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at that hour when evil spirits are allowed to roam over the earth and magical invocations are made, go and interrogate the tree of the dead.
MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY.
MATTHEW FONTAINE MAURY, the “Pathfinder of the Sea," was born in Spottsylvania County, Virginia, reared in Tennessee, and entered the Navy in 1825, rising to be lieutenant in 1837. In 1839 he met with an accident which lamed him for life, and he thenceforward spent his time in study and investigation of naval subjects. Under the pen-name of Harry Bluff," he wrote some essays for the “ Southern Literary Messenger," which produced great reforms in the Navy and led to the establishment of the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
In 1842 he was appointed superintendent of the Hydrographical Office, and in 1844, of the National Observatory, at Washington, the latter position including the former. The observations of winds, currents, and storins, which he caused to be made during nine years, are embodied in his “Wind and Current Charts ;” and the system thus begun was adopted by all European countries and has proven of immense benefit both to commere and science.
To him and to Lieutenant John M. Brooke, afterwards Com. Brooke, C. S. N., belongs the credit of deep-sea soundings; and to him we owe the suggestion of the submarine telegraphic cable across the Atlantic. (See below, letter to Secretary of the Navy.) Cyrus W. Field said, at a dinner given in 1858 to celebrate the first cable message across the
Atlantic,—“Maury furnished the brains, England gave the money, and I did the work.”
His “Physical Geography of the Sea" has been translated into all the languages of Europe, and caused Humboldt to say that Maury had founded a new science.
His researches and scientific labors gained him honors and medals from all scientific societies. His “Navigation” and “Geographies" are in popular use in our schools. His style is irresistibly attractive, being clear, strong, elegant, and indicative of truth in the man behind it.
He entered the Confederate service in 1861, and was employed at first at Richmond and later as naval agent in Europe. When Lee surrendered, he was in the West Indies on his way to put in use against Federal vessels in Southern ports a method of arranging torpedo mines which he had invented.
He then went to Mexico (1865) and took a position in the Cabinet of the Emperor Maximilian ; but the revolution there (1866) terminated his relations with that government. After two years in England, he returned to Virginia and in 1868 became professor of Physics in the Virginia Military Institute. At this time the University of Cambridge conferred upon him the degree of LL. D., and the Emperor of the French invited him to Paris as superintendent of the Imperial Observatory.
His life has been written in a most engaging style by his daughter, Mrs. Diana Fontaine Maury Corbin.
Scraps from the Lucky Bay, by Harry
Rebuilding Southern Commerce.
Physical Survey of Virginia,
Resources of West Virginia (with Wm. M.
Lanes for Steamers Crossing the Atlantic.
Magnetism and the Circulation of the Atmosphere.
THE GULF STREAM.
(From Sailing Directions.) It is not necessary to associate with oceanic currents the idea that they must of necessity, as on land, run from a higher to a lower level. So far from this being the case, some currents of the sea actually run up-hill, while others run on a level. The Gulf Stream is of the first class. In a paper read before the National Institute in 1844, I showed why the bottom of the Gulf Stream ought, theoretically, to be an inclined plane, running upwards. If the Gulf Stream be 200 fathoms deep in the Florida Pass, and but 100 fathoms off Hatteras, it is evident that the bottom would be lifted Ico fathoms within that distance; and therefore, while the bottom of the Gulf Stream runs up-hill, the top preserves the water-level, or nearly so; for its banks are of sea-water, and being in the ocean, are themselves on a water-level.
I have also, on a former occasion, pointed out the fact, that, inasmuch as the Gulf Stream is a bed of warm water, lying between banks of cold water—that as warm water is lighter than cold—therefore, the surface of the Gulf Stream ought, theoretically, to be in the shape of a double inclined plane, like the roof a house, down which we may expect to find a shallow surface or roof current, running from the middle towards either edge of the stream.
The fact that this roof-current does exist has been fully established
by officers of the navy. Thus, in lowering a boat to try a current, they found that the boat would invariably be drifted towards one side or other of the stream, while the vessel herself was drifted along in the direction of it.
This feature of the Gulf Stream throws a gleam of light upon the locus of the Gulf weed, by proving that its place
of growth cannot be on this side (west) of that stream. No Gulf weed is ever found west of the axis of the Gulf Stream; and, if we admit the top of the stream to be higher in the middle than at the edges, it would be difficult to imagine how the Gulf weed should cross it, or get from one side of it to the other.
The inference, therefore, would be, that as all the Gulf weed which is seen about this stream is on its eastern declivity, the locus of the weed must be somewhere within or near the borders of the stream, and to the east of the middle. And this idea is strengthened by the report of Captain Scott, a most intelligent ship-master, who informs me that he has seen the Gulf weed growing on the Bahama Banks.
(From a Letter to the Secretary of the Navy, 1854, given in Mrs. Corbin's Life of
Maury.*) The U. S. brig “Dolphin,” lieutenant commanding 0. H. Berryman, was employed last summer upon special services connected with this office. He was directed also to carry along line of deep-sea soundings from the shores of Newfoundland to those of Ireland. The result is highly interesting upon the question of a submarine telegraph across the Atlantic, and I therefore beg leave to make it the subject of a special report.
This line of deep-sea sounding seems to be DECISIVE of the question as to the practicability of a submarine telegraph between the two continents in so far as the bottom of the deep sea is concerned. From Newfoundland to Ireland the distance between the nearest points is about 1600 miles, and the bottom of the sea between the two places is a plateau which seems to have been placed there especially for *By permission of Mis, Corbin.