A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 783 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 11.

After our unsuccessful attempt to engage the people of the country to furnish us with the necessaries we wanted, we were obliged to be contented with what we could procure in the neighbourhood of the port.  We caught fish here in tolerable quantities, especially when the smoothness of the water permitted us to hale the seyne.  Amongst the rest, we got here cavallies, breams, mullets, soles, fiddle-fish, sea eggs, and lobsters; and here, and in no other place, met with that extraordinary fish called the Torpedo, or numbing fish, which is in shape very like the fiddle-fish, and is not to be known from it but by a brown circular spot of about the bigness of a crown-piece near the centre of its back; perhaps its figure will be better understood when I say it is a flat fish, much resembling the thorn-back.  This fish is of a most singular nature, productive of the strangest effects on the human body; for whoever handles it, or happens even to set his foot upon it, is presently seized with a numbness all over him, but more distinguishable in that limb which was in immediate contact with it.  The same effect, too, will be, in some degree, produced by touching the fish, with any thing held in the hand; for I myself had a considerable degree of numbness conveyed to my right arm through a walking cane, which I rested on the body of the fish for some time, and I make no doubt but I should have been much more sensibly affected had not the fish been near expiring when I made the experiment:  For it is observable that this influence acts with most vigour when the fish is first taken out of the water, and entirely ceases when it is dead, so that it may be then handled, or even eaten, without any inconvenience.  I shall only add that the numbness of my arm on this occasion did not go off on a sudden, as the accounts of some naturalists gave me reason to expect, but diminished gradually, so that I had some sensation of it remaining till the next day.

To the account given of the fish we met with here, I must add, that though turtle now grew scarce, and we met with none in this harbour of Chequetan, yet our boats, which, as I have mentioned, were stationed off Petaplan, often supplied us therewith; and though this was a food that we had now been so long as it were confined to, (for it was the only fresh provisions which we had tasted for near six months,) yet we were far from being cloyed with it, or finding that the relish we had of it at all diminished.

The animals we met with on shore were principally guanos, with which the country abounds, and which are by some reckoned delicious food.  We saw no beasts of prey here, except alligators, several of which our people discovered, but none of them very large.  However, we were satisfied there were tygers in the woods, though none of them came in sight; for we every morning found the beach near the watering-place imprinted with their footsteps:  But we never apprehended any mischief from them, for they are by no means so fierce as the Asiatic or African tyger, and are rarely, if ever, known to attack mankind.  Birds were in sufficient plenty, especially pheasants of different kinds, some of them of an uncommon size, but they were very dry and tasteless food.  Besides these we had a variety of smaller birds, particularly parrots, which we often killed for food.

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