button to main menu  Clarke's Survey of the Lakes, 1787

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Page 73:-

"And oft the craggy cliff he lov'd to climb,
When all in mist the world below was lost.
What dreadful pleasure! There to stand sublime,
Like shipwreck'd mariners on desart coast;
And view th' enormous waste of vapour, tost
In billows length'ning to th' horizon round;
Now scoop'd in gulphs, with mountains now emboss'd,
And hear the voice of mirth and song resound;
Flocks, herds, and water-falls, along the hoar profound!"
About halfway up the mountain, or not quite so high, you will be above the mist, which lyes thick and white below. It is quite level, and appears so strong that you might walk upon it; I can compare it to nothing so much as a vast sheet of ice covered with snow; not a house or a tree can be seen; the voice of extremely distant water-falls is heard perfectly distinct, and not one confusing another. The loud crowing cock at every cottage, joined to the warbling of the smaller-feathered choir, comes with an almost magical sweetness to the ear, whilst the bellowing bulls and cows form a rural bass to the concert; every sound is much more distinctly heard than at any other time. The words of men conversing at two miles distance are perfectly intelligible; the whistling of a shepherd going to his fleecy care seems close to you, though he cannot be seen. Nor is the eye less delighted, for the tops of distant mountains are now as distinctly viewed with the naked eye, as at other times with the help of a telescope: but these pleasures are often of short duration, for as soon as the rising sun gets a little power the mists quickly disperse, and objects relapse into their ordinary state.
A person unacquainted with philosophy would wonder what became of these vapours; for very little ever ascends higher than the middle of the mountains, and there seems totally annihilated. I once had two French horns placed in the valley, and another time I heard the hounds running a hare; both of these had a very wonderful and pleasing effect. If a traveller should have an opportunity of reviewing this, I would advise him to take a fowling-piece with him, to fire as a signal to his servant (who must remain with another in the valley) that he is above the mist; then let the servant fire his, and the magnified report will be a matter of great curiosity, and exceed any idea that can be formed.
We now return to the boat, and passing Barrow-Beck foot, we enter the chapelry of Borrowdale, (see plate VI.) We next pass the wooded rocks, Catt-Gill and Catt-Cragg; so names I suppose from the wild cats which inhabit there; and opposite Cat-Gill we see the Floating Island.
  floating island, Derwent Water
This Island has its name, from its sometimes being visible for a few days, and then becoming invisible for many weeks, or even months; at which time it is covered by water to the depth of two fathoms. It is worthy of remark, that the island is never visible unless the water in the lake be high, and then it scarcely appears more than a foot above the surface. This island is about twenty yards in diameter, nearly circular, and slopes gradually from the center to the circumference; and from thence, as far as the eye can distinguish the sloping is more sudden.
The phaenomena of this island are extremely paradoxical, but may I think admit of a very enforced solution. It never appears but when the Lake is swelled with rain, and at that time a very considerable torrent from the adjacent heights comes pouring down Cat-Gill, where it sinks among the loose stones: the bottom of the Lake in this part is all covered by a very fine, close grass, with remarkable strong matted roots, seemingly the same kind with the calomnus aromaticus, and the island lyes but at a small distance from the shore. All these circumstances I had an opportunity of observing, not only when I took the soundings, but at many other times;
gazetteer links
button -- "Catt Cragg" -- Cat Crag
button -- "Catt Gill" -- Cat Gill
button -- "Floating Island" -- (floating island, Derwent Water)
button -- "Skiddow" -- (station, Skiddaw)
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