For four days we were anxiously watching for some indications of a breeze, but were so frequently deceived with “cat’s paws,” and the occasional slight flickering of the dog vane, that we sank into listless resignation. At length our canvass filled, and we soon came within sight of the Straits of Gibraltar. On our left was the coast of Spain, with its vineyards and white villages; and on our right lay the sterile hills of Barbary. Opposite Cape Trafalgar is Cape Spartel, a bold promontory, on the west side of which is a range of basaltic pillars. The entrance to the Mediterranean by the Straits, when the wind is unfavourable, is extremely difficult; but to pass out is almost impossible, the current continually setting in through the centre of the passage. Hence, onwards, the sail was extremely pleasant, being within sight of the Spanish coast, and the Islands of Yvica, Majorca, and Minorca, successively, until we reached the Gulf of Lyons. When the northerly wind blows, which, in Provence, is termed the mistral, the waves roll against the coast of Provence, and the recoil produces that ugly chopping sea for which this gulf is renowned. In the Mediterranean, even in the calmest weather, a light pleasant breeze springs up after sunset; this and the cloudless sky, and unobscured brilliancy of the stars, are attractions sufficient to allure the most somnolent and unromantic mortal to remain on deck.
The molusca, or oceanic insect, which emits a phosphorescent light, appeared here in vast quantities, which induced me to try experiments. I took a piece of black crape, and having folded it several times, poured some sea water taken fresh in a bucket, upon it: the water in the bucket, when agitated by the hand, gave out sparkling light. When the crape was thoroughly saturated with water, I took it to a dark part of the cabin, when it seemed to be studded with small sparkling stars; but more of the animals I could not then discern. Next day I put some water in a glass tumbler, and having exposed it to a strong solar light, with the help of a magnifying glass was enabled distinctly to discern the moluscae. When magnified, they appeared about the size of a pin’s head, of a yellowish brown colour, rather oval-shaped, and having tentaculae. The medusa is a genus of molusca; and I think M. le Seur told me he reckons forty-three or forty-four species of that genus.