1887 - Lafcadio Hearn
The Blue Sea
Morning: the second day [at sea out of New York]. The sea is an extraordinary blue, - looks to me something like violet ink. Close by the ship, where the foam-clouds are, it is beautifully mottled,- looks like blue marble with exquisite veinings and nebulosities … Tepid wind, and cottony white clouds, - cirri climbing up over the edge of the sea all around. The sky is still pale blue, and the horizon is full of a whitish haze.
... A nice old French gentleman from Guadeloupe presumes to say this is not blue water; - he declares it greenish (verdâtre). Because I cannot discern the green, he tells me I do not yet know what blue water is. Attendez un peu! …
… The sky-tone deepens as the sun ascends, - deepens deliciously. The warm wind proves soporific. I drop asleep with the blue light in my face, the strong bright blue of the noonday sky. As l doze it seems to burn like a cold fire right through my eyelids. Waking up with a start, I fancy that everything is turning blue, - myself included. "Do you not call this the real tropical blue?" I cry to my French fellow-traveller. "Mon Dieu! non," he exclaims, as in astonishment at the question; - "this is not blue!" … What can be his idea of blue, I wonder!
Clots of sargasso float by, - light-yellow sea-weed. We are nearing the Sargasso-sea, - entering the path of the trade-winds. There is a long ground-swell, the steamer rocks and rolls, and the tumbling water always seems to me growing bluer; but my friend from Guadeloupe says that this color "which I call blue" is only darkness - only the shadow of prodigious depth.
Nothing now but blue sky and what I persist in calling blue sea. The clouds have melted away in the bright glow. There is no sign of life in the azure gulf above, nor in the abyss beneath; -there are no wings or fins to be seen. Towards evening, under the slanting gold light, the color of the sea deepens into ultramarine; then the sun sinks down behind a bank of copper-colored cloud.
Morning of the third day. Same mild, warm wind. Bright blue sky, with some very thin clouds in the horizon, - like puffs of steam. The glow of the sea-light through the open ports of my cabin makes them seem filled with thick blue glass … It is becoming to warm for New York clothing …
Certainly the sea has become much bluer. It gives one the idea of liquefied sky: the foam might be formed of cirrus clouds compressed, - so extravagantly white it looks to-day, like snow in the sun. Neverthelessm the gentleman from Guadeloupe still maintains this is not the true blue of the tropics!
…The sky does not deepen its hue to-day: it brightens it; - the blue glows as if it were taking fire throughout. Perhaps the sea may deepen its hue; I do not believe it can take more luminous color wihout being set aflame. ... I ask the ship's doctor whether it is really true that the West Indian waters are any bluer than these. He looks a moment at the sea, and replies: “Oh, yes!” There is such a tone of surprise in his oh! As might indicate that I had asked a very foolish question; and his look seems to express doubt whether I am quite in earnest. ... I think, nevertheless, that this water is extravagantly, nonsensically blue !
... I read for an hour or two; fall asleep in the chair; wake up suddenly; look at the sea, - and cry out! This sea is impossibly blue ! The painter who should try to paint it would be denounced as a lunatic. … Yet it is transparent; the foam-clouds, as they sink down, turn sky-blue,- a sky-blue which now looks white by contrast with the strange and violent splendor of the sea color. It seems as if one were looking into an immeasurable dyeing vat, or as though the whole ocean had been thickened with indigo. To say this is a mere reflection of the sky is nonsense! - The sky is too pale by a hundred shades for that! This must be the natural color of the water,- a blazing azure,- magnificent, impossible to describe.
The French passenger from Guadeloupe observes that the sea is "beginning to become blue."
Two Years in the French West Indies
New York/London 1890