National Geographic : 1905 Nov
GEOGR these regions, and all interested in such questions have been delighted at the re cent attempts to gain more knowledge. The object of these expeditions was frankly and purely scientific. All hope of remunerative whale or seal fisheries had been dispelled by the visit of the Norwegian whalers in 1892 to the region south of Cape Horn, and the known gen eral condition of the land forbade any expectation of other profitable indus tries, unless, indeed, gold and other val uable minerals should be found, which is always possible. Beyond the fact that exploring expeditions of this character keep alive the spirit of enterprise and bring out the finest characteristics of a race-which is a point by no means to be despised-no immediate practical benefit was to be expected. Progress under the conditions must be slow, but I think that Great Britain may well be satisfied with the information collected in the Antarctic by Capt. R. F. Scott and his gallant companions The unfortunate detention of the Discovery by an unfavorable summer prevented the further coastal exploration which was part of the programme, but gave op portunity for further detailed examina tion of the inland conditions, which was carried out in defiance of the severest atmospheric and topographical difficul ties, and with the greatest zeal and in telligence; and it may be doubted whether science in the end has not gained more than she lost by the unexpected diversion of energy. The healthy con ditions which prevailed throughout are a standing proof both of Captain Scott's eminent capacity as a leader and of the cheery spirit which animated the whole expedition. The full results of the sci entific observations are not yet worked out, and in many cases for a complete appreciation of their bearing they must be compared and correlated with those of the other Antarctic expeditions, but many highly suggestive points have al ready been revealed. APHY 493 For the first time Antarctic continental land has been traveled over for long dis tances, and though the actual area of new discovery looks small on a map of the world, the distances covered can only be described as extraordinary, and far exceeding the most sanguine anticipa tions. Few who considered the moun tainous coast line of Victoria Land and its complete glaciation, as reported by Sir James Ross from his distant view, thought that it would prove practicable not only to ascend those mountains, but to reach to heights much surpassing them behind. The reason that it proved feasible is that, while there are occasional heavy snowstorms, the annual snowfall issmall, and the surface, therefore, is generally unencumbered with soft deep snow. And what did Captain Scott find after his memorable struggle up the glacier through the mountains? An enormous plateau at an elevation of about 9,0oo feet, nearly level, smooth, and featureless, over which he traveled directly inland for more than 200 miles, seeing no sign at his farthest point of any termination or alteration in charac ter. So far as could be seen from other journeys, glacial discharge from this great ice-sheet is very small, and prac tically it appears to be dead. Its accre tion by fresh snowfall is insignificant, while on all sides along the flanks of the coastal mountains there are signs of diminution in the mass of ice. THE GREAT ICE MASS IN THE ANT ARCTICS IS APPARENTLY DISAPPEARING The great ice-barrier east of Ross Island tells the same tale. This mag nificent feature presents to the sea a face of perpendicular ice cliffs varying from 60 to 240 feet in height and 450 sea miles long. Sir J. Ross mapped its position in 1841, and Captain Scott finds that it has retreated on an average 15 miles, varying much in different parts.