« AnteriorContinuar »
find a northerly passage to the wealth-producing East Indies. At another time, the efforts of our men were urged on by the hope of relieving, or of ascertaining the fate of, Sir John Franklin and his crew. It is now well established that there is not the slightest chance of finding any commercial route in high north latitudes which is likely to supersede those at present in use; and we have learnt all, or nearly all, that it is possible to do respecting Sir John Franklin and his crew. For many years past the English Government has relaxed its efforts, and the lead is being taken by other nations, such as the Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, Russians, and Americans. We want a new motive to rouse up the spirit of the nation and Government; and what higher and nobler one can be found than the search for truth and the advancement of science? This is the duty of a government, to promote the national welfare, and one of the surest ways in which this can be done is by encouraging scientific efforts. Millions are spent every year upon the navy and army, the main result of which is a large establishment and the performance of routine duty. It would cost little, if anything more, to give a large proportion of the men work to do, which would develop their intellectual and moral faculties, and thereby render them not only more useful in peace, but also more
effective in war. Captain Sherard Osborn has repeatedly dwelt upon this in his many spirit-stirring addresses advocating a renewal of Polar Exploration. In one of these addresses, read by him before the Royal Geographical Society on January 23, 1865, he says: “ The Navy needs some action to wake it up from the sloth of routine, and save it from the canker of prolonged peace. ... You are not going to educate us, work us up to the point of nautical perfection, awaken hopes and ambition, and then give us oakum to pick ; or run us over the mast-head after top-gallant yards, to keep down the spirit which intellectual progress has evoked. The Navy of England cries not for mere war to gratify its desire for honourable employment or fame. There are other achievements, it knows well, as glorious as victorious battles : and a wise ruler and a wise people will, I hold, be careful to satisfy a craving which is the life-blood of a profession-indeed, I hold that it ought to be fostered and encouraged.” There are few ways in which this spirit can be better fostered than by Polar Exploration, and so popular is such service amongst our sailors, more especially Arctic sailors, that hundreds of them volunteer to go when any project of this kind is afloat. From this point of view, the exploration of the higher latitudes is a matter for government, and not for private enterprise.
From the scientific point of view, it is a matter which requires both government and private enterprise. Many people, however, ask what is the use of such explorations ? Who cares, say they, for a lot of barren ice-clad lands or frozen seas ? and why should you encourage men to risk their lives for such objects as these? These questions chiefly emanate from those who do not see the advantage of prosecuting anything which does not promise a handsome pecuniary profit ; who over-estimate the risks incidental to Arctic adventure, and who cannot appreciate successes which are simply scientific. Arctic voyages have yielded good fruit in the past, and there is every prospect of greater gains accruing to science from the explorations of the future. The present phase of Arctic Exploration, the characteristic feature of which is the attempt to reach the Pole, combined more or less with a spirit of scientific inquiry, promises to be a more glorious one than either of the two preceding phases; and since the English Navy has taken a leading share in these, it is to be hoped it will take a foremost one in the present phase.
In this introductory chapter the object will be to give, first, a rapid sketch of Arctic voyages ; next, to show in a very summary way some of the results due to, and probable advantages to be derived
from, Arctic research ; and lastly, to make a few remarks on the routes by which the Polar area is accessible.
The Phoenician mariners were probably the first recorded persons to enter the Arctic circle, the Ultima Thule of the ancients being apparently Iceland. The Irish may have again visited it in the sixth century. It was again discovered by a Norwegian named Naddodr in 860, and shortly after colonized by Norsemen. In 890 Ohther made a voyage round the northern part of Norway, and along a portion of the north coast of Russia. Soon after this an Icelandic fisherman, Gembiorn, got caught in a gale which drove him a long way to the west. The first land he sighted was Cape Farewell, or, as he called it, Hoidsaerk (white shirt), from its being clad in white snow. The land was called Gembiorn's Land. In or about 982 Erek the Red was banished from Iceland, upon which he resolved to explore Gembiorn's Land. He soon reached the east coast of Greenland, which he followed in a southerly direction, and doubled Cape Farewell. The west coast was then explored for about a day's journey beyond, or as far as Hvarf, which is probably the modern Cape Egede. He returned to Iceland, and induced many of his countrymen to colonize the west coast of Greenland. These colonists
chiefly maintained themselves by hunting for whales, seals, &c., and by fishing ; and in their pursuit of these occupations they frequented some hunting stations far to the north, one of which was called Northern Sæta. Their Bjarney, or Bear Island, is identified by Rofu with Disco Island. The region beyond Northern Sæta they called Furthern Stranda, of which Baffin's Bay was a part. How far north they advanced it is difficult to say, but a Runic inscription found on the island of Kingitorsoak, and bearing date 1135, shows that they had then reached at least as high as 12° 55' N. These colonies flourished for a while, but owing to diseases, wars, and other misfortunes, they gradually declined and became extinct by about the beginning of the fifteenth century. In 1474 Columbus visited Iceland, and even sailed one hundred leagues beyond it; and it is not improbable he may have heard from the Icelanders traditions of their former occupation of Greenland and portions of the American continent. John Cabot, a native of Venice, but established as a merchant at Bristol, may also have heard of the western lands from the same source, since it is well known the Bristol merchant traded both with Norway and with Iceland. In 1497 John Cabot and his son Sebastian discovered Newfoundland. In 1498 Sebastian commanded a small fleet destined for Newfoundland, and