By William Beebe

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Extra resources for Beneath Tropic Seas - A Record of Diving Among the Coral Reefs of Haiti

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Today we, of a scientific turn of mind, sneer at the evidence of such superstitious ignorance. Yet our same scientific acumen has discovered and vouches for the life story of the thimble jelly. Here and there on the corals and sea-weed, fathoms under our keel, are pale growths less than a half -inch in height. In places they are so dense that they appear like a furry covering. The imaginative eye sees them as algae or an aquatic mildew of sorts. These are animal growths although they have no sex in which they are lower than ferns ^and they increase by a simple system of stolon -like roots, in which they may call the moss, brother.

Saw an astonishing sight. A few minutes came to the surface, tens of thousands of the fish motes had shot through the water about me in all directions, still striving with their utmost skill to evade both tlie voracious yellow-tails and the fatal gape of the pelicans. It seemed as if their whole life was a constant breaking through the water ceiling and the air floor. Now, in the very spot I had left a few minutes before, the whole water was filled with silvery motes, gently scaling downward. The explosion had occurred in the midst of a rain of fleeing silversides and the water and the reef floor looked like the tinsel on a Christmas tree.

It was a silverside {Atherina), sl female, and I later found that it contained one hundred and sixty -three eggs about to be laid, and four hundred Nothing atomic about this, of a later batch. it was an individual with a brain, eyes and muscles, and it had eighteen tiny crustaceans in its stomach ^a patch of scales and it had suffered adventure half a fin were missing; it had hopes of a mate, and expected to be able to deposit its eggs and leave — 28 THE CEILING OF THE BAY And offspring. these considerations left me with a very confounded idea of the meaning of existence, as I saw its fellows in untold myriads leaping for their lives, with apparently only the choice of going to nourish either a fish or a bird.

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