Editor's note: "Passages From The Diary Of A Transatlantic Traveller" was originally published as part of a series in The Leicester Chronicle (Leicester, England) on February 9, 1839. In this installment, our visiting Englishman is not particularly happy to be traveling aboard a packet boat on the Erie Canal. Read on for the full account. Many thanks to volunteer researcher George M. Thompson for finding and transcribing this historic newspaper article.
April 24th. -- Sailed up the North River to Albany, passed West Point and the Highlands -- the day was raw and wet, and the mountain heights were wrapt in clouds, so that I viewed the scenery to a very great disadvantage. Took the railroad to Utica, and the canal-boat from thence to Buffalo; this was a long and tedious sail, but though I feared it would be disagreeable, I preferred it to riding in coaches, over bad roads, to the grievous prejudice of my bones. These packet boats go five miles and hour, and carry thirty, forty, or fifty passengers at a time. The ladies have a part of the cabin appropriated to themselves, which they can separate by merely drawing a curtain across if they choose. They have a further forward cabin for the night. I was struck with the singularity and ingenuity of our arrangements. About nine o'clock the steward rings a bell, when all the men turn out on deck; the sailors then sling up thirty or forty berths, to small hooks in the sides and roofs, and in an incredibly short time the whole cabin is converted into a sleeping apartment, and you are at liberty to turn in. Your berths are numbered, and you take one which corresponds to the number on your ticket. I was almost afraid to trust myself in one of them, but there being no alternative I laid myself on the shelf, with a Yankee lying in a berth above, and another in a berth below me. If the slight ropes which held up the Yankee above me had given way, I must infallibly have been crushed, and perhaps our accumulated weight would have crushed the poor fellow below, and subsequently some poor wight on the floor.
I had sundry misgivings on this scene, which rather disinclined me to sleep, and the hot, nauseating, suffocating, stifling air, caused by the breathing of fifty human beings (for there were a dozen lying on the floor) in the small compass of a canal-boat, made me quite ready to turn out at an early hour, to go on deck and breathe. At five o'clock we were called up by sound of bell, "to scent the morning air." -- It, however, was miserably cold; so that between the close cabin, and the cold damp air of the deck, it was utterly impossible for any Christian man to avoid "cold and rheum, pthisic and catarrh." We were summoned at eight o'clock to breakfast, dined at one, supped at six, and were slung up in our hammock again at nine. This I endured for three days: it was not very pleasant, but I doubt whether it is possible to make canal-boats agreeable under any circumstances; travelling in this way must necessarily be tedious at the best. The last morning on coming on deck, the opposite shore of a rapid river along which we were sailing was pointed out, with a remark, that that was a part of her Majesty's dominions. As it was the first time I had ever seen her transatlantic colonies, I necessarily regarded them with considerable interest: there was nothing, however, different in point of appearance from the general features of the country I had seen for the last few days: I intend to see Canada more in detail in the course of another week.
Poor Englishman! That Canada looked just like New York! How disappointing. He just doesn't seem to have the right attitude for travel, does he?
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