Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/651

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OBJECTS AND RESULTS OF POLAR RESEARCH.

OBJECTS AND RESULTS OF POLAR RESEARCH.
By GEORG GERLAND

LEAVING out of view the commercial enterprises of the ancient inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula and the voyages of the primitive Celtic people of Britain, the earliest explorer of the north was a younger contemporary of Alexander the Great, Pytheas of Marsilia, who braved the perils of that region, impelled by purely scientific motives. He returned with abundant results, but was not understood by the people of his time, and more than two thousand years elapsed before men sailed north again in scientific inquiry. It is true that many voyages were made to the north during the middle ages. The Northmen during that period founded colonies in Greenland, in the farthest north, as their countrymen settled in the fair southern regions of Apulia and Sicily; but both sets of settlements failed to be of permanent establishment. The voyage of the Venetian Zeno to the Farö Islands in 1390 was without historical significance, and the voyage of Christopher Columbus beyond Iceland in 1477 is mythical.

At the close of the middle ages, when the deficiency of knowledge of the earth was great, avarice and the quest for the goods of the south led men into the northern ice; they sought to reach India by the shortest possible routes, where they would not meet rivals and enemies. This was the object of Magellan's circumnavigation. The Ceterum Censeo of James Lancaster asserted that the way to India was north, around America. India was the object of the polar navigators Cabot in the fifteenth, Frobisher and Davis in the sixteenth, and Hudson and Baffin in the seventeenth centuries, to name only a few of the most famous. It is astonishing what these daring British and Dutch sailors risked, suffered, and gained.

They did not, indeed, reach India, but we all know of Hudson Bay, Davis Strait, and Lancaster Sound. As we owe to the men of the stone age, who lived before all history, one of the most important possessions of man, the great paths they marked out upon the earth across streams, over mountains, and through wilderness and plain, which are still the routes of to-day's highways, so these older arctic navigators mapped out the courses of their successors. The ships of the whalers and seal hunters followed them, discovering one bay, island, and channel after another, naming them and marking them on maps.

In the seventeenth century appeared such men as Kepler, Cassini, Newton, and Boyle. The shape of the earth was actively discussed, improved maps were made, and new aims and motives