The bases of these mountains, at least toward the shore, are constituted of a brittle, yellowish sand-stone, which acquires a bluish cast where the sea washes it. It runs, at some places, in horizontal, and, at other-places, in oblique strata, being frequently divided, at small distances, by thin veins of coarse quartz, which commonly follow the direction of the other, though they sometimes intersect it. The mould, or soil, which covers this, is also of a yellowish cast, not unlike marl; and is commonly from a foot to two, or more, in thickness.
The quality of this soil is best indicated by the luxuriant growth of its productions. For the hills (except a few toward the sea, which are covered with smaller bushes) are one continued forest of lofty trees, flourishing with a vigour almost superior to anything that imagination can conceive, and affording an august prospect to those who are delighted with the grand and beautiful works of nature.
The agreeable temperature of the climate, no doubt, contributes much to this uncommon strength in vegetation. For, at this time, though answering to our month of August, the weather was never disagreeably warm, nor did it raise the thermometer higher than 60 deg.. The winter, also, seems equally mild with respect to cold; for in June, 1773, which corresponds to our December, the mercury never fell lower than 48 deg.; and the trees, at that time, retained their verdure, as if in the summer season; so that, I believe, their foliage is never shed, till pushed off by the succeeding leaves in spring.
The weather, in general, is good, but sometimes windy, with heavy rain, which, however, never lasts above a day; nor does it appear that it is ever excessive. For there are no marks of torrents rushing down the hills, as in many countries; and the brooks, if we may judge from their channels, seem never to be greatly increased. I have observed, in the four different times of my being here, that the winds from the south-eastward are commonly moderate, but attended with cloudy weather, or rain. The S.W. winds blow very strong, and are also attended with rain, but they seldom last long. The N.W. winds are the most prevailing; and though often pretty strong, are almost constantly connected with fine weather. In short, the only obstacle to this being one of the finest countries upon earth, is its great hillyness; which, allowing the woods to be cleared away, would leave it less proper for pasturage than flat land, and still more improper for cultivation, which could never be effected here by the plough.
The large trees which cover the hills are chiefly of two sorts. One of them, of the size of our largest firs, grows much after their manner, but the leaves, and small berries on their points, are much liker the yew. It was this which supplied the place of spruce in making beer; which we did with a strong decoction of its leaves, fermented with treacle or sugar. And this liquor, when well prepared, was acknowledged to be little inferior to the American spruce beer, by those who had experience of both. The other sort of tree is not unlike a maple, and grows often to a great size; but it only served for fuel, as the wood, both of this and of the preceding, was found to be rather too heavy for masts, yards, and other similar repairs.