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quite full, and so thickens as to make the current sluggish, and cause a general swelling of the waters. The pieces, too, become frozen together, and form large masses; which, by grounding and partly filling up the channel of the river, cause the waters to rise still more (there being always the same quantity of water coming over the rapids). Then the large masses float and move further down the river, where, uniting with accumulations previously grounded, they offer such an obstruction to the semi-fluid waters, that the channels become quite choked, and what is called a “jamb' takes place.
“The surface ice, arrested in its progress, packs into all sorts of imaginable shapes; and if the cold is very intense, a crust is soon formed, and the river becomes frozen over, till many square miles' extent of surface-packed ice is formed. As the water rises, the jamb against which this field rests, if not of sufficient strength to keep it in place, gives way; when the whole river, after it is thus frozen into one immense sheet, moves en masse down stream, causing the shovings' so much dreaded by the people of Montreal. The edges of the huge field, moving irresistibly onward, plough into the banks of the river, in some instances to the depth of several feet, carrying away everything within reach. In places the ice packs to a height of twenty or thirty feet, and goes grinding and crushing onwards till another jamb takes place, which, aided by the grounded masses of packed ice upon the shoals and shores, offers sufficient resistance to arrest in its progress the partially broken-up field. As the winter advances, and the cold increases, the field of packed ice becomes stronger; and as the lakes above become frozen over, the ice from these, which had hitherto tended so much to choke the channel, ceases to come down, and the water in the river gradually subsides, until it assumes its ordinary winter level, some twelve feet above its height in summer. The Ice Bridge,' i.e. the complete and solid condition of the ice in the river, now becomes permanently formed for the winter, and this generally takes place about the first or second week in January.”
It was on this field or bridge of ice—a mile and three-quarters wide—that the scaffolding was raised and the line and position marked out of the Victoria bridge and piers, holes being cut in the ice and soundings taken as required. The dangers attending the breaking up of the ice in April, and the extraordinary difficulties accompanying an entire change of operations twice a year to suit frost and thaw, must be sought for, with the account of the ponderous bridge itself, in Mr. Hodges' work. But the hazardous task of crossing the river while in a partially frozen state, will give a still more vivid idea of this river. This was accomplished by Sir George Head at a part of the river, a mile and a half broad, opposite the town of Quebec. At this spot the water freezes at the commencement of winter three or four hundred yards from each bank, while the channel is filled with masses
of ice, driven about by the eddies of an impetuous tide, and rising one above another in enormous lumps, or sailing along in flakes of three or four thousand yards in extent. Sometimes these masses meet and drive against each other with a tremendous crash, flakes are piled upon flakes, and fragments dashed about in frightful confusion.
The passage of the river under such circumstances was made in a long canoe, which was nothing more than fourteen or fifteen feet of an entire tree, rounded at both ends alike, and hollowed by the adze. A piece of rope, six or eight feet long, was fixed to each end. Six Canadian boatmen were required to manage this canoe ; each man carried an axe stuck in his sash, and a paddle in his hand; thus equipped, they dragged the canoe from the shore along upon the ice, chopping away the last six or eight feet, where it became unsound, with their axes, till the head of the vessel was brought close above the water. The time chosen for crossing was nearly at ebb tide, when the rapidity of the stream was, of course, much abated; still the ice was continually in a state of violent motion, and presented a very formidable appearance. Our traveller and his servant sat at the bottom of the canoe, in the centre, and waited for a launch, while the boatmen were chattering and arguing as to the best method of proceeding. A large flake floated by, leaving a clear channel of perhaps one hundred yards across; and this was the signal to begin. The travellers had nothing to do but to sit still. “ Tenez ferme !” (“Hold fast !") the boatmen all cried at once, and then pushed the canoe off the ice plump into the water with a splash. The fall was about two feet, and she was no sooner in than the men were on board, and each in his place paddling with eager haste, in order to avoid a large piece of ice which was bearing down, and so to gain a frozen surface right ahead. Succeeding in the attempt, they nimbly jumped upon it, and seizing the rope fixed at the head of the canoe, drew her by main force out of the water ;* and three at one side and three at the other, they pushed her along, running about a hundred and fifty yards across, till a second launch into clear water called again for the paddles. “We were less fortunate in this,” says Sir G. Head, “than in the one preceding; for we were splashed all over, and the water almost immediately froze hard on our clothes. But we had not time to shake ourselves, for a large quantity of loose ice, which appeared just to have risen up from the bottom of the river, was bearing down upon us in a very formidable manner. The men paddled and strained and chattered, but all would not do, and we were in a very few seconds hemmed in and jammed on both sides by a soft pulpy mass, together with which we were helplessly carried away by the current sideways from the point we were endeavouring to reach. I could not help admiring the determination and address of the men at this
moment; for they jumped out above their knees in water, sometimes up to their hips, while they used their utmost strength to drag the canoe forward by the rope. Although the surface gave way continually under their feet, letting them down upon the large slabs of ice which were floating underneath, they managed by pulling and hauling, and with their axes occasionally cutting and breaking away the obstructing blocks which stood in their way, to get free of all impediments, and gain once more a channel of free water. While this was going forward, it was extremely annoying to be perfectly helpless in the midst of so much bustle and energy; and when the fellows shouted, Branlez, branlez!' they meant that we should rock the canoe from side to side as we sat, to prevent her freezing on to the ice, which disaster was only to be avoided by keeping her in continual motion. If this had taken place, the consequences might have been serious, as the day was intensely cold, and we must have floated away with no very great chance of assist
It seems almost incredible that men should be able to work at all upon ice so unsound as not to afford a surface capable of supporting the weight of the body; but on their part there seemed to be no appearance of absolute danger, owing to the vast thickness of the floating substance, a comparatively small part of which was, as they knew, that which appeared above the water, and there was invariably a lower stratum upon which they were received and supported as often as they sank