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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, go up the river, which may probably
and go up
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 ths 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 Hobart, 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 world.
In crossing the banks of Newfoundland we had very unpleasant, hazy, and
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 in-duce 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