ment was more fully awake than the rest of Europe to the potential greatness
of their Asiatic Empire. It was only natural therefore that they should take
interest in the theory of an arctic continent. Their traders listened carefully
among the natives for legends about lands beyond the northern frontier of Siberia;
and what they listened for they heard.
We now know that most of the natives of northeastern Siberia and
northern Alaska have the legend of a great land to the north from each of these
countries. The late Sir Clements Markham, then President of the Royal Geographical
Society of London was much concerned about these stories as recently as
the beginning of my own arctic work (1906). The first polar expedition of which
I was a member (commanded by Leffingwell and Mikkelsen) was organized partly to
test the view which Sir Clements favoured that the stories of land to the north
of Alaska were reliable. The results of the Leffingwell-Mikkelson expedition
were negative, My own expedition of 1913-18 proved that the"land seen north of
Alaska" was imaginary.
The prehistoric arctic trading center of Nijnei Kolymsk took on
new life with the increased Russian traffic
of the early nineteenth century
and the natives of northeastern Siberia frequented it even more than formerly.
Some of these brought the story of an inhabited land to the north of Cape
Shelagskoi. Personally, I consider that this was only the same sort of legend
which we later disproved to the north of Alaska; but since it happens that there
is land, although uninhabited, northeast, if not north, from Cape Shelagskoi, it
is possible to dispute indefinitely as to whether the stories which the Russians
picked up were partly fact or wholly folklore.
To test the theory of a northern continent, Andreyev, a Cossack,
made a journey in 1763 north from the mouth of the Krestvaya. From one of the
Bear Islands he saw "to the eastward" a large land which he took to be an island.
But a journey was made in the same region six years later by the Russian surveyors,
Leontev, Lisev, and Pushkarev, who established the fact that there is no land east
Notes and Questions
Nobody has written a note for this page yet
Please sign in to write a note for this page