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wet weather, which, I am told, is generally found on them. It is accounted for in this way:
An immense body of water, called by seamen The Gulf Stream, flows from the Gulf of Mexico, and proceeds along the coast of America, at a considerable distance from the shore. Its breadth is generally supposed to be about 15 to 20 leagues. It runs at the rate of about four miles an hour, and it has been ascertained by the thermometer that it is considerably warmer than the ocean on each side of it. This heat is communicated to the air in contact with it, which therefore holds in solution an increased quantity of water. When it gets so far to the north as the banks of Newfoundland, it meets with a cold atmosphere, which cools and condenses the warm air, and renders it incapable of retaining all the water it previously had dissolved; and a deposition of it, in the form of mist, fog, and rain, takes place in consequence. These increase to such an extent as to obscure the sun for days, and sometimes weeks, to the great annoyance of the seaman, who is thereby prevented from taking an observation to ascertain his latitude.
We have been so fortunate as to have a favourable and pretty strong wind to carry us across the banks, so that, with the exception of one day, we had no opportunity of fishing for cod.
I was called on deck one day to look at a banker; I immediately thought of Lombard-street: yet it seemed strange that those who have so many thousand reasons for staying at home, should find any to induce them to be on board ship, alongside of us, on the banks of Newfoundland. I found, however, that the banker is a small vessel stationed on the banks for the sole purpose of fishing. There are immense numbers of them. They come from Newfoundland, and also from the United States; for we have given the Americans liberty to fish on the banks, and also on the coasts, bays, and creeks, of all our dominions in America.
I doubt much how far it was wise policy in our government to allow the Americans to participate in this trade. There might perhaps be less objection to it in time of war, when our communication with the continent is so much abridged that we cannot supply their demands ourselves. But in time of peace we could certainly manage the whole of this trade; and in time of war even, there seems no reason why we should not exclusively supply our West India market. I do not see how British capital could be employed more advantageously to the country than in a trade which draws real wealth from the ocean, increases our shipping, and augments the numbernrf our seamen.
When one reflects on the great extent of the Banks of Newfoundland, being nearly four hundred miles in length, by about two hundred miles in breadth, besides the smaller banks and fishing grounds on the coast of Cape Breton, and round the shores and islands of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, there seems room enough for all the cod-fish catchers in the world; and it may seem hard that any of them should be excluded. But as Great Britain has both the right and the power to monopolize this trade, I cannot see any impropriety in her doing so. The allowing the Americans a share in this trade was an act of pure generosity on the part of Britain. However, a nation ought to be just to its own subjects before it is generous to those of another country.
For some days past we have seen a great number of enormous whales rolling their huge carcasses in the deep. It is curious enough to observe them when several appear near the vessel at the same time. They come to the surface to breathe, or blow, as it is generally called (and with great propriety, for the noise is equal to that of fifty bellows of the largest size), and the water is spouted to an immense height, like the steam of a fire engine.
Amongst the extraordinary things one meets with at sea, it is not one of the least surprising to observe small land-birds several hundred miles from land. I was sitting on deck the other day, when, to my great surprise, my attention was arrested by the warbling of a bird. I looked up, and saw a linnet perched on the rigging, and whistling with as much ardour as if on a bush in a green meadow. It is probable they are driven to sea in a gale of wind, or, perhaps a fog may conceal the land from them, and by taking a wrong direction, they may proceed to sea; still it is a matter not a little surprising that they should be able to continue on the wing so long as is necessary to fly several hundreds of miles, particularly when the usual shortness of their flight is considered. They continue sometimes with a vessel for several days, and are frequently caught by the sailors; but it is remarked that they seldom live, though every care is taken to give them proper food. When the vessel rolls much, they find it difficult to retain their footing on the rigging, and you see them forced, as it were, to resume their flight in search of a better resting-place: poor little creatures! they look for it in vain. You at length see them drop into the sea. It is surprising what hold such little incidents take of our sensibilities.