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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/704

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

was at once made in the minds of every one present, and the iceberg was named "The Hand of Providence."

The pack ice of one winter's growth is met and fought by the whalers on both sides of the continent, until, with the assistance of the summer sun, it is conquered, and no longer forms an obstacle to progress northward.

Hayes states that the formation of new ice in Foulk Fiord during one winter in still water was thirteen feet thick. It is highly improbable that any additions at that depth would be made during even extraordinary cold periods; it has since been surmised by experienced arctic travelers that a portion of this thickness was due to snow deposits. Ordinarily, this ice will not be found thicker than seven feet. Early in summer it breaks up and floats away in immense floes as pack ice; sometimes, through pressure, becoming hummocked or piled in thicknesses of three or four fold into the size of small bergs or crushed into fragments, until it finally melts out of sight away to the southward. This ice can be distinguished, even when hummocked, from that formed by broken-up bergs by its opaque-white color, due to the presence of innumerable air-cells, its method of formation rendering it softer and more porous than glacier ice, which is subjected to years of pressure and concentration through infiltrating streams of freezing water.

Before the immense floes are broken up, however, they are extremely dangerous in the confined Greenland waters, where they are continually subjected to terrible pressures by the winds and surface currents. The eastern whalers, through superior equipment and working in company, escape many of the disasters of the Americans in the Pacific, while their proximity to land or fast ice and numerous villages of Eskimos gives them strong hopes of rescue, even though their vessel may be lost. After arriving at their station they have little to fear but floating bergs and hummocks, their powerful steamers crushing the then rotten floe ice with ease. As the whales leave the vicinity of Pond's Inlet early in the summer, the whalers strive to get there as quickly as possible; a large reward being often given by the owners to the crew of the vessel first reaching that point. They can afford this, as her cargo may consist largely of whalebone collected by the Eskimos in the vicinity. These men are, in consequence, the best ice-navigators in the world.

Our own American whalers have no such incentive; they are no less hardy or brave than any seamen in the world. Their life is a hard one; in case of disaster there is no such way of escape as that open to the Scotchmen in the east; and yet it would be comparatively easy to establish a life-saving station on the north coast of Alaska, which would repay perhaps more than any other