National Geographic : 1927 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by Geo. Finlay Simmons A DAUGHTER OF THE DANCE The throbbing of drums on Santiago Island urges supple maidens to undulate their grassy skirts and keep the older people singing the high-pitched "morna" and treading a serpentine dance. We eyed those fields from the quarter deck of the Blossom on a fair day. Under a blazing sun we dipped rough masses of brown seaweed on to the decks, where it was pawed over for specimens. Hollow floats, or air bladders, hold the small patches of weed close to the surface. It has neither long tentacles nor strong ones with which to entangle passing ships. More than two years later we found, when we entered the corner of the Sar gasso Sea in its southwestern area, be tween eastern Cuba and Bermuda, much thicker areas of the weed, as if it had drifted gradually southwestward before northeast winds, currents, and squalls, which have scattered and spread the main body of the dread sea. Our days we spent dipping, searching, and studying the peculiar fauna of the area. Portuguese men-of-war occasion ally floated in clear water between the masses of Sargassum bacciferum, shelter ing between their stinging tentacles the queer little Portuguese man-of-war fish.* *See "Interesting Citizens of the Gulf Stream," by John T. Nichols, in the NATIONA, GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for January, 1921. Under the weed itself we found tiny infants of the ocean giants: the sailfish, jackfish, bonitos, and sunfish; and more than a score of species which would never grow larger than a few inches, especially the coral-tailed filefish, trigger-fishes, the burr-fish, the pipefish, and two kinds of porcupine fishes. Most abundant of all, however, and more abundant even than the blue-dragon slugs and the peculiar crabs of the weed, were the little frogfish cannibals with their enormous maws. Several of these were put in a salt-water basin with highly prized specimens, which included a rare little butterfly fish. A moment later the other fishes were gone, and the swollen stomachs of the cannibals told the story. We quickly cut them open, and out swam the little Jonahs, uninjured! WE GET THE NORTHEAST TRADES We could easily understand why the Sargasso Sea is shot with wild tales of windjammer days, for we were held in the weed for more than a week-held not by the weed itself, but by the lack of wind or current to take us elsewhere.