Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/424

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in width, was often thickly studded with swimming lemmings, every head pointing westward; but I observed that when my boat came near enough to frighten them they would lose all idea of direction, and frequently swim back to the bank they had left. When the least wind ruffled the water every swimmer was drowned; and never did frailer barks tempt a more treacherous sea, as the wind swept daily down the valley, and wrecked all who were then afloat. It is impossible not to feel pity for these self-haunted fugitives. A mere cloud passing over the sun affrighted them; the approach of horse, cow, dog, or man, alike roused their impotent anger, and their little bodies were convulsively pressed against the never-failing stone of vantage (see Fig. 1), while they uttered cries of rage. I collected 500 skins, with the idea of making a rug, but was surprised to find that a portion of the rump was nearly always denuded of hair, and it was long before I discovered that this was caused by the habit of nervously backing up against a stone, of which I have just spoken. As this action is excited by every appearance of an enemy, it seems surprising that a natural callosity should not take the place of so constant a lesion; possibly, however, the time during which this lesion occurs is too short to cause constitutional change.

Early in the autumn, and just a year after their arrival at Heimdalen, the western migration commenced anew. Every morning I found swarms of lemmings swimming the lake diagonally, instead of diverging from their course so as to go round it, and mounting the steep slopes of Heimdals-lö (Figs. 2 and 3) on their way to the coast,

PSM V11 D424 Lemming migration plan.jpg
Fig. 2.—Plan of Heimdalen drawn to scale, in which the course of the Lemmings, indicated by the arrows, is seen to crops Lake Heimdalsvand and the swift river Leirungen, both of which might be avoided by a slight détour. The river is of glacier origin, very cold and very rapid.

where the harassed crowd, thinned by the unceasing attacks of the wolf, the fox, and the dog, and even the reindeer, pursued by eagle, hawk, and owl (see frontispiece), and never spared by man himself, yet still a vast multitude, plunges into the Atlantic Ocean on the first