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Typhoons, hurricanes, and tropical heats,
Inner Africa, Central America, China, Japan,
and all such topics interest us; but there are
no tales of risk and enterprise in which
we English, men, women, and children, old
and young, rich and poor, become interested
so completely, as in the tales that come
from the North Pole. We would rather hear
of travellers among the snow flakes and ice
floes than among cypress and myrtle; and
we have good reasons for our preference.
Snow and ice are emblems of the deeds
done in their clime. For three hundred years
the Arctic seas have now been visited by
European sailors; their narratives supply
some of the finest modern instances of human
energy and daring, bent on a noble
undertaking, and associated constantly with
kindness, generosity, and simple piety. The
history of Arctic enterprise is stainless as
the Arctic snows, clean to the core as an ice

There is no other solid piece of human
history so free from blot as this long and
continuous narrative; this famous tale of
Arctic navigation. It was first stimulated
by a love of lucre; there was faith in Polar
gold, and in a Polar passage to Cathay. But
the men who were sent out to serve desires
comparatively mean (not mean in themselves,
for commerce is a mighty teacher, in whose
school it is ordained that we shall have our
faculties matured), the men sent out for love
of gainwhen they came among those seas
and heard the crashing of the ice, and saw the
icy mountains piled upon each other, and
were brooded over by the Arctic night, and
were amazed at wonders in the heavens, the
mock suns and the flashings of aurora; they--
impressed with a new sense of human
weakness, floating as they were on shells (small
vessels of a hundred or two hundred tons)
away from home and from all neighbourhood
with other men -- poured out their kindliness
to one another, aided each other in
endurance of all hardship, and in patient manful
effort to surmount all difficulty. They too,
admonished by the works and wonders which
they saw, remembered Who watched over
them in their distresses. Afterwards, when
the dreams of gold and of a short way to
the East had been dispelled, the enterprise
of Arctic navigators was continued and
directed by a higher motive; — a desire to
increase human knowledge, to help forward our
race by heightening and widening our sense
of the Divine wisdom. Lastly, there has
been added to this, a strong motive of human
sympathy; and the energies of many countries
(quarrelling among themselves on other soil)
have been devoted heartily and simultaneously
to the peril of penetrating unexplored parts,
and of searching all the most inaccessible
regions of the Pole, for the survivors, or
at least traces, of an expedition that has
disappeared among its snows. Thus men
who are elsewhere enemies and rivals hold
Arctic ground-- which has been consecrated
by three centuries of heroism-- to be sacred to
the noblest spirit of humanity. Once, long
ago, an Italian or a Spaniard did indeed
pollute all the associations proper to the place
with a design of capturing the Esquimaux
for slavery; and there has been mutiny as far
north as Davis Straits-- never further to the
north we think-- and even that mutiny
resulted in an act of heroism.

While, everywhere else, intercourse with
ships has demoralised, more or less,
untutored tribes dwelling on sea coasts, the
Esquimaux that see only our northern
navigators have learned no new crimes. They
are a quiet amiable race; on amiable
terms with visitors whose manners are
invariably kind. When they see many new
and attractive things lying about strange
boats that come on rare occasions, they are
not strong enough to resist always the desire
to possess some of them; but a good-humoured
watch is kept upon their fingers,
their attempts at theft are frustrated in a
pleasant way, but not resented. The only
blood shed by our Europeans at the Pole has
been the blood of animals, honestly killed to
supply a real and pressing want of fresh
provisions. Men from among us who have died
there, have all died in the performance of an
arduous duty, have died a death of heroes;
upon which the mind dwells with a more
tranquil satisfaction than upon the death met
by a lower class of heroes on the battle field.
They have left their memories to be preserved
in records that will stir men's hearts in
generation after generation, and from which the