« AnteriorContinuar »
the cold winter. All the rivers and lakes were frozen, and even the seas, to the distance of several miles from the shore. The frost is said to have penetrated three yards in to the ground. Birds and wild beasts were strewed dead in the fields, and men perished by thousands in their houses. The more tender shrubs and vegetables in England were killed ; and wheat rose in its price from two to four pounds a quarter. In the south of France, the clive plantations were almost entirely destroyed ; nor have they yet recovered that fatal disaster. The Adriatic Sea was quite frozen over, and even the coast of the Mediterranean about Genoa; and the citron and orange groves suffered extreme
ly in the finest parts of Italy. In 1716, the winter was very cold. On the Thames, booths
were erected and fairs held. In 1726, the winter was so intense, that people travelled in
sledges across the Strait, from Copenhagen to the province
of Scania in Sweden. In 1729, much injury was done by the frost, which lasted
from October till May. In Scotland, multitudes of cattle and sheep were buried in the snow; and many of the fo
rest trees in other parts of Europe were killed. The successive winters of 1731 and 1732 were likewise ex
tremely cold. The cold of 1740 was scarcely inferior to that of 1709. The
snow lay 8 or 10 feet deep in Spain and Portugal. The Zuyder Zee was frozen over, and many thousand persons walked or skated on it. At Leyden, the thermometer fell 10 degrees below the zero of Fahrenheit's scale. All the lakes in England froze; and a whole ox was roasted on the Thames. Many trees were killed by the frost; and postillions were benumbed on their saddles.-In both the years 1709 and 1740, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ordained a national fast to be held on account
of the dearth which then prevailed. In 1744, the winter was again very cold. The Mayne was
covered seven weeks with ice; and at Evora in Portugal, people could hardly creep out of their houses for heaps of
snow. The winters during the five successive years 1745, 1746, 1747,
1748 and 1749, were all of them very cold. In 1754 and again in 1755, the winter was particularly cold.
At Paris, Fahrenheit's thermometer sank to the beginning of the scale; and, in England, the strongest ale exposed to the air in a glass, was covered, in less than a quarter of an hour, with ice an eighth of an inch thick.
The winters of 1766, 1767, and 1768, were very cold all over
Europe. In France, the thermometer fell six degrees below the zero of Fahrenheit's scale. The large rivers and the most copious springs in many parts were frozen. The thermoineter laid on the surface of the snow at Glasgow,
fell two degrees below zero. In 1771, the snow lay very deep, and the Elbe was frozen to
the bottom. In 1776 much snow fell, and the cold was intense. The Da
nube bore ice five feet thick below Vienna. Wine froze in the cellars, both in France and in Holland. Many people were frostbitten; and vast multitudes, both of the feathered and of the finny tribes, perished. Yet the quantity of snow which lay on the ground had checked the penetration of the frost. "Van Swinden found, in Holland, that the earth was congealed to the depth of 21 inches, on a spot of a garden which had been kept cleared, but only 9 inches at another place near it, which was covered with 4 inches
of snow. The successive winters of 1784 and 1785 were uncommonly
severe, insomuch, that the Little Belt was frozen over. In 1789, the cold was excessive; and again in 1795, when
the Republican armies of France overran Holland. The successive winters of 1799 and 1800 were both very
cold. In 1809, and again in 1812, the winters were remarkably cold.
The years which were extremely hot and dry, will be more easily enumerated.
In 763, the summer was so hot that the springs dried up.
dropt dead in the field. In 993, and again in 994, it was so hot that the corn and fruit
were burnt up. The year 1000 was so hot and dry, that in Germany the
pools of water disappeared, and the fish, being left to stink
in the mud, bred a pestilence. In 1022, the heat was so excessive that both men and cattle
were struck dead. In 1130, the earth yawned with drought. Springs and rivers
disappeared, and even the Rhine was dried up in Alsace. In 1159, not a drop of rain fell in Italy after the month of
May. The year 1171 was extremely hot in Germany. In 1232, the heat was so great, especially in Germany, that
it is said that eggs were roasted in the sands.
In 1260, many of the Hungarian soldiers died of excessive
heat at the famous battle fought near Bela. The consecutive years 1276 and 1277, were so hot and dry
as to occasion a great scarcity of fodder. The years 1293 and 1294 were extremely hot; and so were
likewise 1303 and 1304, both the Rhine and the Danube
having dried up. In 1333, the corn fields and vineyards were burnt up. The years 1393 and 1394 were excessively hot and dry. In 1447, the summer was extremely hot. In the successive years 1473 and 1474, the whole earth seem
ed on fire. In Hungary, one could wade across the Da
nube. The four consecutive years 1538, 1539, 1540 and 1541 were
excessively hot, and the rivers dried up. In 1556, the drought was so great that the springs failed. In
England, wheat rose from 8 shillings to 53 shillings a quarter. The years 1615 and 1616 were very dry over Europe. In 1646, it was excessively hot. In 1652, the warmth was very great, the summer being the
driest ever known in Scotland; yet a total eclipse of the sun had happened that year, on Monday the 24th of March,
which hence received the appellation of Mirk Monday. The summer of 1679 was remarkably hot. It is related, that
one of the minions of tyranny, who in that calamitous period harassed the poor presbyterians in Scotland with captious questions, having asked a shepherd in Fife, whether the killing of the notorious Sharp, Archbishop of St. An drews, (which had happened in May,) was murder; he replied, that he could not tell, but there had been fine wea
ther ever since. The first year of the eighteenth century was excessively warm, and the two following years were of the same description.
It is a singular coincidence, that in 1718, at the distance precisely of one hundred years from the present, the weather was extremely hot and dry all over Europe. The air felt so oppressive, that all the theatres were shut in Paris. Scarcely any rain fell for the space of nine months, and the springs and rivers were dried up.—The following year was equally hot. The thermometer at Paris rose to 98 degrees by Fahrenheit's scale. The grass and corn were quite parched. In some places, the fruit trees blossomed two or three times.
Both the years 1723 and 1724 were dry and hot.
ing year was still hotter; insomuch, that the grass withered, and the leaves dropt from the trees. Neither rain nor dew fell for several months; and, on the Continent, prayers were offered up in all the churches to implore the bounty
of refreshing showers. In 1748, the summer was again very warm. In 1754, it was likewise extremely warm. The years 1760 and 1761 were both of them remarkably hot;
and so was the year 1763. In 1774, it was excessively hot and dry. Both the years 1778 and 1779 were warm and very dry. The year 1788 was also very hot and dry; and of the same
character was 1811, famous for its excellent vintage, and
distinguished by the appearance of a brilliant comet. On glancing over these slight notices, it is obvious that no material change has taken place for the last thousand years in the climate of Europe. But we may conjecture, from the facts produced, that it has gradually acquired rather a milder character, at least its excessive severity appears, on the whole, to be of rarer occurrence. The weather seems not to affect any precise course of succession, although two or more years of remarkable heat or cold often follow in a cluster. Yet there can be no doubt, that series of atmospheric changes, however complicated and perplexing, are as determinate in their nature, as the revolutions of the celestial bodies. When the science of meteorology is more advanced, we shall, perhaps, by discovering a glimpse of those vast cycles, which result from the varied aspects of the sun, combined with the feebler influence of the moon, be at length enabled to predict, with some degree of probability, the condition of future seasons. The intermediate period of nine years, or the semi-revolution nearly of the lunar nodes and apogee, proposed by Toaldo, seems not to be altogether destitute of foundation. Thus, of the years remarkably cold, 1622 was succeeded, after the interval of four periods, or 36 years, by 1658, whose severity lasted through the following year. The same interval brings us to 1695, and five periods more extends to 1740, a very famous cold year; three periods now come down to 1767, nine years more to 1776, and eighteen years more to 1794, the cold continuing through 1795. Of the hot years, it may be observed that four periods of nine years extend from 1616 to 1652, and three such again to 1679. From 1701 to 1718, there was an interval of 17 years, or very nearly two periods, while three periods reach to 1745, another period to 1754, and one more falls on 1769; and from 1779 to 1788, there are just nine years. Tha, present year would, thereforc, correspond to 1701, 1719, and
1746, and consequently very nearly to 1718. Again, the years 1784, 1793, 1802 and 1811, at the intervals of successive periods, were all of them remarkably warm.
If the climate had undergone any real change in the more temperate parts of Europe, a corresponding alteration, with very distinct features, must inevitably have taken place in the Arctic regions. But a dispassionate inquiry discovers no circumstances which at all clearly point at such a conclusion. On this head, we may readily satisfy ourselves, by a short retrospect of the principal facts which have been recorded by voyagers.
Greenland, in its position and general outline, appears to resemble the vast promontory of South America. From Cape Farewell, a small island, divided from the shore by a narrow inlet called Staaten Hoek, in the latitude of 60°, it stretches, in a northwesterly direction, about 200 miles to Cape Desolation, and then nearly northwards to Good Haven, in latitude 65°, where it inclines nearly a point towards the east, as far as the island of Disco, which occupies a spacious bay, between the latitudes of 67o and 71o, in Davis's Strait. Thence the continent extends almost due north, beyond the latitude of 76°, till it is lost in the unexplored recesses of Baffin's Bay. On the other side, Greenland stretches about north-north-east 300 miles, but with a great sinuosity, till nearly opposite to Iceland, in the latitude of 640, and now advances almost north-east, to the latitude of 75°, when, suddenly bending to the north, it holds this direction beyond Spitzbergen and the latitude of 80°. The coast is everywhere bold and rocky, like that of Norway; and the interior of the country consists of clustering lofty mountains, covered with eternal snows. But the western side, which forms Davis's Strait, is indented with numerous bights, creeks, and fiords or firths, which, for the space of two or three months each year, look verdant, and yield tolerable pasturage. The eastern shore, again, which properly bounds the Greenland seas, can rarely be approached by the whalers, as the accumulated stream of ice, which, in summer, is constantly drifting from the northeast, creates a formidable barrier. The position of this icy barrier, though nearly parallel to the land, is not absolutely fixed, but varies within certain limits in different years.
In Davis's Strait, the whalers generally resort to Disco Bay, or push farther north ; sometimes as far as the latitude of 76° to the variable margin of the great icy continent. On the other side of Greenland, about the meridian of eight degrees cast from Greenwich, the ice, in warm seasons, retires to the latitude of 80°, beyond Hackluyt's Headland, at the extremity of Spitzbergen ; while, at other times, it advances as far south, on the