Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

the midst of eternal winter. This floating wood is very frequently found charred at both ends. In winter, the intensity of the cold is continually bursting asunder the mountains of ice, and every moment is heard the explosion of these masses, which yawn into enormous rents. In spring, the movement of the ice more generally consists of the mere overturning of these masses, which lose their equilibrium in consequence of one part being dissolved before another. The fog which envelopes this melting ice is so dense, that from one extremity of a frigate it is impossible to discern the other. The marine ice, even when fixed, does not stretch out in uninterrupted plains. Overturned and accumulated in a thousand different

ways, it frequently offers to the view castles of crystal in ruins, shattered pyramids and obelisks, arches and vaults suspended in the air.

Iceberg is the term applied to those floating mountains of ice that are more common in Baffin's Bay than in any other part of the northern seas, and are also very frequent in the Great Southern Ocean. It is now generally believed that they are glaciers originally formed on the cliffs of lofty islands or in abrupt valleys, where their lower part being undermined by the waves, in process

of time they become detached from the land, and float about as impelled by currents. Some of the icebergs seen in Davis' Straits have an area of five or six square miles, rise 100 feet above the surface, and are aground in water of 100 fathoms. Large icebergs can only be produced where there is deep water close to the cliffs on which they are formed; and this is probably the reason why they abound in Davis' Straits.

The ice, of which these floating masses are composed, is of various colours. The original fresh-water ice is sometimes incrusted with that formed from the sea-water, and this again is covered with new ice formed of fallen snow. The different positions of the spectator relatively to the incidental rays of light, varies likewise the seeming hue of the whole. In some parts it emulates the vividness of the emerald, and in others the most beautiful sapphire. When the iceberg is totally composed of melted snow-which is sometimes but partially the case

-the refraction of the solar rays is most beautiful; and the appearance of those floating mountains, on the side opposite the sun, presents such a blaze of light, intermingled with different glowing tints, as totally to baffle description. Here, we fancy that we behold mountains of pure crystal, and valleys sown with diamonds; there, greyish towers with their resplendent points seem to rise above a rampart crowned with ice. The magnifying medium of a hazy atmosphere, often renders this spectacle still more gigantic. He must have a bold heart who dare penetrate into these inhospitable seas; for, if the navigator has not to fear tempests, which are extremely rare in these latitudes, nor water-spouts and hurricanes, which are there unknown, he will be assailed with other dangers much more capable of appalling the most intrepid mind. Sometimes huge bodies of ice, impelled along by the winds and the currents, dash against the ship; and there is no rock so dangerous nor so difficult to avoid. One half of the vessels that are every year lost in the fisheries, perish in this way; whence it is one of the great duties of the watch upon deck to look out sharply for fear of falling in with an iceberg. Sometimes these floating mountains treacherously surround the navigator, and block up every outlet; his ship is arrested in her course, and becomes immoveable. In vain does the feeble axe endeavour to break these enormous masses : in vain do the sails invite the winds; the ship is as it were soldered into the ice, and the mariner, cut off from the world of living beings, remains fixed in a solitude of death.

Various.

IX.-SIROCCO.-HURRICANE. THE Sirocco of Italy and Sicily is a south-east, or south wind, which, heated on the sandy wastes of Arabia and Lybia, becomes occasionally moist in its passage across the Mediterranean, and oppresses the inhabitants of Italy, Malta, and Sicily, with excessive languor, and a sinking of their mental energies. When it sets in, it causes a very sudden and powerful rise of the thermometer, and is accompanied by a haze which obscures the pure sky of those southern countries ; the sun appearing dimmed and shorn of his beams. The Solano of Spain is only a modification of the Sirocco. It is most oppressive on the eastern shores of Spain, and is greatly detested by the inhabitants. The Khamsm of Syria, the Samiel of the Turks, and the Simûn of the Arabs, is a wind in no degree poisonous, except in as far as it is dangerous from its extreme heat and aridity ; qualities it derives from blowing over sandy deserts intensely heated by the sun. It is loaded with impalpable sand, which penetrates into the closest packages. These winds produce difficult respiration, a shrivelled skin, and a distressing sense of heat; and are sometimes dangerous, from the sudden entrance of this heated and parched air into the lungs. They often blow in squalls, and in Egypt usually continue for about three days at a time; during which period vegetation is withered, and the inhabitants shut themselves up in their houses or tents. The Harmattan of the west coast of Africa is of the same kind, and produced by the same causes. It usually blows from the Great Sahara towards the coast, and like the others is loaded with dust. On the morning of the 19th January 1826, when the Clyde, East Indiaman, was on her voyage to London, in latitude 10° 40' N., longitude 27 41' W., her rigging was observed to be covered with an impalpable powder of a brownish colour, and on unfurling the sails at two P. M. to catch the breeze, they emitted clouds of dust, which had lodged in them during a strong gale from the E. and N. E. In this case the nearest land in that direction was about seven hundred miles distant. The only difference between the Sirocco and these other winds appears to be, that the Sirocco obtains some moisture in crossing the Mediterranean.

The Cape of Good Hope, as well as many islands in the West Indies, are famous for their hurricanes, and that extradrdinary kind of cloud which is said to produce them. This cloud, which is the forerunner of an approaching hurricane, appears, when first seen, like a small black spot on the verge of the horizon, and is called by sailors the

from being seen so minute at a vast distance. All this time a perfect calm reigns over the sea and land,

bull's eye,

while the cloud grows gradually broader as it approaches. At length, coming to the place where its fury is to fall, it invests the whole horizon with darkness. During all the time of its approach a hollow murmur is heard in the cavities of the mountains, and the beasts of the field, sensible of its approach, are seen running to seek for shelter. Nothing can be more terrible than its violence where it begins. The houses in those countries, which are made of timber, the better to resist its fury, bend to the blast like osiers, and again recover their rectitude. The sun, which, but a moment before, blazed with meridian splendour, is totally shut out, and a midnight darkness prevails, except that the air is incessantly illuminated with gleams of lightning, by which one can easily see to read. The rain falls at the same time in torrents, and its descent has been likened to what pours

from the spouts of our houses after a violent shower. These hurricanes are not less offensive to the sense of smelling also, and never come without leaving the most noisome stench behind them. If the seamen lay by their wet clothes for twenty-four hours, they are all found swarming with little white maggots that were brought with the burricane. Our first mariners, when they visited these regions, were ignorant of its effects and the signs of its approach ; their ships, therefore, were dashed to the bottom at the first onset, and numberless were the wrecks which the hurricane occasioned. But, at present, being forewarned of its approach, they strip their masts of all their sails, and thus patiently abide its fury. These hurricanes are common in all the tropical climates, and are often most destructive ; growing corn, vines, sugar-canes, forests, and houses, everything is swept away; so that one might imagine, the ground it has passed over had been cleared and levelled. They are most common at the change of the trade winds.

But of all these terrible tempests that deform the face of nature, and repress human presumption, the sandy tempests of Arabia and Africa are the most terrible. To conceive a proper idea of these, we are by no means to suppose them resembling those whirlwinds of dust that we sometimes see flying in our air, and sprinkling their contents upon our roads or meadows. The sand storm of Africa exhibits a very different appearance. As the sand of which the whirlwind is composed is excessively tine, and almost resembles the parts of water, its motion entirely resembles that of fluid, and the whole plain seems to float onward like a slow inundation. The body of sand thus rolling along, is deep enough to bury houses and camels in its bosom. Travellers who are crossing those extensive deserts, perceive its approach at a distance, and in general have time to avoid it, or turn out of its way, as it generally extends but to a moderate breadth. However, when it is extremely rapid, or very extensive, is sometimes is the case, no swiftness, no art can avail ; nothing then remains but to meet death with fortitude, and submit to be buried alive with resignation.

Various.

X.--WHIRLPOOLS.

WHIRLPOOLS appear to be occasioned by currents meeting with submarine obstacles, which throw them into gyration. When the movement is rapid, the centre is the most depressed portion of the rotating circle, and objects drawn within it are submerged in that point. Several small whirlpools, capable of whirling round a boat, are seen among the Orkney Islands. That of Coryvrechan, in the narrow channel between Scarba and Jura, in the Western Islands, is caused by a rock of a conical form, rising abruptly from the bottom, where the depth is 600 feet, and reaching to within ninety feet of the surface. This obstruction, in a tortuous rocky channel, causes a succession of eddies; and when the Hood-tide sets in, with a fresh breeze in the opposite direction, the eddying waters rise in short heavy waves, which are highly dangerous to boats, and even to decked vessels.

But the most celebrated whirlpool is that of Malström, on the coast of Norway. The name it has received from the natives, signifies the navel of the sea, as they suppose that a great part of the water of the sea is sucked up by its vortex. The boily of the waters that form this whirl

« ElőzőTovább »