A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 14 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 822 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 14.
These columns moved forward on the surface of the sea, and the clouds not following them with equal rapidity, they assumed a bent or incurvated shape, and frequently appeared crossing each other, evidently proceeding in different directions; from whence we concluded, that it being calm, each of these water-spouts caused a wind of its own.  At last they broke one after another, being probably too much distended by the difference between their motion and that of the clouds.  In proportion as the clouds came nearer to us, the sea appeared more and more covered with short broken waves, and the wind continually veered all round the compass without fixing in any point.  We soon saw a spot on the sea, within two hundred fathoms of us, in a violent agitation.  The water, in a space of fifty or sixty fathoms, moved towards the centre, and there rising into vapour, by the force of the whirling motion, ascended in a spiral form towards the clouds.  Some hailstones fell on board about this time, and the clouds looked exceedingly black and louring above us.  Directly over the whirl-pool, if I may so call the agitated spot on the sea, a cloud gradually tapered into a long slender tube, which seemed to descend to meet the rising spiral, and soon united with it into a short column of a cylindrical form.  We could distinctly observe the water hurled upwards with the greatest violence in a spiral, and it appeared that it left a hollow space in the centre; so that we concluded the water only formed a hollow tube, instead of a solid column.  We were strongly confirmed in this belief by the colour, which was exactly like any hollow glass-tube.  After some time the last water-spout was incurvated and broke like the others, with this difference, that its disjunction was attended with a flash of lightning, but no explosion was heard.  Our situation during all this time was very dangerous and alarming; a phenomenon which carried so much terrific majesty in it, and connected, as it were, the sea with the clouds, made our oldest mariners uneasy, and at a loss how to behave; for most of them, though they had viewed water-spouts at a distance, yet had never been so beset with them as we were; and all without exception had heard dreadful accounts of their pernicious effects, when they happened to break over a ship.  We prepared, indeed, for the worst, by clewing up our top-sails; but it was the general opinion that our masts and yards must have gone to wreck if we had been drawn into the vortex.  It was hinted that firing a gun had commonly succeeded in breaking water-spouts, by the strong vibration it causes in the air; and accordingly a four-pounder was ordered to be got ready, but our people, being, as usual, very dilatory about it, the danger was past before we could try the experiment.  How far electricity may be considered as the cause of this phenomenon, we could not determine with any precision; so much however seems certain, that it has some connection with it, from the flash of lightning, which
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A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 14 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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