Chapter 2 begins with the intellectual stimulus of Smeathman’s voyage through tropical waters to West Africa. His powers of close observation are exercised on creatures such as the polyp, an exemplary case of the plant-animal continuum which was so perplexing to naturalists. Upon arriving at the Isles de Los, Smeathman is affronted by the sights and sounds of slavery. Pity for the enslaved, especially the women nursing babies, is accompanied by admiration of the scale and efficiency of the slave trade’s organization. In comparison his fieldwork equipment looks puny to the slave traders who consider their ‘collections’ to be far more significant, and certainly more profitable.
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