On the thirteenth day we encountered a heavy gale, which continued to increase for four successive days. During this period we were unable to carry more canvass than was barely necessary to render the vessel manageable. A heavy gale, for the first time, is rather interesting than otherwise: the novelty of the sea’s appearance—the anxiety of the crew and officers—the promptitude with which commands are given and executed—and the excitement produced by the other incidental occurrences, tend to make even a storm, when encountered in open sea, by no means destitute of pleasing interest. During this gale, the sailors appeared to be more than ordinarily anxious only upon one occasion, and then only for a minute—the circumstance was not calculated to create alarm in the mind of a person totally ignorant of nautical affairs, but being somewhat of a sailor, I understood the danger tolerably well. The helm was struck by a sea, and strained at the bolts; from the concussion occasioned by the blow, it was apprehended for a moment that it had been carried away. Without a helm, in such weather, much was to be feared; for her timbers being old, she could hardly meet the shock of an ocean wave upon her broadside without suffering serious injury. The helmsman was knocked down—the captain and mate jumped aft, to ascertain the extent of the damage; while the sailors scowled along the deck, as they laid their shoulders to the weather side of the ship—all was anxiety for the instant. At length the mate cried, “helm all right,” and the crew pulled away as usual. At the close of the fourth day the storm subsided, and we approached the banks of Newfoundland.
It is generally supposed that the colour of the sea is a sure indication of the presence or absence of soundings; that is, that there are soundings where the water is green, and that there are none where the water is blue. The former is, I believe, true in every instance; but the latter is certainly not so, as the first soundings we got here, were in water as blue as indigo, depth fifty odd fathoms.
We were thirty days crossing these tiresome banks; during which time we were befogged, and becalmed, and annoyed with all sorts of disagreeable weather. The fogs or mists were frequently so dense, that it was impossible to see more than thirty yards from the vessel. This course is not that usually taken by ships bound for the United States, as they generally cross the Atlantic at much lower latitudes, but our captain “calculated” on escaping calms, and avoiding the influence of the Gulf stream, and thus making a quicker passage; he was, however, mistaken, as a packet ship that left Liverpool four days after, arrived at New York sixteen days before us.
We found the thermometer of incalculable service, both for ascertaining when we got into the stream, and for disclosing our dangerous proximity to icebergs. That we had approached near icebergs we discovered one evening to be the case by the mercury falling, suddenly, below 40 deg., in foggy weather. We notwithstanding held on our course, and fortunately escaped accident. Many vessels which depart from port with gallant crews, and are never heard of more, are lost, I am convinced, by fatal collision with these floating islands. From the beginning of spring to the latter end of summer, masses of brash ice are occasionally encountered in these latitudes.