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HE attempts which have been
made to penetrate the Realm of the Ice King and explore its secrets hold a high place in the records of maritime adventure. In dauntless courage, stern devotion to duty, and skilful seamanship, the Arctic voyagers have been unsurpassed.
The perils encountered and the
hardships endured have brought out into striking prominence some of the noblest qualities of the sailor. As might have been expected from the naval supremacy of Great Britain, it is our own countrymen who hold the foremost place amongst those who have risked their lives in the endeavour to force a passage through these frozen seas. But we have not stood alone in the task. All the maritime nations of Europe and the United States of America have furnished their contingents to the gallant band of heroes whose deeds are here recorded.
An attempt is made in the following pages to bring together
all the narratives of Arctic voyages and explorations from the earliest times down to our own day. Beginning with the daring Norsemen who, in the dim dawn of modern history, discovered Greenland, no important expedition is omitted till we reach that, under the Austro-Hungarian flag, which is now in progress, and of which the latest intelligence is given up to the moment of going to press. Some of the narrativés may be found to possess little interest to the general reader, containing only a monotonous record of degrees of latitude reached, icebound coasts visited, or impenetrable barriers of ice, before which even the most daring navigators have been compelled to retreat. But it has been thought needful to give these that the record may be complete.
It will not escape observation that a very large proportion of these Arctic voyagers have been men of eminent piety. Faith in God has given them calmness and confidence when all human resources failed. In the gloom of the long Polar night, and amidst the perils which environed them, the Bible has been as “a light shining in a dark place,” and has raised them above the fear of death. In the chapter on Missionary Enterprises in the Polar Regions, it will be seen that Christianity has its pioneers and heroes whose courage is not inferior to that of the most daring adventurers, whilst it is prompted by a far higher motive and followed by a diviner reward.