THE NORTH POLE

1836 found him at the head of a new expedition, which was to attempt to connect by sea the discoveries of Ross and Franklin. It failed, and the accomplishment of the task assigned to it was reserved to Peter Williams, Dease, and Thomas Simpson, all officers in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, who, leaving Fort Chippeway on the 1st June, 1837, went down the Mackenzie, arriving on the sea-coast on the 9th July, and making their way along it to N. lat. 71° 3' and W. long. 156° 46', i.e. to a cape they named Simpson, after the governor of their company.

Thomas Simpson now made his way overland with five men to Port Barrow, already sighted in the direction of Behring Strait by one of Beechey's officers, so that the whole of the North American coast from Cape Turn-again to Behring's Strait was now complete, and there was nothing left to do but to explore the space between the former and Point Ogle, a task accomplished by the explorers in a later expedition.

Leaving the Coppermine in 1838, they followed the eastern coast, arriving on the 9th August at Cape Turn-again, which was too much encumbered with ice to be rounded. Thomas Simpson therefore remained near it for the winter, discovered Victoria Land, and on the 12th August, 1839, arrived at Back River. The rest of the month he devoted to the exploration of Boothia.

Discovery of Victoria Land
Discovery of Victoria Land.

The whole of the coast-line of North America was now accurately laid down, but at the cost of what struggles, devotion, privations, and sufferings? What, however, is human life when weighed in the balance with the progress of science? and with what disinterestedness and enthusiasm must be embued the savants, sailors, and explorers, who give up all the joys of existence to contribute to the best of their power to the progress of knowledge and to the moral and intellectual development of humanity.

With the voyages last recorded the discovery of the earth was completed, and with our account of them our work, which began with the first attempts of the earliest explorers, also closes. The shape of the earth is now known, the task of explorers, is done. The land on which man lives is henceforth familiar to him, and he has now only to turn to account the vast resources of the countries to which access has recently become easy, or of which he can without difficulty possess himself.

How rich in lessons of every kind is this history of twenty centuries of exploration. Let us cast a glance behind us and enumerate the main features of the progress made in this long series of years. If we take the map of the world of Hecatæus, who lived 500 years before the Christian era, what do we see? When it was published the known world did not extend beyond the basin of the Mediterranean, and the whole, with a terribly distorted outline, is represented only by a very small portion of southern Europe, the interior of Asia, and part of North Africa; whilst encircling them all is a river without beginning or end, to which is given the name of Ocean.

Side by side with this map, ancient monument as it is of antique science, let us place a planisphere representing the world as known in 1840, and on this vast surface we shall find the portion known, and that but imperfectly to Hecatæus, occupying but an infinitesimal space.

Taking these two typical maps as our starting-point, we shall be able to judge of the magnitude of the discoveries of modern times. Imagine for a moment all that is involved in thorough knowledge of the whole world, and you will marvel at the results achieved by the efforts of so many explorers and martyrs, you will grasp the importance of their discoveries and the intimate relations between geography and all the other sciences. This is the point of view from which can best be seen all the philosophic bearings of a work to which so many generations have devoted themselves.

Doubtless the motives actuating these various explorers differ greatly. First, we have the natural curiosity of the owner anxious to know thoroughly every part of the domain belonging to him, so that he may estimate the extent of the habitable districts, and determine the boundaries of the seas, &c.; and secondly, we have the natural outcome of a trade, which, though still in its infancy, introduced even in remote Norway the products of Central Asian industry. In the time of Herodotus the aim of explorers was loftier: they wished to learn the history, manners, customs, and religion of foreign races; and later, the Crusades, which, whatever else they accomplished, certainly vulgarized oriental studies, inspired some few with a fervent desire to wrest from infidels the scene of our Lord's Passion, but the greater number with a lust of pillage and a yearning to explore the unknown.

Columbus, seeking a new route to the Indies, came across America on the way, and his successors were only anxious to make rapid fortunes, differing greatly indeed from the noble Portuguese who sacrificed their private interests to the glory and colonial prosperity of their country, and were the poorer for the offices conferred on them with a view to doing them honour.