SPRING QUARTER, 2006
Department of History
University of California, Irvine
Instructor: Dr. Barbara J. Becker
Week 4. Sensation
A Relation Concerning Barnacles (1677)
In the Western Islands of Scotland much of the Timber, wherewith the Common peole build their Houses, is such as the West-Ocean throws upon their Shores. The most ordinary Trees are Firr and Ash. They are usually very large, and without branches; which seem rather to have been broken or worn off, than cut: and are so Weather-beaten, that there is no Bark left upon them, especially the Firrs. Being in the Island of East, I saw lying upon the shore a cut of a large Firr-tree of about 2 1/2 foot diameter, and 9 or 10 foot long; which had lain so long out of the water, that it was very dry: And most of the Shells, that had formerly cover'd it, were worn or rubb'd off. Only on the parts that lay next the ground, there still hung multitudes of little Shells; having within them little Birds perfectly shap'd, supposed to be Barnacles.
The Shells hung very thick and close one by another, and were of different sizes. Of the colour and consistence of Muscle-Shells, and the sides or joynts of them joyned with such a kind of film as Muscle-Shells are; which serves them for a Hing to move upon, when they open and shut.
The figure of the Barnacle-Shell is here represented [Fig. 3]. 'Tis thin about the edges, and about half as thick as broad. Every one of the Shells hath some cross Seams or Sutures, which, as I remember, divide it into five parts, near about the manner as in the Figure. These parts are fastened one to another, with such a film as Muscle-Shells are.
These Shells hang at the Tree by a Neck longer than the Shell. Of a kind of Filmy substance, round, and hollow, and creassed, not unlike the Wind-pipe of a Chicken; spreading out broadest where it is fastened to the Tree, from which it seems to draw and convey the matter which serves for the growth and vegetation of the Shell and the little Bird within it.
This Bird in every Shell that I opened, as well the least as the biggest, I found so curiously and compleatly formed, that there appeared nothing wanting, as to the external parts, for making up a perfect Sea-Fowl: every little part appearing so distinctly, that the whole looked like a large Bird seen through a concave or diminishing Glass, colour and feature being every where so clear and neat. The little Bill like that of a Goose, the Eyes marked, the Head, Neck, Breast, Wings, Tail and Feet formed, the Feathers every where perfectly shap'd, and blackish colour'd; and the Feet like those of other Water-foul, to my best remembrance. All being dead and dry, I did not look after the Inward parts of them. But having nipt off and broken a great many of them, I carried about 20 or 24 away with me. The biggest I found upon the Tree, was about the size of the Figure here representing them. Nor did I ever see any of the little Birds alive, nor met with any body that did. Only some credible persons have assured me, they have seen some as big as their fist.