Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/644

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and the stomach of our dead friend contained an immense quantity of vegetation cropped during the night from the bottom of the sea. It was the most curious example of a ruminating (herbivorous?) mammal I had ever seen. The skin was bare and slightly wrinkled, though at a distance it appeared to be quite smooth."

The dugong's nostrils are displayed upward; its lips have a horny edging which assists it in tearing sea-weeds from the bottom; and the forward part of its snout is covered with soft papillæ and a few stiff bristles. It often comes to the surface to breathe, and utters a peculiar cry, which our English writer, who heard it, describes as "a plaintive appeal, as if a child half awakened had softly moaned, and turned over to sleep again. I looked around," he adds, "in time to see a clumsy, grayish-brown head silently thrust above the surface, and, without leaving a sign, as silently disappear."

This animal has become the object of a thriving industry, the chief seat of which is at Moreton Bay, Queensland. Every part of the creature is marketable, and the pursuit and capture are easy and safe—too much so, probably, for the permanence of the trade. The flesh is eatable as beef, veal, or bacon, either of which it may be made to resemble; the head can be cooked into a delicious brawn; the flippers, a good deal boiled, make capital soup; the bones are dense, close grained, and capable of taking a high polish, hence adaptable to a variety of uses; the ivory tusks are in request for knife-handles; the skin is good to make a jelly "as acceptable and beneficial to invalids as calf's-foot," and for leather; and the fat is rendered at Moreton Bay into a palatable and wholesome oil.

The dugong-hunting season at Moreton Bay, where the animals are supposed to resort from tropical seas to give birth to their young, lasts through the winter weather. The submarine pastures upon which they feed, says a writer in the "Gentleman's Magazine," "lie at a depth of from eight to fourteen feet, and the favorite grounds are banks protected from the sea, in bays and straits. They graze in company, and feed down the herbage so close that they leave a well-defined track to indicate their movements. The black fellows, who love occupation of this kind, if any, peer over the gunwale of the whaleboat into the clear water, and are unerring authorities, telling at once when the monsters passed that way though it were a week previously, and giving a shrewd guess as to their present whereabout." The animals are then tracked up, and strong nets, presenting a wall specified in one instance as fourteen feet high and a hundred and fifty yards long, are placed so as to intercept them as they go browsing up to their feeding-grounds. The dugong, in happy innocence, eats greedily of the succulent growths, clearing its way in the most workmanlike manner, when it is suddenly stopped by this strange barrier. Being a remarkably timid creature, it takes fright, loses its presence of mind, and gets hopelessly entangled. "Now and then a dugong is found