100 Years Ago: January 1921
This is the 72nd article in my series of reviews about 100-year-old National Geographics.
The first item documented of the cover of this month’s issue is not an article but a pictorial supplement, the first supplement in over two years, since a map in the December 1918 issue. My guess would be due to the war, but who knows? It is listed as a Frontispiece, and is actually an eight-page (2 by 4) fold-out photograph of a sailing ship. It is tipped in (glued) at two spots to the inside front cover of the magazine. It is entitled “The Argosy of Geography”, is listed as being “19x25 inches”, and is credited to John Oliver La Gorce.
Photo courtesy of Philip Riviere
This fold-out was designed so that it could be opened and closed while still attached to the magazine. Conversely, the two spots of glue allowed the supplement to be easily removed, it was the member’s choice. The picture itself appears to be a black-and-white photograph that has been tinted blue – the sea is blue, the clouds are blue, the sails are blue, and all the same shade. The caption below the picture is entitled “THE ARGOSY OF GEOGRAPHY”, and reads “A photograph of an almost obsolete type of old square-rigged sailing ship taken April 26th 1920, in mid-Gulf Stream between Florida and the Bahama Islands. To such craft the world owes much of its knowledge of geography”. The lower left corner of the picture reads “COPYRIGHT NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY, 1920”. The lower right corner of the picture reads “PHOTOGRAPHED BY JOHN OLIVER LA GORCE”.
The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Dream Ship” and was written by Ralph Stock. It has the subtitle, “The Story of a Voyage of Adventure More Than Half Around the World in a 47-foot Lifeboat”. The article contains forty-three black-and-white photographs, nine of which are full-page in size. The article also contains a full-page sketch map of the world on page 4, showing the craft’s route.
Sketch map courtesy of Philip Riviere
It was in one’s dreams to accomplish the impossible. The difficulty was turning those dreams into reality. It was the author’s dream to cruise through the South Sea Islands in his own ship. Those Islands, to Mr. Stock, were the world’s last Eden, unspoiled by modern man. He thought his dream impractical. It was wartime and he had little money for purchasing a boat, fitting her, and provisioning her. Plus, he had to cram navigation skills into his “chronologically unmathematical” head. He knew how impractical his dream was so he told only a few, trusted people about it, and they laughed. Yet the author started writing this article anchored off the Isthmus of Panama on the deck of his dream ship, almost halfway to his destination, but still 5,000 miles to go.
While serving in France he would make sketches of his planned dream ship while the other men read letters and looked at photos of “fluffy girls”. Once he was released from the hospital, apparently wounded or sicked in France, he took less than four hours to find his way to the nearest seaport where he began the search for his ship. That search took six months. He found it no easy matter to match a real ship to an ideal one. He finally found her, a Norwegian-built auxiliary cutter of twenty-three tons, designed as a lifeboat, forty-seven feet long, fifteen feet wide, with an eight-foot draft. Finding her was one thing but paying for her was quite another. Mr. Stock had no money. He had to wait for his war gratuity lived in a “microscopic” flat and did odd jobs that he refused to write about. Finally, the dream ship was his. Next task was to find a crew. His sister, Peter, agreed almost immediately; and there was a former officer who, upon finding out the destination was as far away from parades as possible, agreed avidly. The author had his crew, Peter, Steve, and himself, and he was ashamed to say that they learn their navigation skills in four weeks.
On the first of July 1919, they set sail from Devonshire, England on the Dream Ship, with a combined capital or 100 pounds and a “clearance” for Brisbane, Australia. They sailed across the Bay of Biscay where a storm drove them into Vigo, Spain, where they enjoyed the scenery while plotting a course for the Canary Islands. Four hours on, eight hours off, was how they apportioned their watches. Thanks to calm weather, only one person was needed on deck at any time and the tiller could be lashed for hours. Cooking was a dreaded chore they took by the week. It was difficult to cook in a small craft on the high seas. Porridge was found adhering to the ceiling after “Steve’s week”. It was difficult to live in close quarter for so long, and Mr. Stock was proud that they didn’t kill each other. At the end of ten days, they were pleasantly surprised that they had found land precisely where their frenzied calculations said it would be. The island of Grand Canary loomed ahead. At Las Palmas, they lost more than they should have at roulette, laid in a supply of wine, and set sail for the West Indies.
The great adventure had begun in earnest. Three thousand miles of the Atlantic Ocean laid ahead of them. Emotions ran the gamut, from awe at first, to worry and finally boredom. On becalmed days they swam around the ship, or scraped barnacles off her hull. In spite of the weather, they made Barbados, West Indies in thirty days, where they surrendered to the hospitality. They spent two weeks there, one pleasure after another. They could not escape the “swizzle”, a healthful drink composed of rum, Angostura bitters, syrup, lime, nutmeg, and ice. The author apologized for discussing such thing to a country “in the throes of total abstinence”. They literally fled from a ball at a hotel, aboard ship and Mr. Stock felt that, if they hadn’t, they would still be in Barbados partying. They were warned of the Caribbean weather in December but they found the sail from Barbados to Colon, and the Panama Canal, quite pleasant. They covered the 1,200 miles in seven days. Unfortunately, when they spotted land, it was somewhere along the wild coast and they had to search some time to find the port. They finally spotted a lighthouse telling them they were still fifty miles from their next destination.
After heaving-to for the night, they joined the procession of steamers making for the Panama Canal. The author worried that they couldn’t afford the tolls. He had no clue how much it would cost. If they couldn’t come up with the money, that meant Cape Horn, or abandoning the dream. Mr. Stock’s ship was assessed at twelve tons, and he was told the charge would be $15 dollars and asked if he wanted to pay now or at the other end. He gladly paid upfront. That reduced their capital to 20 pounds, or about $78 at the current rate of exchange. The author was impressed by the speed and efficiency of the operation of the canal. At 12 tons, and not the usual 10,000-ton liner, the Dream Ship gave more trouble than any ship, but on every hand, the author received the utmost courtesy and kindness. A pilot came aboard the 5 o’clock the next morning and they entered the canal. The motor could only do three knots. An awning was rigged to protect from the sun and they entered Gatum lock followed by two liners. The giant gate closed and water seemingly erupted from their stern, causing the tiller to fly over. The tiny ship was jostled and damaged, but the motor was able to get them to the next lock, where the same performance was gone through with slight variations. They passed out into Gatum Lake, with its verdure-clad islets and mist-enshrouded reaches. That was where the motor gave out. Mr. Stock struggled with the beast for an hour and then gave up. He told the pilot who said with a smile, “Guess we better sail.” They had no wireless to call for aid. Finally, a steamer passed close enough so they could hail it, and a few hours later they were under tow, at $6 an hour. They again feared of running out of money. They reached the approaches to Pedro Miguel lock and were tied up.
At Pedro Miguel they met some canal officials who they invited aboard. The officials accepted and, after touring the ship, invited the three for a tour of the lock. The author was impressed by the scale of the great machinery. After they had retired to the ship, a head appeared through the skylight, and a voice said, “We await your pleasure.” After protesting, in vain, the trio was whisked away in an automobile and given a tour of the countryside. They drove to Panama City where they stopped for drinks at a cabaret, still in their bedclothes. After making it through the canal, they laid at anchor off Balboa, in the Pacific Ocean. They knew they needed money, but how to raise it? There was a group of islands thirty miles to the west where there was pearl diving, but again the author deferred discussing his monetary gains. The next day they expected to raise Tower Island, but it was not there. They rechecked their calculations, it should be there. They sailed on, hoping for a landmark. Finally, the author’s sister, Peter, spotted land. They had reached the Galapagos Islands. The trade winds were steady, and nothing lay between them and San Cristobal, the most populous of the group. The author slept peacefully until his sister woke him up to come see something. It proved to be a wall of fog directly in their path. As they drifted through the murk, they could hear splashing and realized they were near land. They saw a wall of rock not fifty yards away. Steering was useless, and they fended off the cliff for an hour, clawing their way along the rockface until the end. There the wind caught the jib, the foresail, and mainsail, and they headed away from shore, without a scratch.
Sunrise the next morning seemed weird to the author. There were over two thousand volcano cones in the Galapagos, and they seemed to be in the middle of them. In all directions, and at all distances, rugged peaks rose from one hundred, to two thousand feet, from the rose-pink sea into the crimson sky. Seals broke the water alongside them, bark, and were gone; pelicans flew overhead and fell on their prey; tiny birds flitted about the deck and flew through the skylight to settle on the cabin fittings; below, through crystal-clear water, he saw sharks, dolphins, and devil-fish. All life seemed confined to the air and the sea. The land was dry and barren, it seemed so desolate and sinister. On one of those islands were people. All they knew was that Cristobal was the easternmost island of the group. They sailed east, but progress was slow, during calms, the current would push them westward. After four days, the trade wind revived and they were blown along at a seven-knot clip. The wind held and they headed for what they assumed was Cristobal, but it was not. Nor were the next three islands they visited. They were about to give up when Steve spotted Dalrymple Rock, Wreck Point, and a bay in between them. After a series of short tack to get into position, they shot through the channel into Wreck Bay and anchored off a rickety landing stage. While the author was shaving off a three-week-old beard, a crowd assembled on the beach. Three men took a boat to his ship. Steve greeted them in Spanish. They were the owner of the island, the chief of police, and a little, wrinkly old man. The owner informed them, in excellent French, that the island was theirs, and that he was at their service. They were invited to dine with him at his hacienda, it being New Year’s Eve. The old man, called “Dad”, asked them about the Dutch war with Germany. He was surprised it was over and asked who had won. He was happy that it was the Allies. He had gone to sea at seventeen and, two years later, reached the Galapagos, and had been there ever since. He spoke of treasure and of which there was undoubtedly some still around. Two caches had been found, one silver ingots and the other pieces-of-eight. The first man built a hotel in Ecuador while the other drank himself to death. The author mused about attempting some treasure hunting, but quickly realized he was not equipped for such a venture. The Galapagos Islands were located six-hundred miles from the American coast. It was in the direct trade route between the South Pacific Islands and the U. S. but was seldom visited more than twice a year, and usually by Ecuadoran schooners.
To reach the owner of Cristobal’s hacienda the party rode mountain ponies up a winding track of volcanic rock. Upon surmounting the last of a half-dozen ridges, they were surprised to see a pastureland dotted by cattle, horses, patches of sugar cane, coffee bushes, and lime trees. It was positively chilly at that elevation in spite of the fact that they were on the equator. There were 3,500 head of cattle on Cristobal, and the island could support 50,000. There were a few hundred acres under cultivation on the island, with the potential of thousands. The soil was a rich, red loam. That fertile valley was a long-extinct crater, one of series on Cristobal, and there were four other islands in the group, uninhabited and similar in characteristic. In the midst of the valley, located on a hillock and surrounded by the grass houses of the peons, was the owners house. Dinner was a cheerful occasion, followed by the best coffee and songs accompanied by guitar. Out in the valley, the peons also celebrated the new year. Everyone was happy and content. A star-lit ride down the mountain and a short row across phosphorescent waters and they were back on their ship. After breakfast the following morning, they explored the beach. There was a lagoon with ducks a half a mile inland. Steve and his twelve-bore gun headed there. Peter talked to the lighthouse-keeper’s wife about cooking for them during their stay. The author just lazed. He checked out a steam engine being used as a coffee-grinder, and eventually came to “Dad’s” split-bamboo abode. Dad was sitting on a log near the skeleton of a ship he tried to build. They talked about why he abandoned the project. He could find no one he trusted to help, and he was too old to do it alone. Dad wanted to search for treasure and tried to convince the author to partner with him. The crew discussed it that night but knew it was impossible. Often, during the days that followed, the author would look out to sea and wondered.
Time came to continue their journey. The Dream Ship was provisioned with 300 gallons of water. They were ready to sail 3,000 miles to the Marquesas Islands. As they were preparing to leave, a comisario flagged them down and requested that they take him along. They told him their destination, but he didn’t care; he had to leave the Galapagos. He was in trouble for issuing grog licenses to peons. He blamed the government for not paying him enough. That was how they got their new crew member “Bill”. They sailed before a steady southeast trade wind for twenty-two days. What hardships they suffered quickly faded at the first sight of Nukuhiva. It was a fine island, with volcanic mountains rising 6,000 feet high, and verdure-choked valleys. It reminded the author of Melville’s “Typee”. They induced their engine to exert three of its four cylinders and entered the harbor of Tai o Hae in style. A French schooner was anchor close inshore. They were hailed and asked where they were from. When they responded “London”, they had a whale-boat load of visitor in about three minutes. After a fusillade of questions and counterquestions, the had dinner at the trade station, on a cool veranda with two Frenchmen, representatives of a trading company. They had oysters, asparagus, fowl, bush-pig, taro root, and champagne. Over coffee and cigars, they learned that the Marquesas were dying consumption, introduced by a laborer returning from working on the Panama Canal. The author theorized that once the natives had died out, they would be replaced by Chinese. He wondered if anything could be done to help the poor wretches; the Frenchmen didn’t know. They continued drinking and toasted the English and French war efforts, them still being fresh in their memories.
At dawn, the schooner had scheduled a load of copra, at $500 a ton, but it was delayed. The crews decided on a join hunting expedition for wild cattle and goats. They sailed the Dream Ship down the coast and landed on a beach, by a whaleboat. They plodded, crawled, and stubbled over a vicious country of volcanic rock. It was hot, but a native carrier was bearing a large sack of bottled beer. They came upon a herd of “wild” goats that approached them with curiosity. Apparently, they were so wild that they knew nothing of man. The cattle were a different matter. They were shy as deer and had to be stalked. They were shot on the run at 100 to 150 yards away. They bagged four from that herd of 50, grazing on a hillside. The Marquesas who accompanied the hunters fell upon the fallen beasts, quartering and selecting them with skill. Each carried 100 pounds of meat away to the beach five miles away. The author was impressed by this feat since he was exhausted upon reaching the beach, and he was only carrying his guns. The day was a success, and they sang and danced aboard ship until dawn. The native dance was, a first, a pantomimic representation of the cruise of the Dream Ship, how the natives envisioned it. Later they danced the history of the island; it was evidently their stock repertoire – battles with the neighboring Paumotans, cannibalism, peace, and the advent of the white man with his rum, and the plague that still consumed them. The author admired those natives; they lived content lives in the face of adversity. The author was informed by one of the Frenchmen that there was pearl shell in the Marquesas. He was convinced by the Frenchman to go and collect sampled and to take his diver, Pascal, with him to help. With shell at $1,000 a ton, he could see profit in it. He was given the location and set sail for Tahuata, an island 90 miles away. They anchored a cable length from shore, but when instructed to dive for samples, Pascal refused, pointing to sharks. He explained that on his island, Paumotus, there was always a reef-surrounded lagoon where few sharks entered. In less than half an hour, they had put Pascal ashore, paid him his wages, and were underway for Tahiti. There was pearl shell in the Marquesas, and it would stay there.
They had sailed for seven days and were in a calm among a maze of atolls known as the Paumotu, or Low Archipelago. They were circular beaches of sand and vegetation enclosing a garden of coral fronds submerged under calm and clear water. Fortunately, the engine was coaxed to fire on two of its four cylinders and they tottered through a narrow gateway into the lagoon. The villagers were already pearling from their canoes. The author referred to them as a race of mermen. From birth, if they were not in the water, they were on it or near it. They could stay underwater for three minutes plucking oysters as someone picking flowers. A diver could bring up 150 kilos of shell in a day, in the neighborhood of 600 francs worth. Divers were known to suffer adverse effects from prolonged and deep dives – paralysis, blindness, deafness, and the “bends”. Sharks were dealt with by divers’ mates who dove in and attacked it with knives. A dead shark made a good meal for the others, but the attackers wanted an example. The crew saw numerous examples while cruising the lagoon – one with no tail, one fin, and numerous other decorations. When it was the season for pearling, the islanders would spend weeks mutilating sharks before the divers would go down. Those yearly “pearl rushes” reminded the author of the romantic “gold rushes” he had read about.
The group of atolls was administered by the French with the local seat of government being located at Papeete, Tahiti. There many awaited the opening of pearling season – pearl buyers from London and Paris; shell-buying concerns from Europe and America; British, Chinese, and Indian traders; speculative schooner skippers; and the riffraff on the beach – all waiting to get their hands on the pickings from the most prolific pearling islands in the South Pacific. The French protected the divers; by law whatever the diver found was his. To further protect their interest, diving apparatus were banned from the islands. The diver brought the oyster up to his canoe, opened it, removed the flesh, and kneaded it for a pearl. The author compared the buyers to a swarm of mosquitos descending on the pearl’s owner. They tempted him with tinned delicacies, suits, and silk socks. The more they could get the diver in debt, the better for them. Shell was $1,000 a ton in Philadelphia, and pearls were soaring to new heights. It was a lucrative business, and everyone was anxious for pearling season to begin. Before his dive, the diver was handed his bill and knew how many dives he had to make to pay off his debt. He would keep a cache of shells on the floor of the lagoon and only bring up half to pay off his debt. He would return at night to retrieve his cache and sell it on the beach for cash. As for pearls, he must keep them secret or they would be confiscated as payment for his everlasting debt. It he was lucky, he would work his passage to Papeete, sell to a Chinaman, no questions asked, and take his money and blowing it on liquor and women, then return to his island and his debt, content that he cheated the “mosquitos”.
Progress had not destroyed the picturesqueness of pearl fishing as it had in so many other industries. During the pearling season the beach of one of those atolls resembled an Old-World fair. A merry-go-round rocked in the shade of the palms. Three pearl shells could buy ride on it. A movie “palace” charged a few shells, or five coconuts to view the battered remnants of a film. The author had wondered where old celluloid had gone to die. Now he knew. During the festival the author attended, the islanders were introduced to ice cream for the first time. It was in that part of the world that the author met Mr. Mumpus (not his real name). To reach him, Mr. Stock had to weave his way in a motorboat through a maze of reefs; then he had o plod over blazing sand. He felt it was worth it. Mr. Mumpus was brusque and took some getting used to. In conversation, the author mentioned that the Dream Ship looked rather smart in her recent coat of white paint. Mr. Mumpus was surprised the author made it to the South Seas in “that thing”. They discussed pearls in Mr. Mumpus’s house made of corrugated iron and palm leaves. Mr. Mumpus had a pearl garden. He explained that the pearl was a disease of the oyster; if you introduced the disease, you got a pearl. He had not been quite successful in his efforts so far, but he saw progress and was hopeful. He was a retired doctor who went there to pursue his hobby of pearl culture. The author would not be surprised if he succeeded at making a pearl someday.
Leaving the people of the atolls, the Dream Ship set sail for Papeete, Tahiti, and arrived there without mishap. The contrast between the two groups of islands, a day’s journey apart, was striking – the low coral reefs of the Paumotus versus the cloud-capped volcanic peaks of the Societies. They were like different worlds. At the pass in the reef, a French pilot took charge and secured them to the best berth in the harbor. They dined in splendor at the best hotel. In Papeete there were the planters of vanilla and coconuts, the traders of anything from copra to silk stockings, the pearl-buyers, the schooner skippers, and the ubiquitous adventurers. It was in Papeete that the crew lost their cook. “Bill”, from the Galapagos Islands, 5,000 miles back, decided to stay and make a new life there. The main problem in the Societies, as elsewhere in the Pacific islands was a lack of labor. The natives would not work for others when they were self-supporting landowners themselves. To fill that shortage, laborers from India and China had begun to arrive, and the author felt there should be some legislation to prevent it from becoming a flood of humanity.
In order to avoid the regular steamship route between the Societies and Australia, the crew of the Dream Ship headed for Palmerston Island some 600 miles distance. On the way, they stopped for water on Murea, a fairy island of volcanic peaks and fertile valleys. On it had lived the lizard men, an agile race of dwarfs, who lived on the inaccessible ledges of the mountain range. They would descend periodically upon the coastal natives and carry off women and valuables to their keeps. Leaving Murea, they passed close to the wreck of a French gunboat. December to April was hurricane season. The Dream Ship left Papeete in April. Fortunately, they encountered no hurricanes, but did suffer through a three-day squall. Palmerston Island was a welcome sight. Neither atoll not island, it was a combination of both – a necklace of coral strung with six equidistant, verdant islets, the whole enclosing a shallow lagoon. As they approached, they were welcomed by a fleet of luggers. The natives spoke the King’s English. They anchored on the northwest side of the reef, sheltered from the wind. They tumbled into a lugger and were taken to meet Mr. Masters, a dignified old gentleman with a flowing white beard. Within ten minutes, they were sitting on the veranda of his spacious house, enjoying a meal of meals. Many years ago, one John Masters leased Palmerston Island from the British Government. He took three native wives, and by each had a large and health family. Their descendants, although naturally inbred, did not show it, either mentally or physically. The author wished to return to this island one day, and die there peacefully.
They departed the island and headed for the Tonga group. They arrived at Tonga Tabu two weeks later but, without large scale charts of the group, it to two more days to find the Eastern pass through the maze of reefs. They hovered in the passage and awaited a pilot. Once a pilot was aboard, he steered them through the most fearsome network of reefs they had ever encountered, and were soon made fast to a buoy, twenty yards from the Nukulofa wharf. It was at Tonga Tabu that Mr. Stock lost his Dream Ship. At the cozy Nukulofa Club, a gentleman offered to buy her. The author said no, but the gentleman persisted and asked how much it would take. The author named what he thought was a ridiculous amount and before he realized it, he had a pocket full of cash and had sold his ship. He was miserable. It took him an hour to summon the courage to tell his crew the news. On the bright side, he thought, there were no islands of interest between Tonga and Australia. They could catch a steamer and buy a far more magnificent ship with his “ill-gotten gains”. He envisioned finishing his around-the-world journey in that new ship – up the Queensland coast, to Java, Colombo, the Suez Canal, then home. They took their departure by steamer and rubbed shoulders with a horde of fellow-passengers. In Australia the author went in search of the “far more magnificent ship”, which would be small enough to be handled by a crew of three, yet strong enough to handle anything. He found a country struggling with problems, but no ship. He traveled to New Zealand and found a prosperous people, but no ship. He scoured the Queensland coast all the way up to Thursday Island, but still found no ship. And so, the heart was gone out of things. The dream was ended.
The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “Treasure-House of the Gulf Stream” and was written by John Oliver La Gorce, author of such articles as “Devil-fishing in the Gulf Stream”, “A Battle-ground of nature: the Atlantic Seaboard”, “Pennsylvania, the Industrial Titan of America”, and others. It has the subtitle “The Completion and Opening of the New Aquarium and Biological Laboratory at Miami, Florida”. The article contains five black-and-white photographs of which three are full-page in size. While the author is the same person who photographed the pictorial “Argosy of Geography”, that supplement is not referenced in the article even though the photo was taken in the same waters. The article does, however, reference a set of color plates located elsewhere in this issue.
Land animals were no longer a mystery to the public at large; hunters and explorers had studied their habits and brought back bones and live specimens. Our knowledge of the denizens of the deep was another story. The number of recognized species had grown from fewer than 300 to more than 12,000 in less than two centuries, and there were numerous varieties yet to be recorded. There were large areas rich in marine fauna not yet explored scientifically. Since the dawn of human history, man had studied land animals and bird life. He now knows much of prehistoric creatures long since extinct [See: “Hunting Big Game of Other Days”, National Geographic Magazine, May 1919]. But the “waters under the earth” still held countless secrets. There was a world of sub-sea life to conquer, especially among the warm waters of the semi-tropic regions. It was urgent to gain such knowledge since the growing world population faced a dwindling pro rata food supply and must turn to the sea to assuage hunger and avert “land hunger”, the stimulus of war. The discovery of a new food-fish supply would be of great benefit.
As with other natural resources, the United States was blessed with the Gulf Stream, paralleling our eastern coast for hundreds of miles. That mightiest river of the ocean, besides pushing back the Arctic cold, deposited upon America’s threshold, a gift of fishes. The Gulf Stream was a happy hunting grounds for scientists, amateur anglers, and professional fishermen. In its waters there had been found some six hundred varieties of fishes, practically one-fifth of the entire fauna of North America. The most southerly city on the Florida mainland was Miami, nestled beside the limpid waters of Biscayne Bay, and protected from the ocean by a peninsula. An aquarium and biological laboratory had been constructed at Miami Beach, which, because of its location and equipment, would become one of the great aquariums of the world. People took a deep interest in animate things, and fish seemed to have a peculiar and potent appeal to man. Each year, twice as many people went to the New York aquarium as went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The author theorized the reason as being a racial memory of a far-gone time when our ancestors relied on this abundant, ever-ready food supply. He wondered why science, defined as “intelligent curiosity”, waited so long to turn to the field of Ichthyology. Aristotle studied fish life, but it was nearly twenty centuries later before the Swedish savant, Peter Artedi, “Father of Ichthyology”, died. He left enough notes of his observations to allow Linnaeus to publish them in 1738. That work established a starting point for modern study of genus and species.
Twice fish figured importantly in American life. The “sacred codfish” played a major role in New England from colonial times on. Moreover, the prominence of food-fish in the conservation program helped toward victory in the World War. There were other benefits besides food – cod-liver oil, menhaden oil, seal oil, fish guano for fertilizer, fish meat for cattle food, shark skin for leather, and fish oil for glue to name a few industrial uses. The Miami Station not only afforded visitors a bird’s-eye view of the little-known life forms of the ocean depth, but also offered unique opportunities for scientific observation and study of those sub-sea citizens. It was difficult to transplant and keep alive the denizens of the warm seas. They did not take kindly to colder waters. To exhibit them successfully, not only clear, uncontaminated salt water had to be transported from miles out in the ocean to the tanks of the city aquariums of the north, but the water must be kept heated the year round, never below 63 degrees F. in winter nor above 85 degrees F. in summer.
The Miami Aquarium had fifty exhibition tanks, each with a visible area of 4 by 6 feet. One of the glass front tanks was 36 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 10 feet deep. It was probably the largest display tank in the world. It could show fish up to 12 feet in length. The exhibition tanks were arranged along corridors, in the general form of a Maltese cross, with a central rotunda. The only light admitted was through skylights over each exhibit chamber. The sun filtered through the waters giving the interior the atmosphere of the ocean bottom. The multihued and beautiful fish of the tropics stood out in their regal colors and without optical distortions caused by artificial illumination against the glass. To further create the atmosphere of a natural habitat, the tanks were lined with coral rock and festooned with living specimens of ocean-bed flora. The plant life was needed to make the captured specimen feel at home. Most people who lived far from the subtropic seas had little conception of the beauty of the colored fish of southern waters. The author then referenced a set of sixteen four-color reproductions that appear on eight plates elsewhere in this issue. To the student of Ichthyology, the completion and opening of the Miami aquarium in January 1921, would be an occasion of note. The Biological Laboratory would become the only station of any size on the entire South Atlantic seaboard, and it was located only twelve miles from the axis of the Gulf Stream [See: “The Grandest and Most Mighty Terrestrial Phenomenon: The Gulf Stream”, National Geographic, August 1912]. The station was designed for individual and class studies, with all the supplies and equipment needed. The instituted would specialize in studying the migration of food-fish, and cultivation of spiny lobsters and stone crabs. Instead of traveling to Naples, Italy, or to Monaco, students of fish life could study in their own country.
The director of the Miami Aquarium, Mr. L. L. Mowbray, had studied warm-sea fish for many years. He had built and was in charge of an aquarium at Bermuda, and later worked on the Boston and New York aquariums. With his assistants, he had obtained 2,500 specimens for display from the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. In the aquarium grounds were open tanks in which were sea-cows, otters, and alligators. The president of the Miami Aquarium Association was Mr. James Asbury Allison. He had a great interest in sport fishing, and planned to investigate the food value of warm-sea fish. All thorough scientific studies would be placed at the public disposal in popular, understandable form. The aquarium undertook a successful expedition to Andros, the largest of the Bahama Islands, to capture flamingo. They no longer existed on the American continent. Upon being granted permission from Nassau, they brought back a sufficient number for propagation purposes. They would be located in a giant aviary on the shores of Flamingo Bay, just three miles from the aquarium. There were also plans at the aquarium to make motion pictures to further popularize fish and their habitats. Cal G. Fisher was Vice-President of the Association and John Oliver La Gorce was Secretary and Treasurer. The advisory committee was composed of Alexander Graham Bell, Gilbert Grosvenor (President of the National Geographic Society), representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, various museums, aquariums, and zoological societies, sports fishermen, and others.
The next item documented on the cover is not an article, but the series of four-color representations which were referenced in the previous article. It is entitled “Sixteen Color Plates of Warm-Sea Fishes” and is credited to Hashime Murayama. John Oliver La Gorce describes him as a noted artist, who watched the fish within the tanks of the aquarium day in and day out, until he was able to transfer a suggestion of their rainbow coloring to canvas. These sixteen drawings appear on eight pages, two per page. The are numbered Plates I through VIII in Roman numerals and represent pages 61 to 68 in the issue. These drawing are reference by the preceding and the subsequent articles.
The third article this month is entitled “Interesting Citizens of the Gulf Stream”. It was written by Dr. John T. Nichols, Curator of Recent Fishes. The article contains thirteen black-and-white photographs, of which four are full-page in size. Combined with the preceding color plates, this article comprises a field guide of warm-sea fishes, although not as “tight” as the ones by Fuentes with their detailed descriptions and their indexes tying descriptions to plates.
The author felt that people’s first thought of tropical fish was one of gaudy color. In a sense, that first impression was correct. As a matter of fact, tropical shorelines were the great metropolis of the world’s fish life. The snakelike Moray (Plate III) threaded the hidden passages among the coral over which Blue Angel (Plate II) and Parrot-fish (Plate (VIII) swam. Out in the open sand, flounders laid camouflaged, changing colors like chameleons. Countless varieties of fish were hiding in every patch of weed. Schools of silversides, anchovies, and herring darted through open water. The whole surface of the tropical Atlantic drifted toward the coast of America, got caught and turned around by the Gulf of Mexico, and shot out past the Keys and the east coast of Florida as the Gulf Stream. After being under the tropical sun for many miles, the water in the Gulf Stream was considerable warmer than the 79 degrees F found at the surface of the open tropical oceans. Essentially, the same fishes extended from Florida to Brazil. Those topical fishes rode the Stream to the capes of the Carolina, and, in summer, to New England. Spade Fish (Plate II) had been seen off New Jersey; And a Butterfly Fish (Plate III) had washed up on Long Island.
Just over ten years prior, the author made his first trip to Florida. He joined a yachting party on a collecting trip to the Keys. The first objects of interest were the brown pelicans which dove into the water from great heights. The party discovered a number of interesting species of fish swimming along the shore. None were as beautiful as the little schools of Pork Fish (Plate I), with their bright yellow and black markings. Not all fish among the tropical reefs were vividly colored, but there were many of red, green, yellow, blue, orange, etc., marked with the boldest patterns. Good examples were the Rock Beauty and the Blue Angel-fish (Plate II). The black and yellow Sergeant Major (Plate VIII) were easily recognized. One of the principal families of fishes in our southern fauna were the sea basses; including the Jewfish, the rock fishes, groupers, hinds, etc. They resembled the northern sea bass, being big-mouthed and voracious. Many were food-fishes. They were solitary and sedentary, as opposed to the predaceous snappers. The colors of that group varied, and were sometimes beautiful. An example was the Rock Hind (plate VI), but the coloring was to reduce, not heighten visibility. Contrast that with the Rock Beauty (Plate II). These groupers, rock fishes, and hinds had the power of changing color almost instantaneously. A related fish with the same color pattern as the Rock Hind was the Spotted Hind.
Many fishes had acquired unfishlike characters of form and structure. None was stranger than the Sea-horses (Plate IV), with their horse-shaped heads and prehensile tails. They relied on camouflage to avoid predators, being sluggish. The gaudy colored Queen Trigger-fish (Plate V) were an exception to that rule. A slightly related flat-sided filefish scarcely swan, but drifted with the tides. The swell-fishes had the power to suddenly inflate. The porcupine-fish, in addition to doing that, was covered in share spines. The trunk fishes, instead of being protected that way, had the body encased in a bony shell. The Cowfish (Plate V) was a species with two hornlike projections from its forehead. They were excellent eating, cooked in the shell like a lobster. Swell-fish were a delicacy in Japan, but the diner risked severe poisoning. In Cuba several kinds of fish were banned as dangerous – The Great Barracuda (Page 80), the Green Moray (Plate III), and certain species of Carangiidae. The same Barracuda was a favored food-fish in Puerto Rico. Bulletins from the New York Zoological Society (November 1916) And the Madras (India) Fisheries Bureau (1915) said that most poisonings were caused by improper marketing, allowing the fish to taint. Snappers were the most important food-fish in southern waters. Little schools of Grey Snapper were seen through the clear tropical waters almost everywhere. Several other species were almost as abundant, including the Red Snapper and the Muttonfish. Though not exactly a snapper, the table-fish known as the Yellow Tail (Plate VII) belonged to the snapper family.
Many fish that swam swiftly had a forked tail-fin. A rounded or pointed tail would cause drag. Whales and dolphins also had forked tail-fins which moved up and down instead of side to side. The mackerel family and related marine fish forked tail-fins, as did free swimming sharks. Fresh-water minnows invariably had forked tail-fins since they needed to travel great distances in relation to their size. The Yellow Tail’s bright yellow tail stood out but its colors were otherwise muted. Most deep swimming fish were red in color. The Red Snapper came from deeper waters. One of the commonest species of the surface reefs, the Squirrel Fish (Plate I) had a bright, “deep-water” red color. Its big eye indicated it originally came from deeper down. A variety of fishes hid in and about the yellow gulf-weed. One of the commonest was the Mouse Fish. The rainbow-tinted, bubble-like floats of the Portuguese Man-of-war drifted at the surface. A companion fish, the little Nomeus, never strayed far from the tentacles which streamed below the Man-of-war. Flying-fishes were abundant. They had an interesting method of escaping their enemies – they would leap above the surface and, with a favorable wind, glide through the air for up to an eighth of a mile. In spite of their agility, flying-fishes were the chief food of Oceanic Bonitos and of the Dolphins, swiftest and most graceful of the marine fishes.
Ages before modern fishes had evolved, there were sharks. Sharks had not changed much since prehistoric times. The primeval shark (Plate VI) was still with us. The slender offshore Blue Shark gathered to a feast seemingly out of nowhere. The most abundant sharks were the ground sharks. The Black-tip Shark was a small species of ground shark. Another ground shark was the Brown Shark. The slender Shark Sucker (Plate VI) used an oval structure on the top of its head to attach to sharks. This gave it a free ride to is next meal. A related species, the true Remora, was found on the high seas far from shore. All of shark suckers, loosely speaking, could be called Remoras. They are not to be confused with “Pilot-fish”, a small species related to the Amber Jack, which swam in front of or alongside of sea-going sharks. Remoras were from a genius with unknown ancestry. There was nothing else like them.
The young of several types of fish lived in the shallow pools found along rocky shores at low tide, acting out in miniature the drama which their elders were playing on the reef. Only the villains of the play, the large predaceous fishes, were absent, until the returning flood. The author inspected one such pool and noted three Sergeant Majors (Plate VIII), two Beau Gregorys, and one Wrasse. The Wrasse could change its color instantly, and could squeeze into crevices just large enough to hold it. Another fish that was a concealment expert was the Sand Flounder. It would lie on the sand in plain view and then change its color to match the sand. It was so inconspicuous that the author was not able to find one in the pools he was searching. Contrary to believe, fish did not lead a life of perpetual silence down there under water. At night, one might hear a school of sea-drum swim by below, “Wop, wop, wop”. Then there was the little Trumpet-fish which lurked under the boat and intrigued with elfin tooting. Many species uttered croaking or grunting sounds. Grunts were fish somewhat resembling snappers in appearance and habit. The Blue-striped or Yellow Grunt (Plate VII) was yellow with a blue lengthwise stripe. The Common Grunt had many narrow, blue stripes on its head. The French Grunt was light bluish gray. Grunts had bright red or orange color at the base of the jaw and inside the mouth. The color was not visible when the mouth was closed. In a later issue of The Geographic there will appear another, more extensive color series of the brilliant fish of the Gulf Stream.
The last article in this issue takes the reader as far away as possible from the ocean theme that runs throughout the other articles and features of this issue. The article involves the landlocked and mountainous country of Afghanistan and is entitled “Every-day Life in Afghanistan”. It was written by Frederick Simpich and “Haji Mirza Hussein”. It contains twenty-six black-and-white photographs, of which nine are full-page in size. The article also contains a sketch map of Afghanistan on page 90.
Sketch map courtesy of Philip Riviere
Before the article there is an italicized editorial paragraph explaining the story behind the article. The article is based on the observations of “Haji Mirza Hussein” during his stay in Kabul as the guest of the Amir of Afghanistan and during his caravan travels through the country. Haji Mirza Hussein was a pseudonym adopted by a European observer on a mission with political and military significance. He was compelled to travel in the disguise of a Persian pilgrim. Mr. Simpich, who translated and edited these notes, was the former U. S. Consul at Bagdad and had travelled extensively through Persia and India.
The buffer state of Afghanistan, separating Great Britain and Russia in middle Asia, years ago put up a “Keep Out” sign to all white men and Christians. It was a warning against trade and concession hunters, missionaries, and military and political hunters. Time and again the British had pushed up from India, only to be driven back. The Russians also tried to invade from the north, but the Tsars failed as well. The “Keep Out” sign was still up in 1920. Foreigners were no more welcome than they were a hundred years prior. Kabul, the capital of that isolated, unfriendly realm, was brooding and suspicious. No railways or telegraph lines crossed, or ran into, that hermit country. Its six to seven million people were hardly on speaking terms with any other nation. Night and day, from watchtowers and hidden nooks along the ancient caravan trails from India, Persia, and Russia, squads of bearded, turbaned Afghans, with long rifles, kept watch against trespassers from without. The Amir’s foreign policy was to seclude his little-known land to the greatest possible extent from the outside world. Only a few Europeans, mostly British, had had permission to enter the country. The visitor was subjected to surveillance that almost amounted to imprisonment. No ambassadors or ministers, not even missionaries, were permitted to reside in that forbidden Moslem land. “Splendid isolation” was a sort of Afghan tradition.
No other monarch wielded such undisputed authority over the everyday life of his subjects. The Amir personally ran his country’s religion, its foreign affairs, and its commerce. He also owned and censored the only newspaper printed in Afghanistan. He kept 58 automobiles and he never walked. Even from one palace to another, he went by motor over short pieces of road built especially for his pleasure. The Amir took no active part in the World War, but emerged from it with singular profits. His old and once rival neighbors, Great Britain and Russia, were allies in the world conflict, which left him a free hand; and in 1919 Great Britain recognized the political independence of that buffer state. With an area of 245,000 square miles, Afghanistan was, next to Tibet, the largest country in the world that was practically closed to the citizens of other nations. But political life at wary, alert Kabul was in sharp contrast to the meditative seclusion of the pious lamas at Lhasa. Amir Amanullah Khan, through his agents in India and elsewhere, kept in touch with the world’s current events. He was the last remaining independent ruler of a Moslem country. He wielded a far-reaching influence over the Mohammedan world. He would be an active force in the political destinies of middle Asia, for a long time to come. His word, his every whim, was law to his millions of subjects. He was the last of the despots. His judgements were based on the Koran, or on the common law of the land. There was no statute book, no penal code, and no court. His word meant life or death. To keep in control of the politics, the military, and the economy, the Amir vested subordinate authority only to his relatives and his closest friends. The Amir reserved to himself the right of passing death sentences. The cruel Afghan forms of punishment, beheading, stoning, cutting off hands and feet, burying alive, and blinding, were seldom employed. Time and again, troublesome relatives, and political enemies had been blinded; there being a tradition that no man with a physical affliction could hold a public office of honor or profit.
Politically, Afghanistan was divided into four provinces: Afghan Turkestan, Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat. Topographically, its most conspicuous features were the high peaks in the northeast, the great Hindu Kush. The Tirach Mir reached a height of over 23,000 feet. Through those mountains wound picturesque and historic trails. For centuries, the trade between Turkestan and India had flowed over those high passes. It was said that those annual caravans had as many as 120,000 loaded animas, including camels, mules, and horses. Alexander the Great founded Herat and Kandahar, and there were ancient Greek ruins and monuments throughout the valley of Kabul, of Loghar and Bactra. At Aibag and elsewhere in Afghanistan were also found the ruins of Zoroastrian fire temples. The best preserved was the “Tup-i-Rustam” ruin at Balkh. Near Tacht-i-Rustam several prehistoric caves were found, their walls decorated with carvings of giant sunflowers. The city of Balkh, like Babylon, lived through three or four civilizations; one city after another had occupied that site, each one built upon the ruins of its predecessor. Those fire temples were among the oldest ruins in Afghanistan. The country was a Babel of races and tongues. More than half the population weren’t Afghans at all. There were the Iranian-Aryan Tadjiks, the Mongolian Hazarahs, the Turkomans, and the Uzbegs. The real Afghans, or “Pahtos”, lived in the high ranges stretching from the Solimans past Ghazni and Kandahar to the west, toward Herat.
In physical appearance, the Afghan was a Turco-Iranian type. In the eastern part of the country, he showed a mixture of Indian blood. The tribes were divided into minor clans, called “Khel”. They lived almost entirely off their herds of cattle, camels, and sheep. As in India, death from snake-bites were common. There were also scorpions and tarantulas. Few Afghans were found in towns or settlements; they preferred the free life of the open ranges. War was the chief occupation among those tribes; they were constantly quarrelling among themselves, and seldom intermarried. The Afghan language originated from an old Iran idiom, and showed the mark of Indian influences. In writing, the Afghan used a sort of Arab set of characters. His literature was modeled after Persian poetry, and was also influenced by Islam. Persian culture had molded the social life in Afghanistan through the centuries. The Afghans got the idea of polygamy from the Persians. By 1921, the Afghans had found it more expensive than exciting. Sometimes the Amir, possible as a practical joke, would reward officials with women; but those “gifts” proved more trouble than they were worth. Marriage was celebrated at a very early age, especially in the northern part of the country. There boy of fourteen would marry girls only ten or twelve. Amir Habibullah Khan (who was assassinated in 1919 had a harem of over a hundred women, some European. The current [in 1921] Amir, Amanullah Khan, had only one wife.
The women of Afghanistan were kept in rigid seclusion, and closely veiled. The Afghan considered it unwise that women should learn to read or write. No girls were admitted to the bazaar schools. In spite of their illiteracy, many Afghan women wielded much influence on tribal affairs. The wives of the upper class lived comfortably. Around the time the girls put on their veils, the boys of the same age began their studies. They were taught to ride, hunt, shoot. The horse was the Afghan’s constant companion. The education of the boys was in charge of the mullahs, or teachers. The schoolrooms were shabby houses and nooks in the bazaar. The government contributed nothing to maintain public schools. Better families sent their sons to universities in India. Few Afghans every travelled to foreign lands. The longest journey by an Afghan was made by Nasrullah Khan, the brother of the murdered Amir, who travelled to England in 1895. The current [in 1921] Amir had never left the country, but his brother had been to India several times. The Afghans called their language “Pushtoo”, but used Persian for official matters. The Turkish and Mongolian tribes in western and central Afghanistan spoke their own languages. Foreign newspapers were read in the Amir’s court, translated by students trained in India. The Amir loved pictures and was a fairly good photographer. For entertainment, the people were fond of games and sports. Hunting, horse racing, wrestling, and gymnastics were popular. Football and tennis had been adopted by the upper-class. Ram fights, cock-fights, and even quail fights were favorite diversions.
Every better-class Afghan owned a piano, imported from Bombay, which he played with one finger. When Haji Mirza Hussein played for them, using all ten fingers, they were amazed. Costumes varied in different parts of the country. In the east, garments approached the Indian style. Some have appeared in European dress. The Amir had European uniforms and suits for himself and his staff. The typical national dress consisted of a long-tailed calico shirt, white pants, leather shoes or boots, and a tanned sheepskin coat. Three kind of headgear were worn. Some wore a low, many-colored cap while others a blue or white turban with a flap hanging down behind to protect the neck from the sun. In some provinces, men wore the kullah, a colored cap, like a fez, but which widened toward the top. In the house and at work women wore long calico shirts, wide, colored pants, and head-cloths above gold-embroidered caps. Their street dress consisted of long, wide pants and a blue or black overdress that covered the head and upper body. And large red slippers. The food was simple, reflecting the country’s poverty. Bread, fruits, vegetables, tea, sweet milk, sour milk, and cheese were the main foods. Rice, mutton, fowl, and sweets were found on the tables of the well-to-do. The tobacco raised was of inferior quality, so better sorts were imported from Persian, Russia, India, and Egypt. The Amir kept a good stock of Havana cigars. Tea was the favorite drink and was consumed in prodigious quantities. The right hand was used for eating and drinking, the left being considered unclean.
Dogs were looked upon as being unclean, and pious people never touched them. Pack-animals that went badly lame or snow-bound were abandoned to their fate. Afghans never killed such animals; all living things were in the hands of Allah. The trade of Afghanistan was moved entirely by caravans in the hands of the Hindus and the Tadjiks. The chief route was through the famous Kyber Pass. The pass was open every week on Tuesdays and Fridays, just Fridays in very hot weather. Some of those caravans numbered in the thousands of camels. In the morning, the pass was open for caravans coming into Afghanistan, and in the afternoon for caravans leaving the country. The pass was closed at night. Camels that left the country were packed with wool, skins, dried fruit and vegetables, gums, and spices. Thousands of horses were driven for sale in India. Supplying the wants of the Amir was an interesting undertaking; he bought anything that caught his fancy. At his palaces and offices, he had American desks, typewriters, sewing machines, and clocks. Cheap pens and watches from America were popular in Kabul. Lately, Japanese merchandise had found its way into the country. India supplied Afghanistan with cotton goods, hardware, sugar, tea, dye materials, and silver bars for the coining of money. Gun running, which had been popular, had been stopped by the British. Beside camels and horses. Elephants and wheelbarrows were seen on the Afghan trails.
The main road from Kabul and Peshawar had been improved. The Amir used American trucks to haul freight over it. The drivers were Hindus. Along the caravan trails were well-built stations, a day’s march apart. Caravans lead out of the country; north, south, east, and west; from Maimene, Kandahar, Kabul, and Herat respectively. Fairly good caravan roads connected those major cities, over which long stretches could be used by motor cars. Afghanistan maintained a postal service with horsemen and couriers on foot. It was not linked to the International Postal Union. The Amir objected to the building of railroads and telegraphs out of fear of foreigners. The Afghans had abandoned many good old national home industries, and bought mostly cheap European goods. Few products of native skilled labor were on the market. Small industries supplied only the most urgent needs of the lower class. The rich bought their luxuries from abroad. The Turkish influence of the military was noticeable, with Turkish officers as trainers. Most of the Amir’s troop were mounted on horses or camels. The Malkis, or territorials, were used in the provinces as a sort of home guard. The army was about 70,000 strong, with virtually no artillery. The real Afghans were Sunni. They had no close relations with Shia Persia or The Hazarah Shite tribe in the high central region. The Turks, however, being Sunnis, were popular with the Afghans.
Every year, pious Afghans made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Shia Hazarah journeyed to the sanctuary of Iman Rizas, at Meshed, in northeast Persia. Some even crossed Persia to the shrines of Kerbela and Nedjef, in Mesopotamia. Since Zoroastrian days, a tomb at Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, drew pilgrims from all over the country. Smaller shrines and sacred tombs were found in various villages throughout Afghanistan. The country’s willful isolation had affected the life of her people. Even among the different tribes, jealousies and differences were conspicuous. The tribes were separated by high mountains and frequent deserts. Tribal customs and habits, tongue, and religious differences were more pronounced here than in most other countries of the East. The Afghans were more observant of the Koran’s prohibition law than some of their fellow-Muslims farther west. The Amir kept a political agent at Peshawar, who occasionally paid a visit to the Viceroy of India. Since independence in 1919, Afghanistan had sent envoys to Persia and, perhaps, Soviet Russia. Because of their aversion to foreigners, and aided by desert and mountain barriers, The Afghans were protected in their isolation. Yet the Amir followed world events. America was admired, and, despite their illiteracy, Afghans knew much of geography and history. During the World War, even the nomads had news of the great battles. In 1921, Islam was in revolution. Eventually, the powers will turn their eyes again toward Afghanistan.
At the bottom of the last page, there is an italicized paragraph advertising copies of the frontispiece, “The Argosy of Geography”, suitable for framing. Those copies were printed on heavy art mat paper, and cost $1.00. The paragraph also states that the February 1921 National Geographic will contain the long-awaited map of New Europe, promised for over a year.
In the last paragraph, It should be February 1921. In regards to the Europe map, I guess they were waiting for the treaties to be finalized. The map itself has a 1920 copyright date. Interestingly, the map wasn't prepared by the Cartographic department of National Geographic. It was prepared by the Matthews-Northrup Works in Buffalo, New York.
They were waiting for over year to get the borders finalized, but my observation was about the lack of any supplements, map or pictorial, for two years. After all, the last supplement before this issue was another map of Europe (The Races of Europe) in December 1918. Thank you for posting addition information regarding the map and its production.