Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/139

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127
MISCELLANY.

make their appearance about the coast of the Armorican Peninsula early in spring, and succeed each other in countless shoals throughout the summer months. These shoals are marvellous for their size and the number of fish they contain. Each one takes the shape of a huge fish, bulging out toward the middle and tapering toward either end. The shoals vary from ten to thirty yards in width and from fifty yards to half a mile in length. The fish are sometimes so closely packed that numbers are constantly being shoved out of water. They are caught with nets, much in the same way as herrings, only the nets are provided with much smaller meshes. Although nets are employed, bait is also used. This bait is called rogue; and is imported in barrels from Norway.

In catching the fish, several boats go together, a man standing in the bow of each to give notice of the approach of a shoal. Upon the cry of "Voila!" the boats make for the head of the shoal, the nets are cast, and bait is thrown overboard. The fish in their eager pursuit after the bait get entangled in the net, when a second net is thrown out and the first one hauled in. When a boat is loaded, the fish are taken ashore and immediately sold. The process of preserving is as follows: As soon as the sardines are landed the greatest activity is necessary to get them "sain et sauf," since exposure to the air depreciates their freshness and much handling impairs their flavor. First, the fish are thoroughly washed and scraped, so as to free them from every impurity. They are then sprinkled with fine salt which crystallizes upon the surface and is almost immediately removed. Heads and gills are then taken off, a new washing undergone, and the fish laid to dry in the sunshine, on frames of wire or green withes. After drying they are thrown into caldrons of boiling olive-oil and cooked for two hours, when, after a second drying, they are transferred to the tables to be packed. Here women only do the work. To put the fish nicely in their places, to smother them with boiling oil, to fit the lid of the tin box, turn a jet of hot steam on the joints, and toss it hermetically sealed to the inspector, is but the work of a moment. Perhaps the one essential element in the curing of sardines is perfect olive-oil. If it be not entirely tasteless, it destroys what the Sardinians call the "aramato," the delicate, volatile flavor of the fish.

Sprats, shiners, roach, herrings, dace, and carp, when young, and with their heads off, have sufficient resemblance to sardines to pass for the genuine article. They are put up at various places on the southwestern coast of France, and are largely exported, probably comprising three-quarters of all that are sold in the United States under the name of sardines. When well cured, preserved in good oil, and hermetically sealed, these small fry are savory and palatable, but they lack the delicate volatile flavor of the real fish.

 

Ancient Engineering Among the Chinese.—The most remarkable evidence of the mechanical science and skill of the Chinese so far back as 1,600 years ago is to be found in their suspended bridges, the invention of which is assigned to the Han dynasty. According to the concurrent testimony of all their historical and geographical writers, Sangleang, the commander of the army under Baou-tsoo, the first of the Hans, undertook and completed the formation of the roads through the mountainous province of Shense, to the west of the capital. Hitherto its lofty hills and deep valleys had rendered the communication difficult and circuitous. With a body of one hundred thousand laborers he cut passages over the mountains, throwing the removed soil into valleys, and, where this was not sufficient to raise the road to the required height, he constructed bridges which rested on pillars or abutments. In another place he conceived and accomplished the daring project of suspending a bridge from one mountain to another across a deep chasm. These bridges, which were called by the Chinese writers, very appropriately, flying bridges, and represented to be numerous at the present day, are sometimes so high that they cannot be traversed without alarm. One still existing in Shense stretches four hundred feet from mountain to mountain, over a chasm of five hundred feet. Most of these flying bridges are so wide that four horsemen can ride on them abreast, and balustrades are placed on each side to protect travellers. It is by no means improba-