Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/683

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Abrey in the Northwest, was exceptionally severe and occurred during a maximum period. In our daily observation of the sun we watched the spots during the previous summer, and were astonished at their size and number.[1]

I can only add that when the expedition starts I hope to be one of the party. If it is organized on the lines I have laid down I should set out with an absolute assurance of getting there, and, what is of still greater importance, with an equal certainty of getting back again.


MINERALOGY, as the observation of minerals, is of very ancient date, but such observation was very crude, for the old scholars grouped under one name a great variety of forms, some rocks and some minerals. The earliest writer was a Greek by the name of Theophrastus, who lived about three hundred years before the Christian era. A few centuries later the great naturalist Pliny recorded a number of personal observations. Then followed a blank period extending into the eleventh century, when Avicenna made his mineral classification. In this, the first classification, all minerals were divided into four groups—stones (= silicates), salts, inflammable bodies, and earths. In the next six centuries the only improvement was the substitution of term metals for earths. Through all these many years, it was the beautiful in form, luster, and color of the gems which attracted the attention of men both learned and ignorant. The question of origin was not considered; indeed, it was sacrilegious to think of such a problem, since these were objects of creation, whose genesis, like that of the gods, was not to be revealed to man. It was the work of many centuries to dispel these clouds of ignorance and superstition which blinded and hindered the advance of this study. The only light which did appear was that of the alche-

  1. From a consideration of Schwabe's sun-spot table I am inclined to believe that Parry's three voyages, extending from 1819 to 1825, were undertaken during a minimum period. Schwabe's table, of course, only commences in 1826, but it is certain that the minimum period must have fallen within the above years. On the first voyage Parry sailed completely through Lancaster Sound, which he found a wide and noble channel, clear of ice, and the color of the sea, and there is little doubt that had he possessed a fast steamer he would have made the Northwest passage instead of being forced to winter on Melville Island. Dr. Kane, on the contrary, was out at the close of a maximum period of exceptional length and severity, and he experienced the lowest mean temperature on record. It was during this very same period that the ill-fated Franklin and all with him were lost, the Erebus and Terror being abandoned after nineteen months' imprisonment in the ice.