RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1879. Rats and water-casks. Nature. A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science 19 (27 March): 481.

REVISION HISTORY: Scanned, text prepared and edited by John van Wyhe 2003-8. RN3

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[page] 481

Rats and Water-Casks

MR. NICOLS says, in NATURE, vol xix. p. 433:—1

"A ship's carpenter told me that, in the old days, before the use of iron tanks on board ship became general, the rats used to attack the water-casks, cutting the stave so thin that they could suck the water through the wood without actually making a hole in it. If any one could substantiate this it would have an important bearing on the question under consideration."

Capt. Wickham,2 when First Lieutenant on board H.M.S. Beagle, told me that when he was a midshipman it was his duty, on one of the king's ships to see that certain vessels on deck were always kept full of water, in order to prevent the rats gnawing holes through the water casks, and that through such holes nearly all the water in a cask would leak away.


1 Arthur Nicols (1840-1891), author of numerous popular zoological and travel books who emigrated to Australia. Nicols 1879.

2 John Clement Wickham (1798-1864), First Lieutenant on the second (Darwin's) voyage of the Beagle and Darwin's favourite officer on board. Another case was contributed by E. J. A'Court Smith, Rats and water casks. Nature (10 April): 529. See the introduction to Darwin, C. R. 1879. [Quote from a lost 1875 letter to Arthur Nicols]. In A. Nicols, Intellect in brutes. Nature. (20 February): 365 (F3459).

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