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Gulf of St. Lawrence, May, 1806.
We are now in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which we entered a few days ago. The entrance through which we passed is the principal one; it is sixty miles broad, and is formed by Cape North, in the island of Cape Breton, on the south side, and by Cape Raiy, in Newfoundland, on the north side. There is another communication with the ocean, through the Streights of Belleisle, between Newfoundland and the Labrador shore, but it is seldom used, except by running vessels from Quebec, that are going to Scotland, or the north of England. The third communication with the ocean is by the Gut of Canso, through which, vessels coming from the West Indies, or the United States of America, generally enter the Gulf. This passage, which is very narrow, separates Cape Breton from New Brunswick.
The inland country of Cape Breton ap
pears very mountainous, and they still (25th May) are covered with snow—a chilling prospect.
We acquired possession of Cape Breton in 1763, and erected it into a separate government in 1784. There is in this island, which is about a hundred miles in length by sixty in breadth, much arable land, which at present abounds with hardwood and pine timber. This country/s of great value to Britain, for several reasons. As it commands the Gulf of St. Lawrence, it may be considered as the key of Canada. There are in its neighbourhood very valuable fisheries, which cannot well be carried on without a harbour in the island,, and the harbour of Louisburgh is the principal one for that purpose.
Great advantages are likely to accrue from the valuable coal-mines in Cape Breton. There is also abundance of iron. The working of the coal-mines, together with the fisheries, form the chief employment of the inhabitants. • Communication with the interior of the island is rendered easy by means of a number of lakes and inlets from the sea, found in every direction.
The gulf is as smooth as a mill-pond. We glide along, almost without being sensible that we are on shipboard. We passed yesterday the Bird Rocks, so called from the great number of sea fowls which resort to them. These rocks are not very distant from the Magdalene Islands, to which they are considered to belong. The whole of the rocks and islands were lately granted by government to admiral Sir Isaac Coffin. The~Blands are valuable only as a fishing station.
These islands are inhabited by the French who left Acadia (now Nova Scotia) after it was secured by France to Britain by the peace of 1763. I am told they are naturally a quiet, good sort of people. Indeed it is well they are so, for they have never been considered of sufficient consequence to give them either laws or a government. They carry on, however, a considerable trade in oil, seal-skins, cod-fish, &c. which they send to Europe, or to Quebec, whence they receive in return the various articles they have occasion for> such as flour, liquors, clothing, &c.
Sir Isaac has lately made an attempt to bring them under his authority as their lord and master. He has paid them a visit: how far he may succeed, time only can shew; but I understand they would rather be left to themselves than be governed by any body.
To the southward of our course lies Prince Edward's Island, near the coasts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It is a fine island; the soil is rich, and fit for every sort of grain. It abounds with timber of a variety of kinds, fit for the shipbuilder, carpenter, and cabinet-maker.
We are now in sight of the island of Anticosti, which lies at the mouth of the river St. Lawrence; it is about one hundred and thirty miles in length, and about thirty in breadth. This extensive tract of country is not inhabited: the length and severity of its winters, and the sterility of its soil, have rendered abortive some attempts that have been made to settle on it; and it will not probably be again attempted, while so much good terra^rma remains uncleared and unappropriated. At present the whole island might be purchased for a few hundred pounds. It belongs to
some gentlemen in Quebec, and you might, for a very small sum, become one of the greatest landholders in the world, and a Canadian Seignor into the bargain.
When you have passed the island of Anticosti, you may be said to be in the river St. Lawrence; but from its great breadth (being about ninety miles), you still conceive yourself to be in the gulf. The channel between Anticosti and the main land on the south is about fifteen leagues. We have a fine favourable breeze, and in mid-channel we can see both coasts. The mountains appear to be of great height, and they are all covered with snow. They are probably a great way inland; for although we have been directing our course towards those on the south shore the whole day, there seems little or no change in their appearance as to size and height—a proof that both are very great.
I am informed their elevation has never been accurately ascertained; but, if any regard is toXbe had to appearances, I should suppose they are fully as high as the Pyrenees. The captain of our vessel imagines that we are at least a hundred miles /