* See chapter on "Transpolar Commerce by Air" in The Northward Course of
Empire, and article on same subject in The National Geographic Magazine
for August, 1922.
I was merely the prophet of the change; such men as Brancker and Moffett-are
actually bringing the change about.
No single event ever caused such a profound revolution in human
thought as did the voyage of Magellan around the world, for it transformed
the earth from a stationary pancake, housed under a firmament, into one of a
family of little spherical planets tagging along behind a somewhat larger sun on
a possibly eternal journey through a perhaps infinite universe. When the new
views of the Arctic get so firm a hold that they lead to action, as the Copernican
doctrine of a round world led to the voyage of Magellan, then there is bound to
follow a profound change of thought and outlook, not so profound as that of the
Middle Ages, but nevertheless decisive enough to
make markan epoch.
Or perhaps the coming change of thought is more exactly analogous
to that connected with the development of ocean-going ships. From the earliest
prehistoric times large bodies of water were considered to separate the lands;
but with the development of sea-borne commerce came the idea that the oceans
connect the lands. Gradually this view got a firmer hold until it became a
commonplace that a city a hundred miles in the interior was commercially and
practically farther away than another a hundred miles across the sea. Were it
not for the strictly modern development of railways, Pittsburgh would be farther
from New York than London is. Similarly, air commerce will emphasize not only that
the world is round from north to south but also that the Arctic connects America
and Europe quite as much as it separates them.
Wide SpaceOn our winter sledge journeys in the Arctic we are sometimes
stormbound for days. Then we sit cosy in our snowhouses that are brightly lit
and adequately heated by seal oil lamps which we trim so carefully that they
produce neither smoke nor odor. On such occasions we speculate for hours upon
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