Henry Livingston, Jr.
Henry Livingston's Prose


For the New-York Magazine.
Of the celebrated WHIRLPOOL called the MAELSTROOM, on the Coast of Norway,

NATURE has no where assumed a more terrific form than in this vortex. In latitude 67, midway between the mountain Hesslegen, in the province of Losoden, and the island of Ver, lies a smaller island called Moskoe.

The water between this latter island and the continent is 400 fathoms deep, but the depth beetween Moskoe and Ver is not more than ten feet. -- When it is flood, the stream runs up between Moskoe and Losoden with a boisterous rapidity; but when it is ebb, returns to the sea with a violence and noise unequalled by the loudest cataracts. It is heard at the distance of many leagues, and forms a vortex of great depth and extent; so violent, that if a ship comes near it, it is immediately drawn irresistibly into the whirl, and there disappears, till, at the turn of the tide, it rises again in scattered fragments. When it is agitated by a storm, it has reached vessels at more than four miles distance, where the crews thought themselves in perfect security. Perhaps it is not in the power of fancy to conceive a situation of more horror, than that of being thus driven forward by the sudden violence of an impetuous torrent to the vortex of a whirpool, of which the noise and turbulence, still increasing as it is approached, are an earnest of quick and inevitable destruction; -- while the wretched victims, in an agony of despair and terror, cry out for that help which they know to be impossible, and see before them the dreadful abyss in which they are about to be plunged.

Even animals who have come too hnear the vortex, have expressed the utmost terror, when they find the stream irresistible. Whales are frequently carried away, and the moment they feel the force of the water, they struggle against it with all their might, bellowing in a frightful manner. The like happens frequently to bears who attempt to swin to the island.

In the month of June, in the year 1786, a scene of distress was exhibited here, unequalled perhaps in the annals of misery. Ulrie Strelix, eldest son of the Count of Herndale, had married Adelia, second daughter of the Lord of Losoden. The nuptials were celebrated in great pomp at the seat of the latter nobleman, which is in the neighbourhood of the Maelstroom, and at the foot of mount Hestlegen. Among other amusements, it was determined to go over to the island Weroy in a pinnace,

and while away some time among its rural beauties. The vessel accordingly was elegantly decorated, and carried over in safety the illustrious pair, with a large number of their friends, which comprehended all the first personages of the country.

During their stay upon the island, a storm arose and detained them longer than they intended to stay: it abated, however, in the evening, and it was resolved to proceed early next morning with the flood to the port they set out from. The morning arrived, and the more experienced mariners were anxious to have the company embarked: but the ladies, not accustomed to such early expedition were unhappily too tartly; for, instead of being under way at daybreak, the sun illuminated the summit of mount Hesllegen before all were on board. The tide, altho' far spent, ws still rapid in their favour, and a southern breeze aided their progress. But these favourable appearnaces soon were no more. A violent north gale suddenly arose, and with it a precipitated return of the tide. The sails were immediately furled, and the sailors exerted themselves tot he utmost with the oars to stem the wind and current; but their efforts were fruitless, and all the terrors of the Maelstroom rushed upon the imaginations of the forlorn voyagers: the women shrieked out in distress, and in their confused endeavours to assist the rowers, retarded, instead of assisting them. The roaring of the dreadful gulph grew more and more distinct, and the pinnace already got within the circuitous eddy, which whirls a vessel a hundred times around the vortex before its final destruction, and thereby procrastinates and increases the misfortune.

All exertions to escape were now intermitted, and distressful despair exhibited itself in as many attitudes as there were individuals. To add to their misery, in one part of the revolutions around the abyss, they came so near the abode of Lord Losoden, as to perceive the shore crowded with their friends, who in agonies saw, but could not alleviate their miseries.

At length the horrible chasm appeared in full tremendous view. It was sunk many fathoms below the level of the ocean -- was gloomy as midnight, and stunned with its thunder. The agonies of the wretched victims were now wrought to the utmost height of human endurance. Some shrieked to heaven for commiseration -- others, on their knees poured out their souls in silent, but emphatic tears -- while others stood motionless as statues with mighty woe. The hapless Adelia clung around her husband's neck, and watered his bosom with her tears; while the once happy husband, speechless with grief, pressed her to his throbbing heart, and felt a thousand deaths in this excruciating anticipation.

The violence of the motion now became excessive -- the vessel was in a moment on the brink of the fearful declivity -- it plunged in the roaring grave -- a general shriek arose -- and they were -- no more! --

This work, and a prose piece on Eskimos, was inspired by xx.

New-York Magazine; or, Literary Repository
Of the celebrated WHIRLPOOL
called the MAELSTROOM,
on the Coast of Norway
Vol. II No. XII; Dec 1791; pp.682-684; by R


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