A shifting reef

Theyear1866wassignalisedbyaremarkableincident,amysteriousandpuzzlingphenomenon,whichdoubtlessnoonehasyetforgotten.Nottomentionrumourswhichagitatedthemaritimepopulationandexcitedthepublicmind,evenintheinteriorofcontinents,seafaringmenwereparticularlyexcited.Merchants,commonsailors,captainsofvessels,skippers,bothofEuropeandAmerica,navalofficersofallcountries,andtheGovernmentsofseveralStatesonthetwocontinents,weredeeplyinterestedinthematter.

Forsometimepastvesselshadbeenmetby“anenormousthing,”alongobject,spindle-shaped,occasionallyphosphorescent,andinfinitelylargerandmorerapidinitsmovementsthanawhale.

Thefactsrelatingtothisapparition(enteredinvariouslog-books)agreedinmostrespectsastotheshapeoftheobjectorcreatureinquestion,theuntiringrapidityofitsmovements,itssurprisingpoweroflocomotion,andthepeculiarlifewithwhichitseemedendowed.Ifitwasawhale,itsurpassedinsizeallthosehithertoclassifiedinscience.Takingintoconsiderationthemeanofobservationsmadeatdiverstimesrejectingthetimidestimateofthosewhoassignedtothisobjectalengthoftwohundredfeet,equallywiththeexaggeratedopinionswhichsetitdownasamileinwidthandthreeinlengthwemightfairlyconcludethatthismysteriousbeingsurpassedgreatlyalldimensionsadmittedbythelearnedonesoftheday,ifitexistedatall.Andthatitdidexistwasanundeniablefact;and,withthattendencywhichdisposesthehumanmindinfavourofthemarvellous,wecanunderstandtheexcitementproducedintheentireworldbythissupernaturalapparition.Astoclassingitinthelistoffables,theideawasoutofthequestion.

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