Young Folks' Library: Wonders of Earth, Sea and Sky HTML version

Inhabitants Of My Pool
(From Magic Glasses.)
The pool lies in a deep hollow among a group of rocks and boulders, close to the entrance
of the cove, which can only be entered at low water; it does not measure more than two
feet across, so that you can step over it, if you take care not to slip on the masses of green
and brown seaweed growing over the rocks on its sides, as I have done many a time when
collecting specimens for our salt-water aquarium. I find now the only way is to lie flat
down on the rock, so that my hands and eyes are free to observe and handle, and then,
bringing my eye down to the edge of the pool, to lift the seaweeds and let the sunlight
enter into the chinks and crannies. In this way I can catch sight of many a small being
either on the seaweed or the rocky ledges, and even creatures transparent as glass become
visible by the thin outline gleaming in the sunlight. Then I pluck a piece of seaweed, or
chip off a fragment of rock with a sharp-edged collecting knife, bringing away the
specimen uninjured upon it, and place it carefully in its own separate bottle to be carried
home alive and well.
Now though this little pool and I are old friends, I [pg 367] find new treasures in it almost every
time I go, for it is almost as full of living things as the heavens are of stars, and the tide as
it comes and goes brings many a mother there to find a safe home for her little ones, and
many a waif and stray to seek shelter from the troublous life of the open ocean.
You will perhaps find it difficult to believe that in this rock-bound basin there can be
millions of living creatures hidden away among the fine feathery weeds; yet so it is. Not
that they are always the same. At one time it may be the home of myriads of infant crabs,
not an eighth of an inch long, another of baby sea-urchins only visible to the naked eye as
minute spots in the water, at another of young jelly-fish growing on their tiny stalks, and
splitting off one by one as transparent bells to float away with the rising tide. Or it may
be that the whelk has chosen this quiet nook to deposit her leathery eggs; or young
barnacles, periwinkles, and limpets are growing up among the green and brown tangles,
while the far-sailing velella and the stay-at-home sea-squirts, together with a variety of
other sea-animals, find a nursery and shelter in their youth in this quiet harbor of rest.
And besides these casual visitors there are numberless creatures which have lived and
multiplied there, ever since I first visited the pool. Tender red, olive-colored, and green
seaweeds, stony corallines, and acorn-barnacles lining the floor, sea-anemones clinging
to the sides, sponges tiny and many-colored hiding under the ledges, and limpets and
mussels wedged in the cracks. These can be easily seen with the naked eye, but they are
not the most numerous inhabitants; for these [pg 368] we must search with a magnifying glass,
which will reveal to us wonderful fairy-forms, delicate crystal vases with tiny creatures in
them whose transparent lashes make whirlpools in the water, living crystal bells so tiny
that whole branches of them look only like a fringe of hair, jelly globes rising and falling
in the water, patches of living jelly clinging to the rocky sides of the pool, and a hundred
other forms, some so minute that you must examine the fine sand in which they lie under
a powerful microscope before you can even guess that they are there.
So it has proved a rich hunting-ground, where summer and winter, spring and autumn, I
find some form to put under my magic glass. There I can watch it for weeks growing and