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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/701

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ARCTIC ICE AND ITS NAVIGATION.

ARCTIC ICE AND ITS NAVIGATION.
By ALBERT A. ACKERMAN,

ENSIGN, UNITED STATES NAVY.

FEW people can understand the fascination of summer life in the arctic regions for those who have once gone through the experience without disaster.

It is an awe-inspiring land. The massive, dreamy beauty of the slumbering icebergs, the sharp outlines and sheer height of the basalt coast cliffs, the mysterious expanse of the glacier, and the ceaseless motion of the ice-floes grinding and clashing together, produce upon all men emotions of awe and delight.

Elsewhere, Nature moves as well with power and grandeur, but more slowly and with much less amplitude of action; there, the changes that in a temperate climate require months take place tumultuously in a few days.

The breaking up and floating away of the ice-field, the débácle of the glaciers and disgorging of the fiords, impress man with his utter insignificance and weakness in the presence of such mighty forces. Fleets of lofty icebergs drift southward, urged on by deep under-currents, and plow their way through thinner ice, splitting, colliding, and overturning, always maintaining a certain sphinx-like dignity—majestic and mysterious. Vast out-reaching tongues of ice extend from their hidden bases, as hard as rock and as dangerous to the unwary navigator, while to leeward drifts a convoy of smaller bergs, the débris of the first—a jostling following too rough for safe companionship. Over all this glistening mass of marble white hover myriads of white gulls, and in the blue translucent caverns at the water's edge reverberate the swash of the sea and the music of cascades.

Amid such surroundings men can test themselves, where the brave have confessed fear and the hardy and strong confessed weakness; and so long as men are brave and strong, so will there be volunteers for expeditions, the northern limit of which depends alone upon the extent to which fortune favors their strength and judgment. Arctic exploration is not dependent, however, upon the vanity of adventurers; the world throngs with eager students of Nature, and from these must spring the motive which alone can lead to success. Rarely does it happen that robust health and love of adventure accompany the knowledge of generalization only acquired by years of study, and so essential in localities where there is little that is familiar and unworthy of record; to this, and not only to the disasters from which hardly an expedition has escaped, is due the fact that, notwithstanding the treas-