« PreviousContinue »
purpose of fishing: fresh cod for dinner would be not a little acceptable; besides, I understand there is a good deal of amusement in cod-fishing; you shall know what success we have: en attendant, Adieu!
Off Cape Breton, May, 1806.
Land-a-head! Land! Land! repeated half a dozen voices. Joyful tidings! I had just fixed myself in a position to secure me against the rolling of the ship, a very necessary precaution at sea; I had a sheet of paper before me, for the purpose of saying something to you about the banks of Newfoundland and cod-fishing, when my ears were agreeably assailed with the joyful sound of Land-a-head! I am very fond of music; yet I can safely say, that the fine tones of a Catalani, which I have often heard with pleasure, or the modulation of a Braham, which is exquisite, are sounds vastly inferior in their power of pleasing to the shout of Land-a-head, after having been tossed and buffeted across the Atlantic Ocean.
Here we are, on the 20th May, in sight of Cape Breton. As we left Portsmouth on the 14th of April, our being now in sight
'of the New World is pretty fair. Five weeks at sea, however, is quite enough to give a high relish for a sight of land of any sort; and you can hardly suppose a greater contrast than the land we have left—the green fields of England—and the barren mountains of the island of Cape Breton: yet we have great pleasure in looking at it. We have still a long voyage to perform. We have to cross the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and go up the river, which may probably occupy a fortnight. ,:.
For some days past the great increase of cold which we felt made us conjecture that we approached either snow-clad mountains, or islands of ice which are known to float in these latitudes at this season of the year. Those floating islands are of great height, some have been ascertained to rise upwards of two hundred feet from the surface of the sea; their breadth and depth in the water must, of course, have been immense. From the comparative specific gravity of ice and water, the body of ice under water must have been rather more than Aths of what appeared above water. These islands are supposed to be
formed on the coast of New Britain, and on the Labrador shore, during the severe winters which reign in those regions for about nine months in the year. The sea, in a gale of wind, dashed against a rock, will be thrown up to a great height, and be arrested, in part, by the severe frost; frequent accumulation will render the mass of great magnitude. When the summer heat begins to melt the snow, and act upon the land, these immense masses of ice are loosened from the shore, and floated off by the north-west winds. They are supposed to continue and float in the Northern Ocean for more than one year; and they, in part, owe their immense height to the snow and rain which fall upon them and freeze. When, in the course of time, they are floated into the more southern latitudes, the warm air, which comes in contact with them, is condensed, and parts with the moisture it held in solution, which appears in the form of mist, and with which these immense masses of ice are constantly surrounded and constantly fed; for during the night the vapour is frozen, and adds to the height of the whole mass.
A vessel to leeward of one of these floating islands is surprised, sometimes before it is seen, with a sudden and unlooked for degree of cold; and I am assured that it is extremely dangerous to approach them. There are many instances of Quebec vessels, and others, navigating those seas, having been wrecked on these islands of ice. The Lady Hobarti a Halifax packet, struck on one a few years ago, and was totally lost. The passengers and crew took to the boat, and, after being fourteen days at sea, were fortunate enough to reach the island of Newfoundland, but, as you may well suppose, in a most exhausted state.
Notwithstanding the danger, I must own I felt a strong desire to see one of those huge masses of ice; but we were not so fortunate. The cold we felt proceeded from the snow-clad mountains of the island of Cape Breton. It presented to us a very barren and dreary prospect, very different, indeed, from the smiling land we had left. Yet a great degree of interest is excited by a view of even this part of the new wprld.
In crossing the banks of Newfoundland we had very unpleasant, hazy, and