National Geographic : 1949 Oct
Milestones in My Arctic Journeys Two days later Pedersen and I and a few dogs came suddenly on a small herd grazing in a grassy swale. When danger threatens (usually attacking wolves), musk oxen ordi narily form a tight defensive ring, rumps together and massive heads with heavy horns lowered outward toward the enemy. On this occasion the animals were strung out feeding. Pedersen clapped his hands, ex pacting the sharp cracks to scatter them from our trail. But all nine fooled him and charged us instead! I'll never forget the look of bewilderment on Pedersen's face. He was witnessing the upset of a principle as incontrovertible to him as the rising and setting of the sun. Quickly recovering from his shock, Peder sen joined me in cutting the dogs loose from their lines. The bare-fanged canines stopped the galloping musk oxen. Instinctively they went into their protective football-huddle-in reverse. Dog Friendship Is Precious The importance of dogs as companions in the North can't be exaggerated. Many a traveler who would surely have gone out of his mind with loneliness has found comfort and fellowship in his dogs. Good dogs always are alert in an emergency. Gerhard Antonsen was the most famous trapper in all northeast Greenland. The Scandinavian hunters knew him as the "King of Revet" (Revet was the location of his main cabin). Antonsen was marooned by a bad storm at a hut far up Tyroler Fjord. The wind raged that night and finally broke the door catch. The King pulled out his tollekniv (Norwegian sheath knife) and stabbed the blade into the door frame to hold the door until he could fashion a new turning catch. Antonsen found a piece of wood and sat down to the job. A mighty gust of wind struck the door like a sledge hammer. The knife was torn from the door frame and with diabolic aim flew across the room and pierced Antonsen's left eye. With a shriek the King came to his feet and pulled the offending weapon from his eye. Blood poured down his cheek. But the worst thing was that he could not see even with the undamaged eye. In some strange sympathetic paralysis, the right eye was as blind as the knife-split left one. Antonsen collected his nerves from the frightful shock. Early in the morning he piled his sled with blankets and furs, hitched up his dogs, lay down on the sled, and told the faithful animals to go home. Hours later he was delivered to his main cabin, where he fumbled around until he found his first-aid kit. He dressed the wound and resigned himself to waiting for help. He still was totally blind. The King had made an arrangement with the Danish weather station at Eskimonaes (Daneborg) to come looking for him if an unusually long interval passed since his last visit. Eskimo soon found the hunter at Revet and took him to Eskimonses. Under competent care Antonsen regained sight in the unhurt eye. When he went home to Norway for further treatment, the doctor was able to give him back limited use of his left eye also. "You know," the doctor told him, "if that accident had happened in the city, with bac teria and irritants in the air, I doubt that we could have saved your sight." "Doctor," Antonsen said, "if I hadn't had the help of my dogs, I doubt that I would be alive today!" During that winter of 1936-37 Karl and I made three trips up Loch Fyne to where the Quest was ice-locked near the shore. I used to wander over the hills with Count Micard, certainly one of the kindest and most considerate of leaders. Count Micard Had Been Everywhere Micard had been everywhere. He had a restless hunger to see far places. Moreover, Micard was a profound man. I've seen him sit for five hours at a time in one spot, just drinking in the moods and aspect of the immense Greenland landscape. Like many out-of-the-ordinary men, Count Micard had eccentricities. Wherever he went, he carried a silk umbrella patterned with streaks and splotches like a World War II jungle camouflage suit (page 546). For his trips behind the dog team he had the men make him a sled with two armchairs, set back to back in the middle. One faced forward, the other aft. When sun or storm beat too rudely in the Count's face, he moved to the other chair and turned his back on the elements! (Page 548.) Many a Paris restaurant might have picked up tips from the food served on the Quest. Count Micard brought with him a Norwegian cook who had been specially trained in French dishes. Soufflees, mousses, and crepes suzettes made our mouths water, but were so taken for granted that no eyebrows lifted when they appeared on the table. Yet one of Count Micard's favorite dishes was raw polar-bear meat, ground up like hamburger.