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the purpose of holding the wires of the submarine telegraph, and of keeping them out of harm's way. It is neither too deep nor too shallow ; yet it is so deep that the wires but once landed will remain forever beyond the reach of the anchors of vessels, icebergs, and drifts of any kind, and so shallow, that they may be readily lodged upon the bottom.
A wire laid across from either of the above-named places on this side to the north of the Grand Banks, will rest on that beautiful plateau to which I have alluded, and where the waters of the sea appear to be as quiet and as completely at rest as it is at the bottom of a mill-pond. It is proper that the reasons should be stated for the inference that there are no perceptible currents and no abrading agents at work at the bottom of the sea upon this telegraphic plateau. I derive this inference from the study of a physical fact, which I little deemed, when I sought it, had any such bearings.
Lieutenant Berryman brought up, with “Brooke's deepsea sounding apparatus," specimens of the bottom from this plateau. I sent them to Professor Bailey, at West Point, for examination under his microscope. This he kindly undertook, and that eminent microscopist was quite as much surprised to find, as I was to learn, that all these specimens of deep-sea soundings are filled with microscopic shells. To use his own words, “not a particle of sand or gravel exists in them.” These little shells therefore suggest the fact that there are no currents at the bottom of the sea whence they come ; that Brooke's lead found them where they were deposited in their burial-place.
Had there been currents at the bottom, they would have swept and abraded and mingled up with these microscopic remains the débris of the bottom of the sea, such as ooze, sand, gravel, and other matter; but not a particle of sand or gravel was found among them. Hence the inference that these depths of the sea are not disturbed by either waves or currents. Consequently, a telegraphic wire once laid there would remain as completely beyond the reach of accident as it would be if buried in air-tight cases.
HEROIC DEATH OF LIEUTENANT HERNDON.
(From Maury's Report, in Mrs. Corbin's Life of Maury.*)
U. S. NATIONAL OBSERVATORY,
WASHINGTON, D. C., October 19th; 1857. SIR,—On the 12th day of September last, at sea, the U. S. mail steamship “ Central America," with the California mails, many of the passengers and crew, and a large amount of treasure on board, foundered in a gale [off Cape Hatteras]. The law requires the vessels of this line to be commanded by officers of the Navy, and Commander William Lewis Herndon had this one. He went down with his ship, leaving a glowing example of devotion to duty, Christian conduct, and true heroism.
The “ Central America,” at the time of her loss, was bound from Aspinwall, viâ Havana, to New York. She had on board, as nearly as has been ascertained, about two millions in gold, and 474 passengers, besides a crew,
all told, of 101 souls—total, 575.
She touched at Havana on the 7th September last, and put to sea again at nine o'clock on the morning of the 8th. The ship was apparently in good order, the time seemed propitious, and all hands were in fine health and spirits, for the prospects of a safe and speedy passage home were very cheering. The breeze was from the trade winds quarter at N. E.; but at midnight on the 9th it freshened to a gale,
*By permission of Mrs. Corbin,
which continued to increase till the forenoon of Friday, September 11th, when it blew with great violence.
Up to this time the ship behaved admirably; nothing had occurred worthy of note, or in any way calculated to excite suspicions of her prowess, until the forenoon of that day, when it was discovered that she had sprung a leak. The sea was running high :
the leak so large that by i P. M. the water had risen high enough to extinguish the fires on one side and stop the engine.
Crew and passengers worked manfully, pumping and baling all Friday afternoon and night, and when day dawned upon them the violence of the storm was still increasing.
The flag was hoisted union down, that every vessel as she hove in sight might know they were in distress and wanted help.
Finally, about noon of Saturday the 12th, the gale began to abate and the sky to brighten.
At about 2 P. M, the brig“ Marine,” Captain Burt, of Boston, bound from the West Indies to New York, heard minuteguns, and saw the steamer's signals of distress. She ran down to the sinking ship, and though very much crippled herself by the gale, promised to lay by. The steamer's boats were ordered to be lowered—the " Marine” had none that could live in such a sea. All the women and children were first sent to the brig, and every one arrived there in safety. Each boat made two loads to the brig, carrying in all 100 persons.
By this time night was setting in. The brig had drifted to leeward several miles away from the steamer; and was so crippled that she could not beat up to her again.
Black's (the boatswain) boat alone returned the second time. Her gallant crew had been buffeting with the storm
for two days and nights without rest, and with little or no food. The boat itself had been badly stove while alongside with the last load of passengers. She was so much knocked to pieces as to be really unserviceable, nor could she have held another person. Still those brave seamen, inspired by the conduct and true to the trust imposed in them by their Captain, did not hesitate to leave the brig again, and pull back through the dark for miles, across an angry sea, that they might join him in his sinking ship, and take their chances with the rest.
As one of the last boats was about to leave the ship, her commander gave his watch to a passenger with the request that it might be delivered to his wife. He wished to charge him with a message for her also, but his utterance was choked. “Tell her
Unable to proceed, he bent down his head and buried his face in his hands for a moment as if in prayer, for he was a devout man and a Christian.
In that moment, brief as it was, he endured the great agony; but it was over now.
He had resolved to go down with his ship. Calm and collected, he rose up from that mighty struggle with renewed vigour, and went with encouraging looks about the duties of the ship as before.
After the boat which bore Mr. Payne—to whom Herndon had entrusted his watch-had shoved off, the Captain went to his state-room and put on his uniform;
then walking out, he took his stand on the wheel-house, holding on to the iron railing with his left hand. A rocket was sent off, the ship fetched her last lurch, and as she went down he uncovered.
Just before the steamer went down, a row-boat was heard approaching. Herndon hailed her; it was the boatswain's boat, rowed by “hard hands and gentle hearts,” returning
from on board the brig to report her disabled condition. If she came alongside she would be engulfed with the sinking ship. Herndon ordered her to keep off. She did so, and was saved. This, as far as I have been able to learn, was his last order. Forgetful of self, mindful of others, his life was beautiful to the last, and in his death he has added a new glory to the annals of the sea.
[A 'handsome monument to his memory stands in the Parade-ground of the Naval School at Annapolis.]
WILLIAM GILMORE SIMMS.
1806-1870. WILLIAM GILMORE SIMMS was born and reared in Charleston, South Carolina. His early education was limited; he was for a while clerk in a drug-store and then he studied law. But his decided taste for letters soon induced him to devote his entire time and attention to their cultivation. He wrote rapidly and voluminously, and produced poems, novels, dramas, histories, biographies, book-reviews, editorials,-in short, all kinds of writing. He was editor of various journals at different times, and did all he could to inspire and foster a literary taste in his generation. His style shows the effect of haste and overwork.
His novels dealing with Colonial and Revolutionary subjects are his best work. They give us graphic pictures of the struggles that our forefathers in the South had with the wild beasts, swamps, forests, and Indians in Colonial times, and with these and the British in the Revolutionary period. They should be read in connection with our early history, especially the following: remassee, (1714, Colonial times); Partisan, Mellichampe, and Katharine Walton,(forming the