Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER.

O

nor

ms

the Polar regions, including Greenland, the Polar American Islands, and probably much now-submerged land in places connected or lying between Greenland and Scandinavia, at which time Greenland no doubt presented a much richer Scandinavian flora than it now does. On the accession of the glacial period this flora would be driven slowly southward, down to the extremity of the Greenland peninsula in its longitude, and down to the latitude of the Alleghanies and the White Mountains in their longitudes. The effect in Greenland would be to leave there only the more Arctic forms of vegetation unchanged in habits or features, the rest being, as it were, driven into the sea. But the effect on the American continent would be to bring the Scandinavian flora into competition with an American flora that preoccupied the lands into which it was driven. On the decline of the glacial epoch, Greenland, being a peninsula, would be repeopled with plants only by the northward migration of the purely Scandinavian species, that had previously been driven into its southern extremity ; and the result would be a uniform Scandinavian flora throughout its length, and this an Arctic one from north to south. But in America a very different state of things would supervene; the Scandinavian plants would not only migrate north, but ascend the Alleghanies, White Mountains, &c.; and the result would be, that, on the one hand, many Scandinavian plants which had been driven out of Greenland, but were preserved in the United States, would reappear on the Polar Islands and Labrador, accompanied with sundry American mountain types; and, on the other, that a few Greenland Scandinavian types which had been lost in the struggle with the American types during their northward migration, and which hence do not reappear in Labrador and the Polar Islands, might well be preserved in the Alleghanies and White Mountains. And, lastly, that a number of Scandinavian plants which had changed their form or habit during the migration in America in conflict with the American types, would appear in the Polar Islands as American varieties or representative species of Scandinavian plants. Whether or not his be a true hypothesis, it embraces all the facts; and botanists look anxiously to further explorations in the northern parts of Greenland for more light on the subject, and especially for evidence of rising or sinking of the land, and for evidence of ancient connection between Greenland and Scandinavia ; for observations on the temperature, direction, and depth of transporting currents in these seas, and on the habits of the ruminant migrating animals that may have influenced the dis

· INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER,

tribution of the vegetation by transporting the seeds. Such facts as those of the existence of ancient forests in what are now Arctic regions, and of the migration of existing flora over lands now bound fast in perpetual ice, appear to some naturalists to call for vaster changes than can be brought about by a redisposition of the geographical limits of land and sea, and to afford evidence of changes in the direction of the earth's axis to the plane of its orbit, and perhaps of variations in the ellipticity of the orbit itself.”

In mineralogy perhaps the most interesting discovery has been the masses of iron found at Ovifath. They have all the characteristics regarded as distinctive of meteoric iron, and, by most authorities, they are regarded as such. If this view is right,

collection yet discovered of the actual matter of extratelluric worlds. They are remarkable amongst meteoric irons for the large proportion of carbonaceous matter associated with it. From the position in which these masses occurred, it seems probable that they formed part of a large fall of meteoric iron during the miocene period. In 1872 the Swedish government sent a ship out to convey these masses to Sweden. The largest weighed twenty-one, eight, and four tons respectively. Meteoric iron had been previously found near Upernavik, at Niakornik, Fortune Bay, Fiskernars, and Jakobshavn.

The present knowledge we have of the anthropology of the Arctic regions is a warranty that further researches there would lead to a considerable increase of that knowledge. There are indications of human beings or of human habitations in the most northern lands yet visited; and probably they live or have lived in the undiscovered lands to the north, People live in 80° N. on the west coast of Greenland, and they formerly did at 76° N. on the east coast. These two points are 600 miles apart. On the west coast there is a tribe, commonly called the Arctic Highlanders, which occupies about 600 miles of sea coast. They are unable to advance farther south or north, in consequence of two large glaciers entering the sea, which prove to be impassable barriers to them. And they cannot pass far into the interior owing to the Sernik Soak, or Great Ice wall. They asserted that Ross's ship could not have come from the south because there was nothing but ice in that direction ; and although they also told Kane that no people existed farther north, they had a tradition that there were herds of musk oxen far to the north on an island in an iceless sea. That natives have been to the north of the Humboldt glacier is proved by the bone sledge-runner

[merged small][ocr errors]

found by Morton. On the east side the natives seen in 76° N., in 1823, would find the icy shore and lands to the south an impassable barrier in that direction. In 1869 the natives could not be found, although their deserted habitations were visible, and musk oxen, &c., abounded. These facts render it probable that these natives, or rather their descendants, have gone north of 76°, while the musk oxen and other animals have come from the north. Probably, too, there is a tract of habitable land between the district north of the Humboldt glacier and the east coast of Greenland, in 76° N. And probably also there are natives in these high northern regions who have been isolated from other tribes for many centuries. On the Parry Islands every bay and cape yields evidences of a large population where now the region is deserted.

The following summary will suffice to show that the exploration of the Polar regions cannot fail to have a most important influence in advancing almost every science. What man is bold enough to assert that science is absolutely useless? What man, even the most utilitarian, would advocate the abolition of all science as the best means to increase wealth, or to promote the welfare of nations ? Let us hope there are few such men. Let us also hope there are many who will lend a hand to removing the obstructions,

« AnteriorContinuar »