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other localities, have for many years had almost a monopoly of the sponge trade. I again refer to Mr. Sterndale, whose personal experiences and writings are of considerable interest. Among the profitable industries of the coral seas, the collection of sponges is not the least important. To fish for sponges with success requires a certain degree of practice, as they are very difficult to recognize in the water when in a live state. They grow on the coral, and very much in the crevices of it, and are not by any means conspicuous, as they look like a part of the stone. When removed they are heavy, slimy, hard, and black as tar. The best of them are of the form of a mushroom, and are found from the size of a man's fist up to two feet in diameter. In these latitudes they usually lie within the lagoons, in water of a depth from one to ten fathoms. They are inhabited by animalculae, which in the process of cleaning are decomposed and washed away. In order to effect this object upon a sandy beach where the tide ebbs and flows, a number of forked sticks are driven into the sand, and upon them are fastened slender poles, as a sort of frame-work; from these, sponges are suspended by strings in such a manner that when the tide is in, the sponges are floating in it; when the tide is out, they are exposed to the wind and sun. In the latter case, the animalculae die and decay, and by alternate sorchings and washings, the sponge becomes cleaned and bleached, as well as softened, in consequence of the removal of the glutinous creatures which had inhabited it. When prepared in this manner, the usual rate of barter among the islands where they are chiefly obtained, is four large sponges for one yard of calico. I have found that they were greatly improved both in color and softness by being washed in hot fresh water, which had been previously strongly impregnated with the alkali of wood ashes.
The better way has been found, as practiced on the Mediterranean and at the Bahamas, to use a weak solution of muriatic acid, which not only effectually frees it of animalculae, but removes the last traces of lime adhering to the sponge.
ISLAND PRODUCT* AMD RESOURCES.
Rocks are rough, but smiling there
Moore, (Lalla Rookh.)
THE ROBBER CRAB.
IWAS a good deal interested during our voyage, in the many tales, legends and experiences so ready to the sailor tongue, some of which must be listened to and taken with a grain of salt. Yet at times I was able to verify what at first seemed to be some very hard tales. Thus, at Vanikoro, one of the Santa Cruz group, where we remained for nearly ten days, the great land-crab of the South Sea was met with, known here by the name of "Koviu." It was ascertained to be the Birgus latro, the Anamoura of the Crustacse family, or, in plainer terms, and universally used in the Pacific, the Land or Robber Crab. Some of the species met with were over two feet long and about eighteen inches across. They live altogether on the land, seldom taking to the water, although perfectly at home in that element. Their nests are made among the roots of the cocoanut tree,
and in the little caves and openings among the rocks and coral, and are nicely arranged for ease and comfort, being lined with the fibrous covering of the cocoanut. During the day they are seldom seen, selecting night for their peregrinations.
AS A GOURMAND,
Shrewd and cunning to a high degree, they seldom miss the hatching out of the young turtle, whose nests they watch with almost maternal solicitude. But for a somewhat different purpose—that of making a repast of the tender young turtles, as they are scudding for the water, and which they devour with the greatest gusto. I am told that one of the reasons of the extreme caution of the female turtle, when selecting places to deposit her eggs, is an instinctive fear of this highwayman. True, the crab does not care for the eggs, but, as the sailors say, when the young turtle are coming out, the "pirate never misses a trick."
AS A LOVER OF COCOANUTS.
Of course the "robber" does not depend upon this mode of getting a living at all seasons. Such opportunities occur only during the hatching season of the turtle, which is but once a year. Another of the favorite methods the crab resorts to for obtaining food, is the continuous growth of the cocoanut. Climbing the trees with great skill and a surprising quickness, he shears off the fruit from the stem, selecting such nuts as are nearly ripe. After obtaining about one dozen in this manner, and which are allowed to fall to the ground, he descends the tree, and, with his great strong claws, strips the covering from the fruit, and selects the end where there are several eyes or openings in the shell, provided by nature for the easy rooting or sprouting of the young tree; then, forcing some of the fingers of its great claws through these into the nut, he deliberately hammers it on the rock or coral until the shell bursts open, when the expected feast becomes an easy matter. Two or three generally serve for the morning's meal, the balance being transported to the nest as a reserve. When breaking the shells they must exert great force and power, as the reverberation of the blows, along the shore, may be heard for a half mile. All that I have related is performed with a method, foresight and skill, almost human.
A late writer says (now speaking of a larger marine crab): "I had heard of these giants, but I had no idea that they attained this enormous size. Though this crab is the largest, it is not as powerful as the famous palm-tree crab, of the islands south of Japan, and in the Indian Archipelago. The crab is called the Birgus, and is a relative of the hermit crab, only it has no shell, the plates on the abdomen being extremely hard, and effectively taking the place of the shell that is worn by others of the kind. The Birgus is not a water crab, living entirely upon the land, and going down to the sea once a day, it is said, for the purpose of moistening its gills. They are generally found in the near proximity of palm trees, upon the fruit of which they live, and their burrows are generally placed at the foot of the trees. To give you an idea of the number of cocoanuts the creatures eat, the Malays come about twice a year and dig up their holes to get the cocoanut husks that the crabs took in to make