Possibly the swiftest route to your roots.

Robert Whyte's 'The Journey Of An Irish Coffin Ship, 1847', Chapter 8

"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 appear- l ance of the showily dressed Canadians, some standing in groups talking, others seated upon benches while caleshes were momentarily arriving with habitans 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 therefrom 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 55 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 vesl sels 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.  
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