The New York Times, August 2, 1880, p.2:|
AMONG NORWEGIAN SNOWSA PERILOUS CLIMB UP THE NORTH CAPE HEADLAND.
THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE ARCTIC NIGHT--
LOOKIING OUT OVER THE POLAR OCEAN--
BEER AND CIGARS AT THE FOOT OF OSCAR'S MONUMENT.
HAMMERFEST, July 2.--Here we are once more in the "northernmost town of Europe," on our way back from the North Cape. It is difficult to imagine anything more primitive than this quaint little cluster of painted wooden shanties pasted along the base of a huge precipitous mountain, which here forms a deep angular hollow, as if to shelter its tiny guest.
In the few stone-heaped ditches which are supposed to represent streets, you meet the freshest, ruddiest, jolliest faces conceivable, the mere sight of which makes you forget for a moment that you are in the heart of one of the most desolate regions in the world. But a half hour's tramp up the hill-side is an amply sufficient reminder--dark rocks, bare stony uplands, black slimy bogs, endless wastes of untrodden snow; not a living thing to be seen, except a solitary reindeer far up the mountain-side, which starts and bounds away as you approach.
And all the halting-places in this part of our voyage are mere miniatures of Hammerfest all over again. Most characteristic of all is Gjovik, the last station before "Nord-Kap" itself. The three little painted log huts, half hidden among the giant boulders that heap the sea-worn base of the huge black cliff, look so utterly desolate and uninhabitable that it is difficult to accept the idea of any human being facing the terrible Northern Winter in such a spot.
As for North Cape, I can only say, as the enthusiastic American said on his first view of the Himalaya, "I guess if I'm to describe this I've got to wait for some more words to be created, for them that there are now ain't a quarter enough."
From Hammerfest onward the wild scenery appears to intensify itself, as if leading up to the great consummation beyond. The mighty cliff-wall of Havoe Island on one side, the black, jagged rocks of Kjelvoe on the other, form a kind of gateway, through which the snow-topped peaks of Mageroe--the northernmost of which is the North Cape itself--loom spectrally in the unearthly brightness of the Arctic night.
Point after point, the long procession of rocky headlands went by, and now arose before us, out of the silent sea, the huge black tower of the North Cape, with its cleft sides and its bare, scathed summit, like an emblem of that tremendous passivity of Nature against which all the energies of man are as nothing. Age after age gallant squadrons, full of life and hope, have rounded this point to solve the mystery of the unknown beyond; and this dumb giant has watched their lessening sails with its grim, unchanging frown, as they swept onward to their doom amid the deadly splendor of that lifeless, waveless ocean, whose secret will never be revealed until the day when the sea shall give up her dead.
Our steamer has barely time to anchor in the deep, crescent-shaped inlet behind the Cape, when we are all on our way ashore to scale the famous headland itself. But we soon find it a more serious matter than we had expected. Straight up into the air, for more than 1,000 feet, rises a sheer face of frozen snow and wet, slippery rock, flecked with broad patches of rolling stones, one step on which would be certain death.
Clinging to inch-points of rock, slipping on tufts of wet moss, creeping along perilous ledges, digging our heels fiercely into the hard snow-crust, we crawl, foot by foot, up the face of the vast black precipice like flies upon a wall, no one daring to hazard a look backward at the tremendous depth below.
And now our ranks thin rapidly, for bruised hands and aching limbs, and lungs puffing like a blacksmith's bellows, are arguments which carry conviction to the stubbornest heart. Before half the ascent is accomplished, all the ladies and more than half the gentlemen have sat down among the rocks and decided that there is nothing much to see at the top after all. The higher ledges, with their breakneck corners and shelving slides, dispose of several more, and I at length find myself left with only one companion, Mr. Burnaby's English servant, Saunders, as smart and nimble a lad as ever crossed a glacier.
But his powers are fully tested here. Now we are forced to wriggle sideways under a projecting rock, keeping our balance with one hand and knee while seeking some hold for the other; now a treacherous clump of moss gives way beneath our feet, and only by a life-and-death clutch at the slippery edge of the bare rock itself do we escape destruction. The shouts of encouragement from the steamer below have ceased, and the clustering figures along the bulwarks watch our ascent in anxious silence.
Hurrah! here at last is the topmost ledge just overhead, standing out black and grim against the lustrous sky. One more desperate struggle upward, and we drag ourselves wearily over the edge of the great summit-plateau, and expend our last breath in a faint hurrah.
Across a wide waste of sharp-edged stones, dappled with black blots of oozy bog, we come at length to the spot where the granite monolith which commemorates King Oscar's ascent of the Cape, on the 2d of July, 1873, stands looking down upon the lonely sea. Here the gloomy grandeur of the panorama becomes absolutely overwhelming. Not a bird in the air, not a boat in the sea, which stretches its gray unending level as far as the eye can reach, beneath the ghostly splendor of the midnight sun. An immense desolation, an awful, crushing silence; a vast mass of dark, craggy mountain, looking sullenly into the infinite void beyond; a hideous chasm yawning in its side just before us, and showing far down below, between the black, jagged fangs of the riven rocks, the spectral glimmer of waters never sailed by man.
One glance around suffices to show the perfect correctness of Carlyle's wonderful description of Sartor Resartus :
But there is no romance in this world without alloy; and the tragic splendor of the scene suddenly receives an unexpected and very incongruous addition. Just as five or six of our missing comrades struggle wearily up to the spot, Capt. Bjornstad makes his appearance by a short-cut, in company with a sailor bearing a carpet-bag, which makes a very suggestive chinking. The bag disgorges a host of bottles and two or three boxes of cigars, which are ranged along the pedestal of the monument, and in another moment the grim headland is the scene of a most unromantic jollification, while the Captain's liberality is being acknowledged with a chorus loud enough to arouse the old Vikings from their unknown graves in the sullen sea below:
"Silence, as of death; for midnight, even in the Arctic latitudes, has its character. Nothing but the granite cliffs, the peaceable gurgle of that slow-heaving Polar Ocean, over which in the utmost North the great sun hangs low and lazy, as if he, too, were slumbering. In such moments solitude is invaluable; for who would speak, or be looked upon, when behind him lie all Europe and Africa fast asleep, and before him the silent Immensity, the palace of the Eternal, whereof our sun is but a porch-lamp?"|
"For he might have come from Finmark,|
From Sweden, Russia, Denmark,
Or perhaps Afganistan;
But in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains Norwe-gi-an!"
Such is life. I have seen a British bagman eating ham sandwiches on the site of Solomon's Temple, and a Russian officer smoking a cigar in Timour's palace at Samarcand. I have heard an Arab strike up Not for Joe on the summit of the Great Pyramid, and found "Harper Twelvetree's Beetle-destroying Powder" advertised upon Pharaoh's sarcophagus, with a huge Egyptian beetle clinging to it, who, the moment my light enabled him to read the fatal advertisement, ran off as fast as his countless legs could carry him:
"When on the Surgfrau's crest I sat,|
My nose with cold was blue, Sir;
The Ganges banks are awful flat,
The plague's in Hang-choo-foo, Sir.
The cloudless skies of fair Cashmere,
Do naught but patter, patter;
And on the Volga swift and clear,
One's teeth with fever chatter.
"By cool Silaim's sparkling rill
My foremost thought was brandy;
My wish upon the Pinoian Hill
To have my slippers handy;
Beneath the Peak of Tenerife
I dreamed of chops a-frying,
And longed for bottled stout and beef
While off Amalfi lying."
But time and tide wait for no man, and after inserting our names in the bottle which holds those of our predecessors, we prepare to try the Captain's "short cut" down to the steamer. First comes a wall of hard snow, plunging sheer down to a mass of jagged rocks, the only thing to stay a falling body from going headlong to the bottom. The face of our Italian Count is worth seeing when the unfeeling sailor, pointing straight down the precipice with a cheerful "Dere is de way," coolly offers to let him carry the bag to steady himself.
But there is no drawing back now. Whish! down the snow-wall, crash! among the rocks, bump! bump! over the turf-ledges below; then across a vast sheet of huge sharp stones, like an acre of scythe-blades piled upon an acre of wheelbarrows.
At length, tattered, bleeding, dirty from head to foot, we reach the little inlet where our boat is lying. Scarcely are we on board when our hospitable Captain shouts lustily for coffee and cold meat, and the day's work ends with our breakfasting at 2 in the morning, and not going to bed at all.
[unsigned, but likely written by DAVID KER.]
The New York Times, November 16, 1905:|
Norway's Elective Monarchy
It is commonly said that the most amiable and bloodless revolution known to history is the dissolution of partnership between Sweden and Norway. If it have a rival it is the amicable arrangement by which Dom Pedro abdicated the throne of Brazil. Norway, even while informing King Oscar that it would have none of him, said it would like to make his son King of Norway, to show that there was no hard feeling. King Oscar declined the proposal, and doubtless prudently.
Since they were thus stopped from choosing a Bernadotte the Norwegians have done the next most congenial thing. The Swedish connection having proved impracticable, mainly from the different social ideals of the two peoples who divide the Scandanavian Peninsula, Norway has harked back to her ancient fellowship with Denmark. It was a fellowship not without friction, as no fellowships of different, however kindred, nationalities are. But it lasted for a good many centuries without intolerable friction. And it was ended at last, a mere century ago, not by the will of the Norwegian people, but by the desire of the first Bernadotte to extend his kingdom. The addition of Norway to Sweden was his price for joining the coalition against Napoleon. To have resisted him would have been, for the Norwegians, to resist the Holy Alliance, which, especially after Waterloo, appeared to all Europe irresistable.
It does not, of course, follow that Sweden held Norway ever, for a single day, by right of conquest. On the contrary, Norwegian rights and susceptibilities were as much consulted at the time of the union with Sweden as those of Scotland at the time of the union with England. At the same time, there was in the situation a certain, or rather an uncertain, element of duress. If a free election had been held in 1814 it is likely that the Norwegians would have chosen their old union with Denmark instead of the new union with Sweden. The political union with Sweden having now been put out of the question by the will of the people of Norway, and the dynastic union with Sweden by the act of the Swedish King, the popular choice is for a Danish ruler.
It is surprising to an American that a community so democratic should be so little republican. It is a very small fraction of the Norwegian electors, the suffrage being practically as general as our own, which has declared itself in favor of the republican form of government. We all know that as great a measure of substantial freedom may be attained under the monarchical form. And it is not for any foreigner to say that the Norwegians have not acted wisely in choosing the form to which they were accustomed. There is no imputation from any quarter upon the honesty or the accuracy of the election.
This is the first time, we belive, in history on which a monarch has been elected by a "plebiscite" respecting which there was no such question. The election of Louis Napoleon to be Emperor of the French was subject to the grossest imputations on its fairness. It is hardly necessary to point out that this election of itself limits the power of the new King of Norway. He can by no means swagger about "divine right," when everybody knows he is King merely by grace of the people of Norway. And it is a culmination of the career of King Christian, "the most successful father-in-law in Europe," that his grandson should bring a brand new crown into the family.
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