Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/47

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41
THE ARCHIPELAGO ON THE EQUATOR.

over with hoar-frost; there, in great fan-shaped masses, white, red, purple and violet, large round madrepores, sponges of all shapes and sizes, and beautiful seaweeds of the brightest hues and most exquisite foliage, Shoals of brilliantly coloured fishes, bright scarlet, blue and orange, or party-coloured with alternate black and yellow or black and scarlet bands, darted hither and thither among the corals and sea-weeds, or hung motionless in the water above and around us.

I had hardly time to observe all this when I felt the need of air. My conductor placed a pipe to my lips and signed to me to breathe. My first attempt was not very successful, and I felt as if I must go to the surface. But my companion, seeing my embarrassment, produced a small spring clamp which he fastened on my nostrils so as effectually to stop them. I was then able to take a full inspiration, which at once restored me to my self-possession; and after two or three attempts, I found I could use the apparatus with tolerable facility.

I noticed that my Instructor possessed the power of keeping his nostrils tightly closed by their own muscular action; and he told me that all his countrymen had the same power. Indeed, it was absolutely necessary to close the nostrils under water, not only for the purpose of using the breathing tubes, but also to prevent the water penetrating into and filling up the cavity of the nose. I had to use the nose-clamp for some time but I ultimately, by repeated exercise, acquired the power of closing my nostrils voluntarily. But this is a digression.

I found that my weight-belt completely counteracted the tendency of my body to ascend to the surface, and so true was the equilibrium established between my