31 JANUARY 1852, Page 13


Tim sea has made a vast inroad into the contract system as it is now conducted : the whole of the sea-wall of the railway between Lowca and Whitehaven has been shaken to its foundations, for fifty yards the whole has been razed, and the twenty feet embank- ment carried out to sea. Bon voyage !—it will never come batik again, nor the money wasted in building it. Last winter the wall was suspected, examined by Mr. Rendell, reported to be unsafe ; and part, including the Lowca and Harrington walls, was rebuilt; the rest of the walling was thought to be "adequate." On Saturday morning, however, winds and waves rose to a fierce height, as they will do occasionally on the coasts of England ; they very soon be- gan to show what they would do with the human structure ; by noon it began to give way; by one a piece had gone and when that one tide went back it carried with it a large portion of the wall. So far was it "adequate?' Learned engineers had been consulting on each piece of masonry, calculating the force of resist- Lime it possessed, reckoning up supposititious winds and waves, and arriving at a conclusion as to what "would do " ; yet no sooner do country-people and boatmen see the real winds and waves pummelling at the wall, than they are able to tell, without very abstruse calculations, that it won't "do,?' If it did not, then was the failure ascribable to the tumultuous excesses of the winds and waves,—a "type of popular fury," &o. Under ordinary circum- stances, no doubt, the wall would have sufficed ; to average wind and wave it was adequate ; and officials have great confidence in averages. The Directors of the West India Steam Packet Com- pany had the like reliance in declining to provide against such an accident as that of the 4th instant; which must have terribly dis- turbed their tranquil average. An excuse for the Whitehaven masonry is insinuated in the description of "an immense rock," "which must have braved the elements for many centuries," and had nevertheless been "torn, up" by the same storm, and "was lying at some distance from its original situation." Now we should like to know how great the " distance " really was : was the rock "torn up "? and had it lain there "many centuries" ? Great pieces of rook lie in their sandy bed, and remain unmoved throughout the memory of the sea-side visitor, and yet in the view of a lengthened period are they con- stantly shifting with winds and waves. That which is to resist the elements at a fixed site must rest on foundation stronger. Reeks do sometimes break down, through the mingled action of long abrasion and sudden blows; but masonry to resist the winds and waves mast be stronger than such rock—stouter in form, and repaired against abrasion. Nature can afford to lose her rocks, but man cannot. Wherever the sea wanders, it is still Nature's own; its conquests are but loans, repaid elsewhere ; the boundless little reeks shifting, boundaries; and no destruc- tion is feared where nothing is destroyed, but only " doth suffer a sea change" into new forms of beauty and of life. But rail- way companies are not so rich as Nature; and if they miscalculate the "adequate," they will be mulcted. They and all who rely on averages forget one important truth in all defensive providings- that the rare the excessive, is precisely the thing to be guarded against. Destructive fires on board steamers are rare—and the snore horrible when they do come. • Winds and waves stir up rocks and beat down sea-walls, not every day in the week, but once in an indeterminate number of years; and anything which is to outlast such indeterminate but by no means interminable period, must be made adequate to resist that rare assault of the elements. Nay, not " adequate "; for with all your science you cannot calculate the force of the winds and waves in such rare fury; but that which is to stand must be more than adequate— higher than the tide has ever reached, better defended than that which the elements have ever overcome stronger than rock, if not in stubborn texture at least in the ;Melds which art can fur- nish, such as the triple dike, or an outwork of beams like the "floating breakwater" which breaks without pretending to resist

the waves. It is in being more than " adequate " that a defence is really sufficient for its purpose : and indeed it is in that more, in that margin alone, that all true security and sufficiency can be at- tained by erring human foresight.