[Reported for the Scientific American by G. H. KKIOHT.J On the afternoon of August 7th, 1869, the writer formed one of a group of observers posted upon a bluff about three hundred feet high near the town of Westport, Ky., commanding, toward the north and west, several miles of the Ohio river and a wide expanse of Indiana lowlands. Telescopes of various grades, from the 120 diameter down to opera glasses, were in active requisition. All were gazing in silence, and the steel hand of the chronometer had reached 4: 31 P. M., when one observer—he of the 120 diameter—exclaimed, " She's touched him 1" A minute later, a dark notch on the sun's lower right quarter was visible to the naked eye, and, shortly after, the light and then the heat began sensibly to decline. Now fades the glimmering landscape from the sight, And all the air a solemn stillness holds. Finally the crescent of sunlight slowly narrows to an attenuated, broken thread, Ekirting the left edge of the moon ; we are just able to read the hour 5 : 29 P. M.; and, lo! the sun has vanished ! and out flash in all their glory the weird and startling wonders of a solar eclipse! It is impossible, during the few fleeting moments of totality, for the dazed and bewildered beholder to grasp all the marvels of the scene. Venus and Mercury blaze with more than nocturnal splendor. An aurora-like halo radiates from the moon's periphery far into space. The air is clammy with moisture as that of a cavern. But we have only two precious minutes, and leave our new acquaintances—Mercury, the somber woods, the leaden sky, the inky river —to other observers, and direct our 120-magni-fier to the red. specks, some six or seven in number, now plainly discernible around the moon's margin. These appearances, when brought within the field of the telescope, show a surprising individuality, and all, by shape, suggest violent disturbance, whose motions are, however, of course invisible by reason of the immense distance, and can be ascertained, if at all, only by a record of impressions of successive observers stationed along the track of the swiftly-gliding shadow. The tube is directed to a point, A, near the moon's nadir (uppermost or inverted in the instrument) occupied by the brightest of these lights. Thespparritiflh seems to radiate from some point hidden behind the moon's disk, beyond which it emerges in brilliant silver, copper, and ruby-colored coruscations, the copper tints predominating, and terminates in a circular arc like a half-set sun. The impression conveyed to an observer is of a vast explosion from a center some twenty thousand miles over the edge of the sun's disk, and extending therefrom about fifty thousand miles in every direction. About fifty degrees of the moon's circumference from the apparition, A, we observe a second and wholly different one, B, which bears a grotesque resemblance to a stag's antlers or to the strands of a raveled rope tossed about by a whirlwind. The shape and coruscations of this apparition suggest electrical action (fancy an electric spark 500 miles thick!) or the deflagration of some liquid metal. Its color is crimson ; its Hght about twenty thousand miles. Still another and totally different emanation is seen at C, and wears the semblance of a horse's tail, or, more nearly, of a puff of smoke drifting northward, and illuminated by the rosy hues of sunset. At this stage of observation some one jogged the instrument, and before it could be adjusted to another group, a glint of sunlight from the disk's right margin blinded our unaccustomed retinas and flooded the landscape with returning day. At the same instant, looking upward, we beheld the moon's black shadow, sharply defined as a wall in the air, sweep majestically away from right to left before our very eyes— and the total eclipse of 1869 had become a thing of the past! With our present meager array of facts, hypotheses are premature. On the globe we inhabit, the alternations of days and seasons, tidal and climatic changes, and the other endless metamorphoses of matter—are all referable to solar action ; but the sun itself has no sun, and its heat seems too intense for many of the terrestrial phenomena of chemical action. A cause may, however, exist in meteorolites which, falling with inconceivable velocity and possessing a high spheroidal repulsion, may carry with them into the sun's seething chaldron a comparatively cold body of disturbing elements and give rise to the mechanical and other perturbations whose manifestations have been noted. Stenographic Reporting byl Machinery. It is said that a stenographic press has been invented in England by the use of which the art of reporting verbatim can be acquired in much less time than by the old methods. The reporter sits at something like the keyboard of a pianoforte, and by applying his fingers to the keys, prints the words as they drop from the lips of the speaker, syllable by syllable, on a strip of paper which rolls along underneath. When we say this, we do not, of course, mean that the words are printed in letters. The keyboard appears to be divided into three parts of eight keys each. The left side, worked by the four fingers of the left hand, prints signs which represent in- itial consonants ; the right, worked by the fingers of the right hand, prints final consonants ; and the middle, acted on by the two thumbs, prints the medium vowels. We gather that something like a phonetic system of signs is employed. A few months' practice is said to enable any operator to follow the most fluent speaker with ease. We ought to say that M. Gensoul's system renders it unnecessary to transcribe the copy. Just as with the phonetic system, if legibly written, the compositor can set up the speech in common type, from the printed strip furnished by the machine. As to the comparative ease of writing characters with a pen and printing them in the way here described, we can give no opinion. Of this machine an English exchange humorously says : "What we should certainly miss, if the machine came into use in the galleries of our Houses of Parliament, would be the happy skill with which the reporters condense the speeches from their notes. We have very few speakers who could bear to be reported by a machine." So far as the description gives us any idea of the construction of this machine it does not materially differ from one constructed and invented nearly eighteen years ago by Mr. Fairbanks, then in the employ of this office.
This article was originally published with the title "Observations of the Eclipse as Seen at West-Port, KY"