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National Geographic Society
Natural-Color Photographs by Jacob Gayer
HER SUMMER "VILLA" BESIDE THE SEA
BEARING A FOREST ON HER BACK
In northern Greenland whale oil is used exclusively for fuel, but in the
THE CORUSCANT SPLENDOR OF AN ARCTIC LANDSCAPE
Natural-Color Photograph by Jacob Gayer
The great glacier, sweeping slowly down from the inland ice-cap which covers the entire interior of Greenland, is gradually obliterating the pellucid lake at the head of Foulke Fiord, near the mouth of which is Etah, most northerly permanent settlement on the globe. Note the flock of little auks perched upon the lichen-covered rocks near the lower left corner.
Much of the time of the native women of Greenland is devoted to the manufacture of footwear for themselves and the men of the family. Before the sealskin takes the form of the foot it must be chewed into pliability, and this practice results in the wearing down of the teeth almost to disfigurement. This young woman is standing on the crosspiece of a primitive last, over which she is stretching the boot.
species suffered from popularity that laws and game laws in Greenland are a novelty have accorded them some protection.
Not only do Eider flesh, down, and eggs figure in the Greenlander's economic arrangements, but also the skins have high value. From the breasts of the birds are plucked the shafted feathers, leaving exposed the down, and the skin bearing this down is then removed. Exquisite Eider robes are made of these skins, which are also fashioned into useful clothing.
MYSTERY SHROUDS THE ARCTIC TERN
The flocks of graceful little Sea Swallows, or Arctic Terns, which fly along the shores and dive into the waves for their food, do not attract the hunter, but they have the charm of mystery for the naturalist.
From the Arctic regions, where it breeds, the bird flies to the Antarctic, where it winters, but the course of the 11,000-mile stretch between is not known and probably never will be until the ornithologist and the aviator join hands and fly with the migratory birds from Pole to Pole. No other migrating bird flies so far and no creature on earth sees so much of daylight.*
On land the birds are few, and only four kinds, three species of Sparrows and the ominous Raven, are commonly seen. Back in the rocky interior, however, nests the Ptarmigan, the grouse of Greenland, which in summer is predominantly gray or brown and is scattered on the hillsides, but in winter turns snow white, except for the feathers of the tail, and descends to the seashore in flocks.
This winter visit often has fatal consequences to the feathered tourists, for the natives, always faced with their greatest urge, hunger, expect the birds and slaughter what they can for food. The Ptarmigan has another dreaded enemy in the snowy Gyrfalcon, a large, swift and fearless hawk, which scours the land for prey, and many feathers on the mountain slopes tell the story of a bird tragedy.
Among the Ptarmigans nesting on the hills breed the little Snowflake and the
*See "Our Greatest Travelers; Birds that Fly from Pole to Pole," by Wells W. Cooke, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for April, 1911.
Redpolls, whose brilliant songs enliven the Arctic spring.
The Brünnich's Murre and the Sea Pigeon are common, but do not compare in numbers with the Dovekie (Little Auk).
Where the Dovekies breed, north of Melville Bay, the sky is filled with the flocks going to sea to feed or coming home, and the air rings with their maniacal cries. With a net on a pole the native catches these birds out of the air and stores the flesh for winter. From the skin of the breasts his underwear is fashioned.
BEYOND MELVILLE BAY LIES NORTH
Melville Bay, whose ice packs were the dread of the whalers of old, guards the way to the Far North, and only the summer traveler may hope to pass. The drift ice encountered to the south is often blue, but here everything is white.
Ice fields may stretch for miles ahead or fog may shut down upon struggling ships.
A snow-white bird, the Ivory Gull, flies silently through the snowy haze like an embodiment of its spirit, and over the frozen wastes roams the Polar Bear.
Ice-decked peaks at length loom beyond the dreary stretch; then the landscape smiles again and Nature treats the traveler to the loveliest spectacle of the Arctic. In the ocean there is no longer pack ice, but only an occasional iceberg, born of one of the huge glaciers that often fill the valleys to the water's edge.
Steep from the ocean rise cliffs whose rocks the spring sun clothes with plant life, causing the landscape to take on colors that rival those of our Indian summer. The predominant tones brilliant orange, which shades through purple into black, according to the denseness of the lichen growth. Mosaicked into this brilliant groundwork are patches of green where the grass grows thick (see Color Plates VIII, X, XI, XV).
The summer snow takes on color, too, and large patches are stained a lovely pink where hordes of microscopic plants flourish on its melting surface. This is the "red snow" which Arctic travelers have so often seen (see Color Plate VI).
Back from the cliffs the land has gentler slopes, for here the ice in ages
past has scoured harshly, and plants of many kinds are found. More than a hundred species of vascular plants are found. in northwest Greenland and more than half that number live in Peary Land, the Ultima Thule of the Northern Hemisphere. Here there is no asylum from the winter winds, and the willows keep to the ground. Few of the plants have stems and the tallest summer growth hardly exceeds a foot.
The botanist three thousand miles from home finds many friends in this distant land, for the flowers are very like some of those he has known before.
Mustards, Pinks, and Saxifrages, a dozen kinds or more of each, and Buttercups and Roses, with five or six kinds each, grow everywhere, and their pinks, whites, yellows, or purples make the landscape bright. But the brightest spots are where the flaming Lousewort and the yellow Poppies grow. Of dainty shades and sturdy growth, they vie in conspicuousness with the Cottongrasses that wave their snowy heads from many a shallow pool.
The Dandelion and the Bluebell are also common flowers, and in favorable places there are fine growths of Timothy hay. Arctic Timothy is a prized gift of Nature to the natives, and its luxuriant stems supply mattresses, boot stuffing, and towels and serve any other uses to which something soft and absorbent may be put.
GIANT GROWTHS IN ICY WATERS
Although the plants on Greenland are Lilliputian, there are giants in the surrounding icy waters. The familiar Rockweed of our North Atlantic coast, with its juicy little bladders, is found wherever the tide-borne ice does not scratch the bottom too smooth, and in times of famine it is gathered for food.
The plant wonder of the Arctic is the Giant Kelp, which grows in beds in deep water. Fastened by strong adhesive disks
to some rock or clam shell, its huge ribbons, 20 feet or more in length, wave hither and thither in the tidal currents, where overhead the sea is covered with massive cakes of ice and during many months nocturnal darkness reigns at midday.
There are also Insects and Spiders, but none are ever troublesome. When the sun shines, a few kinds of Butterflies flit around, huge Bumblebees drone through the air, and Gnats and Flies buzz about, while Spiders come out of the cracks to bask on the leaves.
NO MICE OR SNAKES IN GREENLAND
Mice and the like do not exist except in the extreme north of Greenland, and the island rates with Ireland in the absence of Snakes. Not even Frogs are to be found, and the Foxes of the region have to subsist on the nesting birds and on what they pilfer from the Eskimo caches.
Hares alone are numerous on the land. Summer and winter they are white, and a wilder creature never lived. On rocky ground they may be found, but lucky is the traveler who sees one. If fortune should favor you with a glimpse, the Hare will have seen you first and will be standing upright at attention. His survey is completed before you are sure of what you see, and to your great bewilderment he may start away, dancing on his hindlegs. Thereafter he is seen no more. Young Hares are gray and are not so timid, and a good shot with a rifle can sometimes bag one.
The life of man in this polar land is harsh and strenuous. The animals on which he depends for food travel far and are often beyond his reach. In darkness he spends the dreary winter and only for a few short months does summer vary the scene of ice and snow. Nature seldom bestows less upon man on earth; yet nowhere has she more honest, more unselfish, or more contented children.
INDEX FOR JULY-DECEMBER, 1925, VOLUME READY
Index for Volume XLVIII (July-December, 1925) of the National Geographic Magazine will be mailed to members upon request.