Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon eBook

J. Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 590 pages of information about Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon.
province are in the habit of securing the heart of any elephant shot in their vicinity, and say it is their custom to eat it in Africa.  The hide it has been found impracticable to tan in Ceylon, or to convert to any useful purpose, but the bones of those shot have of late years been collected and used for manuring coffee estates.  The hair of the tail, which is extremely strong and horny, is mounted by the native goldsmith, and made into bracelets; and the teeth are sawn by the Moormen at Galle (as they used to be by the Romans during a scarcity of ivory) into plates, out of which they fashion numerous articles of ornament, knife-handles, card racks, and “presse-papiers.”


Amongst extraordinary recoveries from desperate wounds, I venture to record here an instance which occurred in Ceylon to a gentleman while engaged in the chase of elephants, and which, I apprehend, has few parallels in pathological experience.  Lieutenant GERARD FRETZ, of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment, whilst firing at an elephant in the vicinity of Fort MacDonald, in Oovah, was wounded in the face by the bursting of his fowling-piece, on the 22nd January, 1828.  He was then about thirty-two years of age.  On raising him, it was found that part of the breech of the gun and about two inches of the barrel had been driven through the frontal sinus, at the junction of the nose and forehead.  It had sunk almost perpendicularly till the iron-plate called “the tail-pin,” by which the barrel is made fast to the stock by a screw, had descended through the palate, carrying with it the screw, one extremity of which had forced itself into the right nostril, where it was discernible externally, whilst the headed end lay in contact with his tongue.  To extract the jagged mass of iron thus sunk in the ethmoidal and sphenoidal cells was found hopelessly impracticable; but, strange to tell, after the inflammation subsided, Mr. FRETZ recovered rapidly; his general health was unimpaired, and he returned to his regiment with this, singular appendage firmly embedded behind the bones of his face.  He took his turn of duty as usual, attained the command of his company, participated in all the enjoyments of the mess-room, and died eight years afterwards, on the 1st of April, 1836, not from any consequences of this fearful wound, but from fever and inflammation brought on by other causes.

So little was he apparently inconvenienced by the presence of the strange body in his palate that he was accustomed with his finger partially to undo the screw, which but for its extreme length he might altogether have withdrawn.  To enable this to be done, and possibly to assist by this means the extraction of the breech itself through the original orifice (which never entirely closed), an attempt was made in 1835 to take off a portion of the screw with a file; but, after having cut it three parts through the operation was interrupted, chiefly owing to the carelessness and indifference of Capt.  FRETZ, whose death occurred before the attempt could be resumed.  The piece of iron, on being removed after his decease, was found to measure 2-3/4 inches in length, and weighed two scruples more than two ounces and three quarters.  A cast of the breech and screw now forms No. 2790 amongst the deposits in the Medical Museum of Chatham.

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Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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