« AnteriorContinuar »
of the globe in very remote times which would warrant us in concluding that Spitzbergen had its human inhabitants indigenous to the soil, or wanderers from: other regions, and it will be curious if in future explorations human remains and implements made by human hands will reward the search of ethnologists. As yet we believe no such discoveries have been made, simply because they have not been attempted. Only this year news has come of the discovery, or rather confirmation, of the actual position of land to the eastward of Spitzbergen, which hitherto has only been indicated on our charts from the vague and by no means accurate reports of such explorers as Altmann. Skipper Nils Jonson, of Tromsö, actually landed on this portion of the earth's crust, having sailed on the 8th of May last from his native port to Novaya Zemba, in pursuit of oil-bearing animals. His vessel was a little yacht called the Lydiana, of thirteen commercial lasts (a little over thirty tons), having on board a crew of nine men.
In June he turned his ship's head towards the west side of the great sea, and towards the end of the month, in a south-easterly direction from Spitzbergen, in the midst of the Polar stream which brought with it an immense mass of ice, towards the east side of Spitzbergen and Behring's Land. In July and August
the ice stream turned more to the East, towards Novaya Zemba, and left their “Farande” (distant water free from ice). During July and August Jonson was busy with his trade on the banks of Spitzbergen, and by the 16th of the latter month he had resolved to go on a voyage of discovery. Arriving at lat. 78° 18' 46" N. and 30° long., he caught sight of land, which for the first time in the year 1617 found a place on our maps under the name of Micha Land. The water along the south and east coast of the land was altogether free from ice, and the following morning he landed, in order to ascend to the summit of a neighbouring mountain, and from this elevation to make a survey of the scene. It was his intention also to go in search of whatever game the land might possess, and to examine what supplies of drift lumber the coast could offer. He soon satisfied himself that Altmann's report of the existence of three separate islands was wrong. Probably the error arose from the survey having been made from the deck of his ship. On the contrary, from this elevated point of view, the land presented the appearance of a vast continent, covered at intervals with high mountain lands, and these united by lower lands, whilst the coast was rocky and abrupt.
The skipper naturally expected to find the interior
NEW LAND RECONNOITERED.
laden with the same glaciers and snow fields that encumber Spitzbergen. Judge then of his surprise to find but. one small glacier towards the south, while the mountain sides exhibited the colours of the rock of which they were composed, and several large tracts of water spread out over the surface of the land reflected in their placid bosoms the bright sky above. The shore was completely covered with an immeasurable mass of driftwood, which extended as far as one hundred feet from the vessel, and was heaped up to a height of twenty feet above the level of the water. The length of this land was estimated at forty-four sea miles (240 English miles). The mountain where these observations were made, proved to be in lat. 79° 8', long. 30° 15'. The fauna met with included the ordinary Arctic species. Seals in abundance sported in the sea, herds of reindeer grazed along the sides of the mountains, and in the pastures which made the valleys green.
Jonson and his men had never seen fatter or larger deer. Some of these animals were killed, and their great accumulation of fat appeared to them of such interest that means of preserving specimens for the museum at home were successfully taken ; these, together with portions of the rocks and fine specimens of fossil plants, were also procured for the same institution, as well as some for the purposes of identification, which are now in the hands of Oswald Heer, of Zurich, the famous botanical palæontologist. On the 17th of August the party embarked, and for two whole days they sailed along the coast, and met with no obstacle from ice or other impediment.
Is it then likely that there remains nothing more for the explorer in these regions to reward him for his inquiry ? Surely we have in this account fresh evidence, if such were wanting, that the northern seas deserve attention. These seas are not so devoid of interest as the shrewd practical man might at first suppose. The presence of rare and profitable resources to be derived from the enormous abundance of animal life in the Arctic circle is a temptation which alone would justify further exploration. The trifling risk attending the present clumsy appliances of the whaler can be made less by a more intimate knowledge of the currents, and the causes that influence them in these high latitudes ought surely to induce the philanthropist to assist in their solution. The existence of animal life in such abundance warrants us in believing that man may live in some remote Arctic lands of whose existence we are still ignorant, and if in the course of time human beings have disappeared from these scenes of their former occupancy, it will
be of interest to all to learn from their remains how far they had gone along the road of human progress. The enormous deposits of wood accumulated upon the shores of Arctic lands have their evidence to render, which is of especial service to the students of nature; the direction of the streams is surely indicated by the species they represent; and the casterly coasts of all islands in certain directions being more encumbered by ice than the corresponding western shores of all those known, point to one description of facts, not without their meaning, which tell only a portion of the truth they reveal, so long as we are restricted in our knowledge of the whole of the Arctic cosmography
In the Spitzbergen seas we have passed to the eastward of the great iceberg system, since icebergs would be found drifting from the eastward if they were generated anywhere in that direction. There are therefore no ice-bound coasts to be encountered in this direction, no floating barriers exist whose frozen walls offer no portal for the Polar explorer. The flat ice that is found floating on the seas will surely admit of the steam ship, easily handled in the various narrow channels, as it breaks up for the year; and modern appliances can easily be brought into requisition now, whose enormous power was not understood during