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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 110 pages of information about Thrilling Stories Of The Ocean.

Sailors, to prevent the danger which would arise from coming in contact with one of these tremendous columns, discharge a cannon into it:  the ball passing through it breaks the watery cylinder, and causes it to burst, just as a touch causes your beautiful soap-bubbles to vanish, and turn to water again.  These waterspouts, at sea, generally occur between the tropics, and I believe frequently after a calm, such as the poet has described in the following lines: 

  “Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
    ’Twas sad as sad could be,
  And we did speak only to break
    The silence of the sea!

  “All in a hot and copper sky,
    The bloody sun at noon,
  Right up above the mast did stand. 
    No bigger than the moon.

  “Day after day, day after day,
    We stuck, nor breath, nor motion;
  As idle as a painted ship
    Upon a painted ocean.

  “Water, water, every where,
    And all the boards did shrink;
  Water, water, every where
    And not a drop to drink!”

Happily “dead calms” do not generally last so long as to lead to any serious result.  Sailors have a superstitious and foolish belief that whistling in a calm will bring up a breeze, and they do this in a drawling, beseeching tone, on some prominent part of the vessel.  Poor fellows! what a pity that their thoughts should not more frequently be directed to Him “who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span,” and whose works and wonders in the deep “they that go down to the sea in ships” have such abundant opportunity for observing.

HEAVING THE LEAD.

Here we have a sailor in the act of heaving the lead, or taking soundings, which is a thing extremely necessary to be done when a ship is approaching the shore, as there is great danger of her running on a sand-bank or striking on a sunken rock.  I will now tell you how it is managed.  A sailor gets over the ship’s side, as you see in the engraving, and takes his station in what are called “the chains;” he holds in his hand a coil of rope, with the length in fathoms marked upon it; this rope has a mass of lead attached to the end of it.  At the bottom of the lead, is a hollow place, into which a piece of tallow candle is stuck, which brings up distinguishing marks from the bottom of the sea, such as small shells, sand, or mud, adhering to it.  If the tallow be only indented it is supposed to have fallen on bare rocks.  A correct account of the soundings is entered in the logbook; this book contains a description of the ship’s course, the direction of the wind, and other circumstances, during every hour of each day and night.  Having arranged the rope so as to allow it to fall freely when cast, the sailor throws the lead forward into the water, giving rope sufficient to allow it to touch the bottom; then with a sudden jerk, such as long practice alone can enable him to

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