Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/244

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We know but little respecting the ice-sheet about the pole. It has been fashionable to speak of an open polar sea, but no one has yet penetrated into it. The impression derived from the latest Arctic voyages of the American, English, Austrian, and Swedish expeditions is unfavorable to the existence of permanent open water. Yet there may not be an accumulation of a thick, frozen sheet, as the ice-rafts floating away from this northern waste are floes rather than bergs. Nares concludes that this ice is of great antiquity—that it is a paleocrystic rather than an open sea. We need additional observations to satisfy us that the climate is not more severe at the pole than on either side, and whether the meteorological dogma of two poles of cold is correct.

Greenland.—The study of the Greenland glaciers takes us a step further toward the understanding of the American ice-sheet. We have hardly appreciated the size of this island—it being larger than the Alpine glaciated tract. It is over twelve hundred miles long, and four hundred broad, or as far as from Boston to the Missouri River. The interior is covered by a field of ice never crossed in a direct line by any civilized being. From three points attempts have been made to learn something of its nature. In 1830 Keilsen went eighty miles inland from Holsteinberg—latitude 67° reaching the edge of the ice sheet, which could not be climbed. In 1870 Nordenskiöld went in a distance of thirty miles, reaching the altitude of twenty-two hundred feet. He observed that the ice rose gradually toward the interior. The outer edge is a high, precipitous wall. Once entered upon the broad surface of the ice, it is like traveling upon the sea, away from all sight of land. From north Greenland, Dr. Hayes penetrated to a distance of seventy miles. It was a day's journey from the sea to the Avail of ice. The second day was spent in climbing to the table-land; the third day allowed a progress of thirty miles, the angle of ascent falling from six to two degrees. On the fourth day an altitude of five thousand feet was attained, and the ice still continued to rise, but, because of inclement weather, no further progress was practicable. The view was that of a frozen Sahara, immeasurable to the human eye.

It is probable that Greenland slopes westerly in general, having its main axis of elevation near the eastern border. It may be compared to a broad platter inclined westerly, with occasional chinks in the sides through which the ice discharges itself as if it were a viscous body. The principal discharge of icebergs is upon the western side into Baffin's Bay. Not less than thirteen glaciers are found upon the western side to the south of Upernavik, about 73° north latitude, and the largest ones occur farther north. Some of the bergs are three thousand feet hick. The Humboldt glacier empties into Smith's Sound with a width of sixty miles, and showing ice-cliffs from fifty to three hundred feet high above the water. The rock-cliffs adjoining are