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Monthly Memoranda in NATURAL HISTORY.
NOTWITHSTANDING the severity of the weather in November last, the season has not hitherto, upon the whole, been more rigorous than our average winters. In that severe storm a Whimbrel (Scolopax Phoeopus) was found on the beach near Aberlady, apparently in a posture of repose, with the head under the wing, but frozen to death! The whimbrel, it may be remarked, resembles the Curlew or Whaap, but is smaller, and has the bill less bent; and it is a much less common bird. Besides the single Little Auk, or Greenland Ratch, formerly mentioned (in the December Magazine,) as having been taken at Luffness, three others were about the same time found in the neighbourhood; they were kept alive for some hours, but all of them soon spontaneously died. A small flock of them, therefore, appears to have been forced into our frith by the rigour of
that snow storm.
The winter has been distinguished rather for the violence of the gales that have occurred. In the beginning of December, during a strong breeze; a Bottlenose Whale (Delphinus bidens,) twenty-one feet long, was stranded near Goulon Point, in East Lothian. The country people instantly stripped off the blubber, leaving the krang or carcase to those who should come after! A number of aquatic birds seem to have been wrecked on the shores of our frith by the fury of the winds and waves. Between Caroline Park to the westward and Gossford 'to the eastward, the followwing sorts were strewed along the beach: several Scouts, or Marrots, (Colymbus Troile;) Razor-bills of Coulternebs, (Alca Torda ;) and some young Herring-Gulls, (Larus fuscus.) Several small Coal-fish appeared also to have been dashed ashore.
Jan. 2. 1808.-A good many specimens of the Cuttle-fish (Sepia Loligo,) have of late been cast ashore in
different parts of the coast of the frith.
Some of them have been found still in life, though in an exhausted state.This is the O-fish, or Sleeve-fish, of our fishermen. Its numerous arms or tentacula, with bell-shaped cirrhi, render it a hideous looking creature. It is the animal which has been celebrated from antiquity for its bag of inky matter, by diffusing which in the water, it is said to be able to confound its enemies and effect its escape. It is gregarious, and when one is forced ashore in a storm, more may be expected at the recess of the next tide. It is edible, and some parts of it are said to be a dainty even to the gulosiores; but its appearance is certainly not prepossessing. It is more common here than the Sepia octopus, which is sometimes found in dredging for oysters in our frith; or than the Sepia officinalis, the large bone of which is occasionally cast upon our
had been entangled and drowned in
Saturday, February 13th.
The planet VENUS will be in conjunction with o Sagittarii, a star of the 4th magnitude, situated in the head of the Archer, in longitude 93..
CELESTIAL PHENOMENA for February 12.19.28", the latitude of Venus being 32..42" North, and that of o Sagittarii 53'..36" North, the nearest approach of their centres will be 1o.. 26'..18", and the planet will pass to the north of the star.
Wednesday, February 3d.
THE planet VENUS will be in conjunction with 1 Sagittarii, a star of the 4th magnitude, situated to the north of the bow, in longitude 93..0o.. 32..32", and latitude 2°..22'..24′′ North; the latitude of Venus being 2..3..13" North; the nearest approach of their centres will be 19..11", and the planet will pass to the south of the star. A few hours after this conjunction Venus will be in conjunction with 2 Sagittarii, a star of the 6th magnitude, and will pass to the south of it at the distance of 40 mi
Sunday, February 7th.
The planet MARS is situated in longitude 11..3..59', and latitude 59' south. His declination is 10°..59'
south, and the time of his southing
1..2' in the afternoon.
Monday, February 8th.
The GEORGIUM SIDUS is at present stationary in longitude 7..5°..0'..42′′, and latitude 31 minutes North. His distance from the equator is 12°..43 South, and he comes to the meridian at 5.9 in the morning.
On the same day, at 8 o'clock in the morning, the planet Mercury will arrive at his superior conjunction with the Sun.
17'..15" North. His declination is then 16°..3' South, and the time of his southing 5..50′ in the morning.
Thursday, February 11th.
The planet Saturn will be in quadrature with the Sun at 7 o'clock in the evening. His longitude is then 7..21..57'54", and his latitude 20.
Sunday, February 14th.
VENUS will be in conjunction with Sagittarii, a star of the 4th magnitude, situated in the head of the Archer, in longitude 9.13°35'..5", and latitude 1°..28.7" North. The latitude of Venus being 1°..22.57′′, the distance of their centres at the time of conjunction will be 5'..10", and the planet will pass to the south of the
The planet Jupiter will be in conjunction with the Sun at 11 o'clock in the forenoon in longitude 10..24°.. 39'..28".
Tuesday, February 16th.
with a,or Spica Virginis, at 25 minutes The Moon will be in conjunction
after 3 o'clock in the morning.
Friday, February 19th.
The Sun will enter the sign Pisces at 56 minutes after 5 o'clock in the evening.
Memoirs of the Progress of MANUFACTURES, CHEMISTRY, SCIENCE, and the FINE ARTS.
A Very considerable improvement
upon the Galvanic trough has been recently made by C. Wilkinson, Esq. The box is formed as usual, but with a series of wooden partitions, (instead of
the usual plates of metals) about half an inch distant from each other, and well covered with cement. A piece of copper wire is bent into the form of one of the plates, like the letter n inverted, with a ring at the top. A bent wire of this construction is fixed upon each plate, so that one of its extremities is fastened to the copper, and the o-, ther to the fine side of the plate. The plates therefore lie loose in the trough, and may be raised from it at the same time by passing a wire through the rings. In the common battery, a considerable part of the surface of the plates is covered by the cement, but in this improved battery, the whole surface is exposed to the action of the acid. When the trough leaks, or when the plates become unsoldered, the convenience of repairing the defect is also very great.
Essays on the Natural History and Origin of Peat Moss, the peculiar qualities of that substance; the Means of improving it as a Soil; the Means of converting it into Manure; and the other economical purposes to which it may be made subservient. By the Rev. R. Rennie, Kilsyth. 8vo. 5s. Constable and Co.
M. SEGUIN has discovered the following method of making the common alums equal to the Roman alums for dyeing, which is done by purifying them from a little iron. M. Seguin dissolves sixteen parts of common alum in 24 parts of water, allows it to chrystallise, and by this method ob tains 14 parts of alum as pure as that of Rome, and almost as pure as that of Liege.
M. LELIEVRE has discovered a mineral in the Island of Elba. It contains more than half its weight in oxide of iron, and a little oxide of manganese, the rest is formed of silex and lime. Its chrystalline nucleus is a prism with a Rhomboidal base. It is black and opaque. Its hardness is a little inferior to that of Felspar, and its specific gravity 4 times that of distilled water. M. Lelievre has given it the naine of Jenite, from the battle of Jena.
A machine for preventing accidents to painters and glaziers has been invented by Mr Davis. A drawing and discussion of it may be seen in the Transactions of the Society of Arts for 1806, p 138, or in Nicholson's Journal, No. 81, p. 31.
FEW subjects connected with na
tional improvement are more deserving of attention than that which is here treated of. All over Europe, extensive tracts of land are covered and rendered unproductive by a thick layer of this substance. Great Britain is not without its share. Supposing the proportion all over the kingdom to be the same as in Cambridgeshire, there would be upwards of twenty-millions of acres, and the proportion in Ireland would be still longer.
And as it was in this part of the United Kingdom that the conversion of moss into arable was first undertaken, the subject possesses a peculiar appropriation to our national feelings.
Mr Rennie seems to have carried on very extensive researches into this subject, and to have collected a wide range of information. The view which he has given of the formation of peat moss appears to be satisfactory, and will not only be interesting to the natural historian, but even to the general reader.
The grand and fundamental source of moss seems to be from the ruins of forests. These, as is well known, had overspread a large portion of ancient Europe. Gaul, Germany, and the other northern countries, were covered almost entirely by immense and impenetrable woods. Trees sprung up naturally in the uncultivated soil; they were carefully preserved by the inhabitants as fastnesses, or as the objects and scenes of their religious adoration. The map of ancient Ger
Germany exhibits the appearance of one continued wood, with only a few interstices of open land. The Hercynian forest extended in length at least sixty days journey; how much farther was unknown; since no man in those days had ever reached the extremity of it.
If it be certain, however, that these extensive forests have existed, it is still more certain that they exist no longer. By far the greater part of them have perished, from the operation of various causes; and it appears to be out of their wrecks, when left to rot on the ground, that the great beds of moss have been formed.
The extent to which cultivation has been carried in Modern Europe, is evidently the grand cause which has occasioned the destruction of its woods. At the same time, it does not seem probable that trees, cut down from this motive, would give rise to moss. This would take place only in cases where the wood was left lying on the ground. Thus all trees, after a certain period, would decay by age.A new growth, indeed, then springs up in their room; but the decayed wood is left to rot; and a succession of similar depositions would form a soft mossy soil, unable to support the weight of large trees, especially when shaken by the tempest. Accordingly, in many places two, sometimes three tier of roots are found lying perpendicularly in moss. These trees are generally in the direction opposite to that from which the reigning winds in any country proceed.
Another grand cause was the cutting down of forests. This appears to have been chiefly effected by the Romans, and to have been one of their great means of securing their conquests. It was, as it were, the demolition of the enemy's fortresses. It deprived them of the opportunity both of retreat and of ambuscade. During the short intervals of peace which they enjoyed, the legions, and sometimes
the inhabitants of the tributary provinces, were actively employed in this operation. Roman coins, utensils, and remains of their works, have been discovered deep in many mosses.
The following particulars are given with regard to Scottish mosses.
Many Roman coins have been discovered in Scotland. I mention a few instances; others will occur to the reader. They ought to be recorded.
In Possil moss, near Glasgow, a leathern bag, containing above 200 silver coins of Rome were found.
In Dundaff moor, a number were discovered about forty years ago.
In Annan moss, near the Roman Causeway, an ornament of pure gold was discovered.
Many utensils, of Roman workman. ship, have likewise been found in these
A Roman camp-kettle was found eight feet under a moss in the estate of
In moss Flanders a similar implement was found. A Roman' jug was found A in Locher moss, Dumfries-shire. pot and decanter, of Roman copper, was found in Kirkmichael parish, in the same county. Two pair of vessels, of Roman bronze, were discovered in the moss in Glenderhill in Strathaven ; and in the Isle of Sky a chest of Roman arms was found under moss.
The remains of Roman works have been
also found deep in these mosses. Many of these must have been executed before these mosses had a being. In the Dullatur bog some Roman altars were discovered when the great canal was dug; these are lodged in the University of Glasgow, and may still be seen. In a moss in the immediate neighbourhood of this a beautiful Roman altar dedicated to the nymphs, was found: It is still standing at Nethercroy, in the parish of Cumbernauld, near the spot from whence it was dug. In Ardennis
a beautiful marble altar was found deP. 38. dicated to Diana.
It is remarkable, that scarcely any antiquities have been found belonging to any other nation except the RoThere seems therefore no mans. reason to doubt that many, if not
most of the forests of Europe, were ruined by that people.
Other causes, however, seem in particular cases to have caused the ruin of forests. Many have been consumed by fire; and here too Mr R. shrewdly suspects the Romans to have been concerned. Others have been overflowed by the sca; some even have gradually decended from mountains into the adjacent vallies. Of all these accidents Mr R. gives a considerable number of instances.
Our author seems thus to have fair ly proved that decayed wood is the grand cause which originally led to the formation of mosses. But there appears also reason to believe, that moss thus formed, after being dug up, grows again, and that often with sur prising rapidity. This second operation takes place even where there are no trees or ligneous plants what ever, of which therefore it must be wholly independent. It appears to be produced by aquatic plants, which grow up from pits dug in moss,provided these pits contain standing water, If the pits be either dry, or have a stream of water running through them, there is no renovation. This se condary moss is softer, lighter, and less compact than the old, but it is equally inflammable. Sometimes whole lakes are thus converted into moss; and the moss thus formed is generally in a semiliquid state; hence destructive accidents sometimes take place. The moss accumulated in a particular spot, when it finds an outlet, overflows the adjacent country, carrying with it trees and cattle, houses and inhabitants. Again these large beds, when the mosses are cut out of them, are of ten converted anew into lakes.
Upon the whole, the view given by Mr Rennie appears to'us to be very able and satisfactory. He discovers more extensive information, and more accurate thinking, than are usually employed upon such a subject. His work is also enriched by large com
munications from M. de Lue, the ce lebrated Genoese philosopher, with whom he appears to carry on a regu lar correspondence. The style, with the exception of a few passages, where he aims at too high a tone, is as good as the subject seems to require.What we chiefly object to is the rage he shews for division and subdivision. Thus at the end of every essay he gives what he calls General Conclusions, where not only a recapitulation is given of what was said before, but new matter is introduced under each head; thus forming a double series of essays on the very same subject. Not only is every chapter divided into sections, but these sections are divided into undersections, and these undersections into still more minute divisions. We object also to the quotation of his numerous authorities in the body of the work, rather than by references to the bottom of the page, which would both leave the text unencumbered, and might themselves be made more minute and precise. These faults, how ever, are subordinate, and do not affect the essential merits of the work. We are glad to understand that Mr R means to prosecute these researches. He announces three other essays on the chemical properties of moss, and the changes which it undergoes. We are rather surprised to find nothing said as to the best mode of cultivating and rendering it useful; but this is perhaps reserved as the subject of subsequent essays.
II. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of George Buchanan : By David Irving, A.M. 8vo. 8s. Bell and Brad fute, and A. Lawrie.
HERE is no name of which
Tscotland is more justly proud, than that of George Buchanan. own intrinsic merit derives additional lustre from the barbarism which sur