Notes from the "Challenger" (sel.)

Nature (August 1875)

[315] The following extracts from a letter dated Yeddo, June 9, 1875, addressed to me by Prof. Wyville Thomson will, I think, interest the readers of Nature:–

"In a note lately published in the proceedings of the Royal Society on the nature of our soundings in the Southern Sea, I stated that up to that time we had never seen any trace of the pseudopodia of Globigerina. I have now to tell a different tale, for we have seen them very many times, and their condition and the entire appearance and behaviour of the sarcode are, in a high degree, characteristic and peculiar. When the living Globigerina is examined under very favourable circumstances; that is to say, when it can at once be transferred from the tow-net and placed under a tolerably high power in fresh, still sea-water, the sarcodic contents of the chambers may be seen to exude gradually through the pores of the shell and spread out until they form a gelatinous fringe or border round the shell, filling up the spaces among the roots of the spines and rising up a little way along their length." [...]

[316] Prof. Wyville Thomson further informs me that the best effort of the Challenger's staff have failed to discover Bathybius in a fresh state, and that it is seriously suspected that the thing to which I gave that name is little more than sulphate of lime, precipitated in a flocculent state from the sea-water by the strong alcohol in which the specimens of the deep-sea soundings which I examined were preserved.

"The strange thing is that this inorganic precipitated [sic] is scarcely to be distinguished from precipitated albumen, and it resembles, perhaps even more closely, the proligerous pellicle on the surface of a putrescent infusion (except in the absence of all moving particles), colouring irregularly but very fully with carmine, running into patches with defined edges, and in every way comporting itself like an organic thing."

Prof. Thomson speaks very guardedly, and does not consider the fate of Bathybius to be as yet absolutely decided. But since I am mainly responsible for the mistake, if it be one, of introducing this singular substance into the list of living things, I think I shall err on the right side in attaching even greater weight than he does to the view which he suggests.


C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University