Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/245

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233
NORTH AMERICA IN THE ICE PERIOD.

from five hundred to one thousand feet high. At Polaris Bay a northward transportation is indicated, where Dr. Bessel found numerous granitic blocks containing peculiar garnets, such as abound in south Greenland, resting upon Silurian limestones. Other glaciers have been mentioned farther north. Some have suggested that a series of islands will be found underneath the ice. Little is known of the eastern side, because it is practically inaccessible.

The general trend of Greenland is northwesterly. Hence the south end is farther east than any part of the western coast-line. The oversight of this simple fact has led to confusion among historians and statesmen. The island was discovered by Gunnibjörn in 872. In 983 Eric the Red, banished from Iceland, established a colony near the south end of Greenland, on its western shore, and gave to the island its name. The settlement prospered, and the indications of civilization left behind by these Norsemen exist as far north as Upernavik, or as far as the stoutest ships of modern times can sail without encountering serious risk. The population increased sufficiently to require the services of a bishop, and a list of seventeen terms of clerical office, from 1126 to 1406, has been preserved. A change of political relations led to the destruction of the commerce between Greenland and Scandinavia. Deserted by their friends, pirates and the Skraellings, or Esquimaux, completely exterminated the inhabitants. A record has been preserved in the Icelandic annals of the murder of the very last family in the fifteenth century. For some reason the Danes misunderstood the history after the removal of the restrictions upon the commerce, and many expeditions are said to have been sent out by the Government in search of their old colony in east Greenland, looking for it upon the coast facing Iceland rather than Baffin's Bay. It was thought that the descendants of the original settlers might still be found there, though for many years shut out from communication with Europe; but every ship returned baffled in its attempt to reach the eastern coast. Modern antiquarians have discovered the buildings erected by the Norsemen, read the inscriptions upon the churches and tombstones, and, by a study of the Icelandic sagas, deciphered the whole history, of which an outline has been already given. The facts have also been brought out prominently by Dr. Hayes in a small book describing some recent summer experiences in Greenland with a party of tourists.

All the Greenland glaciers become confluent in the interior, so that it is not a typical mer de glace, but a sheet of ice, which overspreads the highest mountains. It is only near the edge that the several streams manifest their independent existence. Thence the usual phenomena of Alpine glaciers manifest themselves. The sub-glacial streams pouring into the sea produce certain peculiarities. Immense supplies of heat penetrate the ice from the sun's rays, which melt very much ice and discharge muddy torrents of great size. As all water