A fish nibbled at the bait on Brown's hook, changed his mind, flirted his fins, and swam away a proof of the proverb about second thoughts. A bird in the branches of the tree above the two men burst into ecstatic song. But neither heard him. "Mistah Breckenridge" had buried his black face in the cool grass, his hot tears falling fast upon it.
These voracious monsters, though satiated for a time with their human prey, had not forsaken the spot where the Pandora had gone to pieces; but on the square mile of surface strewed by the floating fragments of the wreck they could still be seen in pairs, and sometimes in larger numbers, with their huge sail-like fins projecting high above the water, veering about as if once more hungry, and quartering the sea in search of fresh victims.
But a skate can also swim, and in that way it comes up off the bottom, and often bites on the hooks of fishermen who do not at all want to catch such an unpleasant fish. The skate swims, using the things like legs as a fish uses its fins, and sometimes, when landed on the shore, the fish really seems to be standing up on these legs, so Laddie was not so far wrong.
They were pursued by dolphins, which feed on them, and one flying-fish in its terror flew over the ship, struck on the rigging, and fell upon the deck. Its wings were just fins elongated, and we found that they could never fly far at a time, and never mounted into the air like birds, but skimmed along the surface of the sea. Jack and I had it for dinner, and found it remarkably good.
The pitiless sun overhead beat on us all with tropic impartiality, and the hungry sharks, whose fins scored the limitless Pacific stretching out on every side, were impelled by an appetite that made no exceptions as to sex.
The shark struck upon the snout, though killed by the blow, continued to float near the surface of the water its fins still in motion as if in the act of swimming. One unacquainted with the habits of these sea-monsters might have supposed that it still lived, and might yet contrive to escape. Not so the sailor, Ben Brace.
On the 17th they all disappeared, and some sharks, not less than twelve or fifteen feet long, belonging to the species of the spotted dog-fish, took their place. These horrible creatures have black backs and fins, covered with white spots and stripes. Here, on our low raft, we seemed almost on a level with them, and more than once their tails have struck the spars with terrible violence.
But finally a firm backbone and skull were attained. The appendages. Of these we can say but little. The fish has oar-like fins, attached to the body by a joint, but themselves unjointed. By the amphibia legs, with the same regions as our own and with five toes, have already appeared.
First the monster flapped the water violently with its fins; then its tail was elevated aloft, lashing the ocean around into a mass of foam. This was not its death-flurry; for, gaining strength before any more harpoons or lances could be struck into it, away it went again, heading towards the ice.
The fins become mutilated, their eyes are often injured or destroyed; parasitic worms gather in their gills, they become extremely emaciated, their flesh becomes white from the loss of the oil, and as soon as the spawning act is accomplished, and sometimes before, all of them die. The ascent of the Cascades and the Dalles probably causes the injury or death of a great many salmon.
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