The last summer trip it has been our good fortune to snatch from the confinement of journalism, was made at Delaware Bay. The fine shores which skirt this magnificent body of water, are remarkable for the enormous swarms of king-crabs, or, as they are sometimes called, horse-feet, from their fancied resemblance to the foot of a horse, which annually visit them. They deposit their eggs in the latter part of May, and in June, at which time their numbers are beyond estimation. The shore is strewn, at all seasons, with their shells. " The Geology of New Jersey" states that 100,000 per week have been captured on a shore length of 100 reds; 750,000 have been taken on one-half a mile of shore, and in one year 1,200,-000 were taken on about one mile of coast. The same authority says " the number of eggs is very great. They are so thick that they can be shoveled up by the wagon load. Great numbers are thus gathered and carried away to feed chickens. When they hatch, the sand is fairly alive with the little creatures. A year or two since, a vessel took in a load of sand, and in two or three days so many of these young king-crabs appeared in it, that they were obliged to throw the whole overboard." This animal is found .along the whole Atlantic coast, but, for some reason, Delaware Bay seems a favorite resort for them. During the breeding season, no more novel and amusing sight can be exhibited to one not familiar with it, than these creatures coming in on a full tide. The water is one dense mass of teeming life. The imagination is bewildered in the vain attempt to estimate their numbers. In they come, rolling, and tumbling, and climbing, and struggling to reach the shore, and the ebb of the tide leaves large numbers an easy prey. Hogs are extremely fond of king-crabs, and large numbers are caught for that purpose. They are also gathered into pen,s, where they soon die, and their decayed bodies form an excellent manure. Land, so poor naturally that no wheat, could be grown on it, has been so enriched by the application of this compost, that from 25 to 30 bushels to the acre has been produced. An excellent compost is prepared by mixing the dead bodies of these animals with sawdust, straw, forest leaves, muck, mud, or barn-yard manure, or a mixture of these materials. In some places their bodies are ground up after being desiccated, put up in bags, and sold as an artificial manure, under the name of " cancerine." Its value, at the works, is about $25 per tun. About eight hundred pounds per acre is the amount applied, and its fertilizing power is estimated as being about equal to half its weight of guano. An analysis of cancerine, by Mr. Ingham, gives water, 9'32 ; organic matter, 70'86 ; lime, 4-35; phosphoric acid, 2-71 ; sulphuric acid, 5-17 ; alkaline salts, 3-68 ; sand, 3'88. The nitrogenous substances contained in cancerine are sufficient for the production of a little over ten per cent of ammonia, although the latter does not exist ready formed in it. The habits of the king-crab are very imperfectly understood; after the breeding season the live ones disappear, and their place of resort during the interval is not known. It is estimated that if the onslaught annually made upon them, does not permanently reduce their numbers, the production of cancerine can be developed to many thousands of tuns annu ally. The New Apothecaries' Act. The general deprecation of the careless manner in which powerful drugs- have hitherto been dispensed, in which we have taken a prominent part, has resulted in calling the attention of our legislators to the subject, and a law has been passed in this State which reads as follows: SEC. 1 No person employed or in attendance at any drug store or apothecary shop shall prepare a medical prescription, unless he has served two years' apprenticeship in a drug store or is a graduate of a medical college or a college of pharmacy, except under the direct supervision of some person possessing some one of the before-mentioned qualifications; nor shall any one having permanent charge as proprietor, or otherwise, in any store in which drugs are sold by retail, or at which medical prescriptions are put up for sale or use, permit the putting up or preparation thereof therein* by any person, unless such person has served two years as apprentice in a retail drag ! store, or is a graduate of a medical college or a college of pharmacy. SEC. 2. Any person violating the provisions of this act shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $100, or by imprisonment not to exceed six months in the county-jail; and in case of death ensuing I from such violations, the person offending shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and be punished by a fine not less than $1,000, nor more than $5,000, or by imprisonment in the State Prison for a term of not less than two years nor more than four years, or by both fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the Court. SEC. 3. This act shall take effect immediately. This is good so far as it goes; but in order that the public be properly protected, druggists ought to be made responsible for the character of the patent medicines and nostrums which they are in the habit.of vending.
This article was originally published with the title "King-Crabs and the Manufacture of Cancerine" in Scientific American 20, 23, 362 (June 1869)