Status: Complete

V. Stefansson
Harvard Club
New York

First Article


The story of Wrangell Island has developed into adventure and trag-
edy, but it began in a new scientific conception of the nature of the
earth as a whole and the relative position and importance upon it of the
so-called Arctic regions. It hinges also upon the developments in
aeronautics which began twenty years ago last December when the Wright
Brothers flew at Kittyhawk.

"As impossible as flying" and "as worthless as the Arctic" were
solemn figures of speech at the beginning of our century. The first is
now ridiculous; the second is beginning to be questioned even by the
general public--otherwise the value and ownership of Wrangell Island
would not have occupied so much space during the last two years in the
newspapers, those faithful mirrors of the interests of the average man.

The newspapers have been telling us that at least three great
countries--the United States, Great Britain and Russia--have legal claims
to Wrangell Island, and are either pressing those claims or considering
whether the intrinsic or positional value of the island may justify
pressing them later. Such public interest and such international negot-
iations would not be conceivable if the leaders of thought still held
the ideas about the climate and character of the Arctic which were nearly
universal twenty years ago. Even granting the change of thought of the
last two decades, public interest would not be keen but for the recent
developments in air transport.

Our views on air transport are new; but there is one sense in which
our "new" ideas about the Arctic are 400 years old.

Few beliefs have ever had such universal support as that of the flat-
ness of the earth. It rested on science, on scripture and on common

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