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BY WALTER N. KOELZ, PH. D.
DEPARTMENT OF ZOOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN; STAFF OF THE UNITED STATES BUREAU OF FISHERIES
S the naturalist of the MacMillan Arctic Expedition of 1925, under the auspices of the National Geographic Society, it was my privilege to explore perhaps the most interesting portion of the Arctic Regions-the western coast of the earth's largest island, which extends for 1,500 miles from north to south, with an average width of 600 miles. Yet in all Greenland's area of more than 800,000 square miles there is little land!
The interior is occupied by a dome of ice the edges of which in many cases come to the ocean, and even where the land fringe is widest there is only a strip of some 100 miles between the sea and the eternal ice-cap.†
A great ice mass juts out from the island into Melville Bay, and, reinforced by the drift pack which hugs the shore, separates the west coast into two grand areas. To the north live the Smith Sound Eskimos; to the south are the Danish settlements.
For more years than history records, the northern Eskimos have been out of contact with their relatives to the south, where the European influence has wrought many changes.
HUNDREDS OF SPECIES OF PLANTS FOUND IN GREENLAND
In the face of the scenic grandeur of the west coast, one forgets that Eric the Red some thousand years ago anticipated
*The natural-history specimens collected by Dr. Koelz in the Far North include 1,000 fishes of some 25 species; 800 birds, representing some 70 species; 250 collections of plants, comprising 1,000 specimens, and a miscellaneous collection of invertebrates, including insects, mollusks, and echinoderms. The plants and invertebrates have been presented to the U. S. National Museum, the fishes to the Bureau of Fisheries collection in the museum of the University of Michigan, and the birds to the American Museum of Natural History and to the Museum of Comparative Zoology.-EDITOR.
See Map of the Arctic Regions, in six colors, issued as a supplement with the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for November, 1925. Additional copies, paper, 50c; map linen, $1.00.
the advertising methods of modern real estate when he named the country Greenland.
But Eric's name is not merely euphonious, for many green things grow here. The flora of southwest Greenland is very rich and the herbage is often luxuriant. Some 400 species of plants, belonging to about 50 families, are found on the island.
In sheltered valleys plants are little stunted, and the willows, birches, and alders may grow waist-high or taller; but where conditions are not tempered, one and all must hug the earth (see Color Plate III).
In the milder regions representatives of the Orchids, Violets, Lilies, Peas, Parsleys, and the Conifers flourish, but some hundred miles above the Arctic Circle these disappear, except that on Disko Island, 200 miles above the Circle, small colonies of southern flowers are found, and the natives have a legend that the island was once part of a witch's domain in the south. Thieves towed the island to its present location before the owner overtook them!
Berries are gathered for food in Greenland as in Labrador, and all shrubby growth is collected for fuel (see Color Plate XIV), while turf is cut to wall the houses or to serve as roofing.
The natives have no interest in "greens" to relieve their diet of meat, and the succulent dandelions which grow in many valleys are not gathered, but the stalk of a wild parsnip is eaten and even made into a sort of wine.
THE ESKIMO LOOKS TO THE OCEAN FOR HIS LIVELIHOOD
Man would be hard pressed to support himself in the Far North if it were not for the mammals of the sea. In fact, to the ocean the Eskimo turns for food for himself and his dogs. From the Walrus. he gets meat and tools of the chase, from the Seals and the Bear he gets meat and clothing, and from the Narwhal, or Sea
Unicorn, meat and the sinew which serves the women as thread.
Years ago the Narwhal's curious twisted tooth, which may extend eight feet or more ahead of him, was used as a harpoon handle, but now the white man's wood is used instead.
Whale meat is much esteemed by the Eskimo, and even ancient carcasses that drift ashore are explored for possible steaks. Sometimes the putrid meat is eaten with fatal consequences to the finder and his family.
To support these great creatures and its myriads of birds, the sea must teem with food, and life in truth abounds. Fishes north of Etah become quite rare, in the waters where ice may long be present, but at Etah the Trout run into the streams, and Sculpins and even the sluggish Shark are found.
Among the rocks at low tide a queer, slippery little black fish, that suggests the Bullhead of our boyhood, is often seen. In place of a second pair of abdominal fins, this creature has a sucking disk and by its aid clings to the rocks against the current of the tide.
Tiny Jellyfishes cloud the water and among them the winged Snails fan their
On the bottom, near shore, Snails
and the Shrimps, which sustained Greely's party on Cape Sabine in the last days of their starvation, occur, and in deeper water there are hosts of Starfishes, Clams, and Worms.
The Clams must in places veritably strew the ocean floor, for on them feed the Walrus herds. The natives also relish Clams, and when they catch a Walrus they eat what they find in its stomach.
A FISH WITH A SHIFTY EYE
South of Melville Bay, Flounders swarm in shallow water where the bottom is sandy. As everyone knows, they are flat fishes which swim on their side. When the Flounder lies like a pancake in the sand both eyes are on the top side.*
Flounders are sold for food in America, but no one prizes them as such in Greenland. The larger ones are often caught and dried for dog food, or the dogs catch them when the tide goes out
* See "The Book of Fishes," published by the National Geographic Society. Price, $4.
and leaves exposed those that have ventured too near the shore.
On the banks offshore abounds the Flounder's gigantic cousin, the Halibut, for which epicures demand that the northern seas be combed. From distant Norway come the fishermen to seek it on these shores, and outside the lines of Danish sovereignty they ply their trade. The Danes also fish for the Halibut and preserve in a cannery at Holstensborg the major part of their catch (see Color Plate IV).
The Greenland fisherman uses no fly and rod for Trout-fishing. With a hook on the end of a stick he snatches his catch from the rocky pool or he gropes with his arm in the hiding places of the bank.
The Capelin and the Shark are caught for dog feed, and in winter the Danes allot their cows a liberal ration of the former, as hay is scarce. Sharks are cut into strips, and many a hut is decorated with the drying slabs (see Color Plate V).
SEA BIRDS ARE LEGION
The birds are principally of the sea and their number is legion, but not often are many species to be seen in one place. Anything with feathers has potential food value to the Eskimos, and the naturalist may with profit watch the native kitchen: Gulls, Hawks, Loons, and even the disreputable Raven may thus be salvaged from the cooking pot.
Though their guns would excite the envy of any collector of early firearms and their proficiency in handling them is often not remarkable, the natives nevertheless make some surprising captures, chiefly by virtue of a small square of white cloth which they hang over the bow of their sealskin boat, or kayak.
Crouching behind the screen, the hunter drifts down upon the resting bird, which, of course, assumes a piece of ice is coming his way, and at a convenient distance hurls the bird spear. The results are more satisfactory than those of us who tried for the same game with rifles would like to admit, for the call of hunger has from time immemorial strengthened the arm and made sure the eye of the hunter, who must win or die.
The Eiders are of all Arctic birds the most appreciated, and so severely has the
Like a tropical butterfly emerging from its somber shell, this Holstensborg beauty stands at the door of her igloo, built of stones and sod. The National Geographic Society's staff correspondent, Maynard Owen Williams, and staff photographer, Jacob Gayer, who accompanied the MacMillan Arctic Expedition of 1925, brought home from the Far North the first natural-color photographs ever successfully made in Arctic regions. This and the 21 succeeding illustrations are from the collection of more than 100 Arctic autochromes now in the Society's archives.
Natural-Color Photograph by Jacob Gayer
The Bowdoin and the Peary of the MacMillan Arctic Expedition are anchored in the shadow of lichen-covered cliffs (see also Color