“A Siberian Winter” (from Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet, August 1851, p. 241)
The traveler in Siberia, during winter, is so enveloped in furs that he can scarcely move. Under the thick fur hood, which is fastened to the bear-skin collar and covers the whole face, one can only draw in a little of the external air, which is so keen that it causes a very peculiar and painful feeling to the throat and lungs.
The distance from one halting place to another takes about ten hours, during which time the travler must always continue on horseback, as the cumbrous dress makes it insupportable to wade through the snow.
The poor horses suffer at least as much as their riders, for, besides the general effect of the cold, they are tormented by ice forming in their nostrils and stopping their breathing. When they intimate this, by a distressed snort, and a convulsive shaking of the head, the drivers relieve them by taking out the pieces of ice, to save them from being suffocated.
When the icy ground is not covered by snow, their hoofs often burst from the effects of the cold.
The caravan is always surrounded by a thick cloud of vapor. It is not only living bodies which produce this effect, but even the snow smokes. These evaporations are instantly changed into millions of needles of ice, which fill the air, and cause a constant slight noise, resembling the sound of torn satin or silk.
Even the reindeer seeks the forest to protect him from the intensity of the cold. Where there is no shelter to be found, the whole herd crowd together as close as possible, to gain a little warmth from each other, and may be seen standing in this way quite motionless.
Only the dark bird of winter, the raven, still cleaves to the icy air with slow and heavy wing, leaving behind him a long line of thin vapor, marking the track of his solitary flight.
The influence of the cold extends even to animate nature. The thickest trunks of trees are rent asunder with a loud sound, which, in these deserts, falls on the ear like a signal shot at sea; large masses of rock are torn from their ancient sites; the ground, in the valleys, cracks and forms wide, yawning fissures, from which the waters that were beneath rise, giving off a cloud of vapor, and become immediately changed into ice.—Selected.