Dinosaurs and Whales
Ends of the Earth. By Roy Chapman Andrews. (Putnam. 16s.)
ALL the world 'knows how Mr. Andrews' expedition in the Gobi Desert went bird's-nesting for clutches of dinosaur's eggs, how they discovered the gigantic skull of the baluchitherium, and how in what certain American biologists believe to be the theatre and origin of mammalian life for the northern hemisphere they looked for traces of primitive man, so that for months the whole press of America was talking of nothing but Missing Links. All this has been already described else- where, but in Ends of the Earth Mr. Chapman tells us how he came to be an explorer and field naturalist to begin with. It was part of his nature to become so ; his is one of those minds which are certain that there is always some new experience waiting for them just round the corner and over the next hill ; and very early in life he had vowed to live in a desert and learn its mystery. He started zoology and exploration by scrubbing out the floors of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, that blessed and thrice-blessed institu- tion which is privileged to spend a yearly income of a million and a half dollars in the cause of science. Fortunate is the naturalist who becomes connected with it, for boundless are his opportunities and his scientific fortune is made.
The museum's floors did not keep Mr. Andrews long, and we soon find him following after his first great love, which was whales. All sorts of whales—right whales and wrong whales, and cachalots together with their poor relations the porpoises and the killer-whales, the terrors of the sea—took him, financed and encouraged by the Museum, to Vancouver and Alaska, to the St. Lawrence and Japanese seas, where he had the felicity of rediscovering the Korean devilfish which turned out to be the Californian grey whale, an animal that had been supposed extinct for fifty years. His whale-chapters are full Of interest, fascination, and even, in the case of the courtship and mating of two humpbacks, of romance. How many people know that by modern methods and machinery it takes only two hours to break up a thirty-ton whale ; that you blow up a dead whale like a bicycle-tyre to prevent him sinking ; that the whalemen say that they often have whale- milk served at breakfast ; and that a whale who has suffered from dyspepsia may become when dead a veritable gold mine to those who find him and have the courage to burrow into the mass of decomposed intestines in search of ambergris, which is a dyspeptic secretion ?
But whaling is by no means all his tale. There's the picture of lush tropical forests in the East Indies, in which fruit-bats were seen "thousands upon thousands hanging head down- wards like huge black pears " ; a splendid account of the dreary surge-swept and misty fur-seal islands of the Bering Sea (it is curious that a naturalist like Mr. Andrews did not at first know that a pup-seal had to be taught to swim) ; and of travel and natural history generally in Korea, the East Indies, Mongolia, Western China and the poisonous valley of the Salwin. Quotable passages, for which there is no room here but which make absorbingly interesting and most lively reading, abound. All who love adventure blended with sound natural history set forth in easy non-technical and humorous language will read eagerly of the death of a Korean boar, or the creeping into a dark cavern after a man-eating tiger, also in Korea ; of an adventure with a python in a Borneo forest ; or of how a squadron of killer-whales actually ate the tongues out of other living whales : "A grey whale would turn over on its back with flippers outspread and lie helpless at the surface. Coming up at full speed the killer put his nose against the whale's lips, forced its mouth open and his head inside. Tearing out great chunks of the tongue he gulped them down." But whale's-tongue for a killer must be the merest snack; for "there is a record of thirteen porpoises and fourteen seals being taken from the stomach of a twenty-
One foot specimen "—rather more than a foot run Of victim
. -. • per lineal foot of the banqueter.
The book (magnificently illustrated) is all good and it IS also all lively. As lively and delicious as any are the passages wherein the author illustrates certain sides of life in Peking (which is at present his home) that do not come to us, in Europe. The succession of civil wars, he say's, really does not amount to much, for, as the Chinese put it themselves, they are on the whole "very civil " ; fighting commonly ceases on a wet day (for " the Chinese hate to get wet and One day I saw thousands of troops going up to the front each with an um- brella on his back ") ; and once when for military purposes a part of the Peking race-course had to be encroached on, the wrath of the foreign coMmunity was disarmed by a Soldier sandwich-man carrying a board on which was printed' in English the polite notice : "Please make detour. This way have got one war."