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I shall attempt to define the natural divisions of North-West America, beginning with the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The prevailing features of Labrador from 50° to 60° north latitude, and from 56° to 78° west longitude, are rocks, lakes, swamps, and mountains. The Straits of Belleisle have an iron-bound coast,' with several good harbours adjacent, particularly on the coast; but this wild and sterile region is never likely to be used for any other purposes than fishing and fur hunting.
From the coast of Labrador, a ridge of table land runs nearly south-west to the source of the Ottawa river, and divides the waters which flow into the River and Gulf of St. Lawrence, from those which flow into Hudson's Bay, and may be considered the south-eastern boundary of the Hudson's Bay Company's territories. From the Ottawa this ridge (table land, or division of waters) takes a generally west direction till it reaches the Rocky Mountains, in about 115° west longitude, separating the waters of Rainy Lake River, Red River, and Saskatchewan River, which waters flow into Hudson's Bay, from the Mississippi and Missouri, which flow into the Gulf of Mexico. This very slightly elevated feature was formerly considered to represent the boundary between the Hudson's Bay Company and the United States, to the westward of the source of Rainy Lake River. The Treaty of 1818, defined Rainy Lake River, the Lake of the Woods, and the 49th parallel of latitude as far west as Rocky Mountains, as the boundary; and by the recent Treaty, 15th June, 1846, the 49th parallel of latitude has been continued as the boundary west of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. The Rocky Mountains have their northern extremity in the Arctic Ocean, latitude 700 north, longitude 140° west, and run nearly S.S.E., parallel with the west coast, forming the eastern boundary of the Oregon region, sending off, at different places, spurs and buttresses, and dividing the waters that flow into the Atlantic from those that flow into the Pacific.
At Mount Browne, 16,000, and Mount Hooker, 15,700 feet high, in latitude 52° 30' north, two of the loftiest peaks of the
· Rocky Mountains, a dividing range of moderate hills runs to the north-east, from whence flows some of the branches of the Saskatchewan, Churchill, or English River, Deer Lake, Winnipeg Lake, and those streams which feed Wollaston Lake, Athabasca Lake, and Slave Lake, and several other lakes. It is, however, difficult to say what waters flow towards Hudson's Bay, or towards the Arctic Sea, as several of the lakes have different outlets, and each lake communicates with another,—the Great Slave Lake, with Lake Athabasca ; Lake Athabasca, with Wollaston and Deer Lakes, the latter descending by Churchill River into Hudson's Bay. For instance, the Oungigan or River of Peace descends from a ridge of the Rocky Mountains towards Lake Athabasca, or the Lake of the Mountains; when high it flows into the lake, but when low it receives the lake waters, and flows towards the Great Slave Lake, under the name of the Slave River. Winnipeg, Winnipegos, and Manitoba Lakes, receive the waters of the Saskatchewan, Assiniboine, and Red River, and communicate with Hudson's Bay by the Nelson, and other rivers and conduits.
MacKenzie's River runs northerly in its shallow course from the Rocky Mountains to the Arctic Ocean, in latitude 69° north, longitude 135° west, but communicates in its progress with the Great Bear and Great Slave Lakes; but, excepting this, the Copper Mine and Back's Rivers, I think the course of all the other rivers and lakes of North-West America, east of the Rocky Mountains, is to the eastward, towards which the whole country dips.
Mr.Greenhow, in his topography of these regions, says, (p.37) that the country north of 50°, and east of the Rocky Mountains, is • drained by streams entering Hudson's Bay or the Arctic Sea; the principal are the Red River of the North, the Assiniboine, and the Saskatchewan, all emptying into Lake Winnipeg, which communicates by several channels with Hudson's Bay and the Missinnippi, or Churchill River, falling direct into that bay.'
• The Arctic Sea, in nearly the 69th parallel, receives the Great Fish, or Back’s River, the Copper Mine, and the Mackenzie ;
but the regions through which these rivers pass are generally so level, that it is in many places difficult to trace the limits of the tracts from which the waters flow into the respective streams or basins; they contain numerous lakes, some of them very large, which are nearly all connected with each other, and with Hudson's Bay on the east and the Arctic Sea on the north.'—History and Geography of Oregon, p. 37.
Viewing, therefore, the whole of the territories between the Rocky Mountains and Hudson's Bay, north of the 49th parallel, as one region, it may be considered as a series of lakes, rivers, and plains, with a gradual elevation from east to west.
The northern territory, which was very imperfectly explored until the recent journeys of Dease, Simpson, and Rae, from 1837 to 1847, is intersected with lakes, marshes, and rivers to a greater extent than any part of the known globe ; and it would seem as if the inner springs of the earth there burst forth. Some parts investigated are truly regions of desolation : vegetation ceases in the latitude of 60° north :-no land is seen capable of cultivation; the whole surface is rugged and uneven, and the open valleys nearly devoid of all vegetable productions. The soil at Churchill Fort (one of the Hudson's Bay Company's Stations, in latitude 59° north) on the shores of the bay, is extremely barren, rocky, dry, and without wood for several miles inland; a few garden vegetables are with difficulty reared. At York Fort, in latitude 57° 2', longitude 93° west, the soil is low and marshy, and equally unproductive; and, though the trees are larger than those inland of Fort Churchill, they are still knotty and dwarfish. The country around the factory, although elevated above the river, is one entire swamp, covered with low stunted pine, and perfectly impenetrable, even in July, when it is infested by clouds of mosquitoes. The land seems to have been thrown up by the sea, and is never thawed during the hottest summer, with the thermometer at 90° to 1000 in the shade, more than ten or twelve inches, and then the soil is of the consistence of clammy mud; even in the centre of the factory it is necessary to keep on the
platforms to avoid sinking over the ankles. About Albany Fort, in 52° north, and Moose Fort in 51° 28', the climate is more temperate, the soil better, and potatoes and garden produce are reared but with difficulty. Proceeding farther west, the tempe. rature improves, but all around Hudson's Bay, particularly at Fort Churchill, the climate is extremely severe; and from the middle of October to the middle of May, the country is buried under snow. The ice does not break up generally until July, and at York Fort, two degrees south of Churchill, the thermometer in January has been at 50° below zero. Even in rooms at the factory, where a fire is perpetually kept up, brandy freezes into a solid substance: the rivers and lakes, ten to twelve feet deep, are frozen to the bottom, and the Hudson's Bay Company's European servants are obliged to observe the greatest caution against the effects of the cold air, which is frequently filled with small particles of angular ice, and when driven by the wind against the face or hands, raises the skin in white blisters, which break out in thin watery issues.
As soon as a room is thoroughly heated, and the embers burnt down, the top of the chimney is closed so as to exclude the air, yet the walls of the apartments are found covered with ice two to three inches thick* The Europeans in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, notwithstanding their precautions, and the use of a large quantity of woollens and furs, are frequently frost bitten, and many of the natives fall victims to the severity of the climate. The sun is often obscured for weeks by thick fogs, which are caused by watery vapours ascending from the sea, which, being condensed by cold, hang all around the coast, and extend inland to a con
* In the Quarterly Review, No. xlix. vol. xxv., 1821, Sir John Barrow adverts to this remarkable occurrence on board Captain Parry's ships, Hecla and Griper :-" The month of March set in mildly (at their retreat in Winter Harbour) so that the solid ice, which for some time bad lined the ships' sides, began to melt. It therefore became necessary to scrape off this coating of ice, on which occasion Captain Parry observes'It will, perhaps, be scarcely credited, that we this day (8th March) removed above one hundred buckets full, each containing from five to six gallons, being the accumulation which had taken place in an interval of less than four weeks; and this immense quantity was the produce chiefly of the men's breath and of the steam of their victuals during meals.'”
siderable distance. The · Mock Suns' and Moons, called Parahelia and Paraselene, appear very frequently in the coldest months. The temperature of the air is subject to the most capricious variations ; rain sometimes falls abundantly with a serene sky, or the sun will burst forth in the midst of the heaviest showers. Such is the region in which several of the Hudson's Bay Company's establishments are situated, and which could not be maintained but for the possession of some more temperate regions, from whence food is procurable.
Hudson's Bay, discovered by John Hudson in 1610, is about 900 miles in length, by 600 at its greatest breadth, with a surrounding coast of 3000 miles, between the parallels of 51° and 65° north latitude. The coasts are generally high, rocky, rugged, and sometimes precipitous. The bay is navigable for a few months in summer, but for the greater part of the remainder of the year is filled up with fields of ice. The navigation, when open, is extremely dangerous, as it contains many shoals, rocks, sand banks, and islands; even during the summer iceberg's are seen in the straits towards which a ship is drifted by a squall or current, rendering it very hazardous for the most skilful seamen. The transitions of the thermometer in summer are from 100° to 40° in two days, and the torrents of rain are surprising: whether in winter or summer, the climate is horrible; the range of the thermometer throughout the year is 140°. The sea is entered by Hudson's strait, which is about 500 miles long, with a varying breadth, and with an intricate navigation through several islands, viz.: Charles, Salisbury, Nottingham, Mansfield, and Southampton. The principal bays and inlets in this great inland sea, are, James's Bay, in the south-east, which is 240 miles deep by 140 wide; Button's Bay, and Port Nelson, on the western coast; Chesterfield Inlet on the north-west, which, after stretching far into the interior, terminates in a fresh water lake; Roe's Welcome, a deep strait on the north coast, and also Repulse Bay. We
may now examine the country between Hudson's Bay and the Rocky Mountains, commencing with the lakes and