Colonel Fielden on HMS Alert in the Artic 1875-76

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Colonel Fielden on HMS Alert in the Artic 1875-76 - 2 PROBLEM OF ARCTIC LIFE How Plants and Animals...
2 PROBLEM OF ARCTIC LIFE How Plants and Animals Exist in the Ice Bound Region. SOME INTERESTING FACTS GIYEN Six Months of Perpetual Sunlight and the Same Number of Months of Unbroken Night Haley on Days for Flowers, WHY MAMMALS DO NOT MIGRATE From the London Spectator. The Dersistence of animal life in the region of arctic cold appears only less unaccountable than its presence in the ocean abyss. The existence of deep sea creatures in perpetual darkness, and under a weight of waters four miles deep, was incredible, because inconceivable. The existence of life in arctic darkness and arctic cold is unaccountable, because it seems to be of necessity intolerable. Granting that highly organized creatures can exist there, it is passing strange that they should consent to do so, or make a voluntary habitation in that hell of cold and darkness which Norse fancy imagined as a place of torment more appalling than the lake of liquid fire. One would have thought arctic life must cease, because, even if possible, it was not worth living; that there would be a voluntary exodus of beasts, as of birds, before the winter setting of the sun; and the slower moving mammals would go to return no more. Yet in the deep seas the inconceivable has been found to exist; highly organized creatures live and are reproduced where no light penetrates, where no plants grow, in eternal cold, and in a pressure twenty times greater man inai which drives a railway train, and in the arctic circles mammalian animals, birds and plants, endure a five months' night and a temperature far lower than that of of the deep seas. The lowest temperature of the ocean abyss was found to be L'O degrees fahrenheit, below freezing point. That of the "polar" night tails 7ft rWrpps to 90 dperi'es. The cold en dured by the arctic animals is almost as astonishing as the pressure Dome Dy the creatures of the deep seas; yet in neither is thp.re anv notable chanee in structure to meet these conditions. The arctic animals do not differ greatly from tVinao nf Vindrpfl snpeips found elsewhere. Whv then tn thpv fitav where thev are? And how do they continue to endure the plague ot darkness ana tne desperate cold? The Droblem is explained in part by Mr. A. Trevor-Battye, in a suggestive and well written paper,, read Deiore tne .British association on "Life and Its Conditions in Arctic Lands." In the first place, he attaches due importance to the beneficent effect on life nf t.lip niehtless arctic summer. At Kol- guev, which lies at no great distance north of the arctic line, the year falls equally into six months of perpetual sunlight and six of unbroken night. The never-setting sun of the first forces the Eowers of life at high pressure "life eating strongly under perpetual sunlight; life, and the propagation of life, by birds as clamorously, by flowers as brightly, as in the lands of the south." Of the flowers, "buttercups, dandelions, forget-me-not, hawkweed, cuckoo-flower, sedum and saxifrage are found in blossom, and no English meadow can outvie these arctic pastures in masses of purple and blue and gold." But these are halcyon days of the polar region. When the winter and darkness settle down on the land, the birds, ducks, geese, knots, sanderlings and plovers fly south, except the raven, the ptarmigan and two species of gull. But with these remain all the mammals, not only the whales and seals, but the land creatures, all of whom might, if they chose, migrate reindeer, musk sheep, polar bears, blue foxes and lemmings, prefer to stay and abide for six months in this circumpolar "city of dreadful night." The nature of this polar night, of the cold it brings and its effect on animals, may be gathered from Colonel Fielden's notes made during the winter past by H. M. S. Alert on Grinnel Land in 1875-70, at a point nearer the actual pole than lias been reached before or since. The sun sank on October 12, and did not reappear till March 2 a night of only twenty-nine days less than its calculated disappearance at the actual pole. Yet it is certain that this protracted night was never dark in the sense that it is dark inside the galleries of a coal pit. The arctic animals, unlike the deep-sea creatures, need to develop no light organs to illuminate their path though they live in "darkness invisible." "On November 30," writes Colonel Fielden, "with a perfectly clear sky, from a distance of half a mile in a southerly direction, the ship was visible from 11a. m. to 1 p. m. At noon, just topping the eastern hills, was a faintly tinted pearly green sky, through which stars of tfie first magnitude had a difficulty in shining. On January 24, the twilight at noon had increased suffi-cently to enable us to distinguish a comrade at a distance of 120 yards. By the beginning of February, a month before the reappearance of the sun, wewere able to take walks of considerable extent and by the middle of the month we were carrying our guns in the pursuit of game." In addition, moonlight and starlight were brilliant, and enabled them to cross the country almost throughout the country. This account somewhat dispels the thickness of that Cimmerian darkness in which tradition wraps the polar night. But at best it is bad enough. Men, even Arctic vovagers, feel its gloom intolerable, though cheered by artificial light. Strange to say, the animals do not, so far as we can tell. Their eyes are not modified by the prevailing darkness, either in the direction of greater power or by degeneration, through which the shallow water forms which have invaded the deep seas have become blind. At the same time Mr. Battye has noted, and satisfied himself by repeated experiments, that the faculty of eight is inferior in the Arctic fox and Arctic hare to that of the common fox and common hare of Britain. The "nervous depression" with which darkness affects men is quite absent in the case of animals in the Arctic nights. Their vital activity is unaffected by the absence of sunlight, which though pro tracted for so great a time.seems no more irksome than it does to those animals which have by choice become nocturnal in their habits in temperate lands Their indifference to cold is still more astonishing. The Arctic animals do not even hibernate. The polar bear does not imitate the winter sleep of the black and brown bears, but is a rover through the winter, and, is hunted and killed by moonlight; and Mr. Battye found on Kolguey the traps and balf-frozen baits of seal fat, which had been set for blue foxes in the previous winter. The Samoyeds also urged him to stay through the winter, saving there would be nlentv of hunting. More strange still is the experience of Colonel Fielden when wintering with the Alert. When the temperature was at eighty degrees below freezing point (Fahrenheit) tne lemmings were seen peering from their bur rows in the snow, and he had "ample proof that animals were moving all the time" in this stupefying cold. Man in this case was also able to with' stand the extreme of low temperature, drawing his food from artificial stores and clad in the skins of the Arctic an! mals, which have developed a special cold resisting covering. But how are they fed while the cold prevails? The carniverous creatures live on the weaker animals. But the reindeer, musk-sheep and lemmings must procure vegetable food even at such times. The life ef plants must be preserved, in spite of con ditions which seem to make it impossible. The explanation is that the absence of the sunlight, which is absolutely neces sary for the nutrition ot plants elsewhere, does not prevent their growth in the night of the Arctic winter.. Ihe lemmings which were seen by Colonel Fielden were found to have been feeding on a saxifrage common in the district which though exposed throughout the winter to a temperature ot u degrees be low zero, and often to a greater intensity of cold, showed a small green bud at the extremity of each stalk, proving that it was growing in spite ot darkness. The immunity from destruction pos sessed by arctic plants and animals exposed to such conditions is thus estab lished. Hut the struggle tor existence must, even so, be most severe and ex hausting, so severe that the impulse to a less rigorous climate seems suggested by nature. Yet the mammals do not mi grate, and the birds return faithfully every summer. The usual explanation of the former fact is the assumption that they are the remains of a previous mi gration northwards. This is rejected by Mr. Battye as a movement irom favor able to unfavorable conditions, and so contrary to probability and the facts of experience. The objection is not conclusive. It is certain that the creatures which inhabit the deep left light, warmth and food, and invaded the realms of cold and darkness, where their eyes lost the power of sight, while retaining the outward form which they possessed for use in the sunlight. ' But for the theory of the northward migration, Mr. Battye suggests another and more probable hypothesis, lie con siders "that the Arctic plants and ani mals are there because they were born there;" certain plants existed in the northern regions before they descended into temperate Europe; and there is no reason to suppose that contemporary animal life could not have begun there also, when we remember that these regions had then cooled down from a temperature sufficiently tropical to have supported the corals of the Silurian era, which formed the reefs now shown to have existed in these regions." .Such a theory supplies a natural explanation of the northern migration of birds. They are returning to their old home; and the musk sheep, reindeer and polar bear remain there and refuse to leave for the same reason. SUNDAY SCHOOL W0EKERS, The Tenth Annual Convention of the Cove at Soaring Spring. From the Martinsburg Herald. The tenth annual convention of the Union Sunday School association of Morrison's Cove met in the Methodist Epis copal church at Roaring Spring, at 10.30 o'clock, yesterday, Wednesday morning. Devotional services were conducted by Eev. J. W. Pontius, chairman of the convention. Henderson Gorsuch lead in an earnest prayer, after which forty-seven delegates were enrolled. The secretary, Miss Ida McAllister, being detained on account of the fatal railroad disaster, II. S. Burket was elected secretary pro tern, and J. Q. Adams, assistant. An address of welcome was heartily given by .Brother uetz and he gave everybody to understand that if they did not take advantage of our hospitality, the fault was theirs. Happy responses were made, and the convention got down to business. Rev. Getz, S. H. Cree'and Adam Sor- rick were appointed a committee on nominations, Committee onresolutions,Rev. Witman, D. M. Bare and Dr. Berk- heimer. After some general work the convention adjourned until 2 p. m. Devotional services by Brother Wit- man opened the afternoon session, followed by the first topic: "Is there a proper effort on the part of the individual scholar to bring the rising generation into the Sunday school," was opened by Rev. Sample, who does not to the full extent endorse the idea of premiums and rewards That higher motives should be instilled to attract and instruct, and bet ter re ults will follow. Cheerful room is one essential. Major Bobb thinks that like begets like, and if parents worked, the boys would also work. Chairman Pontius the followed with some very practical remarks and brought out thoughts that were worthy of due consideration. John Jasper then stood up and tried to say a little speech, but there was a long vawn back in the audience and he took the hint and sat down. D. M. Bare children who come from ungodly homes should have careful attention, lacking as they do that proper home training. As a rule teachers can accomplish more than superintendents. Rev. Getz The world is only coming to a proper conception of the importance of the Sunday school. Through it minds are moved for great work in the Master's cause. George Fox, in his travels as district superintendent, sees much indifference on the part of parents as to their children going to Sunday school. Joseph Wagner If there were not good officers and teachers, I would not ask my children to attend. Therefore these are highly essential. Dr. Fox thought there was a sort of keeping away from the text. Scholars making a house to house canvass would be a practical way.

Clipped from
  1. Altoona Tribune,
  2. 19 Oct 1895, Sat,
  3. Page 2

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  • Colonel Fielden on HMS Alert in the Artic 1875-76

    wjf21001938 – 13 Mar 2014

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