Botanical Miscellany/Volume 1/Remarks on the botany, &c. of the banks of Swan River, Isle of Bauche, Baie Geographe, and Cape Naturaliste
By Mr. Charles Fraser, Colonial Botanist in New South Wales.
[The attention of this country has been of late considerably directed to the Swan River, on the west coast of New Holland, as a suitable situation for a British Colony. Many of our countrymen are already gone with a view to settling there, and grants of land on liberal terms are offered upon certain, but very judicious conditions, by His Majesty's Government. The remarks, therefore, of Mr. Fraser, upon the soil, climate, vegetable productions, aspect of the country, &c. cannot fail to prove interesting to the general reader, as well as to the man of science. Previous to the expedition which Mr. Fraser accompanied, I am not aware that any naturalists, except those of the French Voyage of Discovery, have ever visited the Swan River; and all their investigations have been attended with such disastrous circumstances, partly, it would appear, from mismanagement, and partly from natural causes, that their means of observation were thereby very much limited.
Swan River is situated in lat. 32° 4' 31" S., long. 115° 46' 43" E. of Greenwich, in that part of the west coast of New Holland called Edel's Land. It empties itself into the ocean at one extremity of a semicircular bay, whose other extremity
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The North and South Heads of the entrance into Swan River are formed of low rocks of fossil limestone, in an advanced state of decomposition; presenting, in many instances, apertures of the most fantastic form; in which are exposed to view masses of roots and trunks of tree of great size.
The soil on the South Head is a barren sand, producing a considerable variety of interesting plants, amongst which I observed Anigozanthos Rufus, Anthocercis littorea, two species of Metrosideros, a charming species of Prostanthera, producing large quantities of rich blue flowers, a species of Gnaphalium, with procumbent stems, the white flowers of which give a snowy appearance to many parts of the cliffs, and a beautiful species of Dryandra. The appearance of the Gnaphalium, above-mentioned, is in some measure confirmatory of the sandy character which the French give of these hills.
On tracing the river a quarter of a mile from its entrance, on the south bank, I observed quantities of a species of Brunonia growing in great luxuriance on the margin of a salt marsh; its flowers of a brilliant sky-blue. Here I likewise gathered a magnificent species of Melaleuca with scarlet flowers, and two species of Metrosideros, with various other plants, which, from their being neither in flower nor in fruit, I could not attempt to describe.
Half a mile from the entrance, I found the soil, although apparently sterial, to consist of a fine light brown load containing a small proportion of sand, and capable of producing any light garden crop. This character not only applies to the immediate bank as far as the reach below Pelican Point, but likewise to the hills as far as my observation led. Those hills present the appearance of the petrified forest, from the immense quantity of trunks which protrude from several feet above the surface; and their decomposed state renders them of benefit rather than otherwise to the soil. Here I observed a brown snake, similar to that of Port Jackson, and it is remarkable that this was the only snake seen during the survey.
At the distance of one mile from the mouth of the river, the genus Eucalyptus appears, although in a stunted state.
I was much astonished at the beautiful dark green and vigorous appearance of the trees, considering that the season had been evidently unusually dry; but the cause must arise from the great quantity of springs with which this country abounds. On penetrating two feet into the earth, I found the soil perfectly moist, and I feel confident that had I penetrated a foot deeper, I should have found water. On the beach I observed several small pools of water, and many moist spots, which, in seasons of usual humidity, must be the seat of active springs, issuing from the calcareous rocks that bound them. The luxuriance of the vegetation on the immediate beach is truly astonishing. It consists principally of syngenesious plants, and a species of Hibiscus with peltate leaves. Here I observed a beautiful pendulous Leptospermum, resembling, in its appearance and the situation which it prefers, the weeping willow. An arborescent species of Acacia was likewise seen associated with it.
While examining the productions of a mass of cavernous limestone rocks on the beach, I was astonished by observing an extensive spring issue from beneath them, in width about seven feet, running at the rate of three feet in a second. The water was brackish, but is evidently fresh at some periods of the tide. Its elevation is about three feet above low water mark, yet at the lowest ebb its current was at the above rate. The water was found, on being analysed, to be of the same quality as that at Harrowgate.
The soil on the North Head is sandy: its productions much the same as that of the South. Two hundred yards from the beach, the soil changes to a light red loam, improving, as the hills are ascended, to that of a fine virgin earth. The valleys separating these hills are, along the coast, of the richest description, as far as my observations led, and, inland, extending to Pelican Point, beyond which their character was not ascertained. These hills are admirably adapted for the site of a town, their elevated situation commanding a view of the whole of Canning Sound, with the adjacent coast, the interior for some distance, and the meanderings of the river. Their lying open to all breezes, too, is an additional advantage.
The limestone with which these hills are studded, renders them admirably adapted for the production of the vine, and as they are free from timber or brushwood, they may at once be brought into a state of cultivation.
The few trees and shrubs seen on these hills consisted of stunted Eucalypti and Leptosperma, and a beautiful species of Calytris, or Cypress, of the finest green colour, producing large warted cones.
On traversing the beach, I was agreeably surprised at the great degree of fragrance imparted by two graceful species of Metrosideros then in flower, which exceeded any thing I ever experienced. On the beach I observed a magnificent arborescent species of Rhagodia, twenty feet in height, immense quantities of Gnaphalium, two species of Elichrysum, and a beautiful species of an unknown plant. There were no marine productions observed upon the shore.
From Pelican Point to the entrance of the Moreau, the country is diversified with hills of gentle elevation, and with narrow valleys, magnificently clothed with trees of the richest green. Here the genus Banksia appears in all its grandeur, consisting of three species, of which B. grandis is the most conspicuous. The principal timber is Eucalyptus. The shrubs consist of a species of Dryandra, two species of Hakea, one of Grevillea, and a pendulous species of Viminaria of considerable height, richly clothed with yellow and crimson flowers, associating itself in the most graceful manner with the weeping Leptospermum formerly alluded to. Zanthorhœa hastilis is abundant, as is Zamia spiralis, while Anthocercis littorea is seen to attain the height of ten feet. The shores are covered with rushes of great height and thickness, concealing many beautiful syngenesious plants; but they are occasionally flooded. Here I observed the common Cassuarina of Port Jackson, though with a stunted habit. These beds of rushes are probably the rendezvous of the Dugong, mentioned by Mons. Péron, but of which we saw none.
On examining the shoal water of Pelican Point, I observed an aquatic stoloniferous species of Goodenia, with which the sandy bottom is covered.
The soil between the above points resembles, in its surface, the sandy soil of the shores of Port Jackson, more than any hitherto seen; but, on digging a few inches, it is found to contain a considerable proportion of loam. The valleys and head lands furnish an excellent soil, more particularly that of Garden Point. Here we planted several Bananas, and seeds of all sorts of culinary vegetables. This Point produces an immense quantity of herbaceous plants, amongst which I observed a pulverulent species of Goodenia, and a species of Centaurea.
The botany of Point Heathcote is splendid, consisting of magnificent Banksias and Dryandras, a remarkable species of Hakea, two species of Grevillea, a species of Leptospermum, and a beautiful dwarf species of Calytris. Here we came to great abundance of fresh water on the beach, by scratching the sand with our fingers, within two inches of low water mark. The beach at Garden Point is of the same character, and I doubt not but every beach within the heads will be found of the same description. This was afterwards found to be the case, not only on the river, but on the beaches of the islands of Buache and of Berthollet.
The view from Pelican Point is exceedingly grand; the contrast between the dark blue of the distant mountains and the vivid green of the surrounding forests, is such as must in a peculiar manner strike the attention of a person long accustomed to the monotonous brown of the vegetation of Port Jackson. It is indeed materially different from any thing I have yet seen in New South Wales.
From Point Heathcote to the islands, the country seems to improve, as far as I could judge from the immense quantity of herbage it produced.
Point Belches, on the opposite shore, the only spot of that shore examined, was found to produce Banksias and Eucalyptus. The shrubs consisted of a beautiful Isopogon, a species of Acacia, and a Jacksonia, with crimson flowers, together with the general productions of the opposite shore. The soil is sandy, and the cliffs, which are of very considerable elevation, are formed of fossil, lime and sandstone. The view from this point of the meanderings of the river and the Moreau, with the surrounding country and distant mountains, is particularly grand. This seems to be the extreme easterly boundary of the limestone.
The islands on the flats are composed of a rich deposite carried down by the floods. Their margins are covered with Metrosideros and Cassuarina, and their interior with sea-side succulent plants. On one of these islands I caught sight of a plant with an arborescent habit, which, on examination, proved to be a species of Zamia, with spiral fruit, differing only from Z. spiralis in habit. Here the equatorial Goodenia, formerly alluded to, disappears. The difficulties which the party now experienced from having mistaken the channel, and in having consequently to drag the boats over the mud, were great, but by perseverance were overcome. From the extensive beds of oyster shells, which lie a foot deep in soft mud, our feet became dreadfully lacerated. These flats are extensive, but by employing flat bottomed boats they may be easily crossed.
At Point Fraser, the bank may be said to terminate, and the channel appears to be that of a beautiful inland river. From the entrance to this spot, it may be more properly called an estuary. The flats, or levels, at this point are very fertile, composed of a rich alluvial deposite, but evidently occasionally flooded—drift timber having been seen five feet above the surface. Here are extensive salt marshes, admirably adapted to the growth of cotton. The hills on the bank of the river are exceedingly barren, resembling those of Port Jackson, but producing a magnificent species of Angophora, which seems to assume the same situation in the botany of this tract as the genus Eucalyptus does in that of Port Jackson. Banksia grandis was here seen to attain the height of fifty feet, and its trunk frequently exceeded two feet and a half in diameter.
Amongst the new botany of this tract may be enumerated a species of Metrosideros of great elegance, forming thickets on the flats, and intermingling with two other species of the same genus, but of less beauty. Its flowers are of the most brilliant scarlet: the general height of the plant six feet. There were also a pink-flowered handsome species of Centaurea, a remarkable dwarf species of Hakea, two species of Daviesia and Dryandra armata.
I observed a species of Psittacus, (Cockatoo,) in large flocks, whose voice is more plaintive than that of the white cockatoo. It feeds on the roots of Orchideous plants, to obtain which it scratches the ground to a considerable depth.
While attending to a boat in the river, which the party were dragging over the mud, I distinctly heard the bellowing of some huge animal, similar to that of an ox, proceeding from an extensive marsh farther up the river. (Could this be the Dugong of the French?) Immediately afterwards I was visited by three natives, armed: they made signs for me to depart, but offered no violence. On hearing the voices of the party they retired into the woods.
One mile up the river, from the last point, is a small creek of fresh water issuing from an extensive lagoon clothed with arborescent species of Metrosideros of great beauty. The banks are covered with the most interesting plants, amongst which I observed two species of Calytris, a species of Acacia, with a scolopendrous stem, and several Papilionaceous plants. The Angophoras on the flats are gigantic. Those flats are formed of tolerable loam of great depth and capable of producing fair crops.
The Zamia, seen from the islands, was here observed to attain the height of thirty feet. Zanthorhœea arborea, too, was of equal size, and, associated with the splendid Banksias, imparted to the forest a character perfectly tropical.
I was astonished at observing the facility with which water was obtained in this apparently sterile tract: for, on digging to the depth of three feet, water was found in abundance, and of the best quality.
Proceeding up the river from the above-mentioned creek, the country assumes a distinct appearance from that seen below. On the left is an extensive salt marsh, bordered by thickets of Cassuarina, surrounded by a flat of the richest description, rivalling, in point of soil, that of the Hawkesbury.
Here I first observed the Brome or Kangaroo grass of New South Wales in great luxuriance, (with the exception of some seen on the banks at Point Fraser.) Bastard and real Blue Gum is seen here in considerable quantities and of great size. The opposite bank is high, and covered with Eucalyptus and Banksia—the soil a light sandy loam.
From the above point, the country resembles, in its features, that which borders all the rivers of New South Wales whose course is west of the Blue Mountains, varying alternately on each bank into hilly points and extensive flats. The hills are covered with magnificent Angophoras, Zamias, and Zanthorhœa. The soil a rich red loam of very great depth, throwing up a luxuriant herbage, amongst which I observed Anigozanthus rufa, Clematis aristata, and a beautiful species of Borya. (?) The flats, which are composed of the richest brown loam, equal to any on the east coast, are thinly studded with gigantic Blue Gums, and occasional stripes of suffrutescent Acacias and papilionaceous shrubs, occupying in this country the same situation in the geography of its botany as the Green Wattle in that of New South Wales. Banksia and Zamia are still seen on the high lands.
It is worthy of remark, that, in New South Wales, the presence of Banksia, Zamia, and Zanthorhœa are considered sure criterions of a bad soil, and such being the impression on my mind, I pronounced all the land on which they were seen to grow to be sterile, until I examined a ridge on the banks, producing them in great luxuriance; when, to my astonishment, I found the soil to be a red earth of great depth, producing the most luxuriant Brome grass.
In proportion as we ascend the river, the flats increase in breadth and luxuriance, each being backed by a terrace of forest land of the finest description, extending for miles from the river, and resembling in character those seen on the banks of the Macquarie River, west of Wellington Valley. On farther observation, towards the source of the river, those flats were seen to extend to the base of the mountains, interspersed with stripes of good forest land, on which I observed a considerable portion of stringy bark. The variety of plants seen on this tract was great: amongst the new ones observed, I may enumerate seven species of Hakea, a species of Lambertia, four species of Isopogon, three species of Leptospermum, a species of Petrophila, and a liliacious plant not seen in flower. Banksia grandis was remarked in a stunted state.
The base of the mountains, (which was named Darling's Range, in honour of General Darling,) is covered with fragments of quartz and chalcedony; the soil a red sandy loam. Here I observed a species of Hakea with holly-shaped leaves. Farther up, the soil improves to a light brown loam, but, from its rocky nature, is incapable of cultivation. I saw a beautiful species of Dryandra, a species of Hakea, and several syngenesious plants. The summit of the mountain is studded with noble Angophoras. Here too I found a beautiful species of Arthropodium, with filiform leaves, an arborescent species of Hakea, a species of Dryandra, and two species of Isopogon. The view from this summit is extensive, resembling that seen from Princess Charlotte's Valley, which I witnessed in 1817, (vide Oxley's Journal,) but divested of the permanent swamps. The highest part of the range is of ironstone, and it is remarkable that there is no underwood. The ranges are of equal height, so that no view could be had to the eastward.
At the source of the river, I observed thickets of an arborescent species of Acacia, and gigantic thistles, eleven feet in height. Here I found a magnificent species of Hibiscus, with brilliant sky-blue flowers, and a species of Euphorbia. The ridges on the banks are perforated with immense numbers of deep pits, the origin or cause of which we could not at first ascertain. They proved to be made by the natives for the purpose of catching land tortoises, with which those ridges abound.
We found the river to be navigable until it almost ceases to be a stream, or where there was not room for a boat to pass. The water is fresh sixteen miles below its navigable source, and that at the end of a very dry season; what, therefore, must it be in a wet season? Mons. Freycinet states that he found no fresh water, although he was in the country during the rains, a decisive proof that we must have penetrated at least twenty-five miles higher than he did. We saw nothing of the lake laid down by him, and judge it to be a swamp. The supply of water from under-ground springs into the river must be immense, for it is impossible that the springs at the source could furnish such a quantity of fresh water. The tide at the entrance of Swan River was not observed to rise above two feet, even at spring tides, and at the source it was hardly observable.
The climate during our stay was the most delightful I ever experienced; the thermometer seldom ranging above 85°. The nights agreeably cool. The sea breezes set in at two hours after sunrise, and cease at sunset, when they are immediately succeeded by the land breeze, which, even in February, is so agreeable that, while surveying the river, we preferred sleeping in the open air to lodging in tents.
The quantity of black swans, ducks, pelicans, and aquatic birds seen on the river was truly astonishing. Without any exaggeration, I have seen a number of black swans which could not be estimated at less than five hundred rise at once, exhibiting a spectacle which, if the size and colour of the bird be taken into account, and the noise and rustling occasioned by the flapping of their wings, previous to their rising, is quite unique in its kind. We frequently had from twelve to fifteen of them in the boats, and the crews thought nothing of devouring eight roasted swans in a day. The animals are the same as in New South Wales: the Kangaroo, Emu, Native dog, &c. &c. Fish were abundant, and the sound swarmed with Tiger Sharks.
The few natives which we saw were not disposed to behave ill; on the contrary, they seemed alarmed much at first, but soon gained confidence. We gave them some black swans, which they eagerly accepted, and we dressed several of them in the old jackets of our marines. They had indeed a most ludicrous appearance, and seemed like men in shackles. It is worthy of remark, that these savages have no means of navigation, and rather show a horror of the water. Their arms are the same as those of the natives of New South Wales, their clothing and appearance equally loathsome.
The advantages which this country holds out to settlers, above those of New South Wales, besides the important circumstance of its vicinity to India, the Spice Islands, Java, the Mauritius, and the Cape of Good Hope, and independent of its situation as a place of call for East India and China ships, are, in the first place; The great ease with which a settler can bring his land into cultivation—the forests averaging not more than from eight to ten trees to an acre. Secondly; The facility with which he can bring his produce to market, either by land or water; the coast being of easy access on any part near the river, and no impediments existing in the interior. Thirdly; The great abundance of fresh water of the best quality, an advantage which New South Wales, east of the Blue Mountains, does not possess, excepting on the immediate banks of the rivers and creeks. Fourthly; The great abundance of limestone.
Ten miles from the entrance of Swan River, the Moreau of the French branches off to the south, according to the report of the party who went to explore it. It seems of equal extent with the Swan River, and the country on its banks of the same description.
The island of Berthollet, distant six miles from Buache, is a barren inhospitable spot, producing abundance of hares, seals, and mutton birds. Its shores present many tesselated cliffs of limestone resembling the turrets of a Gothic cathedral. There is no water on this island.
The island of Buache is composed principally of low ridges of light sandy loam, traversing the island from north to south, and terminating on the south with high cliffs or banks of sand, the loftiest parts of which are thickly covered with Cypress, (Calytris) and the surface towards the sea is considerably interrupted by limestone rocks. The soil, though light, appears to me, from the immense thickets of a species of Solanum which it produces, and which attains the height of ten feet, to be capable of producing any description of light garden crops. The interior of those ridges are singularly divided by transverse dykes or banks, forming deep pits, which receive all the water from the ridges; the dykes preventing its escape otherwise than by absorption. These pits are covered with gigantic Solana, and a beautiful species of Brunonia. Fresh water may be found in each of these islands by digging two feet deep. The north side of the island is in many places covered with extensive thickets of arborescent Metrosideros, and the soil I found to be of a very fine brown loam, studded with detached blocks of limestone, and susceptible of producing any description of crop. In one of those thickets we sowed various sorts of culinary seeds, and introduced several plants of the Banana.
The coast towards Port Cockburn is thickly studded with cypress, the soil a light sand. Here we found abundance of fresh water on the beach, as well as in cypress thickets beyond the influence of the sea. My observations did not extend beyond Port Cockburn, but from the appearance of the country I doubt not its being of the same quality as that already described.
Between the isles of Berthollet and Buache is the entrance for ships drawing more than sixteen feet water into Port Cockburn. Vessels drawing less than sixteen feet can run directly across the sound, from the entrance of Swan River to Port Cochrane. Vessels of any burthen can proceed up the sound to the entrance of the river, where there is good anchorage, with plenty of room to beat out, should the wind come to blow hard from the north-west. The sound is locked in on all points, excepting from north to north-west. It is remarkable, that, on the shores of the sound at the entrance of the river, there is not a perpendicular height of five feet from the line of low water to that of vegetation, a proof that there is never any very heavy weather in the sound. There is no surf, and boats may land on any part of the main. On the bar, at the entrance, there is only one fathom of water, but that is always smooth. Port Cockburn is distant only eight miles from it, where there is room for the largest fleet, with seven fathoms water within twenty yards of the shore, and this perfectly land-locked.
Proceeding from the mouth of the river along Bay Geographe, the appearance of the country is particularly pleasing. The shore seems well clothed with timber, and the foliage is of the richest green. The observations taken here confirm me in my opinion that the principal part of the timber consists of Eucalyptus. I saw no traces of Banksia nor of Cassuarina.
From the shore the country is seen to rise gradually into gentle undulating hills, separated, apparently, by valleys of considerable size; the whole terminated by a magnificent range of hills, thickly covered with heavy timber extending all along the bay.
At the head of the bay the feature of the country changes: exhibiting bold hills, with large masses of granite, in many instances jutting into the sea with considerable grandeur. The hills, too, are clear of timber, with the exception of some stunted Eucalyptus, and are divided by beautiful winding valleys, in each of which is a small stream and a soil of the richest loam, throwing up immense quantities of herbaceous plants, amongst which I observed thistles of eleven feet in height. I found the soil, on examination, to exceed ten feet in depth. On digging the sand on the beach we found abundance of fresh water, and the soil with which the hills are covered is of the finest description to the very summit.
At Cape Naturaliste, the character of the soil continues without any visible change, but in the geological structure there is a very great difference. Here are immense cliffs, presenting at their base large beds of granite and schistose rock, passing alternately into each other, and observing in their dip an angle of fifteen degrees. They were seen occasionally to inclose immense masses of puddingstone, and an extraordinary aggregate containing petrifactions of bivalve shells, and other marine productions, every part of which was covered with minute crystals of lime. Large masses of feldtspar were seen traversing those beds in various directions and of various thickness. The granite rock was succeeded by a bed of micaceous schist, in an advanced state of decomposition, over which were observed several caverns, which were found to contain rock-salt in crystalized masses and in large quantities. The rock is decomposed puddingstone, containing various sorts of granite; the salt having penetrated the most compact parts of the granite. The base of the cavern is a coarse sandstone, the whole covered with limestone.
The southern extreme of the Cape consists of lofty cliffs, presenting two ranges of superb caverns: the lowest of which we explored. The great or outer cavern is about forty feet high at the entrance, forty feet in breadth, and about ninety feet in depth, into which the sea rolls at high-water, over immense blocks of granite, and in awful grandeur. The stalactites in this cavern are many of them from twenty to twenty-five feet in length, covered with minute Cryptogamic vegetables of fantastic colours and form. The walls of the cavern are clothed with the same substances, which give to the whole an extraordinary appearance. The second cavern is distinct from the first. The entrance is about twenty feet in height, and twenty in breadth, increasing in height and breadth farther in. The stalactites and stalagmites in this cavern are abundant, and of the purest white. The former were observed often to exceed fifteen feet in length. There was a remarkable circumstance observed at the entrance of this cavern: the stalactites were all bent outwards, as if a gale of wind was perpetually blowing through the cavern. The three succeeding caverns are of minor importance, but all containing stalactites. The appearance of the cliffs and caverns from the sea is exceedingly grand. It is impossible to pass along the beach fourteen yards without crossing a stream which issues from caverns of limestone, and which forms banks of shells, sea-weed, stones, and whatever substances may come within their reach, incrusting them in a most beautiful manner.
Such, indeed, were the attractions of the country, that we all felt sorry on leaving it.
- This has already been produced at Sydney, and pronounced by the ablest judges in Britain to be of a very superior quality. There can be no question, but that, both as to soil and climate, the banks of the Swan River would prove better adapted to the cultivation of this plant than Port Jackson, and the seed that should be tried is that of the Sea Island Cotton.—Ed.
- The Dugong, or Dougong, of the French, is the Trichocus Dugong of Gmelin, an inhabitant of the Indian seas, but is not, that I am aware, found in the part of New Holland visited by Mr. Fraser. The animal whose bellowing he heard, was unquestionably the Phoca proboscidea (now made the genus Macrorhinus) of Péron's Voyage aux Terra Australes, v. 2. p. 34. t. 32. The Phoque à trompe, Eléphant marin, Bottle-nosed Seal, Sea-Lion of Anson's Voyage. The French Voyagers heard it in the same river, and, as it appears, for the first time. They were descending the river, overpowered with misfortune and fatigue, and want of food. In the midst of their dangers, night came on. "Nous nous disposions à mettre pied a terre pour nous sêcher et réparer notre vigeur éteinte, Jorsque tout-à-coup un hurlement terrible vint nous glacer de terreur; Il etait semblable au mugissement d'un bœuf, mais beaucaup plus fort, et paroissoit sortir des roseaux voisins. A ce cri redoubtable, nous perdimes toute envie de descendre a terre et quoique transis de froid, nous préférâmea passer la nuit sur l'eau, sans gouper et sans pouvolr fermer l'œil, a cause de la pluie et du froid." v. 1. p. 183. Their alarm would probably have been still greater, could they have formed an idea of the size of the animal, which is from twenty-five to thirty feet in length: and it herds in such numbers that the whole shore of the bottom of a bay has been seen covered with them, giving the appearance, at a little distance, of masses of black rock. The remarkable feature of the animal is, that, in the male, the nostrils, which, at rest, are flaccid and pendent, when the animal is irritated are protruded to the length of a foot, then resembling the trunk of the elephant, whence one of its French names. Notwithstanding, however, the vast size and consequent strength of these animals, and notwithstanding that they have among themselves the most terrible and bloody conflicts, which exhibit a truly extraordinary spectacle, they are, in general, extremely mild and gentle. Man may walk in the midst of them without any reason to apprehend the smallest danger; and they only defend themselves when attacked. They are caught abundantly for their oil, especially by English fishermen; one of whom has been known to make a pet of one of these amphibious monsters, to caress it daily, and even to ride upon its back. For a full history of this singular animal, see Peron's Voyage, v. 2. chap. 23.— Ed.