Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/477

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
463
PHYSICAL CONDITION'S OF THE DEEP SEA.

and the tube had suddenly given way and been crushed by the violence of the action to a fine powder. So violent and rapid had been the collapse that the water had not had time to rush in by means of the holes at both ends of the copper cylinder and thus fill the empty space left behind by the collapse of the glass tube, but had instead crushed in the copper wall and brought equilibrium in that manner. The process is exactly the reverse of an explosion, and is termed by Sir Wyville Thomson an "implosion." It is only reasonable to suppose that the ability to sustain this enormous pressure can only be acquired by animals after generations of gradual migrations from shallow waters. Those forms that are brought up by the dredge from the depths of the ocean are usually killed and distorted by the enormous and rapid diminution of pressure in their journey to the surface, and it is extremely probable that shallow-water forms would be similarly killed and crushed out of shape were they suddenly plunged into very deep water. The fish that live at these enormous depths are, in consequence of the enormous pressure, liable to a curious form

PSM V44 D477 Diagram of ocean current passing over a barrier.jpg
Fig. 1.—Diagram illustrating the Passage of an Ocean Current across a Barrier (A).

of accident. If, in chasing their prey or for any other reason, they rise to a considerable distance above the floor of the ocean, the gases of their swimming bladder become considerably expanded and their specific gravity very greatly reduced. Up to a certain limit the muscles of their bodies can counteract the tendency to float upward and enable the fish to regain its proper sphere of life at the bottom; but beyond that limit the muscles are not strong enough to drive the body downward, and the fish, becoming more and more distended as it goes, is gradually killed on its long and involuntary journey to the surface of the sea. The deep-sea fish, then, are exposed to a danger that no other animals in this world are subject to namely, that of tumbling upward. That such accidents do occasionally occur is evidenced by the fact that some fish, which are now known to be true deep-sea forms, were discovered dead and floating on the surface of the ocean long before our modern investigations were commenced.

Until quite recently, every one agreed that no rays of sunlight could possibly penetrate the sea to a greater depth than a few