Paradise Found, by William F. Warren, , at sacred-texts.com
The nights are never so dark at the Pole as in other regions, for the moon and stars seem to possess twice as much light and effulgence. In addition, there is a continuous light in the North, the varied shades and play of which are amongst the strangest phenomena of nature.Rambosson's Astronomy.
The fact which gives the phenomenon of the polar aurora its greatest importance is that the earth becomes self-luminous; that, besides the light which as a planet it receives from the central body, it shows a capability of sustaining a luminous process proper to itself.Humboldt.
We are apt to think of an unbroken night of six months at the Pole. Eminent scientific authorities speak as if this conception were correct. Thus Professor Geikie, in his admirable new manual of Geology, writing of the Arctic flora of the Miocene age, says, "When we remember that this vegetation grew luxuriantly within 8° 15´ of the North Pole, in a region which is in darkness for half of the year, . . . we can realize the difficulty of the problem in the distribution of climate which these facts present to the geologist." 1
In like manner Sir Charles Lyell, discussing the question of the possibility of whales reaching the supposed open sea at the Pole, says, "They could pass under considerable barriers of ice, provided there were openings here and there; and so they may, perhaps, reach a more open sea near the Pole,
and find sustenance there during a day of more than five months duration." 1
From such representations as these the reader naturally carries away the impression that daylight lasts at the Pole somewhat over five months, while all the rest of the year the region is shrouded in darkness. Were this true, it would certainly be an unpromising region in which to search for the terrestrial Paradise.
Fortunately for our hypothesis, this conception of the duration of the polar night is very far from true. The half-yearly reign of darkness exists only in the uninstructed imagination. Astronomical geography teaches that, as respects daylight, the polar regions are and always have been the most favored portions of the globe. As early a popularizer of natural science as the Rev. Thomas Dick set forth the real facts as follows: "Under the Poles, where the darkness of night would continue six months without intermission if there were no refraction, total darkness does not prevail one half of this period. When the sun sets at the North Pole, about the 23d of September, the inhabitants (if any) enjoy a perpetual aurora till he has descended eighteen degrees below the horizon. In his course through the ecliptic, the sun is two months before he can reach this point, during which time there is a perpetual twilight. In two months more he arrives again at the same point, namely, eighteen degrees below the horizon, when a new twilight commences, which is continually increasing in brilliancy for other two months, at the end of which the body of this luminary is seen rising in all its glory. So that in this
region the light of day is enjoyed in a greater or less degree for ten months, without interruption by the effects of atmospheric refraction; and during the two months when the influence of the solar light is entirely withdrawn, the moon is shining above the horizon for two half months without intermission; and thus it happens that no more than two separate fortnights are passed in total darkness, and this darkness is alleviated by the light of the stars and the frequent coruscations of the Aurora Borealis. Hence it appears that there are no portions of our globe which enjoy throughout the year so large a portion of the solar light as these northern regions." 1
Striking as is this account of the polar day, it is noteworthy that experience has repeatedly shown that the actual duration of light in high latitudes exceeds even the calculations of the astronomers. Thus, in the spring of 1893, the officers of the Austrian expedition, under Lieutenants Weyprecht and Payer, were surprised to behold the sun three days before the date on which he was expected to rise. A late writer thus states the case: "In the latitude (79° 15´ N.) in which the Tegethoff was lying, the sun ought to reappear above the horizon on the 19th of February; but, owing to an effect of refraction, due to the low temperature prevailing, -30° R., the explorers were able to salute its rays three days earlier." 2
Lieutenant Payer's own account is as follows: "Though the sun did not return to our latitude (78°
[paragraph continues] 15´ N., 71° 38´ E. long.) till the 19th of February, we were able to greet his beams three days previous to that date, owing to the strong refraction of 1° 40´ which accompanied a temperature of -30° R." 1
Still more remarkable was the experience of Barentz's Arctic expedition, almost three hundred years ago. Dr. Dick alludes to it as follows: "The refractive power of the atmosphere has been found to be much greater, in certain cases, than what has now been stated. In the year 1595 [1596-97] a company of Dutch sailors having been wrecked on the shores of Novaia Zemlia, and having been obliged to remain in that desolate region during a night of more than three months [it was a little less than three months], beheld the sun make his appearance in the horizon about sixteen days before the time in which he should have risen according to calculation, and when his body was actually more than four degrees below the horizon." The only explanation of this astonishing phenomenon which the same writer offers is found in this appended clause,"which circumstance has been attributed to the great refractive power of the atmosphere in those intensely cold regions." This is so unsatisfactory that not a few prefer to believe, what seems entirely incredible, namely, that Barentz and his men in the short space of less than three months made a blunder of sixteen days in their time record.
Professor Nordenskjöld has recently referred to the case as follows: "On the 14 / 4th November the sun disappeared and was again visible on the 3d Feb. / 24th Jan. These dates have caused scientific men much perplexity, because, in latitude 76° North, the upper
edge of the sun ought to have ceased to be visible when the sun's south declination in autumn became greater than 13°, 1 and to have become visible again when the declination again became less than that figure; that is to say, the sun ought to have been seen for the last time at Barentz's Ice Haven on the 7th / 11th October, and it ought to have appeared again there on the 14th / 4th Feb. It has been supposed that the deviation arose from a considerable error in counting the days, but this was unanimously denied by the crew who wintered." 2 In a foot-note he gives proofs which seem convincing that no such error can have been committed.
But while these experiences of Barentz and the Austrians point to a duration of darkness at the Pole of less than sixty days out of the three hundred and sixty-five, some apparently good authorities extend the period to seventy-six or seventy-seven days. Thus Captain Bedford Pim, of the Royal Navy of Great Britain, makes the following statement: "On the 16th of March the sun rises, preceded by a long dawn of forty-seven days, namely, from the 29th of January, when the first glimmer of light appears. On the 25th of September the sun sets, and after a twilight of forty-eight days, namely, on the 13th of November, darkness reigns supreme, so far as the sun is concerned, for seventy-six days, followed by one long period of light, the sun remaining above the horizon one hundred and ninety-four days. The year, therefore, is thus divided at the Pole: 194 days sun; 76 darkness; 47 days dawn; 48 twilight." 3
Even according to this account we should have at the Pole only 76 days of darkness to 289 days of light in the year. In other words, instead of being in darkness little short of half of the time, as at the equator, one would be in darkness but about one fourth of the time. As far as light is concerned, therefore, even on this calculation the polar region is twice as favorable to life as any equatorial region that can be named.
But whence this discrepancy among the astronomers? Why should some of them make the polar night sixteen days longer than others?
The simple answer is that they proceed upon different assumptions as to atmospheric refraction in the region of the Pole. In our latitude twilight is usually reckoned to begin when the centre of the rising sun is yet 18° below the horizon. Starting with this as the limit, and counting sunrise and sunset to be the moments when the sun's upper limb is on the horizon, we arrive at the division of the polar year given by Captain Pim. But astronomers say that in England twilight has been observed when the sun was 21° below the horizon. To be entirely safe some have therefore taken 20° as the limit of solar depression, and reckoning with this datum, instead of the 18° before mentioned, have found that at the Pole the morning twilight would begin January 20th, and the evening twilight would cease November 21st. This would make the period of darkness but 60 days, and the period of light 305. Thus a difference of only two degrees in the assumed limit of solar depression at the beginning and end of the twilights makes the difference of sixteen days in the supposed duration of darkness. "Which of
the two calculations," writes an eminent American mathematician, "is the more correct is known, I imagine, by no one." 1
To us in the present discussion the discrepancy is of very little moment. It is only a question as to whether at the Pole there is daylight three fourths or five sixths of the year. Both suppositions may be and probably are wrong. For if "in tropical climates 16° or 17° is said to be a sufficient allowance for the extreme solar depression, while, on the other hand, it is said in England to vary from 17° to 21°," it certainly looks as though in yet higher latitudes the light of the sun might be discernible when its body is as much as 21° or 22° below the horizon; and this would reduce the annual polar darkness to less than fifty days. This supposition is rendered the more probable by the fact that, while the expeditions already alluded to found much more of daylight than their astronomical calculations had led them to expect, we have no offsetting accounts where the sun was awaited in vain. The final and authoritative settlement of the question can be reached only by actual observation. Among the fascinating problems whose solution awaits the progress of Arctic exploration, we must therefore place the scientific determination of the unknown duration of the polar day.
In view of the foregoing we are certainly safe in conceiving of the polar night as lasting not over four fortnights. During two of these, as Dick reminds us, the moon would be walking in beauty
through the heavens, and exhibiting all her changing phases of loveliness in unbroken successions. The other two would be passed beneath the starry arch of heaven, all of whose sparkling constellations would be moving round and round the observer in exactly horizontal orbits.
In such a perfect and regular stellar system kept in view so long and so continuously, the irregular movements of the "planets," or wandering stars, could not possibly escape observation. All their curious accelerations, retardations, conjunctions, declinations, would be perfectly marked and measured on the revolving but changeless dial-plate of the remoter sky. Dwelling in such a natural observatory, any people would of necessity become astronomers. 1 And how magnificent and orderly would the on-goings of the universe appear when viewed from underneath a firmament whose centre of revolution was fixed in the observer's zenith! After long months of unbroken daylight; how would one's soul yearn for a new vision of those stellar glories of the night! Nor would the moon and silent stars be the only attractions of the brief period during which the light of the sun was withdrawn. The mystic play of the Northern Light would transform the familiar daylight world into a veritable fairy-land.
In our latitude the Aurora Borealis is a comparatively rare and tame phenomenon. In the highest Arctic regions it almost nightly kindles its unearthly glories. 1 In itself it is lightning diluted and sublimated to the point of harmlessness. 2 Sometimes these electric discharges not only fill the whole heaven with palpitating draperies, but also tip the hills with lambent flame, and cause the very soil on which one stands to prickle with a kind of life. 3
But after all the glories of the night begin the greater glories of the polar day. Who with any approach to adequacy has ever described a dawn? What poet has not attempted it, and what poet has not failed? But if it be impossible to picture one
Click to enlarge
NIGHT SKIES OF EDEN.
An actual Aurora Borealis.
of our brief and evanescent day-dawns, who shall attempt a description of that surpassing spectacle in which all the splendors and loveliness of sixty of our dawns are combined in one. No words can ever portray it. No poet's imagination, even, has ever given us such unearthly scenery.
First of all appears low in the horizon of the night-sky a scarcely visible flush of light. At first it only makes a few stars light seem a trifle fainter, but after a little it is seen to be increasing, and to be moving laterally along the yet dark horizon. Twenty-four hours later it has made a complete circuit around the observer, and is causing a larger number of stars to pale. Soon the widening light glows with the lustre of "Orient pearl." Onward it moves in its stately rounds, until the pearly whiteness burns into ruddy rose-light, fringed with purple and gold. Day after day, as we measure days, this splendid panorama circles on, and, according as atmospheric conditions and clouds present more or less favorable conditions of reflection, kindles and fades, kindles and fades,fades only to kindle next time yet more brightly, as the still hidden sun comes nearer and nearer his point of emergence. At length, when for two long months such prophetic displays have been filling the whole heavens with these increscent and revolving splendors, the sun begins to emerge from his long retirement, and to display himself once more to human vision. After one or two circuits, during which his dazzling upper limb grows to a full-orbed disk, he clears all hill-tops of the distant horizon, and for six full months circles around and around the world's great axis in full view, suffering no night to fall upon his favored home-land at the
[paragraph continues] Pole. Even when at last he sinks again from view he covers his retreat with a repetition of the deepening and fading splendors which filled his long dawning, as if in these pulses of more and more distant light he were signaling back to the forsaken world the promises and prophecies of an early return.
In these prosaic sentences we aim at no description of the indescribable; we only remind ourselves of the bald facts and conditions which govern the unpicturable transformations of each year-long polar night and day.
Enough, however, has been said for our purpose. Whoever seeks as a probable location for Paradise the heavenliest spot on earth with respect to light and darkness, and with respect to celestial scenery, must be content to seek it at the Arctic Pole. Here is the true City of the Sun. Here is the one and only spot on earth respecting which it would seem as if the Creator had said, as of His own heavenly residence, "There shall be no night there."
60:1 Text-book of Geology. By Archibald Geikie, LL. D., F. R. S London, 1882: p. 869.
61:1 Principles of Geology, New York ed., vol. i., p. 246.
62:1 Works of Thomas Dick, LL. D., The Practical Astronomer, ch. ii. Hartford, vol. ii., second half, p. 30.
62:2 Recent Expeditions in Eastern Polar Seas. London, 1882: p. 83.
63:1 New Lands within the Arctic Circle. Lond. 1876: vol. i., p. 237.
64:1 On the assumption of a horizontal refraction of about 45´.
64:2 The Voyage of the Vega. London, 1882: p. 192.
64:3 Pim's Marine Pocket Case: quoted in Kinn's Harmony of the Bible with Science. London, 1882: 2d ed., p. 474.
66:1 Professor J. M. Van Vleck, LL. D., of Wesleyan University, in a letter to the author under date of October 11, 1883. Professor Van Vleck was for many years a collaborateur upon the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. He is the authority for the next quoted statement.
67:1 Even an equatorial position would probably have been less favorable. "The Peruvians had also their recurrent religious festivals; . . . but the geographic position of Peru, with Quito, its holy city, lying immediately under the equator, greatly simplified the process by which they regulated their religious festivals by the solstices and equinoxes; and the facilities which their equatorial position afforded for determining the few indispensable periods in their calendar removed all stimulus to further progress."Dr. Daniel Wilson on "Pre-Aryan American Man," in Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada. Montreal, 1883: vol. i., sect. ii., p. 60.
68:1 A lately published report, speaking of the last winter at one of these circumpolar stations of the far North, says: "Auroræ have been seen here during the winter almost every night, and during all weathers. . . . The auroral forms or types which have appeared have been those generally known, from the grand corona to the modest, pulsating, little luminous cloud; but as a characteristic feature attending them all, I must mention the absence of stability in the types. Thus only on a few occasions has there been an opportunity to watch the stationary arc, but in general the auroræ have represented wafting draperies and shining streamers with ever-changing position and intensity."A. S. Steen, "The Norwegian Circumpolar Station," in Nature, October 11, 1883, p. 568.
68:2 "The electric discharges which take place in the polar regions between the positive electricity of the atmosphere and the negative electricity of the earth are the essential and unique cause of the formation of the polar light."M. de la Rive in The Arctic Manual, p. 742.
68:3 "Mr. Lemström concluded that an electric discharge which could only be seen by means of the spectroscope was taking place on the surface of the ground all round him, and that from a distance it would appear as a faint display of Aurora,"a display like "the phenomena of pale and flaming light which is sometimes seen on the top of the Spitzbergen mountains."The Arctic Manual, p. 939. Compare Elias Loomis, Aurora Borealis, Smithsonian Report, i865. H. Fritz, Das Polarlicht. Leipsic, 1881.