Halifax (2)

Sunday 12th Feb.ry – dull miserable weather all day – much rain. Remained on board.

Monday 13th – very dull but fair weather. Completely blocked up by the ice, so that all intercourse with the shore is precluded.

Tuesday 14th – very fine dry weather. Ice broke up last night and having the wind to the Northward was carried right out of the Harbour. Went on shore to day – & also over to Dartmouth in the steamer. At 9 arrived H.M.S. Cygnet, Gooding Commander [4].

Wednesday 15th – constant snow – detained nearly [all] day on shore in consequence of the freezing of the Harbour – did not succeed in getting off, till late in the afternoon.

Thursday 16th – still further detained in consequence of the arrival of the Cygnet. Fine weather. Fresh breeze which cleared the harbour of ice. Cold intense so that there appears as it were smoke arising from the water.

Friday 17th – harbour frozen up again – every thing freezes – your very spittle, ere it can reach the ground, is converted into ice. The water in the tumbler or basin is useless for its intended purpose. Fine weather.

Saturday 18th – very fine weather. Harbour frozen up – Two vessels trying to get out with a light breeze from the Northward, but make very little progress – Drifted at night from our anchorage & tried to let go another anchor but found it would not penetrate the ice. Fortunately we soon brought up again.

Sunday 19th – dull variable W.r much rain in the afternoon. All ready for a start but can’t on account of the ice.

Monday 20th – still hemmed in – very mild but cloudy weather, but snow, rain & hail.

Tuesday 21st – much rain during the night – weather looked soft. Prepared to start and got Mail on board. In the afternoon having with much difficulty got up the anchor, when we attempted to move, the vessel canted the wrong way so that when sail was put upon her, she was unmanageable. Obliged to let her remain as she was, for a hard frost had set in, and blocked us completely up.

Accident on the Ice

Wednesday 22d – very fine weather & hard frost. Harbour completely frozen up, a circumstance which has not happened for 15 years previous to 1832. To day the ice was so hard that I walked over it from our vessel to the Dartmouth side of the Harbour, a distance backwards and forwards of about 5 miles. I was exceedingly careful and, fortunately escaped even a single fall, and congratulated myself rather too soon on my good fortune.

On my return to the Packet, I found our men busily employed in breaking away the ice from behind the stern, in order to get the ship into a pretty large piece of open water, where we could easily get her head towards the mouth of the Harbour, and which was only a few yards distant. Being heartily tired of our stay at Halifax, I lent a willing hand to assist, and with the assistance of the shaft of a boarding pike, I managed most famously to break the ice, taking all possible care not to tumble in. But who can avoid his fate, and you know that “every bullet has its billet.” There was one spot which seemed rather suspicious. It was an old tract thro’ which our gig two days before had forced its passage, & like an old sore well healed up, & showed a large scar in the ice. I came up to it and distrusting its appearance I probed it with the iron shod end of my pike, and having satisfied myself that it was as strong as the surrounding ice, I put my foot to step over, when lo my heavy weight being too great for its weak back, the part gave way, and in an instant I found myself up to the armpits in the water, and felt a sensation from the icy coldness of the water, as if a weight were appended to my feet & legs, and were dragging me downwards. Unfortunately the point on my pike was downwards in the action of probing – had it not been so, I could easily [have] laid it athwart the ice & have supported myself by it. Thanks be to Providence, our men were close at hand, and in less than two minutes I was pulled out, and shook myself like a collie dog, who has just come out of the water. I lost not a moment, but went on board, dried myself well & shifted – and am thankful that my ducking was attended with no bad consequences whatever.

After I had shifted I again came upon deck, and aided the rest by breaking the ice with a long pole – but I did not again venture upon it. By half past two we had gained our object of reaching the open piece of water, and at 3 P.M. the wind being strong and favourable, the sails were loosed, and off we went thro’ a field of sheet ice, which however much retarded our progress. I took much delight in looking over the sides and observing how our bows, sharp and strong, cut stoutly yet effectually thro the ice, with the sound of grinding or crashing. About half an hour before us H.M. Packet, [Cygnet] Lieut. Gooding, bound for Bermuda, went out of the Harbour in fine style. This was the first day for the last 5 or 6 on which the sea outside of the Harbour was clear from ice, so that when we reached the edge, we made away at the rate of 7 knots an hour. At 5 P.M. we spoke H.M. Packet Opossum, Peters, [5] out 7 days from Bermuda, and bound for Halifax. This Packet was the one, which followed 5 weeks after us, so that she has gained upon that space of time.

Having now with a joyful [heart] bid adieu to Halifax and all its concerns, I must of course follow the same plan I have hitherto adopted, & give you some account of the ancas of the place. Upon referring, however, to my former Journal, I find that I have little else to remark, and what little I have to observe, arises almost from the season of the year.

Our approach to Halifax on both occasions was most dreary, and would have given a most unfavourable opinion of the aspect of the country, had I not chanced to have seen it in a more favourable season. Wherever you looked, snow and ice obscured the features of nature casting as it were, a pall over her beauties. The town itself looked dull and dreary at a distance, tho’ when I was in the streets, every thing I saw reminded me only of auld Reekie in the month of Dec.r The cold here is intense, but I did not observe that the inhabitants were more warmly clothed than with us. When the wind blew from the Northward, right to were we lay, the cold was so piercing that I felt as if I had no nose, fingers or toes – and if you stood or rowed right against it, it would peel the skin off your face as effectually as if you were exposed to the rays of a vertical sun. Perhaps we, having but lately come from the West Indies felt the cold more severely than others – at least to my own feelings I had never been in cold so intense. But if we thought the weather cold when we first came to Halifax from England, we suffered still more when we came from Bermuda. Do what I would, I could not keep myself warm, and many a sleepless night have I spent solely from that cause. Time therefore with us passed slowly on, since the Harbour being over, we were frequently prevented from having communication with the shore. From the effects of this severe cold several of our men were frost bitten, and one of them so severely that I was much afraid he would have to lose two or three of his fingers. I used frequently when in a warm climate, to declare that I would prefer the extremity of cold to broiling heat – but this voyage to Halifax has caused a total revulsion in my sentiments, and I am now wholly of the opposite opinion.

On shore I observed very little difference from what I have formerly pointed to you. One of the first things which attracted my attention was that all carts were mounted on sleighs, instead of wheels, that is the body of the cart was placed on wood of the shape of a skate, and were thus better able to drive thro’ the snow without capsizing. Vehicles of every description were similarly mounted and I saw many very handsome gigs, landaus driving along with noiseless speed, except when the bells fastened to them, to give warning of their approach, tingled loudly. All carriages move on at the same rate as in summer, but it is necessary that there be a good deal of snow on the ground, otherwise the sleighs would not answer.

There is only one circumstance more which I shall mention and that is the practice observed here of killing all their meat as soon as the frosts sets in and the meat thus killed will keep sweet as long as the cold weather lasts. To us it would be a strange sight to see in the market beef, mutton & especially poultry exposed for sale as hard as rock & requiring the aid on an axe to cut it. Yet so it is here. Our Carpenter has often been obliged to be called in order to saw off beef streaks or pork chops for the table. One thing is gained by this plan, that you are saved the expense of rearing cattle & poultry during the winter. There is no such thing as live stock to be had – at least our Steward could get none in town – & only a very few fowls from a distant part of the country.

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