This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
We shall now make a few observations on The Tides:
Say, why should the collected main
Itself within itself contain?
Why to its caverns should it sometimes cree
And with delighted silence sleep
On the lov'd bosom of its parent deep?
Why should its num'rous waters stay
In comely discipline and fair array,
Till winds and tides exert their high commands?
Then prompt and ready to obey,
Why do the rising surges spread Their op'ning ranks o'er earth's submissive head, Marching through different paths to different lands ? Prior,
The tides consist of two periodical motions of the waters of the sea, called the flux and reflux, or the flow and ebb. The cause of the tides is the attraction of the sun and moon, but chiefly of the latter; the waters of the immense ocean, forgetful, as it were, of their natural rest, move and roll in tides, obsequious to the strong attractive power of the moon, and weaker influence of the sun.
That the tides may have their full motion, the ocean in which they are produced ought to be extended from east to west 90°, or a quarter of a great circle of the earth, at least; because the places where the moon raises most, and most depresses the water, are at that distance from one another. Hence it appears, that it is only in the great oceans that such tides can be produced, and why, in the large Pacific ocean, they exceed those in the Atlantic. From this it is also obvious why the tides are not so great in the torrid zone, between Africa and America, where the ocean is narrower, as in the temperate zones on either side; and from this also, we may understand why the tides are so small in islands that are very far distant from the shore. It is manifest, that, in the Atlantic ocenn, the water cannot rise on one shore, but by descending on the other; so that, on these shores, at an intermediate distance, it must continue at about a mean height between its elevation on the one, and descent on the other shore. As the tides pass over shoals, and run through streights into bays of the sea, their motion becomes more various, and their height depends on a great many circumstances. The tide that is produced in the western coast of Europe corresponds to the theory above described: thus, it is high water on the coast of Spain, Portugal, and the west of Ireland, about the third hour after the moon has passed the meridian; from thence it flows into the adjacent channels, as it finds the easiest passage. One current from it, for example, runs up by the south of England, and another comes in by the north of Scotland: they take a considerable time to move all this way and it is high water sooner in the places to which they first come; and the tides even begin to fall at those places, while the two currents are yet going on to others that are further in their course. As they return, they are not able to raise a tide; because the water runs faster off than it returns, till by a new tide propagated from the ocean, the return of the current is stopped, and the water begins to rise again. The tide takes twelve hours to come from the ocean to London bridge, so that, when it is high water there a new tide is already come to its height in the ocean, and, in some intermediate place, it must be low water at the same time.
In channels, therefore, and narrow seas, the progress of the tides may be, in some respects, compared to the motion of the waves of the sea. It may be observed, that when the tide runs over shoals, and flows upon flat shores, the water is raised to a greater height than in the open and deep oceans that have steep banks; because the force of its motion cannot be broken upon these level shores, till the water rises to a greater height. If a place communicates with two oceans, (or two different ways with the same ocean, one of which is a readier and easier passage than the other,) twc tides may arrive at that place in different times, which, interfering with each other, may produce a greater variety of phenomena.
An extraordinary instance of this kind is mentioned at Bathsha, a port in the kingdom of Tonquin in the East Indies, of northern latitude 20° 50'. The day in which the moon passes the equator, the water stagnates there without any motion: as the moon removes from the equator, the water begins to rise and fall once a day; and it is high water at the setting of the moon, and low water at her rising. This daily tide increases for about seven or eight days, and then decreases for as many days by the same degrees, till this motion ceases when the moon has returned to the equator. When she has passed the equator, and declines towards the south pole, the water rises and falls again, as before; but it is high water now at the rising, and low water at the setting, of the moon.