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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas - page 21 / 129





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Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas

the cliffs are covered with immense icicles, and the rocks above and around the falls are similarly covered deep with snow and ice from frozen spray.

So you can imagine that the falls themselves are almost hidden in white, in which their green, foaming water makes a pleasing contrast as it pours roaring down- wards.

Just at the foot of the falls the water was not frozen over, for it is here a mass of swirling currents; but within a few hundred yards, blocks of floating drift-ice had collected and gradually bound themselves together into a great, rough field of solid snow which stretched across the river for a quarter of a mile from shore to shore. This was called the Ice Bridge.

Immediately below it the river widens out and runs slowly and sluggishly for about a mile between great, high cliffs, which are topped with the huge factories and power works whose machinery is worked by water-sluices from the river above the falls.

Then the cliffs come nearer together, and as the river becomes narrower its current increases till it suddenly rushes down in a mighty torrent of swirling, racing, surging waves, in which nothing could live. These are known as the “Rapids,” and they race and romp through the gorge for three- quarters of a mile till the river suddenly opens into a great circular pool from which it escapes by a side gorge at right angles to its former course.

In this pool – the “Whirlpool,” as it is called-the waters slowly slide round and round until they eventually find their way out in the new direction.

The Ice Bridge Tragedy

Only a week before my visit to Niagara a sad tragedy had happened. Three people, a man and his wife and a boy of seventeen, were walking across the ice bridge when it suddenly began to crack and partly to break up. The man and his wife found themselves on one floe of ice quietly floating away from the main pack, and the boy was on another.

All around them the water was covered with similar floating blocks of ice, grinding and bumping against each other, so that swimming was impossible, and no boat could get to them had one been available. So there they were at the mercy of the current, which here meandered slowly about, but gradually, slowly and surely, carrying them downstream towards those awful rapids a mile away.

People on the banks saw their dangerous position and thousands collected, but not one seemed able to do anything to help them. The course of the river would bring them under two bridges which spanned the river just before the rapids.

For an hour the poor wretches were floating along before they came to this point. On the bridges men had got long ropes (the bridges were 160 ft. above the water) which they lowered so as to hang in the way of the drifting people.

As they came along the boy managed to grasp a rope and willing hands proceeded to haul him up, but when they had got him a certain distance, poor fellow, he could hold on no longer and he fell down into the icy stream and was never seen again.

The man on the other floe also grasped a rope which he tried to fasten round his fainting wife so that she at any rate might be saved; but the tide was rushing them along, his hands were numb, he failed to fasten the rope, it slipped from his hands- and a few seconds later both he and his wife ended their tortures by being sucked under the waters in the heavy swirling rapids.

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