Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/341

This page has been validated.


them to be worth more to humanity than tons of whalebone or ingots of gold; and as no reproach is cast on those who risk their lives for money, one might justify even the risk of life for scientific research in the arctic. But there is no need of this. Every careful student knows that in most cases the work involved no risk nor even greater hardship than is welcomed by an active man. Dr. Boas spent a year in Baffin Land in comfort and safety, traveling hundreds of miles, with Eskimo guides or alone, living mostly on the game of the country, and bringing back an unprecedented harvest of scientific facts, at a cost of seven hundred dollars. Considering the desultory character of most of the past work, the wonder is that disasters have been so few. Each explorer had to proceed independently to formulate his plan from book knowledge; inquire for means to obtain outfit and transportation; knock at a hundred doors before he met his patron; gather a party of novices; then start out with the haunting consciousness that, if he failed to accomplish anything in the limited time at his disposal, he would not have another chance. After returning he was generally unable, owing to the expensive methods of the past, to take the field again; his companions, with their precious experience, scattered over the world. The next expedition had to go through the same process. Could any business, say farming, be profitably conducted if the farm was worked one year and then abandoned for ten years?

"Arctic exploration," says Mr. Peary, "must, like anything else, be made a business and carried on from year to year, profiting by each added item of experience, taking advantage of every occurring opportunity." By doing the easiest and safest work first, the next will be made easier; and when a corps of experts has been developed, the list of difficult tasks will dwindle to very little. Lockwood and Brainard, in 1883, accomplished in six days a distance which it had taken them twenty-two days to accomplish the year before. "Hazardous expeditions into the open ocean," says Dr. Boas, "without the shelter of land and without any line of retreat, such as De Long's expedition, must be abandoned, as they will almost always end in disaster. Progress must be made cautiously and founded on the discoveries and experiences of past expeditions. It is only thus that scientific results can be obtained."

The expedition to Jones Sound, planned for 1897, is intended to initiate a system of continuous arctic exploration. Its object is to be the scientific research above indicated, and to this all else will be subordinated. Special attention will be paid to geology. Disasters having been plainly due to lack of a secure and always accessible base, the first object will be the establishment of a base at the mouth of Jones Sound, which Julius von Payer calls "the