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of rather a different shape. They call them sandalls, and build them with great care; but they will not last longer than four or five years.
F. How long does an English ship last, Uncle?
U. O. A ship is not, at the best, a long-lived thing. Our best ships are considered old after twelve or fifteen years, though some are fit for service much longer. But the most common and the most truly serviceable of the Persian vessels in this sea is a small boat called kerigem. All the Persian vessels are built by Russian deserters; and are so badly managed at sea by the Armenians or Persians that shipwrecks are very common. · H. Are the Russians better sailors than the Persians ?
U. O. Yes, surely. They would be bad sailors indeed if they were not; for I suppose the Persians are about the worst sailors in the world.
H. Then why do not the run-a-way Russians become the sailors in the ships which they build ?
U. O. They could not build ships if they went to sea; but the fact is, that they are afraid to go to sea lest they should fall into the hands of their countrymen.
CHAPTER IX. FISHERIES OF THE CASPIAN. Uncle Oliver. I THINK I will now tell you something about the fisheries in the Caspian Sea. It contains very few sorts of fish in proportion to its extent. Some think this is because it cannot receive any supplies from the ocean. However, though the variety is not great, the supply is very abundant indeed; and as the fish are of the most valuable kinds, the fishery affords só many objects of consumption and commerce, that to the Russians, who are chiefly engaged in it, it is as important in some respects as the whale, cod, and herring fisheries to ourselves. Salmon, sturgeon, and other fish abound in the Caspian as well as in the rivers that fall into it. The salmon are very large and fine; but it is the sturgeon of which I have most to say to you, or rather of the fisheries which are established by the Russians for the purpose of taking the different sorts of this excellent fish.
The contractors engaged in the fishery have each their distinct stations, called vatagas, on the shore. Each vataga is occupied by fifty or eighty, or even 120 men, most of whom carry on a separate trade; besides pilots, fishermen, salters, persons who prepare isinglass and caviare, and others.
Frank. What is isinglass?
U. O. Isinglass is a sort of dry jelly, like glue; so that if a person puts a hundred grains of it in water, ninety-eight grains will be dissolved. The isinglass in use among us comes chiefly from Russia : and it is obtained from the sounds of the fish, particularly the largest sort of sturgeon, called beluga, which abound in the Black and Caspian Seas. Isinglass may, however, be obtained from the 'sounds of most fishes; and not only from their sounds but from the skin, bones, and other parts which are commonly thrown away. These parts, indeed, furnish the coarse isinglass which is commonly used in large manufactories.
H. How is the isinglass made from the sounds?
U.O. The sounds are washed while they are fresh, and then half dried, after which the outer skin is peeled off, and the inner glossy white, which is properly the glue, is twisted into va
rious shapes, and so dried. The best sort on isinglass is usually rolled in little ringlets; the second sort is laid together like the leaves of a book, and that of the most ordinary sort dried without any particular care. In some parts the sounds are cut into strips, and then rolled up; and on the river Wolga, and some other rivers, the sounds are boiled, and the glue is cast into various forms.
H. But what is the use of isinglass?
U. O. Its uses are many. When boiled in milk, it forms a mild nourishing jelly, which is sometimes employed medicinally: when prepared and flavoured by the art of the cook, it forms the blanc-mange of our table : when the solution of isinglass is spread upon black silk, with a little balsam, it makes the court-plaister of the shops. It is also used in fining fermented liquors, in making mock pearls, in stiffening linens, silks, gauzes, &c.; and, finally, it is employed to mend broken china and glass, and to join together the parts of musical instruments.
F. Who would think the sound of a fish could be so useful! . .
U. O. Very useful, my dear Frank; and I shall hereafter have to tell you of many things
very humble in appearance, but applied to many and important uses.
H. Now for caviare, Sir!
U. O. Now for caviare! It consists of the roes of fish properly salted and prepared. The best is that which is obtained from the roes of the several sorts of sturgeons, the sevrugas and the belugas. It is prepared with much care, and appears to consist entirely of the eggs of the fish. A strong brine, and long, narrow bags of strong linen are provided beforehand. These bags are half filled with the roes, and then quite filled with the brine, which is poured in upon them. When the brine has oozed through, the men wring the bags strongly with their hands, after which the roes are left for ten or twelve hours in the bags to dry, and are then taken out and put into small casks. The second sort is rather unpleasant on account of its extreme saltness. This is prepared by salting the roes in a large trough, by repeatedly shovelling large quantities of salt over them; after which they are placed to drain in sieves, or on thick nets, stretched out, and afterwards pressed into barrels. The worst sort, after being salted, is spread upon mats in the sun to dry, after which