stefansson-wrangel-09-25-003-008

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8

you though of it. Similarly, an explorer may go through many placid
years in the remotest Arctic to find that the editor does not care to
print anything except the story of a narrow escape from being eaten by
a polar bear. It is as if you were to tell Englishmen the story of a
year in Chicago wholly in terms of the stockyards, motor accidents and deaths from
sunstrokes.

Probably the most insidious and effective opponent of a rational
view of the earth is Mercator with his grotesque chart. The earth is
flat in the idiom of our speech, it is flat when you look out through
your window, and it is flat when you glance at a wall where hangs a map
of the earth with Greenland looking bigger than South America and with
the North coasts of Alaska, Canada and Siberia stretching horizontally
from east to west. It is simple and natural to consider earth as
flat. The sailor knows how simple it is in theory to cross the ocean
on the presumption of flatness, but he knows also that nobody but a fool
would do it. Hence that picturesque expression "plane sailing", which
describes a thing so easy that any fool can do it.

The navigators are among the few people who have to apply day by
day their knowledge that the earth is round. Most of the rest of us,
including politicians, are under no such compulsion. We speak of the
"top" of the earth, and we have on our wall Mercator's chart with
Canada and Siberia at the top. We see the Arctic islands lying be-
tween continents on one side and the ceiling on the other, and we get
the idea that they lie between Canada and Siberia on one side and in-
finity or nothingness on the other. This misleading presentation has
actually led to the half-formulation of a doctrine of international
law to the effect that one land belongs to another because of lying to
the north. That would be logical if the earth were flat and had a
farther edge. It looks logical on Mercator's chart, but the logic

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