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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/339

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CONTINUOUS POLAR EXPLORATION.

PROPOSED SYSTEM OF CONTINUOUS POLAR EXPLORATION.

UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY.

THE objects of polar exploration are fourfold:

1. Commerce.—According to General Greely, whaling has contributed over six hundred and eighty million dollars to the wealth of Holland, England, and the United States. Exploration will probably reveal new whaling grounds. If treated with some forbearance, the whale will restock the Arctic Ocean. Forbearance will restore the wealth in reindeer, which, with musk oxen, foxes, bears, seals, walrus, and narwhal, will supply desirable commodities. The known deposits of guano and valuable minerals may eventually be utilized, and others will be discovered. Alaska may not be the only gold-bearing arctic land.

2. Scientific Research.—To ascertain with greater precision the shape, size, and density of the earth, the astronomer's base of measures, and thus render the science of surveying more accurate, ten pendulum observations near the unknown extreme of the arc are worth a hundred elsewhere. Observations on magnetism, especially near the magnetic pole, will benefit the thousands of ocean vessels which largely depend for their safety on the precision with which the compass can be interpreted. To the meteorologist the arctic is of special importance, because it presents the extremes of a world-embracing system, each of whose parts affects every other. Tides and currents are similarly interdependent. The aurora can best be studied where it is most common and most fully developed. Observations on the character and behavior of plants and animals under the unique conditions of the arctic will give to the student of organic life a more thorough mastery of his problems. To that end the hydrography must be known (depth of sea, temperature, water movement, sea bottom, salinity, light). The arctic affords the best facilities for studying one set of geologic forces (glaciers, icebergs, frost fissuring) in their extreme manifestation. The condition of the earth in past geologic epochs will not be fully known until the strata of the arctic lands have been mapped. To the paleontologist the arctic has already yielded most valuable information in the fossil evidence of a mild climate. Lockwood and Brainard found the slopes of western Grinnell Land studded with large petrified tree stumps. These and similar fossils, precious to museums or geologic cabinets, can probably be reached by way of Hayes Sound. To the ethnologist the Eskimos represent a phase of human life without a parallel. Museums need collections to illustrate these