The Friendly Arctic; The Story of Five Years in Polar Regions

by Vilhjalmur Stefansson. New York: The Macmillan Company. 8vo, xxxi+784pp. Illustrated. $6.00.
No one can read this remarkable book carefully. without being impressed with the aptness of the title. In describing his experiences in an unexplored region near the Pole, hitherto supposed to be absolutely lifeless, the author shows that, with a winter temperature higher than that of towns in Montana and Manitoba, this great tract abounds with life, both in the sea and on the land.
The first part of Stefansson’s work, in this, his third, polar expedition, was to demonstrate the truth of the conviction, held by him alone, that the sea-ice was full of life, and that long trips upon it were entirely practicable. So, with three companions, he started out on the sea-ice, and months afterward, to the amazement of the other members of the expedition, who had never expected to see him alive again, arrived at a far northern base. During these months he had seen no land, but had found seals in abundance on the ice; and fresh water from the melted ice had saved the party from thirst.
His next and most important work was the search for new lands; and on this quest he explored areas amounting approximately to 100,000 square miles, in which were a number of islands, large and small. Upon them he found grass and bushes, as well as birds and numerous animals, including bears and musk-oxen; together with certain forms of abundant insect-life. Minute descriptions are given of the ways in which the party found shelter at night or when storm-bound, often in tents, but generally in snow-houses, which took but two or three hours to build. The leader evidently gave these scant intervals of leisure largely to writing his diary and preparing his scientific reports; but how his companions succeeded in passing the time, it is difficult to divine. It is amusing to notice that a favorite volume in Stefansson’s limited library was the Ingoldsby Legends.
Our volume includes careful accounts of the work of other members of the expedition, and of the efforts of ships to reach the bases of supplies, as well as much information about the lives of Eskimo friends. While much is chronicled which seems trivial, and which can hardly be interesting to the ordinary reader, yet the general impression left by the book is very pleasant. The reader feels that he is sitting by the author, listening to a leisurely account of his adventures. Properly chronicled, there are several tributes to Stefansson by Sir Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada, Major-General Greely, and Admiral Peary. The latter, in his last public appearance, summed up the explorer’s qualities quite admirably:—
‘What Stefansson stands for is this: he has grasped the meaning of polar work. He has profited by experience piled upon experience, until he knows how to face and overcome every problem of the North. By combining great natural physical and mental ability with hard, practical common sense, he has made an absolute record.’
Much is added to the value and interest of the book by the numerous maps and reproductions of photographs of scenery and the Eskimos. The scientific reports on the work of the expedition are being published by the Canadian Government in twenty or thirty octavo volumes.