Robert Whyte's The Journey of an Irish Coffin Ship. 1847
Friday 2 July
We were enveloped in a dense fog and had a horn sounding constantly. One of the patients, who was represented to be dying, sent for the mate and, giving him the key of his box in which there was a small sum of money, requested him to take charge of it and, upon his return to Ireland, send it to his (the sick man's) mother. The mate promised to do so but did not consider the poor fellow as bad as he himself feared he was.
Saturday, 3 July
Any idea I ever formed of complete horror was excelled by the stern reality of the frightful picture which the past night presented. The gloom spread around by the impenetrable fog was heightened by the dismal tone of the foghorn, between each sound of which might be heard the cries and ravings of the delirious patients and occasionally the tolling of a bell, warning us of the vicinity of some fishing-boat, numbers of which were scattered over the banks. The mate being unable to make an observation, we were obliged to depend upon his 'dead reckoning'.
Sunday, 4 July
We enjoyed a favourable breeze, and the fog having cleared off at noon, the mate made an observation, by which we were in 45¡11' N lat. 51¡10' W lon. No new cases of sickness were reported but some of the patients were said to be very bad.
We spoke to a bark and a brig, both homeward bound and differed but little in longitude. There was something exciting in listening to the friendly voice from the deep toned speaking trumpet and in beholding the board marked with the longitude. In a few moments the ensigns were lowered and each pursued its course. The day was exceedingly cold, so much so that the captain supposed that we were in the neighbourhood of icebergs and I hoped to see one of these castellated floating masses, lifting its pinnacles on high and glittering in the rays of the sun.
Monday, 5 July
The morning was foggy and we were near running into a French fishing boat. The captain having given orders for sounding, Jack was sent to find the reel and line, which he brought up from the depths of the lazaretto. This receptacle for all sorts of commodities was situated below the cabin and it afforded me some amusement to see the boy, by the faint light of the lantern, groping among beef casks, pork barrels, paint and tar pots, spars and rusty irons. The sails having been put aback so that the brig stood motionless upon the bosom of the water, the reel was held by a man at the stern and the line being uncoiled was drawn outside the ropes of the rigging, until it reached the bow. The lead was then attached and carried by a seaman to the point of bowsprit, where the sailor sat swinging the weight like a pendulum until, upon the order to heave, he cast it forth upon its mission. Bottom having been found at thirty-four fathoms, the line was placed upon a pulley and drawn up when there was found imbedded in the grease with which the lead was filled, fine white sand, as laid down in the chart. The sails were again set to the breeze and we were once more gliding through the water, the momentary commotion soon settling down into the usual insanity.
Tuesday 6 July
During the past night there was a heavy fall of rain which left the atmosphere clear and cool. Two men (brothers) died of dysentery and I was awakened by the noise made by the mate, who was searching for an old sail to cover the remains with. In about an hour after, they were consigned to the deep, a remaining brother being the solitary mourner. He continued long to gaze upon the ocean, while a tear that dropped from his moistened eye told the grief he did not otherwise express. I learned in the afternoon that he was suffering from the same complaint that carried off his brothers.
Wednesday 7 July
The phosphorescent appearance of the ocean at night was very beautiful. We seemed to be gliding through a sea of liquid fire. We passed a great number of fishing boats, chiefly French, from the isles St Pierre and Miquelon. They were anchored at regular intervals for the purpose of catching cod-fish, which, allured by the vast numbers of worms found upon the bottom, abound upon the banks. The vessels generally are large sloops and have a platform all round with an awning over the deck. When a fish is taken, it is immediately split and cleaned, then it is thrown into the hold and, when the latter is full, the fishermen return home and land their cargo to be dried and saved. Owing to these processes being sometimes too long deferred, the bank fish, though larger, is considered inferior to that taken along the coast of Newfoundland. Great variety of opinion exists respecting the nature and origin of these submarine banks but none of them appears to me so natural as this. The stream which issues from the Gulf of Mexico, commonly called the 'Florida gulf stream', being checked in its progress by the southern coast of Newfoundland, deposits the vast amount of matter held in suspension. This, by accumulation, formed the banks which are still increasing in extent. The temperature of the water upon the banks is higher than that of the Gulf of St Lawrence and of the ocean and its evaporation causes the fog that almost perpetually prevails. The afternoon was clear with a gentle breeze which formed a ripple on the surface of the water and gave a beautiful appearance to the reflection of the declining sun, looking like jets of gas bursting from the deep.
Thursday 8 July
Another of the crew was taken ill, thereby reducing our hands when they were most required. The captain had a great dread of the coast of Newfoundland which, being broken into deep bays divided from each other by rocky capes, is rendered exceedingly perilous, more especially, as the powerful currents set towards this inhospitable shore. We kept a lookout for some vessel coming from the gulf, in order to learn the bearings of land but did not perceive one during the day.
Friday 9 July
A few convalescents appeared upon deck. The appearance of the poor creatures
was miserable in the extreme. We now had fifty sick, being nearly one half the
whole number of passengers. Some entire families, being prostrated, were
dependent on the charity of their neighbours, many of whom were very kind, but
others seemed to be possessed of no feeling. Among the former, the head
committee was conspicuous. The brother of the two men who died on the sixth
instant followed them today. He was seized with dismay from the time of their
death, which no doubt hurried on the malady to its fatal termination. The old
sails being all used up, his remains were placed in two meal-sacks and a weight
being fastened at foot, the body was placed upon one of the hatch battens from
which, when raised over the bulwark, it fell into the deep and was no more seen.
He left two little orphans, one of whom - a boy, seven years of age - I noticed
in the evening wearing his deceased father's coat. Poor little fellow! He seemed
quite unconscious of his loss and proud of the accession to his scanty covering.
The remainder of the man's clothes were sold by auction by a friend of his who
promised to take care of the children. There was great competition and the
'Cant', as they called it, occasioned jibing and jesting, which it was painful
to listen to surrounded as were the actors (some of whom had just risen from a
bed of sickness), by famine, pestilence and death.
"The floods are risen. O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice: the floods lift up their waves. The waves of the sea are mighty and rage horribly: but yet the Lord who dwelleth on high is mightier."-- David
Saturday 10 July
We spoke to a ferry which was conveying cattle from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and learned from the steersman the bearings of St Paul's Island. We shortly afterwards passed a large fleet coming from the gulf and in the afternoon descried Cape North.
The passengers expressed great delight at seeing land and were under the impression that they were near their destination, little knowing the extent of the gulf they had to pass and the great river to ascend. Early in the evening we saw Isle St Paul and indistinctly the point of Cape Ray, between which and Cape North is the passage into the Gulf of St Lawrence. St Paul's Island lies about ten miles to the north of the latter cape, in latitude 47¡ 14' North and longitude 60¡ 11' 17' West. It is a huge rock, dividing at top into three conical peaks. Rising boldly from the sea there is a great depth of water all round it and vessels may pass at either side of it. It has been the site of numerous shipwrecks; many vessels carried out of their reckoning by the currents, having been dashed against it when concealed by fog and instantly shattered to atoms.
Human bones and other memorials of these disasters are strewn around its base. We passed the light of this dangerous island at 10 p.m. entering into the 'goodly great gulf full of islands, passages and entrances towards what wind so-ever you please to bend'.
This gulf was first explored by John Cabot in 1497, who called the coast of Labrador Primarista. The Portuguese afterwards changed the name of that desert region to Terra Coterealis and the gulf they designated as that of the 'Two Brothers' in memory of Gaspar and Michael Cotereal, the first named of whom not having returned from the second expedition he commanded, the latter went in search of him, but neither of them was afterwards heard of. Jaques Cartier, having entered it upon the festival of St Lawrence, gave to the gulf and the river flowing into it the name they still retain.
Sunday, 11 July
We had a fair wind and were going full sail at 7 knots an hour. At noon we passed the Bird Islands which are low ledges of rocks and swarm with gannets, numbers of which were flying about. They were as large as geese and pure white with the exception of the tips of the wings which were jet black. Some of Mother Carey's chickens were following in our wake and it was highly amusing to watch the contentions of the little creatures for bits of fat thrown to them.
We had a distant view of the Magdalen Islands which, although lying nearer to Nova Scotia, are considered as belonging to Canada and form a portion of the circuit within the district of Gaspe, court being held at Amherst harbour annually from 1 to 10 July. The largest of the group are Bryon, Deadman's, Amherst, Entry and Wolf islands which are inhabited by a hardy race of fishermen. The huge walrus may at times be seen upon their shores.
Monday 12 July
In the morning we were becalmed, the water being smooth as glass and of a beautifully clear, green hue. A breeze sprung up at 12 o'clock and, the captain having provided himself and me with lines, we spent the afternoon fishing for mackerel, which were so plentiful that I caught seventy in about two hours, when I had to give over, my hands being cut by the line. The captain continued and had a barrel full by evening. They were the finest mackerel I ever saw and we had some at tea which we all enjoyed as a delicious treat after six weeks of salt beef and biscuit diet. Many of the passengers, having noticed our success, followed our example and lines were out from every quarter; all the twine, thread, etc. that could be made out being put into requisition, with padlocks and bolts for weights and wire hooks. Even with such rude gear they caught a great number, but their recreation was suddenly terminated, a young man who was drawing in a fish having dropped upon the deck quite senseless and apparently dead. He was carried below and put into his berth, there to pass through the successive stages of the fever.
Tuesday 10 July
We were again becalmed during the forenoon, but a breeze that soon become a gale arose about 1 p.m. and lasted until evening, being accompanied by thunder and lightning and followed by a heavy shower of rain. The clouds cleared away at sunset when we were within 10 or 12 miles of the eastern point of the island of Anticosti which, when the captain perceived, he gave the order to sheer off on the other tack. This island is particularly dangerous, being surrounded by sunken reefs. It is of considerable extent, being 130 miles in length from east to west and 30 miles across its greatest breadth. Its surface is low and level and covered with a pristine forest, through which prowls the bear undisturbed, except when hunted by Indians who periodically resort hither for that purpose.
The sterility of its soil offering no inducement to the white man, it is uninhabited except by the keepers of the lighthouses to which are attached small establishments for the purpose of affording relief to shipwrecked mariners. The name 'Anticosti' is probably a corruption of Natiscotee, which it is called by the aborigines. Cartier named it L'isle de L' Assumption.
Wednesday, 14 July
We had the bold headlands of Capes Gaspe and Rosier on our left and had entered the majestic river St Lawrence which here, through a mouth 90 miles in width, after a course of upwards of 2,000 miles, disgorges the accumulated waters of the great lakes swollen by the accession of hundreds of tributaries (some of them noble rivers) draining an almost boundless region.
The reports of the suffering in the hold were heartrending. Simon and Jack were both taken ill.
Last night I was suddenly wakened by the captain shouting 'Get up! Get up and come on deck quickly!' Somewhat alarmed I obeyed the summons as speedily as possible and was well recompensed for the start by the magnificence of the glorious scene I beheld. The northern portion of the firmament was vividly illuminated with a clear though subdued light, while across it shot fiery meteors from different directions, now rushing against each other as if engaged in deadly warfare, again gliding about in wanton playfulness.
Disappearing for a while and leaving behind a faintly luminous trail, they would again burst forth upon their stage, lighted up by a sudden flash for the igneous performers. I watched with delight until the lustrous picture was finally enshrouded in darkness when I returned to bed.
Thursday 15 July
There was birth on board this morning and two or three deaths were momentarily expected. The mate's account of the state of the hold was harrowing. It required the greatest coercion to enforce anything like cleanliness or decency and the head committee had no sinecure office. I spent the greater part of the day upon deck, admiring the numberless jets dread of the bottlenose whales that plunged about in the water. The poor mistress was greatly grieved about Jack and Simon and the captain was savage for lack of assistance.
Friday 16 July
We were tacking about all day which, though tedious I enjoyed, as it afforded an opportunity of seeing both shores of the noble river. That to the north is indescribably grand, rugged mountains rising precipitously from out the water, and indented by sweeping bays, in which are numerous islets. Towards evening we were in view of Seven Islands Bay, lovely though desolate. No human eyes behold this region of unbroken solitude, save now and then those which can but lightly appreciate its grandeur. I cannot describe the effect produced by the mist that sometimes completely hides the mountains, rolling up their sides and resembling gracefully festooned drapery.
The sailors who could work were greatly harassed by being obliged to tack repeatedly. The mate especially was one moment down in the hold waiting on some dying fellow creature; the next perhaps stretched across a yard, reefing a top-sail. Although lame, he was surprisingly active and used to astonish the emigrants, one of whom said to me 'Och! your honour, isn't Mr. Mate a great bit of a man?'
Saturday, 17 July
The morning was fine and shortly after breakfast I was upon deck admiring the beauty of the pine-clad hills upon the southern shore of the river, when the captain came up from the cabin and after looking about gave the word to 'double reef top-sail and make all snug'. Not long after, the sky, which had been quite clear, became black and a violent gale arose, lashing the water into tremendous waves which tossed us mercilessly about, one moment borne up by an angry billow, the next plunging into a deep abyss. The roaring wind was drowned by the tremendous noise of successive peals of thunder, while the forked lightning played about in zigzag lines and the rain descended in torrents.
At 5 p.m. the wind abated and the waves began to subside. About an hour
after, the leaden clouds parted and, as if in defiance of the contending
elements, the sun set in gorgeous splendour. The poor passengers were greatly
terrified by the storm and suffered exceedingly. They were so buffeted about
that the sick could not be tended and after calm was restored a woman was found
dead in her berth.
So frequent death Sorrow he more than causes, but confounds For human sighs, his rival strokes contend And make distress, distraction.-- Young
Sunday 18 July
I was enchanted with the extraordinary beauty of the scenery I beheld this morning when I came on deck. The early beams of the sun played upon the placid surface of the river, here 40 miles wide, the banks on either hand being moderately elevated and covered with firs. On the north was Cape des Monts, terminating in a low point on which stood a lighthouse and diminutive cottage. On the south Cape Chat rose to a considerable height, the outline of its summit being broken by sudden gaps, giving to it a character that to me was unique.
An unbroken stillness reigned around as if nature were at rest after the storm of the previous day and our brig lay almost motionless upon the water.
I occupied myself again and again noting, so as to impress upon my mind, the peerless beauty I am unable to portray and in reading the Acts of the Apostles. I felt a renewed interest in the account of St Paul's voyages as I could now appreciate by experience the force and accuracy of their description. We made no way and it was with difficulty we retained our position against the current.
Another death and burial. A few who had been ill again appeared on deck, weak and weary. The want of pure water was sensibly felt by the afflicted creatures and we were yet a long way from where the river loses its saltiness. In the morning there came alongside of us a beautiful little schooner, from which we took a pilot on board. When he found that we had emigrants and so much sickness he seemed to be frightened and disappointed as he had avoided a large ship, thinking we had not passengers. However, he could not dare 49 retreat. The first thing he did was to open his huge trunk and take from it a pamphlet which proved to be the quarantine regulations. He handed it to the captain who spent a long time poring over it. When he had read it I got a look at it, one side was printed in French, the other in English. The rules, were very stringent and the penalties for their infringement f exceedingly severe, the sole control being vested in the head physician, the power given to whom was most arbitrary. We feared that we should undergo a long detention in quarantine and learned that we could hold no communication q whatever with the shore until our arrival at Grosse Isle.
The pilot was a heavy, stupid fellow, a Canadian, speaking a horrible patois and broken English. He was accompanied by his nephew and apprentice, Pierre - a fine lad,
The wind favoured us for some hours and towards evening we saw Mount Camille upon the southern bank, rising above the surrounding hills to a height of 2,036 feet.
Tuesday, 20 July
Our course lying more to the southern bank of the river, I could observe minutely the principal objects upon that side. Many charming tributary streams rolled along sweet valleys, enfolded in the swelling hills, whose sides were clothed with verdure. I would fain explore each of these enchanting vales but too soon we passed them and some jutting cape would hide from view the little settlements at each embouchure. The most considerable of these was that upon Point aux Snellez, near the mouth of the river Metis, about 200 miles from Quebec. Here commences the Kempt road which terminates at Cross Point on the river Restigouche, a distance of 98 miles. A new road, connecting this with Grande Nouvelle on the Bay des Chaleur, completes the communication with Halifax.
Wednesday 21 July
A thick fog concealed every object from view, at times so now as only to hide the hulls of vessels by whose rigging we could perceive them tacking like ourselves, the sky being unclouded. A strong wind blew down the river, which, together with the forcible current kept us back. One of the sick sailors reappeared upon deck but was too weak to resume duty. The other man was still very bad as were also Simon and Jack.
Simon got up from his berth in a delirious fit and ran down to the cabin, where his wild appearance nearly frightened the life out of the mistress. It was with difficulty he was laid hold of and he resisted violently while he was carried back to his hammock in the forecastle where he was strapped down.
Thursday 22 July
Soon after retiring to my berth last night I heard a grating noise accompanied by a tremulous motion of the brig and felt alarmed, fearing that we had grounded upon some bank, but my anxiety was relieved by learning that it was caused by the dropping of the anchor, it being useless to contend against both wind and current, the latter here being strengthened by the vast body of water discharged from the river Saguenay. When I came on deck this morning I found that we were anchored off the village of Trois Pistolles, with Cape L'Original to the east, and Basque Isle on the west. Being the first Canadian village I had seen, I was delighted by the rural aspect of the pretty white cottages with red roofs, scattered over the sloping bank, each surrounded by a small garden. The captain was impatient and though the pilot said it would only tend to harass the sailors, we weighed anchor at noon and, after beating about all the day, again came to, near the same spot as before. A child - one of the orphans - died and was buried in the evening, no friend being by to see the frail body committed to its watery grave. The water could not be used by the wretched emigrants and but half a cask of that provided for the cabin and crew remained. They were therefore obliged to use the saline water of the river.
Friday, 23 July
We remained at anchor all day, a fresh breeze blowing down the river. Some of the recovered patients who were slowly regaining strength had relapsed into the most violent stages and three new cases were announced, showing exceedingly virulent symptoms.
The wind abated at noon and it was quite calm for about an hour. During this period I was up on deck and on looking across the river was greatly astonished at perceiving something resembling an island which I had not before noticed. It was circular and quite black. I spent some time in conjecturing what it could be. The captain could not tell and the pilot was asleep. At length, two vessels sailing down the river, when they came near this object, assumed a similar appearance - from which I immediately inferred that it was a ship at anchor, transformed by mirage.
As the vessels sailed along they underwent extraordinary metamorphoses -
sometimes the bow and stern were turned up like those of a Chinese junk. At
others the hulls were up in the air and the masts seemingly in the water; the
latter being twisted and curved. A cottage upon the north bank stood apparently
upon the surface of the river and the lighthouse on Big Island had a duplicate
of itself perched upon it, the copy being inverted, lantern down and base up.
The illusions occurred only within certain limits which were defined by an
appearance distinct from the surrounding atmosphere. The difference being
something like that presented by clear water and the empty space within a half
"These are miracles, which men Cag'd in the bounds of Europe's pigmy plan Can scarcely dream of; which his eye must see To know how beautiful this world can be.-- Moore
Saturday 24 July
We once more weighed anchor this morning and beat about all the day between Trois Pistoles and the mouth of the river Escamin which discharges itself nearly opposite, upon the north shore. We had a large fleet of ships, barques and brigs in company, two of which were transports with troops. It was a pleasing sight to see: such a number of vessels continually passing each other and each evidently endeavouring to gain upon the rest, every tack.
In the afternoon, a brig hoisted her ensign as a signal of recognition and upon the next tack we passed near enough to speak. When the captain turned out to be a particular friend of our captain and the mistress, they kept up a regular conversation the rest of the day every time we met, which was pretty often, each inquiring of the other: the number of deaths? what sickness? how many days out? from what port? etc. We learned - much to our surprise - that she had a greater number of deaths than we and this news was very consoling to the mistress. Towards evening the wind abated and we were in hope that it was about to change. It died away altogether and the vessels that before shot past one another were now almost motionless and scattered over the surface of the river, which here is 25 miles wide.
At sunset we lay at the north side and could almost reach the trees covering the bank. I have seen many a beautiful sunset but all fade before the exquisite beauty of that 53 which I witnessed this evening. The glorious luminary sunk behind the dark blue hills upon the summits of which seemed to rest the border of heaven's canopy, dyed in crimson sheen, softening down to a light orange tint that imperceptibly blended with the azure sky, which was here and there hid by fleecy vermilion clouds. Cape L'Orignal was clothed in a vesture of purple of every shade from violet to that of the deepest hue, overshadowing the village of Trois Pistolles. There was not a ripple upon the water but gentle undulations heaved its bosom, decked in a tissue of carmine, ultramarine and gold. Such vividness and variety of colours I never before conceived or since experienced. Oh! thought I, why is not Danby here to fix them upon imperishable canvas? As night came on, the pilot grew uneasy, there not being good anchorage at that side. However, a slight breeze from the old quarter wafted us across to the very spot where we before lay and where we again dropped anchor in the midst of our consorts.
Sunday 25 July
We lay at anchor all day, the wind blowing strongly against us. It was exceedingly trying to be detained here within a few miles of the tidal influence, having once gained which, we would be independent of the wind. The poor patients, too, were anxiously looking out for the quarantine station where they hoped to find some alleviation of their sufferings. The mistress and mate were uneasy, as the cabin water was nearly out and they feared to let the captain know of it.
I was obliged to remain below, the effluvia from the hold being quite overpowering. I could hear the tolling of the village church-bell and its sweet tone induced me to go on deck s for a few moments where I was charmed with the appearance of the showily dressed Canadians, some standing in groups talking, others seated upon benches while caleshes were momentarily arriving with habitants from distant settlements who, after tying up their horses under a shed close by the presbytery joined the chatting parties until the bell ceased, when all retired within the church.
Monday 26 July
The wind was not so strong and the effluvia not quite so unpleasant. I was therefore not so much confined to the cabin. The captain was desirous of sailing but the pilot would not consent and the latter proved to be right, as two of the vessels weighed anchor in the morning and after beating about for a couple of hours were obliged to come to. A pretty stream- the mingled waters of the Abawisquash and Trois Pistolles rivers flows into the St Lawrence adjacent to the village. Like all the tributaries upon the southern side, it is of inconsiderable length, the hills in which they have their sources lying at no great distance from the bank. But many of those which empty themselves at the north side as the, Manicouagan, Bustard, Belsiamites, Portneuf, etc. are fine rivers rising in the elevated ridge that divides Canada from the Hudson's Bay territory and, in their courses through the untrodden forests, expanding into large lakes.
After dinner, the mistress carried down to the cabin the baby that was born on board. The captain at first was very angry but a smile upon the face of the little innocent softened his heart and he soon caressed it with all the endearments he was in the habit of lavishing upon the canary. When tired of which amusement, he opened the locker and took there from an egg, which he held up to the light and looked through to see if it were good. Not being satisfied on that point he tried another and then another, until he got one to please him. He next got some salt and, opening the infant's little hand, placed it upon the palm and gently closed the tiny fingers upon it. He then performed a similar operation upon the other, enclosing a shilling in lieu of salt. The egg he handed to the mistress to send to the mother and acquaint her that he wished the child to be called 'Ellen', after her.
The mistress, kind to all, was particularly so to the little children about twenty of whom we had aboard. One poor infant whose father and mother (neither of whom was twenty years of age) were both ill and unable to take care of it, she paid a woman for nursing and I could not believe it to be the same child when I saw it clean and comfortably covered with clothes she made for it.
Jack came upon deck. Poor fellow! he was sadly altered. Simon also was reported to be better but unable to leave his hammock. The mate began to complain and the brandy cask (which had been broached) supplied his remedy.
Monday 26 July
The wind veered about 5 o'clock last evening and the vessels one by one sailed away. Our pilot, saying that it would again change in a short time, was not inclined to weigh anchor but the captain insisted upon doing so. At 6 p.m. we were once more in motion and in a few minutes were in full sail going 7 knots an hour. Basque Island was soon left behind and, stemming the dark waters discharged by the Saguenay, as day was fading, we were before Tadoussac, a settlement at the mouth of that grand river.
The Saguenay ranks second amongst the tributaries of the St Lawrence. Indeed,
although its course is not so long it is supposed to convey a larger body of
water than the Ottawa. At its juncture with the St Lawrence it is about a mile
wide but in some parts it expands to three. At a distance of 140 miles it
receives the waters of Lake St John which is the reservoir of numerous rivers,
some of which are precipitated into it by magnificent rapids and falls. This
lake, which is about 100 miles in circumference, is remarkable for its
shallowness from which cause the navigation of it is frequently dangerous, as
the least wind produces a ground swell and breakers. Its water is said to be
tepid and it abounds with a variety of fish, great quantities of which are taken
at the mouth of the Ouiatchouan river where there is a station at which they are
salted and packed for traffic. The climate is very salubrious and the soil of
the great valley that borders the lake is susceptible of the highest culture. A
few Indians wander over this fine tract of country which it is the intention of
the provincial government to open to French Canadians whose laws acknowledging
no right of primogeniture, they have overpopulated many of the old settlements.
The Indians call this fine sheet of water 'Piegongamis,' signifying 'the flat
lake'. First-class ships can ascend the Saguenay to Chicoutimi, a distance of 68
miles. There is a small settlement here, the communication between which and the
lake, being broken by rapids, can only be overcome by experienced voyageurs in
canoes. At Ha-Ha Bay, 18 miles below Chicoutimi, there is a pretty large
settlement and here the river assumes its grand and romantic feature, passing
for the remainder of its course between almost perpendicular cliffs from 1,000
to 1,500 feet in height. Its great depth is another characteristic, bottom not
being found near the mouth with a line of 330 fathoms, while the depth of the St
Lawrence at the junction is but 240 feet. However, its great rapidity renders it
impossible accurately to learn its soundings.
Szabo, L. (1996, May 1). The Irish Famine, 1845-1849: Research Materials. Retrieved January 7, 2002 from World Wide Web: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~eas5e/Irish/RWhyte3.html