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brought as nearly to a point as possible. The conical tails which stream from these watery meteors may vary from one or two yards to ten or twelve, and are spread out on all sides in a very curious manner.
The lower part of the Fall, it must be observed, is so constantly hidden from the view by a thick rolling cloud of spray, that during ten days I never succeeded once in getting a glimpse of the bottom of the falling sheet; nor do I believe it is ever seen. Out of this cloud, which waves backwards and forwards, and rises at times to the height of many hundred feet above the Falls, these singular cones, or cornets, are seen at all times jumping up.
The altitude to which they are projected, I estimated at about thirty feet from the top; which inference I was led to by means of the sketches made with the Camera Lucida. I watched my opportunity, and made dots at the points reached by the highest of these curious projectiles. The whole height being between 150 and 160 feet, the perpendicular elevation to which these jets of water are thrown cannot therefore be less than 110 or 120 feet above the surface of the pool.
The controversy respecting the elasticity of the air behind the Fall was soon settled. I carried with me a barometer made expressly with a view to this experiment. It was of the most delicate kind, and furnished with two contrivances absolutely indispensable to the accuracy of experiments made under such circumstances. The first of these was a circular spirit-level placed on the top of the frame holding the tube, by which the perpendicularity of the instrument was ascertained; and, secondly, an arrangement of screws near the point of support, by which the tube, when duly adjusted, could be secured firmly in its place. By the help of these two inventions of Mr. Adie of Edinburgh, this instrument can be used with confidence, although exposed to such furious storms of wind and rain, as that I have been describing. These simple additions to the barometer, it may be mentioned, give great facility to observations made for the deter
mination of the height of mountains, as it secures the correct position of the instrument, however windy the station may be. The mercury stood, at two stations on the outside, at 29° 68'. The instrument was then carried behind the Falls, and placed near the Termination Rock, as an impassable angle of the cliff is called, which lies at the distance of 153 feet from the entrance, measuring from the Canadian or western extremity of the Great Horse-Shoe Fall. It now stood at about 29° 72'. The thermometer in both cases being at 70° of Farenheit. The inner station was probably ten or twelve feet lower than the external one; and it will be easily understood, that in such a situation, with a torrent of water pouring over the instrument and the observer, and hard squalls or gusts of wind threatening to whisk the whole party into the abyss, there could be no great nicety of readings. I observed, that within the Fall, the mercury vibrated in the tube about four-hundredths of an inch, and was never perfectly steady; the highest and lowest points were therefore observed by the eye, and the mean recorded. During the external observations there was only a slight tremor visible on the surface of the columu. In order to prevent mistakes, I repeated the experiment at another spot, about 120 feet within the entrance, when the mercury stood at about 290 74' though still vibrating several hundredths of an inch. Upon the whole, then, considering that the inner stations were lower than the external one, the small difference between the external and the internal readings may be ascribed to errors in observation, and not to any difference in the degree of elasticity in the air without and within the falling sheet of water.
Though I was only half an hour behind the Fall, I came out much exhausted, partly with the bodily exertion of maintaining a secure footing while exposed to such buffeting and drenching, and partly I should suppose from the interest belonging to the scene, which certainly exceeded anything I ever witnessed before. All parts of Niagara, indeed, are on a scale which baffles every attempt of the imagination to
paint, and it were ridiculous, therefore, to think of describing it. The ordinary materials of description, I mean analogy, and direct comparison with things which are more accessible, fail entirely in the case of that amazing cataract, which is altogether unique.
Yet a great deal, I am certain, might be done by a wellexecuted panorama, drawn from below, at a station near the projecting angle of the rock, which must be passed, after leaving the bottom of the ladder, on the way to the cave I have been speaking about. An artist well versed in this peculiar sort of painting, might produce a picture which would probably distance every thing else of the kind. He must not however, trust to the sketches of others, but go to the Falls himself; and then become acquainted with those feelings which the actual presence of the stupendous scene is capable of inspiring. For without some infusion of these local sentiments into his painting, were it ever so correct an outline, the result would be nothing more than a large picture of a large waterfall, instead of the noblest, and perhaps the most popular, of those singular works of art, which, by a species of magic, transport so many distant regions to our very doors.
On Sunday night, the 8th of July, we again visited the Falls, and walked down to the Table Rock to view them by moonlight. Our expectations, as may be supposed, were high, but the sight was even more impressive than we had expected. It possessed, it is true, a more sober kind of interest than that belonging to the wild scene behind the sheet of water above described. I may mention one curious effect: it seemed to the imagination not impossible that the Fall might swell up, and grasp us in its vortex. The actual presence of any very powerful moving object, is often more or less remotely connected with a feeling that its direction may be changed; and when the slightest variation would prove fatal, a feeling of awe is easily excited. At all events, as I gazed upon the cataract, it more than once appeared to increase in its volume, and to be accelerated in its velocity, till my heated fancy became strained, alarmed, and so much
overcrowded with new and old images, all exaggerated, that, in spite of the conviction that the whole was nonsense, I felt obliged to draw back from the edge of the rock; and it required a little reflection, and some resolution, to advance again to the brink.
On the 1st of August, 1827, I drove once more to the Falls, intending merely to bid good-by to them, and come away. I therefore left the carriage at the top of the bank, and said to the coachman that he need not take out his horses, but wait in the shade before the inn, till I came up again from the Table Rock. This was at noon, but it was not till three o'clock that I could disentangle myself from the scene. Indeed, to speak without exaggeration or affectation, I must own, that upon this visit the last, in all human probability, I shall ever pay to these Falls-I was almost overwhelmed (if that be the proper word to use) with the grandeur of this extraordinary spectacle. I felt, as it were, staggered and confused, and at times experienced a sensation bordering on alarm—I did not well know at what—a strong mysterious sort of impression that something dreadful might happen. At one moment I looked upon myself as utterly insignificant in the presence of such a gigantic, moving, thundering body-and in the next, was puffed up with a sort of pride and arrogant satisfaction that I was admitted into such company, and that I was not altogether wasting the opportunity at others I gave up the reins of my imagination altogether, and then tried to follow, but with no great success, some of the innumerable trains of wild and curious reflections which arose in consequence-though, after all, nothing can be conceived more vague than those wandering thoughts, except it be their present ghostlike recollection.
During three hours, which I am disposed to reckon as the most interesting of my whole life, my mind was often brought back from such fanciful vagaries with a sudden start-only, however, to relapse again and again. More than once I really almost forgot where I was, and became more than half conscious that I saw millions and millions of tons of water
dashing down before me at every second, at the distance of only a few yards; and even ceased to recollect that the sound I heard came from the greatest cascade in the world. Still, however, in spite of these abstractions-which I made no attempt to restrain-I was all the while sensible that something very delightful was passing.
The effect of this mighty cataract upon the mind, might perhaps be worthy of the attention of a metaphysician. With me, at least, the influence of one overpowering but indefinite sensation absorbed the active operation of the senses, and produced a kind of dizzy reverie, more or less akin to sleep, or rather to the intoxication described by opiumeaters, during which a thousand visions arose connected with the general sentiment of sublimity. And it may help to give some idea of the extravagant length to which the overindulged fancy can carry the dreamer on such occasions, to mention that once, for some seconds, I caught myself thinking that I had fairly left this lower world for the upper sky— that I was traversing the heavens in company with Sir Isaac Newton, and that the sage was just going to tell me about the distance of the fixed stars!
The awakening, if so it may be called, from these roving commissions of the mind, to the stupendous reality, so far from being accompanied by the disappointment which usually attends the return-voyage from these distant regions in the world of fancy, was gratifying far beyond what I remember to have experienced upon any former occasion, during a life of pretty constant and high enjoyment.
This, and a hundred other extravagances which I could add upon the subject, however absurd they must of course seem in sober prose, may possibly give some notion of the effect produced by looking at the Falls of Niagara—an effect analogous, perhaps, to that produced on the mind of the poet by ordinary circumstances, but which less imaginative mortals are made conscious of only on very extraordinary occasions.