Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/677

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659
THE ACCURATE MEASUREMENT OF TIME.

large for one bird to take care of it alone, two or three of them will join to assist in bringing it in.

The cormorants are trained for their business with great care. The most intelligent birds are said to come from the province of Che-Kiang. The eggs of the first spring laying, which usually takes place in February, are collected and put under hens, the maternal love of the cormorant being only feebly developed. The young when first hatched, being extremely weak and delicate, and prone to succumb at the slightest chill, are put into wadded baskets, where they can be kept at a uniform temperature. They are fed with pellets of beans and finely chopped eel, till at the end of a month, when, having become nearly covered with feathers, they are given the eel alone; at the end of another month, they are able to eat small fish whole, and are worth five dollars a pair. When they have got their growth, which is about five months after they are hatched, they are tethered by a string tied around the foot on the banks of a stream or a pond. The trainer, stirring the water with a pole, and whistling an air which the birds learn is the signal for "take to the water," throws in some small fish, which they attack with all the more voracity as they have not been too well fed. The trainer then whistles another air, which is to be the signal for coming back, and, that the birds may not be mistaken as to its meaning, he pulls at the same time upon the cord that holds them. These lessons are continued for two or three months, when the scene of the practice is changed to the boats; and at the end of another month the cord is dispensed with. There are, of course, differences in the capacity of cormorants as well as of men. While the stupid ones are sent to the pot, the most sagacious and best trained male birds are worth seven or eight dollars apiece, females less. The period of service of the cormorants is short. They begin to lose their feathers and to go into decrepitude in their fourth year, and generally die before they are six years old. Whether this brevity of life is due to the peculiar style of feeding the birds, or is one of the inevitable attendants of domesticity, is not known; for we have no authentic information respecting the length of life of cormorants in a wild state.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from, the Revue Scientifique.


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THE ACCURATE MEASUREMENT OF TIME.

By THEO. B. WILLSON.

THERE are few people who have much knowledge of the present state of the science of measuring time. This is probably owing to the scarcity of sources of information on the subject, for almost every one has more or less interest in it. One might naturally suppose that his jeweler could discourse intelligently, if not profoundly,