About one hundred miles south of San
Francisco lies the beautiful Monterey Bay. Here
hundreds of fishing boats of all styles and sizes
tug at their anchors, awaiting the turn of the tide
to sail out and cast their lines for baracuta, yellowtail,
and salmon, which abound in these waters to gladden
the heart of the sturdy fisherman. One may forego
the pleasure of fishing if so inclined, and take a
sail in the glass-bottom boat, viewing through its
transparent bottom the wonders of the mighty deep.
There were fifteen in our party, ranged
along each side of the boat. Curtains were let
down from the outside, practically cutting off all
outside light and making the bottom of the sea as light
as day. Our boatman informed us, after we were
well under way, that we were approaching the place
called “The Garden of the Sea Gods,” one
of the most beautiful submarine views on the coast.
He did not exaggerate, as we were soon to know, for
the scene was truly wonderful, and rightly named.
All kinds of sea life began to pass before our eyes,
like the fast changing figures of a kaleidoscope.
Here the delicate sea moss lay like a green carpet,
dotted here and there with a touch of purple, making
fantastic figures; a place where the sea fairies might
dance and hold their revels, as the peasant girls
of Normandy dance on the village green.
Close beside this fairy playground
great gray rocks rose like sentinels, as if to warn
off trespassers. Clinging to their rugged sides
were starfish of all sizes and colors, varying from
white to red, with all the intervening shades.
Sea urchins, those porcupines of the deep, with long,
prickly spines, looking like a lady’s pincushion,
were in profusion, and clung tenaciously to every rock.
Now our boat glides over a canon whose rugged sides
extend away down into the depths, and on either side
the verdure grows tier on tier, like a veritable forest.
We wonder what denizens of the deep are lurking under
the shadows and amid the stately aisles, to dart out
on the unsuspecting victim.
On we glide over the beautiful sea
anemone, half animal, half vegetable, with its colors
as variegated as a rose garden. Seaweed and kelp
wave to us as we pass, long-stemmed sea grasses moving
by the action of the waves, like a feather boa worn
by some sea nymph, twist and turn like a thing alive;
tall, feathery plumes, as white as snow, or as green
as emerald, toss to and fro, and make obeisance to
old Neptune. Sea onions, with stems thirty feet
long, and bulbous air-filled sacks, reach out their
long snaky arms, like an octopus, and woe to the swimmer
who becomes entangled in their slimy folds.
We pass over a school of rock cod large,
lazy fellows who take life easy, while
small, slim tommy-cod dart in and out among the rocks
or hide under the mosses. Steel heads, as spotted
as an adder, glide close to the glass as if to investigate,
then dart away pursued by some larger fish, who look
upon them as their lawful prey.
Over by that rock a hermit crab has
taken possession of a sea snail’s shell, and
set up housekeeping; with body partly hidden he waves
his long bony tentacles, while his beady eyes stare
at us from the doorway of his home.
Now a sea grotto passes beneath us,
marvelously beautiful with its frostlike tracery.
Its arched openings are hung with a tapestry of pink
sea moss, which swings back and forth to the action
of the waves, as if moved by some invisible hand.
We get a glimpse, in passing, of the interior view
with its white, pebbly floor, in which the basket
starfish have possession a fitting reception
room for sea nymph or mermaid. Pillars of stone
incrusted with barnacles and periwinkles rise all
around, while long tendrils of sea ferns wave like
banners around their base.
Our boatman tells us that we are about
to pass from “The Garden of the Sea Gods”
into “Hell’s Half-Acre.” What
a change in a moment’s time! A desert of
rock tumbled in a heterogeneous mass, all shapes and
sizes, as if thrown by some giant hand into grotesque
and fantastic shapes. No wonder they gave it
such a gruesome name.
In such a place one would expect to
see the bleaching bones of sailors, lost at sea, or
the broken and dismantled hulk of a galleon, half
buried in the sand. A shadow crosses our vision,
and slowly there comes to our sight a shark, that
scavenger of the deep, a fitting spot for such as
he to come upon the stage. Slowly he passes, turning
partly on his side, showing the cruel mouth with rows
of serrated teeth. His eyes look at us as if
in anger at being cheated of his prey, then on he
glides like a specter, and with a flirt of his tail
as he waves us adieu, he passes out of sight.
We breathe a sigh of thanksgiving that the boat is
between us and this hideous, cruel monster, and another
sigh of regret as our boat touches the wharf, to think
that the trip is so soon ended. Truly, “those
who go down into the sea in ships” have wonders
revealed to them such as were never dreamed of in
the mind of man.