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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/703

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ARCTIC ICE AND ITS NAVIGATION.

equilibrium, owing to the preponderance of the part submerged, bold spurs and flying arches spring from their walls, and hanging balconies ornament their crests.

In Greenland, as in the antarctic, there is either a great continent or a congeries of islands, covered with an ice-field of such gradual inclination through great distance that the movement of its face is very slow, and the débâcles and avalanches occur less frequently, so that the bergs are of enormous size and regular shape, having a height of from one to two hundred feet in the northern and three hundred feet in the southern hemisphere. The Alaskan glaciers are of comparatively small extent, the ice field of which the Muir and Davidson glaciers are spurs being only four hundred miles wide; owing to the inclination of their containing valleys, they move with great rapidity, débâcles are occurring continually; the bergs, falling into shallow water, quickly go to pieces, and the fragments which at last escape through the intricacies of fiords and archipelagoes are very small. In addition, the comparatively shallow water along the coast of Siberia prevents floe-bergs of any great size passing through Bering Strait, while a seventeen-fathom bank, north of Wrangell Island, bars the way to all rectangular bergs over twenty-three fathoms thick that have drifted across the arctic. In this way it happens that the Bering Sea whalers never see the great icebergs which play so important a part in the navigation of those in Greenland waters.

Perhaps the continual excitement in the confined waters of the latter land, and the natural desire to classify the new and mysterious with the old and commonplace, make the mind quick to see resemblances. However that may be, the bergs seem subject to some laws of form. Capitals, sphinxes, castles, and cathedrals are frequently met with, at times, whole menageries would troop past—lions couchant, mushrooms, and flowers occur in profusion—the small fragments of ice, through the washing of water and scoring of surrounding floes, showing a greater variety of forms than the large bergs.

On the east side of Melville Bay in north Greenland is a headland called, from its peculiar shape, "The Devil's Thumb." It is a remarkable column, resembling a closed hand with the thumb projecting upward, and bears stout testimony to the toughness of the granite composing it, which has withstood in this sharp outline all the disintegrating forces of that climate for centuries. It is about seven hundred feet high. In June, 1884, a photograph was taken of a very lofty iceberg, grounded in its vicinity, which was an almost perfect representation of a hand and wrist, the index finger pointing heavenward. A connection between the black, time-stained Devil's Thumb and this beautiful marble-like shaft