The next Arctic explorer whom we shall follow in his voyages is Adolf Erik Nordenskiold whose experiences in the Arctic extended over twenty-one years. Nordenskiold was a Finnish professor, and on all his expeditions he was accompanied by a staff of scientists. So the following observations are no mere pieces of unsupported guess-work but the findings of a man whose name has been made known the world over by the brilliant and thorough-going nature of the discoveries he made.
Nordenskiold's Arctic expeditions were made under the auspices of the Swedish government. His first serious attempt at a polar voyage was made in 1861, starting out from Tromsoe for a comprehensive survey of Spitzbergen. The party had just passed Amsterdam Island, according to Alexander Leslie who prepared the book, "The Arctic Voyages of Adolf Erik Nordenskiold," when a very interesting observation was made. Here is the account of it:
"During the whole voyage no birds had been seen but auks and black guillemots, on their way northward
in immense flocks to revisit their old breeding grounds. The same night, however, (23rd May), great numbers of barnacle geese (Anser bernicla) were seen flying towards the northwest, perhaps to some land more northerly then Spitzbergen. The existence of such a land is considered quite certain by the walrus-hunters, who state that at the most northerly point hitherto reached such flocks of birds are seen steering their course in rapid flight yet farther toward the north."
Passing over Nordenskiold's notes on the abundance of insect and other life in Spitzbergen, we note his surprise at the sudden way in which summer heat set in. In July the ice suddenly began to break up especially where it had been undermined by the waves--which would also sound as if the water of the sea had already reached a fairly high temperature. He was also surprised at the immense number of auk which he found as soon as he began his summer expeditions. "Between Dym Point and Cape Fanshawe the Swedes passed the greatest auk-fell they had hitherto seen. . . . The air is darkened by the number of fowl flying out of such a fell when a gun is fired, without it being possible to distinguish any diminution in consequence in the number of those which sit still so quietly that some, which had made their nests, could be reached from the boat and taken with the hand."
"The party next entered Lomme Bay and after
landing found a grassy terraced slope on which they killed three deer. The party could hardly believe them to be the same species of deer that they had seen at Treurenbery bay four weeks before. Then they were as lean as if they had consisted entirely of skin, bones, and sinew; these, on the contrary, might have competed as fat stock. . . ."
Now it is interesting to note that these observations were confirmed and extended by Nordenskiold's further researches, and eleven years later we find him making similar discoveries and having this to say about them (this observation being made when he was on Parry Island):
"Numerous traces and remains showed that even these islands lying in the neighborhood of 81 degrees are inhabited in great numbers by very large animals, which, if the facility of procuring the necessaries of life were the only condition of their choice of habitat, ought to betake themselves to far more southerly regions. Numerous foot-prints of bears, often following the traces of the reins for long distances, showed that a dangerous enemy to the reindeer lives in this neighborhood."
A little later the explorer notices that the reindeer they shoot are, as he had once noticed before, much
fatter than those shot in his southerly journeyings.
Now those facts. are sufficiently remarkable, but we will not dwell upon them now because we have further evidence along the same line that will be developed later in this book and that simply explains once and for all the reason of these observations which puzzled this great scientist.
More in line with the sort of evidence which we are now particularly considering are Nordenskiold's observations upon the actual character of the northern lands. We first note that his views coincide with the other authorities we have quoted as to the ice only reaching to a certain latitude and then ending. Here is what he says on that subject:
"Of this inland ice the natives entertain a superstitious fear, an awe or prejudice, which has, in some degree, communicated itself to such Europeans as have resided long in Greenland. It is only thus that the curious fact that in the whole thousand years during which Greenland has been known, so few efforts have been made to pass over the ice farther into the country can be explained. There are many reasons for believing that the inland ice merely forms a continuous ice frame, running parallel with the coast, and surrounding a land free from ice, perhaps even wooded in its southern parts, which might, perhaps,
be of great economical importance to the rest of Greenland."
Again, some years later than the time at which the above observation was made, the explorer on his "North-east passage expedition" noticed that at certain points which he was enabled to visit along the northeastern coast of Siberia, the absence of what geologists call "erratic blocks" or blocks of earth and rock moved by glaciers. This absence proved to him that there does not exist "in the sea to the northward any such glacial land as Greenland." He also made an observation which is very interesting taken in connection with our note in the last chapter about the Eskimos. The women of the Eskimo tribes with whom he came in contact on this voyage, whenever they are in their inner tents, "go quite naked, with the exception of a narrow girdle, probably a reminiscence of the dress the people wore when they lived in a milder climate."
It will be noticed that between the Eskimo memories of a milder climate and all the evidence of a milder climate provided by the abundance of animal life always going to the north to feed or breed we are having quite a lot of warmth in our polar explorations. And Nordenskiold noted on this same voyage that the north seemed to be the source of heat. He says in one place:
"The wind had now changed from west to north and northwest. The temperature became milder and the weather rainy, a sign that there must have been great stretches of open water to the north and northwest."