Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/118

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108
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the name of the old king. Everything that can suggest anarchy, and lend support to the old custom, is carefully set aside. Neither the election of a new ruler, which is always attended with contentions and excitement, nor the death of the old one, is recognized. If anarchy still survives there, where every measure is taken to prevent it, it is only as a shadow of the past.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from Das Ausland.


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THE OIL-SUPPLY OF THE WORLD.[1]

I.

IT may be, that if the sages of prehistoric China, or the Magi of Chaldea and other ancient civilizations, could return to enlighten our ignorance, they might prove to have possessed far more scientific knowledge than we give them credit for, with some points of practical application which we marvel to think could ever have been forgotten.

Among many such subjects which from time to time call forth our wonder, one of deep interest at the present moment is that old, old subject of pouring oil on rough waves—a subject which (save by a very few practical seamen who happen to have tested the matter for their own preservation) has only within the last three or four years been recognized as a real thing, of most serious importance to all sea-faring folk. Hitherto it has been generally deemed merely a poetic metaphor, with no practical foundation. Isolated facts concerning its use were known, as were also allusions to its properties by such sages as Aristotle, Plutarch, Pliny, and, in later days, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Linnæus, or Benjamin Franklin.

When saintly men such as St. Cuthbert or Adamnanus soothed the angry waves by the outpouring of a little oil, this natural result was of course attributed to their own holiness, and the miraculous efficacy of consecrated oil. And even when in a. d. 1776 Lelyveld, a practical Dutchman, published at Amsterdam his "Essay upon the Means of diminishing the Dangers of the Sea by pouring out Tar-Oilor other Floating Matter," an essay followed in a. d. 1798 by a more elaborate statement of "Evidence on the Oil Question," published by Otto at Weimar, the interest temporarily awakened soon subsided, and generation after generation of seafaring men have continued wholly to neglect the use of this simple precaution; and lamentable indeed is it to peruse the appalling record of each winter's wrecks on our own shores, and to note in how many instances life might probably have been saved, had the strong, brave men, so ready to hazard their lives in order to succor others, bethought them of lightening their task by the use of a few gallons of oil.

  1. Abridged from "Blackwood's Magazine."