnest hopes and devoted exertions.
Scripture seemed to sanction this feeling. We find the following passages quoted for the purpose: “This is Jerusalem; I have set it in the midst of the nations round about her” (Ezek. v., 5). The 12th verse of the 74th Psalm in the Vulgate runs thus: “Operatus est salutem in medio terræ”; and again, in the 12th verse of the 38th chapter of Ezekiel, the Vulgate has “umbilicus terrae” for the Hebrew word “tabur” —the midst of the land.
A fourteenth-century writer describes Jerusalem as “punetus circumferentiæ,” and exaggerates the historical claims to centrality by representing Judea as having been the seat of each branch of the human race, and the favoured scene of God's manifestation in the works of creation and redemption in the past, and of final judgment in the future. Mediæval cartographers gave effect to these views by placing Jerusalem as nearly as possible in the centre of the map, and this remained the custom till the middle of the fifteenth century. Assuming that Jerusalem occupied the central portion of the habitable world, and taking into consideration its position on the verge of Asia and in the line of the Mediterranean, it follows that Asia held one-half of the world, and Europe and Africa, being divided by the Mediterranean, must almost equally divide the remaining half; and accordingly, in the Alexandrian romance popular in Europe in about the thirteenth century, we find—
At Asyghe al so muchul is
So Europe and Affryh I wis.*
Also in the Cursor Mundi—
For Asie is withouten hope
As myche as Aufrik and Europe.†
The world was thus divided symmetrically into three parts, and is so represented in many of the small maps in the illuminated manuscripts of the period. The preponderating size of Asia was attributed to its being the inheritance of Shem, the first-born.‡ Although many geographers wished to consider Europe and Africa as one, thus making two halves only, the above-mentioned writer brings Scripture to bear on the point, and settles it in favour of the three divisions, on the ground that Ham and Japhet had their separate domains.
The habitable world was limited within a circle drawn from Jerusalem as a centre, and with a radius equalling the distance thence to the Strait of Gibraltar. Here was—
[Footnote] * Lines 55 and 56, Weber's Metrical Romances, vol. i.
[Footnote] † Cursor Mundi, 1. 2097, MS. R., 3, 8, Trin. Coll., Camb.
[Footnote] ‡ Gervaise of Tilbury, Ot. Imp., ii., 2
The strait pass where Hercules ordain'd
The boundaries not to be overstepped by man;*
beyond which lay the “deep illimitable main,” “the unpeopled world,” of which the learned as yet knew nothing. Eastward the limit was fixed at the mouth of the Ganges. In this direction, therefore, mediæval geography, as it stood towards the close of the thirteenth century, had not only not advanced beyond the point at which Ptolemy left it, but had actually receded.
Although the usual form of the habitable world as depicted in the Middle Ages was circular, a quadrangular shape was sometimes adopted, based upon too literal an acceptation of the passage of the Scripture which speaks of the “four corners of the earth.” There is yet another form in which a map was constructed, and which was perhaps more correct. On the Matthew Paris maps we are told that the world, in its truest form resembles an extended military cloak (chlamys extensa). The chlamys consisted of a central square with wings added to it, wider at the bottom than at the top, the whole shape being a greatly truncated triangle. This idea was probably derived from Macrobius,† who in his turn borrowed it from Strabo (ii., p. 113).
Another point of interest is the orientation of the maps. Our predecessors, with few exceptions, placed the east in that position at the top of the map. Biblical considerations again decided this. The primeval abode of man was in the east, the terrestrial Paradise still remained there. On this subject of the location of the terrestrial Paradise there is a large mass of mediæval literature; but in the whole of it there is no doubt of its being an existing contemporaneous fact. Mandeville (cap. xxx.) says that he had not visited it himself on account of his unworthiness, but he describes it at length on the information of trustworthy persons. The four rivers of Paradise were usually identified with the Euphrates, Nile, Ganges, and Tigris, and the difficulty as to the widely remote sources of these rivers was solved by assuming that the rivers on leaving Paradise were submerged, and reappeared at these points.
The traces of this belief are to be seen even in the person of Columbus, for we learn in Irving's “Life of Columbus,” book iv., chapter 4, that when the great navigator encountered the flood of the River Orinoco, in the Gulf of Paria, he thought it could be none other than the fount of Paradise.
Of the renaissance of enterprise and the desire for know
[Footnote] * Dante, “Inferno,” xxvi.
[Footnote] † De Somn. Scip., ii., 9, where Macrobius is commenting on Cicero's description, “Angusta verticibus, lateribus latior” (De Republica, vi., 20).
ledge in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and of the part which science took in giving confidence to the sailor to stretch out to seek for lands afar, I may not at this time say much. As an illustration, however, of what were considered difficulties, it may be noted that all the expeditions sent out at various times from Portugal to round Cape Bojador, up till the year 1433, returned unsuccessful because of a reef which extended six miles seaward and barred the passage. With the discoveries of Golumbus the whole fabric of geographical conceptions was shattered, and amid the growing light of scientific knowledge in Europe the fragments were reconstructed into a more adequate representation of the true forms of the continents and oceans. To us under the Southern Cross the 25th of September, 1573, is a day of note, for on that day the fearless Spaniard, Vasco Nunez de Balbao, beheld from the summit of the Sierra Quarequa a boundless ocean extending towards the setting sun—an ocean first ploughed by the keels of the ships of Magellan many years after, and subsequently named by Pigafetta “the Pacific.” “For three months and twenty days we sailed,” he says, “about four thousand leagues on that sea, which we call the Pacific, because during all the time of our navigation we did not experience a single storm.
The voyage of Magellan, from a geographical point of view, was the greatest event in the most remarkable period of the world's history, and far surpassed all others in its effect on oceanographical conceptions.
The memorable discoveries in the thirty years from 1492 to 1522 doubled at a single bound the knowledge of the surface of the earth, and added a hemisphere to the chart of the world. The fiery zone of the ancients had been crossed, a death-blow was dealt to Ptolemy's view that the Indian Ocean was an enclosed sea; the southern temperate zone of Aristotle and Mela had been reached. The sphericity of the earth and the existence of the Antipodes were no longer theories, but demonstrated facts. The impression produced by these great events can be traced in men's minds in all the great intellectual and moral changes which characterized the transitional period known as the Renaissance, and relit the torch of learning in Europe.
The geographical work of the sixteenth century was continued, but with less ardour, during the seventeenth century. The Dutch made discoveries in the “Great Ocean” of the western half of Australia. Tasman, in 1642, showed that Australia and Tasmania were surrounded by the ocean to the south; but the west coast of New Zealand, which he visited, was believed to be a part of the great southern continent.
The desire for more detailed geographical knowledge seems
to have slumbered again till the latter half of the eighteenth century, when the first of the memorable scientific voyages was initiated in the time of James Cook.
We must, however, not forget the expedition of Edward Halley, in 1699, to improve our knowledge concerning longitude and the variation of the compass: this was a purely scientific voyage. Of the geographical discoveries made since that time in these seas we have been favoured with several papers by Dr. Hocken, and it will therefore be permissible for me to pass on to the Victorian era, and the rapid increase in the scientific knowledge of the bed of the great ocean—a branch of oceanography but newly born. It may here be not out of place to remind you that the very bulk of the ocean as compared with the visible land gives it an importance which is possessed by no other feature on the surface of our planet.
Dr. John Murray has lately, after a laborious calculation from the most recent data, shown that the cubical contents of the ocean is probably about fourteen times that of the dry land. This statement appeals strongly to the imagination, and forms perhaps the most powerful argument in favour of the view—steadily gaining grounds—that the great oceans have, in the main, existed in their present form since the continents settled down into their present form. When it is considered that the whole of the dry land would only fill up one-third of the Atlantic Ocean, the enormous disproportion of the two great divisions of sea and land become very apparent. The deepest parts of the ocean at present known are in all cases near land: at 110 miles outside the Kurile Islands the deepest sounding has been made, of 27,930ft.* The sea with the greatest mean depth appears to be our vast Pacific, which covers 67 millions of the 188 millions of square miles comprising the earth's surface. Of the 188 millions, 137 millions are sea, so that the Pacific comprises just one-half of the water of the globe, and more than one-third of its whole area. We cannot regard the soundings which have been taken by the various scientific expeditions, and which are still being taken as opportunities offer, as anything but the units of what is required. In the Central Pacific there is an area of 10 ½ million square miles in which there are only seven soundings; while in a long strip crossing the whole North Pacific, which has an area of nearly 3 million square miles, there is no sounding at all. The immensity of the mass of waters in the Pacific, both in bulk and area, is difficult to realise, but it may assist us when we learn that the whole of
[Footnote] * On the 14th December, 1895, H.M.S. “Penguin” reports a sounding of 29,400ft., at which depth the sounding-wire snapped.
the land of the globe above the water-level, if shovelled into the Pacific, would only fill one-seventh of it. English science has recognised that of all the worlds she has to conquer the secrets of the ocean are of great importance to her welfare, not only for the safety of her navy and mercantile marine, but for the future extension of the magic girdle of modern times which has embodied in itself the shoes of swiftness and the cap of invisibility of the fairy tale, and which has practically annihilated time and distance in commercial transactions.
From almost every branch of physical science come questions which can only be solved by researches into the conditions which obtain in the ocean.
If the charts of the present day be compared with those in existence before Cook's time, the perfection now attained will be easily noted. This important branch of oceanography has been very greatly developed through the extension of geographical and geodetical knowledge under the impulse of commerce, colonisation, and interoceanic relations. Nearly all the regions of the ocean are accurately represented in our charts, even the polar regions so far as explored. The bathymetrical charts of Maury and Delesse and the wind and current charts of the Hydrographic Office all show great advances in those branches of knowledge. The latest cartographical elements introduced into our charts are those relating to the depth and nature of the bottom, which were specially investigated during the voyage of the “Challenger.” The study of deep-sea deposits has been brought about by the requirements of navigation and the more modern applications of electricity, and now constitutes an important branch of oceanography.
The very important scientific voyage of the “Challenger” took place in the years 1872–76; and the scheme proposed “for the investigation of the biological, chemical, and physical conditions of the great oceans of the world” was successfully carried out. As soon as possible, the collections made and the facts observed were placed in the hands of the most eminent men in each department of science; and after more than twenty years of labour the final volumes have been issued. The unanimous testimony of the scientific world to-day is that the work taken in hand has been well and truly done. Never, says the leading zoologist in England, never did an expedition cost so little and produce such momentous results for human knowledge. The expenditure on the preparation and publication of the reports has been relatively greater, but the authorities of the Treasury may rest assured that the whole of the scientific world sets the very highest value on these volumes; and that, had it suited the dignity of an Imperial Government to treat the work on a commercial basis, instead
of liberally presenting copies of it to scientific institutions throughout the world, the publications could have been made to pay their own expenses by sales. Practically, the whole of the work of arranging for the proper description of the great mass of zoological material brought home has fallen to Mr., now Dr., John Murray, and he has brought to a successful conclusion the issue of the fifty quarto volumes in which specialists in all parts of the world have described the treasures brought home. In zoology particularly the researches of the “Challenger” have enabled a new division to be made of the fauna of the ocean into three groups: a group that drifts, a group that swims, and a group that is anchored.
The first group, or the Plankton, embraces all those pelagic forms that float about at the mercy of the winds and tidal currents, drifting with the tide on the “shifting currents of the restless main.”
The second group are the Nekton, also pelagic in their habits, but able to swim against the currents or migrate from place to place.
The third group, the Benthos, are animals and plants that are fixed to the bottom, or that live within circumscribed limits on the bottom, and are unable to migrate at will, nor can they be carried about by the sweep of a current or tide.
With regard to the Plankton, Professor Haeckel says, “With the exception to the deep-sea Keratosa, my own contributions to the Challenger' work concern the Plankton, and have proved that it is just the smallest pelagic animals which possess the greatest importance for oceanic life. As I wandered for ten years though this wonderful new empire, populated by more than four thousand species of Radiolaria, for the most part previously unknown, and as I daily admired the incredible variety and elegance of their delicate forms, I had the happy and proud sensations of the explorer who is the first to travel through a new continent peopled by thousands of new and curious forms of animals and plants.” The abysmal deeps again contain a new world inhabited by Benthos, strangely-formed genera, and species who have slowly migrated through various environments to the ocean-depths.
In geology the information obtained regarding the deposits now forming on the ocean-floor has been of great importance, but those who hoped that the dredge would drag from the ocean caves “the monsters vast of ages past,” and that the hauls would yield many living forms of Tertiary types, have been disappointed. The botanical work has been mainly in the direction of extending our knowledge of the flora of the oceanic areas at a distance from land-masses; and in some cases additional information has been recorded on the floras of the more remote islands. The results of the expedition
from a naval point of view are numerous and important, and more especially with regard to the delineation of the contour-curves of the great ocean-basins, and the series of memoirs on the oceanic circulation. The brilliant success of the “Challenger” expedition and its report gives us good ground for hoping that one of Her Majesty's ships might be employed in filling up some of the gaps which naturally occurred in the explorations, and that, above all, some assistance should be given to follow out the important lines of inquiry opened up by the results of the soundings taken in the southern seas in the neighbourhood of the Antarctic. As I have said on another occasion, important magnetic and meteorological problems demand investigation in the Antarctic, and I for one would desire to see British sailors set out from this British colony to once more force the icy gates of the South and beard the ice-king in his solitary realms.