Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/528

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
510
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

bell and Auckland Groups, Torres Straits, New Guinea, and New Ireland. A cruise among the Pacific Islands will probably take up a twelvemonth, when the expedition, passing between Borneo and Celebes, and visiting Luzon and its neighborhood, will make for Japan, there to remain for a couple of months. Kamtchatka will next be visited, whence a run will be made northward through Behring's Straits; thence through the Aleutian Islands, southward to Vancouver's Island, and so through the deep eastern region of the Pacific by Easter Island, and possibly to the Horn, through the Galapagos, and home. The voyage will take between three and four years, and from it results of the highest importance for science may be expected.

 

The Venomous Snakes of India.—A new book has been recently published by Dr. Fayrer on the venomous snakes of India, and the treatment of their poisonous bites. In Bengal the people suffer terribly from these reptiles. Dr. Fayrer says: "The frightful scourge of these animals is shown by the fact that the recorded deaths in 1869 were 11,416. But it is more than probable, considering the imperfection of Indian records, that 20,000 was nearer the true mortality." He has given a description of some new species of Hydrophidæ or poisonous sea-snakes which infest the Indian seas. These elegant creatures, with small heads and tiny jaws, will bite a man while bathing, inflicting an almost imperceptible wound, unnoticed at the time, but of which he dies in a day or two. About the most poisonous of the Indian reptiles is the cobra de capello, or hooded snake. The elevated skin of the back of the neck presents, when the animal is viewed in front, much the appearance of a hood. It is also sometimes called the spectacle snake, from a singular mark on the back of its neck, closely resembling a pair of old-fashioned spectacles. The cobra is some three or four feet long, of a pale, rusty-brown color above, and bluish or yellowish-white below. Its venom is extremely powerful, the bite sometimes causing death in less than two hours. This venom, though so exceedingly poisonous when introduced into the system, is comparatively harmless when taken into the stomach. It has a sharp taste, but no odor. Usually the cobra is a sluggish creature, and is easily killed. It seldom uses its fangs except for the purpose of obtaining food. One of its most disagreeable habits is an evident liking for the habitations of men, being frequently found near houses, and not rarely in the dwellings themselves.

In regard to cures for the bite of the cobra, Dr. Fayrer's experiments, no less than universal experience, bear testimony to the efficacy of the ligature, if applied promptly and tightly, near the wound, between it and the heart, and followed by excision of the wounded part and the application of the actual cautery. In case a finger or toe is bitten, amputation should immediately be performed at the next joint. Dr. Fayrer's principal snake-man was once bitten by an echis. Immediate excision and cauterization fortunately saved him. When the virus is once in the blood no known agent is capable of neutralizing it.

Some of Dr. Fayrer's results are extremely interesting and of great practical value. He finds that these snakes have the greatest repugnance to carbolic acid, which acts as a powerful and fatal poison to them. The practical advantage of using carbolic acid freely in and about houses in India must therefore be great. The practice of sucking a bite is not so absolutely safe as has been hitherto supposed. The poison may be absorbed through the buccal mucous membrane, or the lining membrane of the stomach, when it will produce its fatal effects.

The most venomous of these snakes seem to possess a perfect immunity from the poison of their own species, and considerable immunity from the poison of other species. Dr. Fayrer says: "In many of the various experiments I have performed, the cobra, daboia, and krait, did not appear to be able to poison themselves or each other. This result was not absolutely invariable, but sufficiently constant to be remarkable." On this point Dr. Fayrer's observations confirm those made by Dr. Russel. Snake-poison acts with most vigor on warm-blooded animals; birds die very quickly. The power of resistance is generally in proportion to the size of the animal, but not invariably so. For instance, a cat will resist the poison as