Sleepwalking Into World War III
Trump’s Dangerous Militarization of Foreign Policy
MEN of white skin have trespassed upon the Arctic more during the last twenty years than they did during the previous two hundred. For this there are two principal reasons. In the first place, knowledge of the geographical and climatic conditions prevailing in the Far North has become much more accurate than ever before. And secondly, the complete dependence on surface transportation, whether on land or sea, which characterized Arctic exploration in the past has come to be replaced by an increasing utilization of the airplane. In fact, it is safe to say that aviation is the greatest single factor now contributing to the development of the Far North.
The general description usually given for the climate of the Arctic and sub-Arctic is "continental on the continents and oceanic over the polar sea." Specifically, this means that midsummer temperatures sometimes reach 90° Fahrenheit in the shade at points on the mainland a considerable distance beyond the Arctic Circle (temperatures as high as 100° have been recorded), and that in winter the mercury drops to 70° below zero, or even lower. Even so, the greatest midwinter cold of the Arctic mainland is not quite so intense as that of the north temperate zone. The Cold Pole in North America is at least 100 miles below the Arctic Circle, while in Siberia it is another 200 miles still farther south.
Sir John Richardson, the first explorer of Arctic North America whom we could classify as a scientist, said that he had "never felt its [the sun's] rays so oppressive within the tropics as I have experienced them to be on some occasions" in the Arctic. This heat enables vegetation to grow with tropical speed. There is no chill of night because there is no night. Plants grow 24 hours a day, so that one Arctic day is for them equal to two tropical days. For instance, wheat has been successfully cultivated, without resorting to artificial means, 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Canada, and even farther north in the Soviet Union.
The Arctic land is therefore not the waste area of our inherited beliefs. Nor is the Arctic sea barren. The explorers have demonstrated that there is an abundance of life throughout polar waters: some of the world's greatest commercial fishing grounds are on the fringes of the Arctic. No doubt was left on this score after the 1937-38 Soviet expedition under Papanin reported both plant and animal life to be abundant near the Pole.
When we say that the climate over the polar sea is oceanic we mean that it is 30° or 40° less cold in winter than it is over the lands to the south, and that it is correspondingly less warm in summer. Right at the center of the polar sea, in the vicinity of the North Pole, it rains and thaws for only a few weeks in midsummer. These periods of rain and thaw become longer in proportion to their distance from the center and are therefore greatest on the edges of the Arctic pack. The greater warmth of this outward fringe is due not only to its being farther south but to its proximity to the heat-generating lands. For there are two reasons why the Arctic sea is cold in summer: it has stored up the previous winter's chill, and its ice surfaces reflect, rather than absorb, most of the light of the summer sun. Only the land is efficient in converting sunlight into heat. In the Arctic no land is permanently covered with snow unless it is mountainous.
The Arctic has violent gales only where there is high land facing open water, as in Greenland. Otherwise the Arctic Ocean, as Nansen has pointed out, is one of the least stormy regions in the world. Though it is windier over the land than over the sea, the winds on the average are no worse than in Illinois or Kansas. Fogs are very rare over both land and sea during the Arctic winter. Exceptions are such transitional belts as the Bering Sea, which is near the Japan Current, and the southern edge of the Arctic pack north of Europe, which is near the Gulf Stream.
What effect do these climatic conditions have on the development of aviation in the Arctic? The temperatures most hostile to flight are neither extreme heat nor extreme cold, but the intermediate range near, and especially just below, the freezing point of fresh water. Those are the levels at which ice, by gathering on planes and dirigibles, changes their aerodynamics and weighs them down. Such freezing troubles are absent in the tropics except at high altitudes. Even in the polar regions icing constitutes less of a flying hazard than it does in the northern half of the north temperate zone -- where, as everyone knows, air lines now function regularly throughout the year.
Another enemy of the flyer is fog. Like sleet and "warm" snow, it changes to ice at temperatures just below the freezing point. On the average, fogs are denser and more numerous in the Arctic than in the tropics. But on the other hand, Arctic fogs are less dense and less numerous -- and lower -- than those in the north temperate zone.
In number and quality of emergency landing places, an important factor in aviation, the Arctic and the northern third of the temperate zone excel the rest of the world. Over vast areas of the northern lowland the frozen subsoil prevents underground drainage, thus producing millions of lakes which make perfect landing spots for pontoons or boats in summer, and for wheels or skis in winter. It is in the main these innumerable landing fields which have given northern flying a better safety percentage than is found in other zones, even the tropics. Likewise, there are few sections of the Arctic pack where good landing fields, during the cold part of the year, are more than twenty miles apart, while the average for the whole pack, a sea area nearly as big as the United States, is several landing places every twenty miles -- in fact there is usually a choice of two or more within gliding range if one's engine stops at an altitude of a mile or over.
In 1927 Wilkins made the first landplane descent on pack ice far from shore. During the succeeding decade there were at least 54 more such descents, many of them forced landings. They were made in every sort of weather from calm to moderate gale, from perfect visibility to a snowstorm. One of them, the third Wilkins descent, took place at night in a blizzard on the pack 100 miles north of the northern tip of Alaska. No life was lost in any of these descents and there were few serious injuries to aircraft. If the Levanevsky party is never heard from, which now seems distressingly probable, its flight (made in August 1937) will be the first on which lives were lost during fifteen years of flying over the Arctic sea. The mileage of these flights will have exceeded 90,000 before the first loss of life. (This statement covers only ice-laden seas -- the loss of Amundsen and his companions in 1928 took place in Gulf Stream waters north of Norway, several hundred miles from the nearest piece of ice that might have saved them.) No lives have been lost since the Levanevsky flight, although 50,000 miles or more were flown in searching for them -- the Wilkins search alone covering 20,000.
By 1930 scientists were virtually unanimous in agreeing that Arctic flying conditions on the average are good. This being the case, we would naturally expect that the great air Powers would have begun to lay plans for trans-Arctic air lines. As a matter of fact, this has been true only of the Soviet Union. The others hold back. Perhaps the principal reason for this is that a majority of them find it politically advisable to establish their first intercontinental airways more or less parallel with the chief steamship routes. Some of these steamer lanes are tropical or subtropical, and it is undoubtedly sound aeronautical policy to route the first great transoceanic airways through equatorial regions, which even polar enthusiasts agree have the best average flying conditions in the world. The Russians have announced their desire to establish, as soon as possible, direct services across the Arctic between their population centers and those in North America. But they will, of course, have to wait until the other circumpolar nations are ready to coöperate, for the creation of such airways requires not only transit permits and terminals in other countries but also coöperation from foreign air lines.
If one studies on a globe the distribution of world population and the location of centers of political and economic power, one sees at once that the tropical routes connecting them are usually roundabout whereas those across the Arctic are direct. This, of course, is an illustration of how much more applicable the principle of Great Circle travel is to the air than to the sea, where it has never had more than a limited use.
Under the normal conditions of competitive commerce there is a tendency to shorten routes, to cut corners. At first, Chicago, San Francisco and other western American cities will be satisfied to send their European mail by way of New York. But the time is bound to come when these cities will resent the delay involved in shipping around two sides of a triangle. They will want to ship direct to Europe, and they will do so whenever the traffic is enough to load a plane in the Mississippi Valley or on the Pacific Coast for London, Paris, Berlin or Rome. In Norway numerous prominent aviation men are on record as favoring trans-Arctic airways. Norway has good reason to favor trans-Arctic aviation, for she is strategically placed on the Great Circle between Europe and America. Routes to western America from Berlin, Istanbul, the Balkan States and the western parts of the Soviet Union will ultimately pass via Norway, where they will doubtless have scheduled stops. Canada and Greenland are strategically as well placed, if not better, than is Norway to profit from this transpolar traffic. And, as a matter of fact, there is in each of these countries a growing movement for taking advantage of their geographical positions.
Most Americans will recall having seen one of those maps on which the outline of Alaska is superimposed on that of the United States. On these, the southeastern tip of the Alaskan Panhandle lies along the Atlantic seaboard in Georgia, the western end of the Aleutian chain reaches the Pacific coast in southern California, while on the north Point Barrow is found along the Canadian boundary in Minnesota. In actual land area, however, Alaska comes to only about one-fifth of that of the continental United States -- it is roughly as large as all the states east of the Alleghenies. As for Alaska's climate, certain facts may surprise most readers. For instance, Point Barrow, at the extreme northern tip, has a minimum winter temperature slightly above that of Montana or North Dakota, while in central Alaska the maximum heat in summer is about equal to that of New York City.
Alaska is prairie throughout its northern fifth and over considerable areas along its western side; the central portion is forested, mainly with spruces, birches, alders and cottonwoods; while the southern fifth, the most mountainous part, has dense forests of giant trees comparable to those of Washington and British Columbia. The Arctic and sub-Arctic prairies will eventually produce great quantities of meat through the development of the reindeer industry. The forests in the central zone are largely of local value, but those on the southern coast offer wide possibilities for the export of lumber and pulp. The river and coastal fisheries are among the richest in the world, while both the prairie and the forest are still large producers of valuable furs. The territory is famous for its gold, found in nearly all parts; it also contains extensive deposits of numerous other minerals, including coal and oil, large quantities of which have been discovered along the north and northwest coasts. Wheat and a variety of other agricultural products are capable of cultivation along the southern coast and in the interior valleys.
Perhaps the best way to visualize the lines along which Alaska may develop is to think of it as a greater Finland, with which it compares quite closely in many respects. As everyone knows, Finland is one of the most economically and socially advanced countries in the world. Those who despair of Alaska's future might well remember Finland's rapid progress in recent years.
Alaska north of the Arctic Circle has few people, most of whom live for at least a good part of the year near the coast. On the great inland prairie the population is very sparse. Fifty years ago this plain was inhabited by ten times as many Eskimos as now -- perhaps even twenty times as many. While this decrease has been taking place in Alaska, the Eskimo population of Greenland has had a steady increase comparable to that of white populations elsewhere. The disparity is in part due to the divergent policies of the United States and of Denmark. The Danes enforce a quarantine to protect the Eskimos from outside influences and they encourage natives to retain their old economy and culture. The American authorities have, until recently, taken but few leaves from the book of Denmark's experience.
This situation seems, however, to be changing. In his Annual Report for 1937, Secretary of the Interior Ickes points out that the nicely balanced economy of the Alaskan natives has been upset both physically and psychologically by encouraging them to trap for the whites or to work for wages, and that as a natural consequence native culture has decayed. "More and more," his report says, "a people which once was self-sufficient has become dependent upon external forces which are totally disregardful of their needs." After referring to the natives as Alaska's greatest resource, he goes on to say: "The whites of Alaska cannot continue to profit at the expense of the natives. Constitutionally suited to life in the Arctic, the Eskimo and the Alaska Indian must form the foundation to any long-range planning for the development as contrasted to the exploitation of the Territory." He then states that the Education Division of the Indian Office is undertaking to develop "an educational program which will capitalize the native virtues and at the same time adapt the natives for necessary contacts with their white associates."
Mr. Claude M. Hirst, General Superintendent for Alaska, goes into more detail: "The policy of the Office of Indian Affairs in Alaska today is to meet the needs of the natives by educating them to a better understanding and use of their native environment and by giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to enable them to make profitable contacts with the desirable elements in the white man's civilization." He points out that the schools, both for children and adults, have a program "designed to preserve for the use of the Eskimos their native foods, raiment, industries and culture." The Department, he adds, is "definitely committed" to a policy which will "train the natives to more adequately meet the inevitable white competition and to protect themselves from exploitation by developing their own cultural resources."
In Arctic Alaska the Government maintains eight schools (out of 103 in the whole Territory). There are also five Weather Bureau stations scattered about this vast region and a hospital at Barrow. Aside from this, there is little governmental activity north of the Arctic Circle. The U. S. Geological Survey, for instance, has done no work there since 1927, though there is some prospect that it may renew explorations up through the Porcupine River during the present year. As for non-governmental activities, such as commerce, there are practically none in Arctic Alaska beyond the coastal fur trade.
The southern three-quarters of Alaska are, on the other hand, the scene of what will be to many a surprising amount of activity. Here the Territorial Government, and even more the federal authorities, have been energetic, intelligent and liberal. Two of the most interesting enterprises in this region have been the construction of the Alaska Railroad from Seward on the south coast to Fairbanks in the Yukon Valley (a distance of 470 miles) and the establishment of the Matanuska Colony.
Twenty years ago, when the railway was new, three out of four people one met along the Yukon River maintained that the Fairbanks railway had done that basin harm by competing with river traffic just enough to ruin the steamboat companies but without supplying an alternative service adequate to take their place. That may be so. Still, the railway is to many Alaskans a sign that our competitive civilization, so successful in subduing the wilderness in the forty-eight states, has not wholly lost its vitality. They point out that in 1937 the Alaska Railroad paid expenses.
Among Alaskans there is much debate about the Matanuska Colony. Some defend it as it is and where it is. Others criticize it as right in conception but maintain that it should have been located farther north. The average American not unnaturally believes that the farther south one goes in Alaska the better the crops will grow. He believes this to be true, not only because of an assumed general rule that agriculture prospers in proportion to its distance from the Arctic, but because southern Alaska is near the Japan Current, which is supposed to have a beneficial effect. The fact is, however, that July temperatures are not so high at Matanuska as they are on the Tanana River near Fairbanks, 200 miles farther north. If, therefore, it was the purpose of Matanuska to supply the district north of the mountains with farm produce, there seems to have been a miscalculation.
The National Resources Committee considers that "agriculture in Alaska should be closely coördinated with and made supplemental to local industrial development." But that is not a unanimous opinion. The Governor of Alaska, for instance, wants "more colonies like Matanuska." The federal authorities have, in fact, discovered several areas where such colonies might be located. The Department of Agriculture, for instance, reports areas in the Tanana, Kuskokwim and Yukon valleys, and along the south fork of Fortymile River that could be cultivated. Fortymile, which is over a hundred miles farther north than Matanuska, is said to contain 750,000 acres of arable land and is described as likely to "prove one of the most productive in Alaska."
The Alaska Railroad and the Matanuska Colony are the outstanding governmental interests in Alaska. But there are others, less publicized though important. The petroleum deposits on the north coast form a naval reserve; most of southeastern Alaska is a national forest; the commercial fisheries along the southern coast are regulated to prevent a depletion of the salmon supply; the fur seals of the Pribilof Islands are protected against extermination (only a small percentage is killed each year)--all of which is done in the name of conservation.
People as well as natural resources are being conserved. The Territorial Government maintains health services which include the care of communicable diseases, maternal and child welfare, public health laboratories and engineering. In its labor legislation Alaska is more progressive than many of the states, and it maintains high standards for the teachers in its schools and in the university at Fairbanks. Towards the natives its policy is the same. The statement of Mr. Hirst, quoted above, naturally applies to all of Alaska. There are special industrial schools, travelling medical and dental units, and relief work such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. In the period between 1892 and 1902 -- long before the New Deal -- 1,280 reindeer were introduced into Alaska from Siberia as a relief measure. Since then the animals have been so widely scattered that it is impossible to compute their number; but the Office of Indian Affairs estimates (probably underestimates) that in Alaska today there are from 500,000 to 700,000 reindeer, two-thirds of them owned by Eskimos.
During 1937 nearly all the main commercial enterprises in Alaska showed material gains over 1928, which may be considered a standard predepression year. One of the newest -- certainly the one most enthusiastically supported by both whites and natives -- is aviation. And with good reason, for the plane is the cheapest means of long distance travel. It is so cheap that even an Eskimo who owns his own dog team and to whom time is of no value cannot afford to travel by sledge between such points as Nome and Fairbanks: the cost of food for himself and for his dogs, plus his lodging fees en route, would amount to several times the price of an airplane ticket. Flying in Alaska is as safe as in Michigan, and as pleasant. Pan American Airways reports that on the average its flyers are as well satisfied with their work in Alaska as in Brazil, that over half the pilots on its Alaskan lines prefer January to July, and that (assuming like equipment and ground service) schedules can be maintained through the midwinter period with an average regularity at least as good as that of the northeastern United States. Airmail was started in Alaska in 1924, and since then has been expanded fitfully. Air line operators increased from 4 in 1928 to 40 in 1937, planes from 8 to 100, passengers from 2,171 to 20,958, freight and express from 94,701 to 2,940,757 pounds. In 1938, 30,000 passengers were carried. By June 30, 1938, there were 155 planes in operation. Freight carried by air during 1938 totalled 3,415,759 pounds. This means that the 60,000 or 70,000 Alaskans, half of whom are natives, created nearly 70 percent as much air freight as did all the 130,- 000,000 inhabitants of the forty-eight states.
So far the National Government has given comparatively little consistent support to Alaskan flying; but there are signs now that the importance of northern aviation is becoming better understood at Washington. For instance, on August 6, 1938, there took place the first flight of an experimental Seattle-Alaska service which is expected to lead to the opening of a regular mail and passenger air line. Hitherto there has been no scheduled aërial connection between Alaska and the rest of the United States.
Canada is less interested in her Arctic domain than most people suppose; yet the reasons are not far to seek. The Dominion has only some 11,000,000 with which to people a territory the size of the United States, and most of these live in the country's southern fringe, separated from the Arctic by a broad intermediate belt that has not been colonized. Canada has no immediate need for her Arctic region, and has thus far shown little interest in settling even this intermediate belt. Take the case of the Hay Valley.
The Hay River, which runs north from Alberta into Great Slave Lake, could easily be reached by an extension of the Peace River railway. Dr. D. C. Coleman, Vice-President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, reports that a survey of this valley by his company showed the district to be well suited, climatically and otherwise, for wheat and mixed farming. He adds that a railway into the Hay would not merely open the valley itself to agricultural colonization, but would tap the Mackenzie River just north of Great Slave Lake and thus greatly facilitate communication with the Canadian Far North. But he feels, nevertheless, that such a railway would not pay and that private enterprise cannot be expected to undertake its construction. In this, of course, he is quite right. The only possible sponsor for non-paying lines is the Government. But the Dominion is not at the present time likely to undertake the construction of any railroads that will open up new wheat lands. The farmers of southern Canada are making little enough money as it is and they do not want to be taxed, or to have the national credit pledged, for a railway that would pour additional millions of bushels of grain onto the market every year.
But while Canadians are fearful that a northward extension of farming will depress grain and meat prices, they do not have the same feeling about minerals: they take national pride in the fact that the radium-bearing ore mined on Great Bear Lake has already reduced the price of radium from $50,000 to $25,000 per gram.
Only one important activity is carried on in Arctic Canada on a more intensive scale than in Arctic Alaska -- the fur trade. That oldest, and still one of the world's greatest, trading organizations, the Hudson's Bay Company, maintains posts all over the Canadian mainland and on some of the islands. There are, too, a number of "free traders," small fur dealers who compete with the great Company and who usually go broke in a few years, only to be replaced by newcomers who think fortunes are to be won in furs.
To the Roman Catholic Church must be given the credit for two of the most striking and potentially important developments in Arctic Canada. Their missions were pioneers in carrying the cultivation of cereals, including wheat, to the Arctic Circle, and the raising of vegetables to Aklavik, some 120 miles beyond the Circle, without the use of hothouses or artificial stimulation of any sort. About 100 miles beyond the Circle is wheat's farthest north in America. In Siberia, experimental farms and research expeditions have succeeded in raising it even farther north, because the mainland of Asia extends farther north than does the American continent -- it is the sea breezes of midsummer that stop the northward march of wheat.
The other Roman Catholic triumph in the Canadian Arctic is that of the Missionary International Vehicular Association (MIVA) which, under the direction of the Rev. Paul Schulte, O. M. I., in 1937 successfully introduced into the American Far North the Soviet method of guiding ships by airplane. MIVA was reported in 1938 to have increased the number of its planes in use to twelve. Also scheduled for 1938 was the establishment by MIVA of a network of radio stations to connect Chesterfield Inlet with Ontario along the west side of Hudson Bay. It might also be mentioned that the Hudson's Bay Company has installed two-way radio communication with over twenty-five of its posts, while the number of government radio stations in the North is now four.
More tons of freight are carried by air in the northern two-thirds of Canada, which has a population of less than a million, than in the entire United States. Loads sometimes consist of such bulky things as teams of oxen or pieces of machinery weighing several tons. Even more striking, thousands of tons of ore are flown, in some cases hundreds of miles, from mines to river or rail transportation. Mining in the Canadian North is now almost wholly dependent on aviation for its prospecting work. A large part of the furs taken in that region, including the remote islands north of the mainland, are now carried out by plane. Even the fisheries profit: northern fish are held by many to be superior in flavor; large quantities of them are therefore flown to railheads for quick shipment to southern destinations.
Aside from fur trading and mining for gold, platinum and radium, the only economic activity which now pays its own way beyond the frontier in northern Canada is the production of petroleum. Ever since the eighteenth century, "tar" and natural gas had been observed at various points along the Mackenzie River system; but only in recent years has there been systematic exploration and development. One of the fields, on the lower Mackenzie just south of the Circle, is producing fuel for Diesel engines and other power units. Production rose from 1,859 barrels in 1932 to 11,500 in 1937. The construction of a plant to refine aviation gasoline from this petroleum is now under consideration.
Even in its crude state this oil has helped northern Canada's transportation materially. The mining industry in that region cannot, of course, depend on the airplane to transport all its heavy loads, most of which must go by water. For more than half a century the Hudson's Bay Company has operated wood-burning steamers on the lower Mackenzie. But such vessels must stop every so often to take on cord wood. The delay involved, together with other reasons, led to a desire for craft powered by internal combustion engines. The development of the Mackenzie oil fields has answered this need.
Up to now Canada's northern frontier, with its scattered trading and trapping posts and its sporadic mines, has been the only region in the capitalist world where commercial aviation has paid without government subsidy. Apparently this situation is changing, for there is a rising complaint that the Canadian Government is handicapping aëronautical development. It is charged, for instance, that the Post Office encourages cutthroat competition for frontier mail contracts to such an extent that low bidders cannot make a profit. Mr. C. G. Richardson, President of Canadian Airways, has published a solemn warning to the Government that its present policy will lead to a collapse of frontier flying, with a consequent setback for those industries in northern Canada which depend on aviation -- and that means nearly all of them. Executives in other aviation companies have made similar declarations.
It should be emphasized that most of what we have been describing here is taking place in Canada's sub-Arctic, part of it even south of 60 degrees north latitude. There are, however, good reasons for thinking that Canadian activity in the true Arctic will increase considerably in the near future. (During 1937, for instance, some ten airplanes on two regularly scheduled routes operated beyond the Arctic Circle on a total of thirty trips.) Until recently there was a feeling among Canadian aviators that, while flying in the middle north might be safe enough, polar operations were dangerous. During the last few years a change in this sentiment has taken place, largely as a result of Arctic flights made by some of Canada's better-known "bush flyers." Of particular importance in this regard was the experience gained during 1937 through Canadian participation in the search for the Levanevsky plane. These flights tested the value of moonlight in aërial navigation and confirmed the theory that in the Arctic, during a third of each lunar month, it is almost as useful as daylight. They also confirmed the view that Arctic flying is safer and easier in midwinter than in midsummer. Canadian airmen are now second only to Soviet aviators in the firmness of their belief that flying can be carried on under more favorable conditions in the Arctic than in many parts of the world where regularly scheduled air traffic has become a part of everyday life.
What about the status of Canada's Arctic natives? In governmental benevolence, the Dominion is far behind Denmark. For instance, the most active official agency in the North -- the Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- is equipped to give medical service at only some of its posts. To these must be added the government-subsidized hospitals of the Anglican and Roman Churches, each of which has two such establishments in the Arctic. The Dominion has set up no educational institutions, though it subsidizes certain mission schools where the instruction (mainly in English or French) is chiefly religious. There is no indication that this policy will be changed in the near future. A progressive step toward the material welfare of the Eskimos has, however, been taken with the introduction of Alaska reindeer into the territory east of the Mackenzie delta.
Greenland is commercially the least developed of the circumpolar countries. But in social progress it is, as has already been indicated, more advanced than either Canada or Alaska. The prime concern of the Danish Government is to keep its 17,000 Eskimos alive and in good health. (There are about 500 whites in the country.) The natives are encouraged to retain their traditional diet, consisting almost exclusively of flesh, for it seems best adapted to their physiological needs and has the further advantage of keeping them self-supporting and thereby self-respecting. The principal foods now imported are "staples" like cereals and sugar. An excellent medical service carries on preventive as well as therapeutic work. There are local Eskimo-language schools, where Danish is also taught. Eskimo books are printed in Denmark and in Greenland, while an annual, printed in Eskimo by and for Eskimos, has been published in Greenland since 1861.
To supplement the Eskimo's main dependence upon hunting and fishing, the Government is considering the introduction of reindeer and the domestication of the musk ox. Several years ago sheep were introduced: as yet they number only about 10,000, but the climate and vegetation have proved well suited to sheep raising. There is also a small dairy industry capable of a limited expansion. Gardens are being cultivated in a few places, and doubtless could be in others.
We know from school geographies that "most of Greenland is permanently ice-covered." How, then, is it possible to graze animals and cultivate gardens there? The answer is that although Greenland is 84 percent snow-covered in midsummer, the snow-free 16 percent amounts to some 130,000 square miles, an area larger than that of the British Isles. Greenland's largest snow-free region is at its north tip -- the northernmost land in the world. In summer this land, named after Peary who discovered it, is green with grass and bright with flowers and is inhabited by numerous birds, insects and mammals. The birds migrate south each fall, the insects survive as eggs that germinate in the heat of the next summer, while the mammals stay the year round.
Except for the marble quarries, from which stone has been exported in small quantities, Greenland's only important mineral development is the cryolite mine at Ivigtut which has been successfully operated for several decades by an American company. The mine is located on a reservation from which Eskimos are excluded in accordance with the Danish Government's quarantine program for preventing the white man's diseases from decimating the native population. A similar reservation has been established for the Faroese fishing fleet in order that it may exploit the rich West Greenland fisheries.
No Arctic country has had such thorough scientific study as Greenland, where large Danish scientific endowments, as well as the Government, maintain research workers in practically every branch of the natural and social sciences. Both Danish and foreign scientists have made extensive use of the airplane to explore the country. Americans have been foremost in studying Greenland from the aëronautical point of view: the most important expeditions of this sort were the four sponsored by Pan American Airways, each of which stayed in Greenland a year. A notable air survey carried out in Greenland on behalf of Pan American was that of Colonel and Mrs. Lindbergh in 1933. Consequently, the aëronautical conditions of the island are now fairly well known.
Greenland is in a position to play a unique rôle in the development of trans-Arctic flying. The practically level top of its ice cap -- the only large survivor of the last ice age left in the northern hemisphere -- forms a continuous and nearly perfect emergency landing field 1,500 miles long and up to 600 miles wide. True, this is not without its drawbacks, for the fact that the ice cap forms a high plateau facing the sea inevitably causes it to assist in the formation of local gales along the coast. However, coastal base stations can be selected which are not particularly windy. On the whole Greenland's climate seems suitable for flying.
As we have already seen, the most direct routes from Chicago and other western cities to Paris, London, Berlin and Moscow lie across Greenland. When the operators of air lines are ready to begin running planes along these routes, Denmark will have to decide whether or not to maintain her quarantine policy. Perhaps the flying companies could be given reservations for radio stations and landing places along the coast from which the natives would be excluded as they now are from the American mining reserve at Ivigtut. Radio and supply stations will probably also be required at one or more inland points along the 600 to 700-mile route across the ice cap. These stations could easily be maintained, as was shown by the British and German expeditions that wintered there in 1930-31 (at 8,600 and 10,000-foot elevations and at 67 degrees and 71 degrees north latitude respectively).
What, in summary, may we with relative certainty say about the future of the American Far North? First, its climate is not an insurmountable handicap to white settlement -- as a majority of those who have lived there for several years will testify. Second, it could, with government aid, produce much food -- cereals, meat and fish -- which could be marketed in the populated areas of the north temperate zone. But Nebraska cattlemen, Alberta wheat raisers and Gloucester fishermen would doubtless oppose any such attempts on the part of their governments to create new competitors for them. Mining thus seems to offer the best opportunity for private enterprise in the American Arctic. At present only the Soviets are utilizing the resources of the Arctic and sub-Arctic on a large scale. Presumably, the other circumpolar countries will undertake extensive projects within their Arctic territories only if they become convinced that military necessities demand it.