Abbildungen der Seite
[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

obstruct his slippery way, the traveller gains the bottom of the Fall, where the soul can be susceptible only of one emotion,-that of uncontrollable terror !

It was not until I had, by frequent excursions to the Falls, in some measure familiarized my mind with their sublimities, that I ventured to explore the Penetralia of the Great Cataract. The precipice over which it rolls, is very much arched underneath; while the impetus which the water receives in its descent, projects it far beyond the cliff; and thus an immense Gothic arch is formed by the rock and the torrent. Twice I entered this cavern, and twice I was obliged to retrace my steps, lest I should be suffocated by the blasts of dense spray that whirled around me: the third time, I succeeded in advancing about twenty-five yards. Here darkness began to encircle me: on one side the black cliff stretched itself into a gigantic arch far above my head; and on the other, the dense and hissing torrent formed an impenetrable sheet of water, with which I was drenched in a moment. The rocks were so slippery that I could scarcely keep my feet, or hold securely by them; while the horrid din made me think the precipices above were tumbling down in colossal fragments upon my head.

It is not easy to determine how far an individual might advance; but even were it possible to explore the recess to its extremity, scarce any one, I believe, would have courage to attempt such an expedition.

A little way below the Great Fall the river is comparatively so tranquil, that a ferry-boat plies between the Canadian and American shores. When I crossed, the skiff was at first tossed about with a violence that seemed very alarming; but as soon as we gained the middle, my attention was wholly engaged by the surpassing grandeur of the scene. I was now within the area of a semicircle of cataracts, more than 3,000 feet in extent. I looked up amidst clouds of vapour, and hideous noise-to the height of 150 feet-and saw vast floods vehemently bursting over the precipice, as if the


windows of heaven were opened to pour another deluge on the earth!

Loud sounds, resembling the discharge of artillery or volcanic irruptions, were now distinguished amidst the watery tumult. The sun, looking majestically through the ascending spray, was encircled by a radiant halo; while fragments of rainbows floated on every side, and momentarily vanished only to give place to a succession of others more brilliant. Looking back, I saw the Niagara river again become calm, rolling majestically between the towering cliffs, and receiving showers of dew-drops from the trees that gracefully overarch its transparent bosom: while beautiful birds fluttered around, as if to welcome its egress from those clouds and thunders. The height of the Great Fall, as taken with a plumb-line, is 149 feet its curve supposed to extend 2,100 feet, and its arc may measure nearly half that space. The breadth of Goat Island, is 984 feet; and that of the American Fall (which it is unnecessary to describe) 1140 feet, its pitch being 164, or fifteen feet higher than the Great Fall. Therefore the whole circumference of the precipice over which the Falls roll, is, 4,224 feet, and the width of the cataract itself 3,240 feet. In general their form is that of an irregular semicircle, extending about three quarters of a mile. A dog, which I have seen, was carried over the Great Fall some years ago, and suffered no injury except the fracture of two ribs. But of the human bodies which have in several instances been carried over, none (I believe) was ever found. Dead wildducks are found in great numbers near the bottom of the Falls along the banks, on the mornings that succeed to dark and stormy nights; which some suppose carried over while asleep; but others, more probably, think them entangled in the rapids above, and swept away ere aware of their danger.

The three extensive views are those described: there is a similar staircase on the American side. In general the first view travellers obtain from the road, being above the level of

the Falls, is comparatively imperfect and unimposing. The country around is exquisitely beautiful; and there are several mansions very near, and in view of the rapids and the Great Fall.


ONE mile further down leads to a tremendous whirlpool, resembling very much, in its appearance and gyrations, the celebrated Mælstrom on the coast of Norway. Logs and trees are sometimes whirled around for days together in its outer circles, while in the centre they are drawn down perpendicularly with great force, are soon shot out again at the distance of many rods, and occasionally thrust into the channel to pass down the river. The river here makes nearly a right angle, which occasions the whirlpool,—is narrower than at any other place, not more than thirty rods in width,— -and the current runs with such amazing velocity as to rise up in the middle ten feet above the sides. This has been ascertained by actual measurement.

"Resistless, roaring, dreadful down it comes,

There, gathering triple force, rapid and deep,

It boils, and wheels, and foams, and thunders through."

There is a path leading down the bank to the whirlpool on both sides, and, though somewhat difficult to descend and ascend, it is accomplished almost every day on the American side, by gentlemen, and often by ladies.

A brisk and very refreshing breeze is felt there during the hottest and stillest days of summer; and no place is better fitted to elevate and expand the mind. The whirlpool is a phenomenon of great interest as seen even from the top of the bank, especially if a small telescope be used; but to have any adequate idea of its power and motion, visitors ought to descend to the water's edge, and walk some distance up the river. The rapids here are much more powerful and terrific

than they are above the Falls, and appear like a flood of watery brilliants rushing along.

Having written thus far, the writer laid down his pen, and started off on a fresh visit to the whirlpool; and now, having spent half a day there in mute astonishment and admiration, and walked more than a mile by the river's edge, he is utterly at a loss what language to use in describing it. He is aware that the above description is tame and meagre; and yet he can think of no language, no imagery, no comparison, that will not fall immeasurably short of conveying a just idea of the scene. He can only say, soberly and earnestly, that no gentleman ought hereafter to acknowledge that he has seen the Falls of Niagara, unless he could also say he had seen the whirlpool from the water's edge. A staircase down the bank would be a great accommodation to visitors, and it is to be hoped that one ere long will be constructed. Water for hydraulic purposes, may easily be brought into use here to an almost unlimited extent.

About the year 1812, an accident occurred here, perhaps worth recording. A party of men were employed in cutting cedar logs near the river about the whirlpool, with a view to get them floated to Lewiston. One man stepping upon some of them that were rafted, was imperceptibly, or perhaps through carelessness, drawn out into the current, and swiftly carried into the whirlpool. He clung to a log, and was carried round and round in the capacious basin for hours, expecting every moment to be crushed among the logs or thrust into the vortex, while his companions on shore could afford him no relief. At length some of them ascended the bank, went to Queenston, four miles, and procured a boat to be drawn up by a team. This was let down the bank, and many people assembled with ropes, poles, &c. to render assistance. After the boat had been well secured, and some men had stepped in intending to push out into the whirlpool, the man upon the log, still whirling in imminent peril of his life, was, by some action of the water, sent out directly to the shore, and finally saved, without receiving any aid from others.

« ZurückWeiter »