In Northern Mists

In Northern Mists
Catalog # SKU3708
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 5.00 lbs
Author Name Fridtjof Nansen, Arthur G. Chater
ISBN 10: 0000000000
ISBN 13: 0000000000000


In Northern Mists

Arctic Exploration
In Early Times

2 Volume Set
Large Print Edition

Fridtjof Nansen

by Arthur G. Chater

In the beginning the world appeared to mankind like a fairy tale; everything that lay beyond the circle of familiar experience was a shifting cloudland of the fancy, a playground for all the fabled beings of mythology; but in the farthest distance, towards the west and north, was the region of darkness and mists, where sea, land and sky were merged into a congealed mass-and at the end of all gaped the immeasurable mouth of the abyss, the awful void of space.

Large Print, 15 point font, Illustrated



Out of this fairy world, in course of time, the calm and sober lines of the northern landscape appeared. With unspeakable labour the eye of man has forced its way gradually towards the north, over mountains and forests, and tundra, onward through the mists along the vacant shores of the polar sea-the vast stillness, where so much struggle and suffering, so many bitter failures, so many proud victories, have vanished without a trace, muffled beneath the mantle of snow.

When our thoughts go back through the ages in a waking dream, an endless procession passes before us-like a single mighty epic of the human mind's power of devotion to an idea, right or wrong-a procession of struggling, frost-covered figures in heavy clothes, some erect and powerful, others weak and bent so that they can scarcely drag themselves along before the sledges, many of them emaciated and dying of hunger, cold and scurvy; but all looking out before them towards the unknown, beyond the sunset, where the goal of their struggle is to be found.

We see a Pytheas, intelligent and courageous, steering northward from the Pillars of Hercules for the discovery of Britain and Northern Europe; we see hardy Vikings, with an Ottar, a Leif Ericson at their head, sailing in undecked boats across the ocean into ice and tempest and clearing the mists from an unseen world; we see a Davis, a Baffin forcing their way to the north-west and opening up new routes, while a Hudson, unconquered by ice and winter, finds a lonely grave on a deserted shore, a victim of shabby pilfering. We see the bright form of a Parry surpassing all as he forces himself on; a Nordenskiöld, broad-shouldered and confident, leading the way to new visions; a Toll mysteriously disappearing in the drifting ice. We see men driven to despair, shooting and eating each other; but at the same time we see noble figures, like a De Long, trying to save their journals from destruction, until they sink and die.

Midway in the procession comes a long file of a hundred and thirty men hauling heavy boats and sledges back to the south, but they are falling in their tracks; one after another they lie there, marking the line of route with their corpses-they are Franklin's men.

And now we come to the latest drama, the Greenlander Brönlund dragging himself forward over the ice-fields through cold and winter darkness, after the leader Mylius-Erichsen and his comrade, Hagen, have both stiffened in the snow during the long and desperate journey. He reaches the depot only to wait for death, knowing that the maps and observations he has faithfully brought with him will be found and saved. He quietly prepares himself for the silent guest, and writes in his journal in his imperfect Danish:

Perished,-79 Fjord, after attempt return over the inland ice, in November. I come here in waning moon and could not get farther for frost-bitten feet and darkness.

The bodies of the others are in the middle of the fjord opposite the glacier (about 2½ leagues).

Jörgen Brönlund.

What a story in these few lines! Civilisation bows its head by the grave of this Eskimo. What were they seeking in the ice and cold? The Norseman who wrote the "King's Mirror" gave the answer six hundred years ago: "If you wish to know what men seek in this land, or why men journey thither in so great danger of their lives, then it is the threefold nature of man which draws him thither. One part of him is emulation and desire of fame, for it is man's nature to go where there is likelihood of great danger, and to make himself famous thereby. Another part is the desire of knowledge, for it is man's nature to wish to know and see those parts of which he has heard, and to find out whether they are as it was told him or not. The third part is the desire of gain, seeing that men seek after riches in every place where they learn that profit is to be had, even though there be great danger in it."

The history of arctic discovery shows how the development of the human race has always been borne along by great illusions. Just as Columbus's discovery of the West Indies was due to a gross error of calculation, so it was the fabled isle of Brazil that drew Cabot out on his voyage, when he found North America. It was fantastic illusions of open polar seas and of passages to the riches of Cathay beyond the ice that drove men back there in spite of one failure after another; and little by little the polar regions were explored. Every complete devotion to an idea yields some profit, even though it be different from that which was expected.

But from first to last the history of polar exploration is a single mighty manifestation of the power of the unknown over the mind of man, perhaps greater and more evident here than in any other phase of human life. Nowhere else have we won our way more slowly, nowhere else has every new step cost so much trouble, so many privations and sufferings, and certainly nowhere have the resulting discoveries promised fewer material advantages-and nevertheless, new forces have always been found ready to carry the attack farther, to stretch once more the limits of the world.

But if it has cost a struggle, it is not without its joys. Who can describe his emotion when the last difficult ice-floe has been passed, and the sea lies open before him, leading to new realms? Or when the mist clears and mountain-summits shoot up, one behind another farther and farther away, on which the eye of man has never rested, and in the farthest distance peaks appear on the sea-horizon-on the sky above them a yellowish white reflection of the snow-fields-where the imagination pictures new continents?...

Ever since the Norsemen's earliest voyages arctic expeditions have certainly brought material advantages to the human race, such as rich fisheries, whaling and sealing, and so on; they have produced scientific results in the knowledge of hitherto unknown regions and conditions; but they have given us far more than this: they have tempered the human will for the conquest of difficulties; they have furnished a school of manliness and self-conquest in the midst of the slackness of varying ages, and have held up noble ideals before the rising generation; they have fed the imagination, have given fairy-tales to the child, and raised the thoughts of its elders above their daily toil. Take arctic travel out of our history, and will it not be poorer? Perhaps we have here the greatest service it has done humanity.

We speak of the first discovery of the North-but how do we know when the first man arrived in the northern regions of the earth? We know nothing but the very last steps in the migrations of humanity. What a stretch of time there must have been between the period of the Neanderthal man in Europe and the first Pelasgians, or Iberians, or Celts, that we find there in the neolithic age, in the earliest dawn of history. How infinitesimal in comparison with this the whole of the recent period which we call history becomes.

What took place in those long ages is still hidden from us. We only know that ice-age followed ice-age, covering Northern Europe, and to some extent Asia and North America as well, with vast glaciers which obliterated all traces of early human habitation of those regions. Between these ice-ages occurred warmer periods, when men once more made their way northward, to be again driven out by the next advance of the ice-sheet. There are many signs that the human northward migration after the last ice-age, in any case in large districts of Europe, followed fairly close upon the gradual shrinking of the boundary of the inland ice towards the interior of Scandinavia, where the ice-sheath held out longest.

800 pages in two pages - 8½ x 11 softcover

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