The celebrated Roscoff zoological station was founded in 1872, and has therefore been in existence for thirteen years; but it may be said that it has changed appearance thirteen times. Those who, for the last six or seven years, have gone thither to work with diligence find at every recurring season some improvement or new progress.
A rented house, a small shed in a yard, little or no apparatus, and four work rooms - such was the debut of the station; and modest it was, as may be seen. Later on, the introduction of a temporary aquarium, which, without being ornamental, was not lacking in convenience, sufficed for making some fine discoveries regarding numerous animals.
A small boat served for supplying necessaries to the few workers who were then visiting Roscoff; but as the number of these kept gradually increasing, it became necessary to think of enlarging the station, and the purchase of a piece of property was decided upon. Since then, Mr. Lacaze Duthiers has done nothing but develop and transform this first acquisition. A large house, which was fitted up in 1879, formed the new laboratory. This was built in a large garden situated nearly at the edge of the sea. We say nearly, as the garden in fact was separated from the sea by a small road. The plan in Fig. 1 shows that this road makes an angle; but formerly it was straight, and passed over the terrace which now borders upon the fish pond. How many measures, voyages, and endless discussions, and how much paper and ink, it has taken to get this road ceded to the laboratory! Finally, after months of contest, victory rewarded Mr. Duthiers's tenacity, and he was then able to begin the construction of a pond and aquarium.
All this was not done at once.
FIG. 1. - PLAN OF THE ROSCOFF LABORATORY.
Another capital improvement was made in 1882. The public school adjoining the establishment was ceded to it, the separating walls fell, the school became a laboratory, the class rooms were replaced by halls for research, and now no trace of the former separation can be seen - so uniform a whole does the laboratory form. No one knows what patience it required to form, piecemeal as it were, so vast an establishment, and one whose every part so completely harmonizes.
During the same year a park, one acre in area, was laid out on the beach opposite the laboratory. This is daily covered by the sea, and forms a preserve in which animals multiply, and which, during the inclement season, when distant excursions are impossible, permits of satisfying the demands that come from every quarter. All, however, is not finished. Last year a small piece of land was purchased for the installation of hydraulic apparatus for filling the aquarium. This acquisition was likewise indispensable, in order to prevent buildings from being erected upon the land and shutting off the light from the work rooms opposite. Alas, here we find our enemy again - the little road! Negotiations have been going on for eighteen months with the common council, and, what is worse, with the army engineers, concerning the cession of this wretched footpath.
The reader now knows the principal phases of the increases and improvements through which the Roscoff station has passed. If, with the plan before his eyes, he will follow us, we will together visit the various parts of the laboratory. The principal entrance is situated upon the city square, one of the sides of which is formed by the buildings of the station. We first enter a large and beautiful garden ornamented with large trees and magnificent flowers which the mild and damp climate of Roscoff makes bloom in profusion. We next enter a work room which is designed for those pupils who, doing no special work, come to Roscoff in order to study from nature what has been taught them theoretically in the lecture courses of schools, etc. There is room here for nine pupils, to each of whom the laboratory offers two tables, with tanks, bowls, reagents, microscopes, and instruments of all kinds for cabinet study, as well as for researches upon animals on the beach. Here the pupils are in presence of each other, and so the explanations given by the laboratory assistants are taken advantage of by all. At the end of this room, on turning to the left, we find two large apartments - the library and museum.
Here have been gradually collected together the principal works concerning the fauna of Roscoff and the English Channel, maps and plans useful for consultation, numerous memoirs, and a small literary library. The scientific collection contains the greater portion of the animals that inhabit the vicinity of Roscoff. To every specimen is affixed a label giving a host of data concerning the habits, method of capture, and the various biological conditions special to it. In a few years, when the data thus accumulated every season by naturalists have been brought together, we shall have a most valuable collection of facts concerning the fauna of the coast of France. Two store rooms at the end of these apartments occupy the center of the laboratory, and are thus more easy of access from the work rooms, and the objects that each one desires can be quickly got for him.
FIG. 2. - INTERIOR OF ONE OF THE STALLS FOR STUDY.
After the store rooms comes what was formerly the class room for boys, and which has space for three workers, and then the former girls' class room, which has space for eight more. Let us stop for a moment in this large room, which is divided up into eight stalls, each of which is put at the disposal of some naturalist who is making original researches. Fig. 2 represents one of these, and all the rest are like it. Three tables are provided, the space between which is occupied by the worker. Of these, one is reserved for the tanks that contain the animals, another, placed opposite a window giving a good light, supports the optical apparatus, and the last is occupied by delicate objects, drawings, notes, etc., and is, after a manner, the worker's desk. Some shelving, some pegs, and a small cupboard complete the stall. It is unnecessary to say that the laboratory furnishes gratuitously to those who are making researches everything that can be of service to them.
Four of these stalls are situated to the north, with a view of the sea, and the other four overlook the garden. They are separated from each other by a simple partition, and all open on a wide central corridor that leads to the aquarium. Before reaching the latter we find two offices that face each other, one of them for the lecturer and the other for the preparator. These rooms, as far as their arrangement is concerned, are identical with the stalls of the workers. The laboratory, then, is capable of receiving twenty-three workers at a time, and of offering them every facility for researches.
FIG. 3. - GENERAL VIEW OF THE ROSCOFF LABORATORY.
The aquarium is an immense room, 98 ft. in length by 33 in width, glazed at the two sides. It is at present occupied only by temporary tanks that are to be replaced before long by twenty large ones of 130 gallons capacity, and two oval basins of from 650 to 875 gallons capacity, constructed after the model of the one that is giving so good results at Banyuls. At the extremity of the aquarium there is a store room containing trawls, nets of all kinds, and mops, for the capture of animals. Here too is kept the rigging of the two laboratory boats, the Dentale and Laura. Above the store room is located the director's work room.
A wide terrace separates the aquarium from the pond. This latter is 38 yards long by 35 wide. Thanks to a system of sluice valves, it is filled during high tide, and the water is shut in at low tide, thus permitting of having a supply of living animals in boxes and baskets until the resources of the laboratory permit of a more improved arrangement. This basin is shown in Fig. 3. It is at the north side of the laboratory as seen from the beach. Here too we see the aquarium, the garden, and a portion of the shore that serves as a post for the station boats.
We must not, in passing, fail to mention the extreme convenience that the proximity of the aquarium work room to the pond and sea offers to the student.
This entire collection of halls, constituting the scientific portion of the laboratory, occupies the ground floor. The first and second stories are occupied by sleeping apartments, fourteen in number. These, without being luxurious, are sufficiently comfortable, and offer the great advantage that they are very near the work rooms, thus permitting of observing, at leisure, and at any hour of the day or night, the animals under study.
Everything is absolutely free at the laboratory. The work rooms, instruments, reagents, boats, dwelling apartments, etc., are put at the disposal of all with an equal liberality; and this absence of distinction between rich or poor, Frenchmen or foreigners, is the source of a charming cordiality and good will among the workers.
Shall we speak, too, of the richness of the Roscoff fauna? This has become proverbial among zoologists, as can be attested by the 265 of them who have worked at the laboratory. The very numerous and remarkable memoirs that have been prepared here are to be found recorded in the fourteen volumes of the Archives de Zoologie Experimentale founded by Mr. Lacaze Duthiers.
It only remains to express our hope that the aquarium may be soon finished; but before this is done it will be necessary to get possession of that unfortunate little road. After this final victory, Mr. Duthiers in his turn will be able, amid his pupils, to enjoy all those advantages of his work which he has until now offered to others, but from which he himself has gained no benefit. - La Nature.