Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/579

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561
HOW THE EARTH WAS EXPLORED IN 1876.

Peterson, the Danish interpreter from Upernavik, who had been Dr. Hayes's sledge-driver, became so exhausted that nothing would keep him warm. They were consequently compelled to go back with him; and the poor fellow died shortly after his return to the vessel.

"In an expedition in the following April across the Polar Sea, north in the direction of the pole, the men had not only to draw their sledges, but two heavy boats fifteen and twenty feet long, over rugged floes of ice, separated by ridges sometimes thirty feet high—to make their way over the débris of the pack-ice broken up by the previous summer, and refrozen during the winter into chaotic, rugged masses of angular blocks, of every possible shape. They had frequently to cut their way with picks through the hummocks; and such were the contortions and checks, that they had frequently to go five times over the same ground; so that in making a distance of 76 miles toward the pole they actually traveled over 276 miles. Each man had to drag 236 pounds, and to work from ten to twelve hours a day. They could pull but a few feet at a time, and make but from one mile and a quarter to two miles and three-quarters a day. They were absent on this sledge expedition, engaged in this incessant labor, for two months and a half; and, to add to their trials, the scurvy broke out among them, so that, when relief reached them, out of the seventeen of the party only five were able to drag the sledges. The sledge-party along the north coast of Greenland were beset with like difficulties. Enormous blocks of polar ice had been pressed against the shore, making the traveling one of incessant labor, so that seven days were occupied in moving only twenty miles. The scurvy also broke out with them; and, when they came in, two only were able to draw the sledges. The western sledge party found the same heavy ice extending along the whole coast. They were also attacked by the scurvy, Lieutenant Aldrich being the only one who escaped; and relief fortunately reached them the last day that most of them were able to travel. . . .

"The return of the expedition, and its results, have given rise to a great deal of discussion, both in this country and in England. Sir George Nares is of opinion, and Dr. Petermann in a recent letter concurs with him, that any further attempt to reach a higher latitude by the way of Smith's Sound is hopeless, and that any future effort must be by the route between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla. I fully agree in the correctness of this judgment, so far as respects any attempt to get farther north by the way of Smith's Sound in a vessel. I have never found sufficient facts to lead me to believe that there is an open polar sea that can be reached by a vessel, nor any physical reasons why there should be a great space of open water at the pole, or in its vicinity. This belief is a very old one. The supposed sea is to be found represented upon a map published 268 years ago. There may be such a sea. The knowledge we possess will not warrant the assumption that it does not exist; but it will warrant this statement—