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DEEP-SEA DREDGING OFF THE GULF OF MEXICO

Abstract

THE last number of the Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass, contains a letter from Alex. Agassiz to the superintendent of the United States Coast Survey, detailing the results of some recent dredging operations in the United States schooner Blake. A series of deep-sea dredgings were made in the first place across the Florida Channel from Havana to Sand Key, out to the Tortugas reefs, then across the Gulf to the Yucatan Bank, to Vera Cruz, about the Alacran reef and then across the Yucatan Channel, and in the trough, of the Gulf Stream to Sand Key, Florida—in all about. 1,100 miles of lines taking the shortest distance from point to point. The results of the cruise are full of interest; we can only allude to a few of them. the great Alacran reef is an atol—an atol existing not as Darwin suggests to be the case with atols in general, in an area of depression, but in one of elevation, like those in which the Florida and Bahamas reefs are found. The formation of the Alacran reef is in full activity, the eastern slope is nearly perpendicular, rising to a height of twenty fathoms from the surface in a comparatively short distance. It is exposed to the full force of the north-east trades and the surf-breaks heavily against the great masses of Madrepora palmata, which build up the narrow line of coral barely flush with the level of the sea. The western slope is much more gentle, and here the reef consists of a number of half-made narrow islands. These are mere strips of sand formed by the breaking up of the exposed masses of coral, which are gradually cemented together by the accumulation of the loose material held in suspension by the water. Here, in the shallower parts, grow huge masses of Astræa, of Gorgoniæ, of Mæandrina, which now and then rise to the surface.

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