"The war and the aeroplane have driven home to Canadians the importance of their Northland, in strategy, in resources and in communications," Lester B. Pearson wrote in these pages some years ago.[i] They have learned, he said, that the earth is still round and that the shortest routes between many important spots in it lie over the North Pole.
Since then these facts have become commonplace. Any who doubt it need only contemplate the enormous expenditure of money, effort and ingenuity which has gone into stringing lines of radar and other detection devices from Bering Strait to Iceland, in the hope of intercepting hostile attacks by the short polar route from Eurasia. It may be useful to reëxamine the premises which have made the Arctic a focus of military strategy and have diverted so much of polar research away from the traditional coöperative inquiry after truth which happily still characterizes the Antarctic.
The continents are so distributed on the globe that most of the land is in the Northern Hemisphere; there, too, live most of the world's population, concentrated in the middle latitudes. The earth being round, the shortest routes between the main centers of population therefore run not due east and west but somewhat to the north. Indeed, these "Great Circle Courses" are often surprisingly far to the north. Flying direct from Chicago to London, one crosses northern Labrador; from San Francisco to Copenhagen, northern Greenland. As Anne Lindbergh long ago demonstrated, and the airlines have learned to their profit, the shortest route from the United States to Japan lies more north than west, in fact "North to the Orient." Long-distance sailing routes were formerly very roundabout. Captain James Cook reached northern Alaska from England by way of Cape Horn. Contemporary naval explorers in atomic submarines are able to take a more direct route not far from the North Pole.
Irrespective of various intrinsic merits that the northern lands may possess, their mere location in the far
Loading, please wait...