Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Monkeys and Empire State Buildings
by James K. Isaac

Debbie Does Delta Draconis III
by Sarina Dorie

Becoming Einstein
by George S. Walker

No Good Conscience
by Edward J. Knight

Last Log of the Vancouver
by David Falkinburg

Saving the Galaxy and Taking Names
by Justin Short

Diplomacy in Springtime
by Jennifer Linnaea

Onkeymay Usinessbay
by Doug Donnan

Inside Magic Circles
by Brent Knowles


Cosmic Life Rays
by John McCormick and Beth Goldie

A Lost World On the Polar Ice
by Fitzhugh Green




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips




A Lost World On the Polar Ice

By Fitzhugh Green

MARS MIGHT HAVE CANALS, suggesting intelligent life, but there’s a lost world right here on Earth. In the center of the Polar Sea, we have evidence to support a vast continent heated by subterranean fires ... and inhabited by the descendants of the last Norwegian colony of Greenland!

So wild is the idea as to stretch even the most vivid imagination. Yet it is enthusiastically supported not only by history and tradition, but by scientific analysis. A transpolar flight of the new Navy dirigible, the ZR-1 (USS Shenandoah, pictured below, moored to a ship at sea), has therefore been proposed for the summer of 1924 to find out.

Within the boundaries of the Polar Sea spreads the greatest unexplored area on the surface of the globe: 1,000,000 square miles on which no human eye has gazed. Most of this enormous wilderness lies on the Alaskan side of the Pole. On the European side sits Iceland at a point corresponding roughly to the center of the unknown area opposite it across the top of the world. This fact is significant. Experts are in nearly unanimous agreement that a new arctic land will be found there. Dr. Rollin A. Harris, former tidal expert in Washington, D. C., long ago declared that thdirigiblee data he had worked out from polar ocean currents convinced him of the existence of a large land-mass near the North Pole.

Add to this the array of evidence geologists adduce on the basis of strong volcanic activity along a well-defined line leading up to the North Pacific, through the Japanese archipelago and the Aleutians, and onward toward the Pole. This seismic axis plotted on the globe nearly bisects the unknown area of the Polar Ocean. Further, were this line swung through 180 degrees, it would touch Iceland.

Not many years ago, Robert Peary, from Cape Thomas Hubbard, sighted distant peaks northwest. Such evidence is incontrovertible. The new continent seems already within our grasp!

As for probable inhabitants of this new continent, it is a fact that Eric the Red discovered Greenland in 985 A.D. He brought back glowing tales of grassy fiords, long sunlit days, game-infested hills, ice-pans groaning under their burden of fat seals, bays teeming with fish.

Colonization began at once, and over time the Vikings greatly prospered. In the archives at Bergen, proof may be seen in the receipts for their princely contributions in ivory and oil to the ill-fated Crusades.

The last ship known to have returned to Norway from her arctic colonies arrived in the year 1410. It brought a rich cargo; that its report was of happy, thriving Norsemen back north; of health and growing independence despite their rigorous environment.

Lost Colony a World Riddle

Then Europe became a shambles. Plague and war swept civilization. Pestilential disease ran a ghastly race with a horde of human murderers. Even the sea route north was forgotten.

After the Dark ages passed, mankind rekindled the will to search the world for knowledge and for wealth. Greenland was rediscovered. Hans Egede established the first modern settlement there in 1721. But the grim rlost landeport he made was tragic and beyond belief: The Norwegian colony, 10,000 people—perhaps 100,000—had, to a man, mysteriously disappeared! Where did they go?

(Map, right, showing the proposed transpolar air route of the ZR-1 from Alaska to Norway. This route would pass across what many geologists believe to be an unexplored polar land on the opposite side of the pole from Iceland.)

Where didn’t they go is a question more easily answered. Not to sea in ships, for they had but one or two; and Greenland, lying above the tree line, gave them no timber for building more. Not slain by Eskimos, for Eskimos are the most peace-loving people in the world, knowing nothing of the art of war. Not, like Europe, swept by some dread germ of awful virulence, for germs don’t thrive in polar regions.

What then?

Eskimo legends relate in vivid terms of foreigners swarming suddenly north to a wonderland the natives long had known about, but because of “evil spirits,” no Eskimo had ever dared this trail. “The land is warm; is clothed in summer verdure the year around; is populated by fat caribou and musk-ox. It lies,” they say even to this day, “in the direction of the coastal trail-route north.”

This is the same route that was taken by the American expeditions. Robert Peary, Elisha Kane, and Isaac Hayes all used it. It always has been the easiest route as well as the most productive for natural food in seal and walrus. For these explorers, it was a hard, foolish trail. But for the Norwegian colonists whose forebears had spent ten generations north of the arctic circle, it must have been less difficult to travel than were the western plains for our American pioneers.

Lured Northward

Picture the terrible situation in which the deserted Norsemen in Greenland found themselves. No outlet for their trade. No source of supply for the little but indispensable luxuries of life. No access to friends and families back home. A generation—two, perhaps—of heartbreak and of longing; unhappiness goaded the younger men to travel northward. Perhaps a route to southern lands lay that way. Suddenly a bombshell breaks upon the weary colony. The wonderful news is: “We’ve found a polar paradise! Sunshine! Game! Grass! One month’s easy journey north! A short lap on the sea ice! Come!”

What did they have to wait for? A century had passed since the last ship sailed. The last man who had seen a real Norwegian had died. The homeland was but a myth. So they “packed and, singing songs, departed,” the Eskimo legend puts it, “suddenly to the north.” They never returned. The fact is not at all surprising if what we think is true—that they found a land of milk and honey in the very center of the polar pack. So it is perfectly logical to suppose that their descendants can still be found up there in dramatic isolation.

Go back to the scientific data on which we base this amazing assumption. Iceland’s collection of volcanoes is unsurpassed. She has 107 major craters within her tiny limits, and thousands of minor ones. Iceland’s climate is temperate despite its arctic location. Moreover, Iceland’s lava flows are by no means always from conventional craters. The greatest of them have come quietly from fissures in the level land. We may deduce that subterranean fires smolder near the surface. It is not uncommon for the inhabitants to be forewarned of eruption by sudden melting of the snow and ice. Hot springs and boiling mud are found in every part of Iceland. An engineering project to heat the entire island by harnessing its steaming geysers is even under consideration.

In this connection it is interesting to compare the mean annual temperature of Iceland, 34° F, with that of Greenland at the same latitude, minus 15° F. During the summer Icelanders enjoy a season quite comparable to that of New England. Averages run up to 60° F.

It is no idle dream to claim that Iceland has a mate across the way. Geographical twins are common on our globe; Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope; the Mediterranean and the Caribbean; islands off Alaska and Japan; and so on.

Is There a Polar Paradise?

It is no wild speculation to picture a polar paradise, like some titan emerald in its alabaster setting. At Disco, Greenland, orchids warmed by natural hot springs blossom out of doors through the bitter sunless winter months!

Weighing carefully all the facts available, we may estimate the area of the new land at about 50,000 square miles, or roughly the size of the state of Pennsylvania. Its perimeter is bulwarked by a quake-distorted range of mountains buried in eternal ice and snow, and rearing 10,000 feet into the sky. Twisting fiords penetrate the ragged ice-gnarled coast.

Just inside the mountains hangs a veil of fog, the vapor of contrasting temperatures. Here we may imagine the climate changing sharply. Heat from underground defines the cold. White of snow and ice shades swiftly to the green of pastures, and gold of wooded uplands.

On a level clearing we can picture symmetrically 50 or more human habitations. Tall men, magnificently built and clad in short and bright hued loosely fitting blouses, moving leisurely about. Mingling with them are comely, fair-haired women in dainty smocks. Laughing children dash here and there among the shrubbery.

These descendants of the vanished Norwegian colony are not savages. Indeed, they may even turn out to be far in advance of our own smug civilization in culture, learning, deportment, and social refinement. They have harnessed natural energy to an amazing degree. They know the truths of other worlds. They have mastered the secrets of health.

May Revolutionize Commerce

But there are other consequences of a lost world in the arctic. A polar air route cuts the distance to European and Asian capitals from 11,000 to 5,000 miles. A vast volume of commerce and traffic will subsequently be deflected from America toward the Pole. No matter what the land may be which lies close to the Pole, it will control the Polar Ocean, strategically. Alaska would come into her own, gathering population and serving as an arctic service station to passing planes.

Does a polar paradise exist? And, if so, are the vanished Norsemen there? infinity

Fitzhugh Green (1888-1947) was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, an experienced polar explorer, and a member of the 1913 Crocker Land Expedition. Green wrote the novel “ZR Wins,” about a dirigible flight to the North Pole in search of a lost Viking colony. This article originally appeared in “Popular Science Monthly,” December, 1923.


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