Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/334

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322
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

main island, through which the tide flowed with a rapid current. Fish may be always found at such places, where they are apparently on the lookout for the food swept back and forth by the tides. Ilerp our guides captured two fish in as many minutes, which were more than enough for our breakfast and supper. The largest of these was the grouper [Epinephehcs morio) a thick, powerful fish of a dull, red- dish-olive color, with a square tail like a cod. The other, the barra- couta or sennet {Sjjhyrcena j)icudd) has the shape of a pike. Its jaws are armed with long, projecting teeth, Neither of these fish are espe- cially esteemed, but of the two the barracouta is the best. The inhab- itants of these islands capture most of their fish and the turtle with the "grains" or spear. A water-glass also is usually carried in the boat. The grains is an awkward weapon, but in skillful hands a most effectual one, consisting simply of a spear-head attached to a rope, at the end of a long pole.

Above the sand-beach there were two small springs, where our guides scooped up enough water to fill a small keg. These were merely holes dug in the sand scarcely above high tide, and contained decidedly brackish rain-water, which, however, could be rendered pal- atable by boiling and by the addition of lime-juice. The swamp was bordered by an almost impenetrable growth of shrubbery and small trees, in which were hundreds of old pigeons' nests. The ground was literally strewed, particularly under the trees, with an interesting spe- cies of hermit-crab, which inhabits the em2-)ty shells of a common whelk. These crabs are of a chocolate-brown color, and have one large swollen claw. They are exceeedingly active, climbing steep surfaces with ease, and probably ascend trees.

We could hear the whirring of hundreds of pigeons overhead, and their peculiar cooing, cu-oo-cu-oo-cu-hu-Jut, which has a singularly melancholy sound in the woods at dusk. It is impossible to see out of these tangles where the branches and vines interlace over your head, and it is sometimes necessary to climb up and take your bearings. At the hour of twilight the pigeons are approached without difficulty. Besides the white-crowned pigeon ( Columha Uucocephala) there was also another species, called the "rock dove." The former is of a nearly uniform plumbeous blue, excepting its snowy crest. The rock-dove is more brilliantly marked with brown, and iridescent green and blue. It is a pretty sight to see hundreds of these birds sitting erect on the trees, and to watch their rapid, incessant flight. If one is disturbed, all within gunshot take wing, and circle rapidly over the trees, some- times encompassing the island before settling again. These birds were apparently about to breed here very soon.

There was a palmetto-grove on this island, in which a recent fire had burned away all the undershrubbery, leaving a clean floor to walk upon, and the charred trunks and new foliage of some of the palms showed how closely they also had escaped. These trees have great