Saturday, 14 June 2014

Boy's Museum -Part 5 cont & 6, Plants and Marine Animals

A Boy’s Museum -Part V. (Continued) and Part VI
Plants, Flowers and Fruits and Marine Animals
Popular Science Department
A DEPARTMENT OF INTEREST T0 YOUNG AND OLD
From American Boy magazine, July 1910; digitized by Doug Frizzle June 2014

The plant and flower collections may be made quite interesting and attractive and as they are easy to preserve and prepare they will doubtless form a large portion of your exhibits. Flowers and plants may be simply pressed between pages of a book, or between cardboard or paper under a heavy weight and later, when thoroughly dry, may be pasted or otherwise fastened to stiff card mounts. A better way, however, is to press the flowers as soon as collected, in a regular flower-press, which consists of sheets of tough blotting or drying paper held in a case of some sort so arranged as to hold the paper and plants tightly in place and yet be easy to carry. There are numerous makes and patterns of these and as they are inexpensive it is better to purchase one than to trust to merely pressing at home, if the flower collection is to form a large portion of your museum exhibits. Many plants and flowers fade after being pressed and dried. If dipped in weak formaline when fresh, this will be in great measure prevented, but recent experiments also show that if the flowers are dried by a high temperature—usually by placing in a dish of hot sand,—the colors remain permanent. Pressed flowers are rather unsatisfactory, as far as the flowers themselves are concerned, and a drawing or colored photograph of the flower, exhibited with the pressed specimen, makes an attractive display. In selecting specimens to press, try and secure those that bear leaves, buds, and blossoms and if possible seed-pods also and whenever you can do so, secure the roots attached to the plant (Fig. 7). All should be pressed together, as this gives a better idea of the entire plant than the different parts preserved separately.
Fruits may be made into an attractive and instructive museum exhibit, and although at first it seems superfluous to show common fruits, yet in reality they are most interesting and may be made to illustrate the variation and development of common fruits. Moreover you will occasionally find prizewinning, or freak, fruits which it is desirable to preserve, and last but by no means least, you may earn quite a little money by making fruit specimens for ornament or for fruit growers who win prizes for their products and wish to preserve them or send them to friends. As it is next to impossible to preserve the real fruit in a natural condition, the best method is to make a wax imitation. This sounds hard, but is in reality very easy and simple. First make a plaster of paris cast exactly as described in my article on the Frog and Fish collections in the April issue. When thoroughly hard remove the fruit from mould and tie the latter firmly together by wrapping with thread or string (before doing this a small opening should be left in one side, where the two halves of mold join which may be cut in with a knife after mold is dry or may be made by placing a roll of clay on one-half of mould when other half is cast in plaster). Now mix up equal portions of beeswax, hard paraffine and a little Japanese wax, bayberry wax or spermaceti. Melt this until thoroughly liquid and then pour into the mould through the opening. When mould is about three-quarters full, stop the hole with a bit of damp clay or cotton and turn the mould about in every direction, over and over and round and round until the wax left in the receptacle in which it was melted has begun to harden. As soon as this is hard you may be sure the wax in the mold is also hard. Now drop the entire mould into cold water and leave it an hour or so. Remove from water, cut the thread or string and work gently at the two halves of mould until they commence to separate. As soon as this happens you must work with great care until one-half of the mould comes off. Then dip the other half containing the wax cast in water and work at it carefully until the wax comes out of the mould and you have a perfect wax duplicate of the fruit that only requires a little trimming and coloring to be so much like the original that even the owner could not distinguish between them. Where the two halves of mould came together and where wax was poured in, there will be “fins” of projecting wax. These should be trimmed off carefully with a sharp knife and any tiny air holes or cracks may be easily filled by heating a small knife blade, dipping up a little wax and moulding it on to the spot required. To color these wax fruits you can use plain oil colors, powder color mixed with turpentine, or better still, you can add powder color to the melted wax and then touch up the finished fruit with any other color required. These wax fruits are hollow and very light and break easily, and the object in turning them about when casting is to insure an even thickness of wax on all sides. You may have one or two failures at first; often the mould will be too damp and wax will cool in layers or streaks; you may stop turning it too soon and wax will all run to one side; you may place in water too soon and cause wax to shrink in on one side, or worst of all your mould may be too dry and the wax may soak into the plaster until you cannot by any possibility separate the two halves of mould. In this case you must make a new mould, but it seldom occurs and if mould is always soaked in water before pouring the wax, and then the superfluous water dried out, you will have no trouble. After a few trials you will get the knack of the work and will be more than pleased at the delicate and accurate wax fruits you turn out and will be constantly on the lookout for new fruits to conquer.

Part VI.—Marine Animals.
To the boy living on or near the seashore during the summer months the creatures that live in the water, on the beaches, or among the stones of the shore, will prove by far the most interesting and largest branch of the collection. The immense number and variety of marine animals is appalling to the beginner, but their ways are so remarkable, their habits so strange and their forms and structure so different from any land animals that once we begin to collect and study them we become enthusiastic in the pursuit. Moreover nearly all marine creatures are easy to collect and prepare, and as few people are familiar with even the commonest species, the collection of marine animals always proves attractive and full of interest.
So many branches of the animal kingdom are represented in marine life and the number of species of each division is so great that in a short time the boy museum builder may divide his marine collections into several separate exhibits such as marine shells, crustaceans, annelids (marine worms), echinoderms (starfish, etc.), fish, sea anemones, etc. The localities where each occurs, the method of obtaining them and their preparation and preservation, vary so greatly that each group must be taken separately and its preparation and collection described in detail.
In the first place marine animal collecting may be divided into—
1st. Shore collecting between high and low tide.
2nd. Collecting below low-water mark.
3rd. Collecting animals at the surface of the water.
4th. Collecting animals at the bottom of the water.
Of these the easiest to collect and the most commonly seen and known are the creatures found between tides on the shores. Here we find a great variety of shells, snails, worms, crabs, shrimps, star fish, sea anemones, etc., and for collecting these the apparatus required is very simple and inexpensive. A few wide-mouthed bottles, a basket or pail in which to carry them in an upright position, a trowel or old knife, a pair of forceps, a dip net and a short bar of iron are all that are needed. Wear old clothes and shoes and start forth on some day when the tide will be very low. Before the tide goes out you may secure a number of good specimens among the flotsam and jetsam cast up on the beach, but you will find that few of these washed up and dead objects are really good specimens. In these places, however, you may usually find the egg-cases of shells (Fig. 1) of skates (Fig. 2) and also many good specimens of small shells and occasionally a well preserved crab or even a horsefish (Fig. 3), also known as the king crab or horse-shoe crab. Among the half decayed sea-weed and trash you will also find many little crustaceans or “sand-hoppers.” The dead and dried things should be placed in boxes or baskets while the living creatures should be dropped into bottles of fresh sea water. As the tide falls you should look along the waters’ edge and search carefully for any living creature that may be running about at the edge of the waves. On a muddy or sandy shore many things may be found by digging in the wet shore, for a great proportion of marine animals live buried in the sand or mud. Many of these betray their presence by little piles of sand, holes, or tiny tubes projecting up above the surface. These creatures are very quick and retreat into the lowest portion of their burrows at the least sign of danger, and in order to secure them one must dig quickly by one strong stroke of a spade, shovel or trowel. A great many underground inhabitants, however, show no sign of their presence whatever, and the best way to get these is to dig up moist sand and mud and sift it through a wire sieve in the water. You will be surprised to find what a lot of queer and beautifully colored marine worms, shells, crustaceans, etc., you will find by this method. If there are any rocky shores near by you will find a rich collecting ground under stones and in the little pools of water left by the receding tide. In such places you will find starfishes crawling over the rocks in the pools or clinging to the under side of stones; hermit crabs (Fig. 4) run about carrying their shell houses on their backs; rock crabs and “fiddlers” scuttle under projecting rocks or into crevices and little groups of delicately tinted sea anemones (Fig. 5) wave their tentacles in the calm water of the tide pools. Among old piles and wharves is also a fine place to collect and by paddling about in a small boat and examining the posts and spiles left bare by the falling tide, you will find a great variety of marine creatures that never occur elsewhere.

After you have collected the creatures found between tides you may turn your attention to those animals found just below low-water mark. To get these you must wade about, pry among stones and sea-weeds, dig into the sand and in fact poke into every crack, crevice and hiding place you find. Among the things living below low-water mark are various interesting crustaceans such as lobsters, swimming crabs (Fig. 6), spider crabs (Fig. 7), mud crabs, a great variety of sea shells, worms, starfish, serpent-stars (Fig. 8), sea anemones and even the native coral (Fig. 9). Here, too, you will find sand-dollars (Fig. 10) and sea-urchins (Fig. 11), which belong to the echinoderm group with the starfishes, although they appear so different. If you rub off the spines on a sea-urchin or sand-dollar, however, you will see the star-shaped pattern on the top of the disk which corresponds to the rays or arms of the starfish. Here, also, you will find numerous sponges such as the common scarlet sponge (Fig. 12), the finger sponge (Fig. 13), and many other species. After collecting a lot of specimens they should be assorted and placed in open dishes filled with fresh sea water and here you may keep them for a time alive to watch and study their habits and odd ways. You will notice that the corals, when undisturbed, project out from the stony matter which we usually consider coral and wave tiny tentacles about in the water and then appear much like their relatives the sea-anemones. You may also watch the starfish crawl about by the suckers on the lower side of their arms, his cousins the sea-urchins and sand-dollars doing the same; while the ever lively and friendly hermit-crabs scuttle about here, there and everywhere. If you have collected a few barnacles you will be greatly interested in watching them as they work their cilliated organs out and in their little shells breathing fresh water and gathering in food at each stroke. These barnacles are very wonderful little fellows and although they bear little resemblance to crabs or shrimp they are in reality true crustaceans and in their young state swim about freely in the water.
To preserve your shore animal specimens the best method is to drop them one and all into a solution of formaline or alcohol for the present and then later on, such things as crabs, shrimp, starfish and other hard-shelled creatures may be removed, pinned out in natural attitudes and dried. A good way to kill and preserve the starfish, so that they remain plump and smooth, is to place them while still alive in a basin of fresh (not salt) water for a few hours. Then soak for several days in formaline and pin out on a flat board. They should then be partly dried in a shady dry spot and when nearly dry should be placed in a moderately hot oven until they are dry and hard. Soft bodied creatures must be kept preserved in alcohol or formaline and some things always contract and look like a mere shapeless lump if thus treated. Among these are the sea anemones and corals. To prevent this you should make a strong solution of chloride or sulphate of magnesia and while the specimens are fully expanded add this little by little to their dish of water until they cease to contract when touched. They may then be dropped into your preserving liquid without fear of their contracting out of shape.
While the beach animals are the easiest to collect and are found among the sand and stones of the shore, another group of marine creatures are always swimming or floating on the surface of the sea and must be collected with nets. The best sort of net to use in collecting these animals is a fine dip-net made of cheese cloth. Two of these nets should be on hand, one fastened to a handle and the other fastened to a rope (Fig. 14), so arranged that it may be dragged behind a sail or motor boat, or even a row boat.
The number of animals living on the surface of the water is very great for, although you would never suspect it, the water fairly teems with little creatures which are quite invisible from above, but which are easily seen when placed in a jar or aquarium. It is the great multitude of such tiny creatures that cause the phosphorescence of the water at night, for the majority of these animals give out a faint glow at night. The largest number of surface animals are found at night in calm warm weather and this is by far the best time to collect them. After skimming the surface of the water with your dip-net, or towing the surface net over the water for a time, the net should be emptied into a clean dish of water. There may be a number of fairly large things in the catch, such as jelly-fish (Fig. 15), small fish or even swimming-crabs, but more probably you will see apparently few living objects. The dish of water should be placed on a black surface and a strong light turned on it. Very soon you will find numerous tiny creatures swimming rapidly about. Some of these will gather in masses near the light, while others will sink to the bottom or gather around the edges of the dish. The most numerous and lively creatures will probably be small crustaceans or shrimp. Some of these are very beautiful and give off a bright phosphorescent glow at night. Other odd creatures looking like Fig. 16 will also attract attention, and although you would never guess it these are really young crabs. Young oysters (Fig. 17), and young barnacles (Fig. 18), will also be in most catches of surface animals and these are most interesting creatures to watch and study. To observe and assort these little beings to the best advantage a lens should be used and by placing a watch crystal filled with the water under a low-powered microscope you may amuse yourself by the hour watching the wonderful little creatures whose existence you would never suspect otherwise. Among these are young starfishes (Fig. 19) and young sea-urchins, with a host of other tiny animals no whit less interesting and instructive but which it is impossible to describe in detail in this article. While most of these little surface inhabitants are too small and fragile to preserve for your museum, you will occasionally secure larger and equally interesting animals. Commonest of these are the jelly-fishes already mentioned. Most of these are very difficult to preserve, but some of them make very good specimens and the only way to determine which may be preserved and which not is to try them all and throw away those that go to pieces or contract too much. Other good sized surface animals are the squids or cuttle fishes (Fig. 20). These are quite common at certain seasons and are caught by the fishermen in large numbers for bait. They are very easy to preserve, but in order to show them to the best advantage they should be fastened to a thin board or piece of celluloid as soon as killed and then kept in formaline or alcohol until thoroughly firm. They may then be placed in a jar, mount and all.
Interesting as you will find shore and surface collecting, if you will start dredging for bottom animals you will find it the most fascinating of all. Here you are working on ground never seen by man and with every haul of the dredge you are likely to find some creature never before known to science and are sure to obtain a great number of animals quite new to you and valuable for your collection. The instruments used in this work are easily made and inexpensive and consist of a rectangular dredge (Fig. 21), a trawl (Fig. 22), and tangles (Fig. 23).
The frame of the dredge can be made by any blacksmith and for boys’ use it may be made of light iron 14-inch thick. The scrapers (A A) should not flare too much, for if they do it will be likely to catch on rocks and other objects, besides digging up a lot of useless mud and dirt. The net (B B) is fastened to the frame by tarred rope or copper wire and outside of the net an open bag of canvas is placed to protect the dredge-net from tearing (X). An old fish net may be made over for a dredge, but if possible it is better to get a good new net. These dredge nets are not expensive and may be bought of almost any dealer in nets and Ashing tackle. It is a good plan to have the lower end of the net left open and merely tied together with rope, as this saves the trouble of turning inside out at each haul. The rope should be fastened to the dredge, as shown in the figure, as by this arrangement the small line (C C) breaks if the dredge catches on a rock or other object, and the dredge thus swinging end on, allows it to pull off the obstruction. A short distance from the dredge a weight should be attached to the main rope to keep the stretch of the latter from lifting the mouth of dredge from the bottom. The trawl (Fig. 22) consists of an iron frame (F), an iron or strong wooden beam (E), and a net with one edge weighted with lead (G). The tangle (Fig. 23) can be made by any boy and consists of bunches of twine or raveled rope fastened to pieces of chains so it may be dragged over the bottom by a rope fastened to the bar (B). The dredge should be used on muddy or sandy bottoms; the trawl on mud, sand, or mixed bottoms, and the tangles anywhere, but preferably on rocky or rough bottoms where a dredge or trawl cannot be used.
To dredge from a row boat or launch is very easy, as it is only necessary to throw over the dredge, trawl or tangle and then row or run the boat slowly ahead until you think it time to see what you have caught.
In dredging from a sail boat care should be taken and the work should not be undertaken unless two persons thoroughly familiar with handling sailing boats are together. If the current is strong the dredge or trawl may be fastened to the bows and the boat allowed to drift slowly, exactly as though she were dragging her anchor, or, if the current is not strong enough to move the dredge, a line may be fastened to the dredge rope from the stern so the boat will swing broadside to the current. If there is no strong current to work for you it is best to tow the dredge behind as slowly as the wind will permit, and for this reason a sail should be reefed close down when dredging even in light winds. The most favorable position for dredging when sailing is shown in Fig. 24, in which the arrow shows direction of wind, A the boat, and B the dredge rope. In this position the boat may be luffed up slightly to keep her moving slowly, while if the dredge sticks or hangs back, the boat may be quickly brought into the wind.

You will find it lots of fun watching the oyster dredges come up and among the oysters you will find large numbers of other shells, lots of crabs, sea anemones, worms, crustaceans and other animals, while star-fishes,—the oysters’ worst enemy,—are everywhere.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.