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“Four Years in the White North”-A Review

By HERBERT L. BRIDGMAN*

D

ETERMINATION of the scien- Borup's tragic and untimely death, altific value of the work of the most wrecked the second night out of

Crocker Land Expedition is for port, navigation entrusted to a hesitant the future, but the Four Years in the and inexperienced master, a company White North' of its leader, Mr. Donald which made up in enthusiasm what it B. MacMillan, may be appraised at

lacked in training, its principal obonce as a human document, one of the jective upon which rested name and most instructive and entertaining con- existence, the very reason for its being, tributions to the literature of the dissolved like the baseless fabric of a North. It should not, however, be in- dream, with no sight or news of relief ferred that Mr. MacMillan evades or ships the first summer and none the avoids the scientific inquest, which must second, incompetence of men and perlater be held by specialists and experts versity of nature both conspiring to preon his work. On the contrary, he dis- vent the ships from breaking through tinctly invites it by a detailed, itemized the pack and reaching destination and list of the expedition's records and effecting a rescue, the party gradually achievements in which more than a dwindling one by one, cach taking score of distinct and comparatively in- chances and making the best of his way dependent pieces of work are set forth homeward, a disclosure of what must as if to aid in distributing the credit in have been the low ebb of spirits and a final and authoritative valuation of mental vitality, until at Christmas, the whole. It may fairly be doubted 1916, only two of the original party rewhether any expedition which ever

mained: all these incidents, and others sought and wrought in the Arctic zone like them which are obvious, and still was more persistently dogged by ill luck others which must inevitably have exthan that whose adventures of chance isted, demonstrate a condition of things or mischance are recounted in Mac- which, protracted through four long Millan's four years' absence; a term years, must have meant a strain on it may be well worth while to remark, nerves, temper, and mental and physinever exceeded by any expedition in the

cal force which only the best equipped eastern Arctic and equaled only by and most wisely conserved could withAdmiral Peary's in 1898–1902, during stand. That MacMillan endured the which he accomplished his great jour

test and begged to be allowed to stay ney around the northern end of Green- another year when Captain Robert A. land and definitely eliminated that Bartlett and the “Neptune” finally arroute to the North Pole from the pos

rived at Etah an ins ted that he sibilities.

return, shows that he is of the stuff Born in refraction and imagination, of which explorers are made. shadowed and delayed by George It is not perhaps worth while to at

tempt to re-state the narrative and ex1 Four Years in the White North, by Donald B. MacMillan. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1918. periences of the expedition. That has

* Mr. Bridgman is secretary of the Peary Arctic Club, president of the department of geography of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, vice-president of the American Scenic and Historic Preser. vation Society, and a member of the board of regents of the University of the State of New York. He was delegate of the United States, of the National Geographic Society. Peary Arctic Club, and New York Explorers' Club to the International Congress for Study

Regions which met at Brussels in 1906, and United States delegate to the International Polar Commission which met at Brussels in 1908 and at Rome in 1913. He is actively engaged as manager and editor of the Brooklyn Standard Union, and in his interests as a journalist is chairman of the Publishers' Association of New York City

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The eggs of the knot (Tringa canutus) are very rare in collections, for this sandpiper has not often been found by explorers because it makes its home well back in the hills of Greenland Greely was the first to describe the egg of this species. The eggs of all wild fowl which nest along the shore are a regular source of food supply to the Eskimos and are preserved for winter use by freezing

already been done by Mr. MacMillan in magazine and other articles, although the Four Years does sensible and valuable service in bringing the whole story together from beginning to end. Here anyone by a little study can determine exactly the order, personnel, and time of the several field parties, and just where any member was and what he was doing on a certain date. It is no depreciation, either, of the work to say that the manner rather than the matter of the story will most surely arrest and hold the attention of the readers, a style and quality absolutely unique

among books of its class. A certain sort of optimism, not to say exuberance, soon impresses itself on the consciousness of the reader and, as he goes on, he is inclined to wonder whether MacMillan may be, not the original Mark Taplev, in which case he would be rather venerable, but his intensified and more highly developed reincarnation.

When Crocker Land "busted,” to quote the street's expressive irreverent word, MacMillan took the whole experience philosophically. When he had retraced his steps to Peary's Cape

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The knot on its nest.-In summer the feathers of the back are black, margined with reddish yellow, The rump is white, tinged with red, and the lower parts are deep bay. This coloration renders the sandpiper difficult to discern when on the nest

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Once a familiar visitor to our Atlantic coast, the knot has gone the way of many edible waterfowl and is now relatively rare. It is a species of very wide distribution, breeding in the Arctic countries from Iceland to Siberia and wintering on all the continents of the world. In olden days the English netted and fattened these birds for the table, and several early writings on their care and culinary uses are still to be found

cause his dogs were “all in" and his and fruitage of his years of association food nearly "all out,” he accepted the with that great leader. inevitable with the same good temper MacMillan applied and enlarged the and quenchless optimism.

Peary method and the principles of his Apart from the narrative and its master, and demonstrated again that running accounts of the expedition, the support and loyalty of the Eskimos two chords dominate Four Years and are indispensable to any explorer workgive it a distinctive place among all ing in the eastern Arctic hemisphere. books of its class. To these might be MacMillan, however, seems to have added a third, that of literary style, gained the good graces of the whole although it so fuses and intermingles tribe, old and young, women and chilitself with the more prominent and dren, as well as of the men, the hunters essential features that its presence is and the sledge drivers of his field less readily recognized and appreciated. parties. It is no slight testimonial to

First, in his understanding and sym- his poise and control that he was able to hold them all loyal and attached Two omissions, one more, the other throughout the expedition's long stay in less, important, may be noted. That the Arctic. Into all the Eskimos' do- no map should have been provided for mestic, even love affairs, the current of a work which is so much almost all daily life and gossip, MacMillan en- outdoors is inexplicable, possibly intered with lively sympathy and keen excusable. This is the more remarkable, appreciation. This is reflected on al- as maps on which all the geographical most every page of his book and ex- outlines and the track charts have been pressed in numberless instances of ser- located are readily available, and it vice and hospitality.

would seem that the first duty of the The other characteristic of Four publishers should have been to supply Years rests in the fact that no lover of an edition which would contain a simthe tropics and their languor and lux- ple outline map by which the different ury ever lost himself in "wonder, ad- parties and their relations to one anmiration and praise” more genuinely other might be followed and underand unreservedly than MacMillan loses stood. The caricature of a map used, himself in his affection for and loyalty which is notable mainly for misspelled to the Arctic, its phenomena and en- names, in no degree answers the purvironment. Torngak, the demon, had pose and is not worthy author or pubno terror for him. While of course it lisher. is admitted that there have been times MacMillan wisely ignored the Cook and places more agreeable than the controversy, or what the malicious and weather side of a pressure ridge in the misguided tried to make a controversy, blinding snow at 40° below, or on a of ten years ago; but his faithful and toboggan in darkness rushing down a loval E-took-a-shoo remembers it all, glacier to whatever may be at the bot

identified the landmarks, the courses, tom, or plunging along the ice foot on distances, and locations. If MacMillan a ledge from which the dogs are occa- had chosen to have the testimony of an sionally pulled up to the trail again by eyewitness, he could have given the finmain strength, or snowbound in an ishing and conclusive blows to a foul igloo, oil gone and food almost ex- thing, which, however, is rapidly rehausted, nevertheless, all these are for- ceding from deserved contempt into gotten when summer and the million merited oblivion. Sometime, possibly birds come, the waters are unloosed, the in the interest of the truth and for the picturesque falls flow again, and the help of future historians, MacMillan poppies carpet the scanty fields with may give to the world from E-took-atheir “cloths of gold.” The transposi- shoo's lips the true and literal story of tion is complete and Mr. MacMillan that extraordinary episode. has succeeded in transferring its spell The seven appendixes to Four Years to the pages of his book.

are all valuable and contain much supLess severe and nervous in style than plemental and collateral information by Peary, less stately and scientific than the other members of the expedition. Scott, less verbose and subjective, for- Ekblaw's nearly one hundred pages give tunately, than Nansen, MacMillan the tale of his great traverse of Grant writes with a freedom, almost abandon, and Ellesmere lands in 1915, with of appreciation, which strikes a dis- other sledge excursions, and a study of tinctly new note in the annals of the the vegetation about Borup Lodge, the Arctic and which will carry his Four headquarters, while MacMillan contribYears to many readers for its own in- utes a detailed memorandum of the trinsic charm and sympathetic expo- thirty-five species of Arctic birds with sition.

which he made personal acquaintance.

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When the long summer day begins and the sun comes up from the south, the sea ice breaks and the snows melt. Then on all sides can be heard the sound of running water and the call of the birds. The hills burst into blossom, the Eskimo tribes gather together for a great hunt and holiday, and Nannook, the polar bear, goes fishing for seals

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