« AnteriorContinuar »
1. Boundaries and Extent. North America is bounded on the N. by the Arctic or Frozen Ocean, on the E. by the Atlantic, and on the W. by the Pacific. Behring's Strait on the Northwest separates it from Asia. The isthmus of Panama connects it with South America on the south. It has an area of about 8,000,000 square miles, with a population of about 26,000,000.
2. Mountains. A great mountainous system covers the western part of the continent with its numerous chains, running parallel with the coast, and extending with slight interruptions from the northwestern coast to the isthmus of Panaina, where it joins the Andes. It is known in different parts of its course, under the various names of the Cordillera of Guatemala, the Cordillera of Mexico and the Rocky Mountains ; its principal peaks are Mount Fairweather (14,000 feet), and Mount St. Elias (17,000), in Russian America ; Spanish Peak (11,500), James's Peak (12,000), and Long's Peak (14,000,) in the United States ; Popocatapeti (17,884), Orizava (17,375) Iztaccihuatl (15,700), and the Nevado of Toluca (15,500), in the Mexican States; and the volcanoes of Agua, and Fuego in Central America. The Alleghany or Appalachian system, which runs nearly parallel with the eastern coast, is the only other considerable series of mountainous chains
Comparative Height of Mountains of North America. APPALACHIAN. – 1. Mt. Holyoke, 910 feet. — 2. Cumberland, 1000 do. - 3. Mt. Tom, 1200 do. — 4. Wachusett, 3000 do. – 5. Taconic, 3000 do. — 6. Mo. nadnock, 3254 do. – 7. Ascutney, 3320 do. — Killington Peak, 3675. – 9. Round Top, 3804. – 10. Saddle Mt., 1600. - 11. Camel's Rump, 4188. 12. Mansfield, 4279. – 13. Mt. Washington, 6428. — Rocky. – 1. Spanish Peak, 11,500 feet. — 2. James's Peak, 12,000 do. — 3. Long's Peak, 14,000 do. — 4. Mt. Fairweather, 14,000 do. – 5. Mt. St. Elias, 17,000 do. – CORDILLERAS. - 1. Nevado of Toluca, 15,500 feet.-2. Iztaccihuatl, 15,700 do.-3.Orizava, 17,375 do. — 4. Popocatepetl, 17,884.
3. Rivers. The great rivers of North America rise in the central part of the continent, and, flowing in different directions, pour their waters into the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. The Mackenzie, the Saskashawan, the St. Lawrence, the Missouri, the Mississippi, and the Columbia, are the principal streams. The Mississippi has the longest course, but the St. Lawrence discharges the greatest volume of water.
4. Bays and Gulfs. Baffin's Bay, a large sea lying to the west of Greenland, communicates with the Atlantic ocean on the south through Davis's Strait. Its northern coast has never been explored, but it probably communicates with the ocean to the north of Greenland, and separates that region from the continent. Barrow's Strait is an outlet on the west, which has been explored to 110° W. Lon. Its termination is unknown. Hudson's Bay is about 1,000 miles in length from north to south, by 800 in breadth. It is full of sand-banks, reefs, and islands, and its navigation is obstructed during the greater part of the year by fixed or drift ice. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a large inland sea, communicating with the ocean on the north by the Strait of Belleisle, and on the south by a broad channel between Cape Ray in Newfoundland, and North Cape on Cape Breton, and by the Gut of Canso, which separates Cape Breton from Nova Scotia. Breadth from east to west 240 miles ; length 300. The Gulf of Mexico extends north and south, from Florida to Yucatan, 600 miles, and east and west from Cuba to the Mexican States, 700 miles. It communicates with the Atlantic on the north of Cuba by the Florida Channel, and with the Carribbean Sea on the south by Cuba Channel.
5. Seas. The Arctic Sea is supposed to extend from the northern part of America to the North Pole, but the immense masses of ice which are everywhere met with in this region,
render it impossible that it should ever be fully explored. These ice-bergs are sometimes hundreds of miles in length, and contain mountains 400 feet in height. The shock of these enormous masses produces a tremendous crash, which warns the seaman how easily his vessel would be crushed to pieces, if it were caught between these floating islands. Frequently the wood * that drifts upon this sea, takes fire in consequence of the violent friction to which it is exposed by the movement of the ice, and smoke and flames burst forth in the midst of eternal winter. This floating wood is very fre
quently found charred at both ends. In Icebergs.
winter, the intensity of the cold is continually bursting asunder the mountains of ice, and at every moment is heard the explosion of
these masses, which yawn into enormous rents. In spring the movement of the ice more generally consists of the mere overturning of these masses, which lose their equilibrium in consequence of one part being dissolved before another. The fog which envelopes this melting ice is so dense, that from one extremity of a frigate it is impossible to discern the other. At all seasons, the broken and accumulated ice in the channels or gulfs, equally checks the passage of the adventurer on foot, whom it would instantly overwhelm, and of the mariner, paralyzing the movements of his vessel.
Numerous expeditions have been despatched tic and Pacific round the northern extremity of America. The most recent are those of the English under Captain Parry, who in several voyages penetrated into the Arctic Sea from Baffin's Bay, and passed the winter between the 70th and 80th parallels of latitude. The ice hindered his advancing beyond Lon. 110° W., but the discoveries of Captains Franklin, Ross, and Beechey, make it probable that there is a communication from Baffin's Bay to Behring's Strait
in search of what is called the Northwest PasAppearance of the Sun in the Polar Regions. sage, or a communication between the AtlanThe extreme abundance of floating wood, which is Gulf of Mexico, by the famous Bahama Stream, while brought by the sea to the shores of Labrador and Green- others are hurried forward by the current, which, to the land, and especially to those of Iceland, and the Arctic north of Siberia, constantly sets in from east to west. lands situated between these two islands, forms another Some of these large trees, that have been deprived of their curiosity, that deserves to arrest our attention among these bark by friction, are in such a state of preservation as even polar regions. We are assured that the masses of Hoating to form excellent building timber. If this floating wood, wood thrown by the sea upon the island of John de however, proceed from forests that are still actually in Mayen, often equal the whole of this island in extent. existence, another part appears to us to have a more reThere are some years, when the Icelanders collect suffi. mote origin, and to be connected with the great revolu. cient to serve them for fuel. The bays of Spitzbergen tions of the globe. We have already seen, that extensive are filled with it, and it accumulates upon those parts of deposits of coal, of bituminous wood, and of overturned the coasts of Siberia that are exposed to the east, and con- trees, are extended indiscriminately under the surface of sists of trunks of larch trees, pines, Siberian cedars, firs, continents and seas. This vegetable wreck must belong and Pernambuco, and Campeachy woods. These trunks to several catastrophes, to repeated devastations of the appear to have been swept away by the great rivers of solid land. Asia and America. Some of them are brought from the
6. Lakes. North America contains the largest bodies of fresh water on the face of the globe, and is not less remarkable for the number than the magnitude of its lakes.
Slave lake, Athapescow, and Great Bear lake, are large sheets of water, which discharge themselves into the Arctic Ocean through Mackenzie's River. Lake Winnipeg, which is 250 miles in length by 60 in breadth, pours its waters into Hudson's Bay through Nelson's River. Between the United States and Canada lies a series of great lakes, communicating with each other by a succession of narrow channels or rivers, and finally emptying themselves through the St. Lawrence.
The largest of these, and the largest fresh-water lake in the world, is Lake Superior, which is 420 miles in length by 170 in breadth ; having a circuit of 1,500 miles, and covering an area of 35,000 square miles. It discharges its waters through the river or strait of St. Mary, 50 miles long, into Lake Huron, which likewise receives those of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is 360 miles in length, with a mean breadth of 70 miles, and covers an area of 25,000 square miles ; its surface is 600 feet above that of the ocean, and its mean depth 900 feet. Its waters are clear and abound with fish. It discharges itself into Lake Huron through the straits of Michilimackinac, 40 miles in length; in the northwestern part of the lake is the large bay, called Green Bay. The lake shores afford few good harbors in proportion to their extent. Lake Huron is 250 miles in length, and 90 in breadth, exclusive of the large bay on the northeastern shore, called Georgian Bay, which is about 80 miles in length by 50 in breadth. An outlet, called the River St. Clair, expands, after a course of 40 miles, into a lake of the same name, 24 miles in length, and 30 in breadth, which again contracts, and enters Lake Erie under the name of the river Detroit, 25 miles in length. Lake Erie, the next link in this great chain, is 270 miles in length by from 25 to 50 in breadth. The river Niagara, 36 miles long, carries its surplus waters over a perpendicular precipice 165 feet high, into Lake Ontario, which is about 190 miles in length, by 40 in breadth. The surface of Lake Superior is 625 feet above the level of the sea ; its medium depth 900 feet; the descent to Lake Huron is by the Sault or Fall of St. Mary, 23 feet, and by rapids and the gradual descent of the river, 21 feet, giving 580 feet for the elevation of the surface of Lake Huron, whose depth is equal to that of Lake Superior. Lake Erie is much shallower, not exceeding a mean of 120 feet, and having its surface 560 feet above high water, while Lake Ontario has a depth of 500 feet, and its surface is 330 lower than that of Lake Erie. The waters of these lakes are clear and potable, and they abound with fish, among which are trout, weighing from 75 to 100 pounds, sturgeon, white fish, pike, bass, &c. They are navigable by large vessels, and a great number
& of steamboats navigate their waters.
7. Table-lands. The great Mexican table-land, upon which are situated most of the principal cities, and upon which is concentrated most of the population of the Mexican States, has an elevation of from 4,000 to 8,000 feet, and extends from Chihuahua in the north to the state of San Salvador in Central America on the south. The Alleghanian plateau or tableJand, extending from New York to Alabama and Georgia, from 34° to 420 N. Lat., has an elevation of from 1,200 to 3,000 feet. It comprises the western part of Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina, the northwestern part of South Carolina and Georgia, the northern part of Alabama, and the eastern part of Tennessee and Kentucky. The Central Table-land of North America, which comprises the region containing the sources of the Mackenzie, the Saskashawan, the Columbia, the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Western Colorado, and the Rio del Norte, is from 2,300 to 3,500 feet high.
8. Plain. The vast plain, which extends entirely across the continent from the mouth of the Mackenzie to the Delta of the Mississippi, and spreads out between the Rocky and the Appalachian Mountains, is the largest in the world, having an area of 3,250,000 square miles. It embraces the valleys of the Mackenzie, the Saskashawan, the Missouri, the St. Lawrence, and the Mississippi, and stretches from regions of perpetual ice to the tropical climate of the Gulf of Mexico. It is in this plain that the traveller meets those wide expanses, called prairies, over which the eye wanders, as over a sea, till the vision is lost in the distance, and
finds himself obliged to regulate his course by the compass, or by the observation of the heavenly bodies. They afford abundant pasture to the bison and deer, but are so destitute of wood, that the hunter is under the necessity of taking fuel with him, or in dry weather of making a fire of the dung of the bison. These magnificent plains occur on the Arkansas and Missouri, and around the Saskashawan and the Mackenzie.
8. Minerals. Almost all the mineral productions useful in the arts, as well as the precious metals, are found in North America, but except the gold and silver of Mexico, they have not yet been wrought in any proportjon to their value and extensive distribution. The coal, lead, iron, and salt of the United States, form, with gold and silver, almost the only mineral articles that have yet been fully turned to account. The table below exhibits the principal localities of some of the more important minerals of North America.
Iron. United States (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri, &c.); Mexico, Nova Scotia, Canada, &c.; very extensively diffused.
Lead. United States (New York, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin) ; Mexico.
Gold. Mexico (Sonora and Sinaloa) ; United States (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia); Central America ; Hayti.
Silver. Mexico (Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, &c.); Texas; Central America.
Copper. United States (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Wisconsin, &c.); Cuba ; Mexico; Hayti.
Tin. Mexico (Guadalaxara).
United States (Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Alabama, Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, &c.) ; Nova Scotia ; New Brunswick; Texas; Cuba, &c.
Salt. United States (New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, &c.) ; Nova Scotia ; Upper Canada ; Texas ; Central America ; Mexico.
9. Vegetables. The most northern station in which vegetation has been discovered is Melville Island, 74° 30' N. lat. In this desolate region several vegetable species are able to maintain an existence, but they are all of a very humble growth, such as grasses, saxifrages, mosses, and lichens; here not a tree or a bush rears its head, and the only plant of a woody structure is the Arctic willow (Salix arctica), which rises but six inches in height. The red
snow-plant (protococcus nivalis), exists in these and even higher latitudes, Saxifrage.
in all its beauty, multiplying even among the snow itself, which it stains with crimson patches of considerable size.
As we advance southward, vast forests of spruce-firs (Abies alba and nigra), beneath which grow the rein-deer moss (Lichen rangiferinus), and other lichens, overspread the land, and various berry-bearing shrubs and papilionaceous plants abound. The tripe de roche, a species of lichen, is often used as food by the hunters. Next are met the majestic poplars of Canada (Populus Hudsonica, &-c.), birches (Betula papyracea, and populifolia), various oaks, ashes, butternuts (Juglans cinerea), and hickories (Carya alba and amara). These last groups