“Hunting the Garden of Eden at the North Pole”
The Oklahoman, March 31, 1912
Professor Garrett P. Serviss Tells Why an Expedition
Bound Now for Mysterious Crocker Land May Find
in the Once-Tropical Arctic the Birthplace of the Human Race.
By Prof. Garrett P. Serviss [Note: bylines were rare during this time]
Far more interesting than any mere finding of those imaginary mathematical points called the poles of the earth’s axis, is the object of an expedition which is to leave New York next Summer on a dash for the frozen Arctic. Backed by the American Museum of Natural History, the American Geographical Society, and led by George Borup and Donald MacMillan, both of whom were with Perry on his last Voyage, this expedition aims to explore the last, and perhaps the greatest, land of mystery that the round world contains.
The unrivaled importance of their search may be indicted by the statement that the land they seek may prove to be the true site of that “terrestrial Eden” of which man has dreamed for ages, and which, from time immemorial, he has endeavored in vain to locate. In ancient literature it was known as the “Hyperborian Land,” and 2,500 years ago old Pindar sand of it and its seekers:
“Neither by taking ship
Nor by any travel on foot
To the Hyperborian Land
Shalt thou find the wondrous way”
American enterprise may now find that way, nevertheless.
Many readers may never have heard of this strange land, for its existence has only been known for the past five or six years, and the eyes of only one white man are known ever to have rested upon its distant outline, the eyes of Peary, when, in July, 1906, he peered with his glass from Cape Thomas Hubbard, the northernmost point of one of the islands lying north of the North American mainland, and saw its snowclad peaks gleaming above the shimmering horizon of eternal ice far away in the northwest. The name of Crocker Land has been bestowed upon this mysterious region. Peary made no attempt to reach it, for the aim of his expedition, the North Pole, lay in a different direction.
The discovery of Crocker Land bears a striking resemblance to that of the most distant planet of the solar system, Neptune, for the location of both was found by calculation before either had actually been seen. Astronomers discovered Neptune because of its attraction to the next most distant planet, Uranus. Dr. R. A. Harris, of the United States coast and Geodetic Survey, similarly discovered the existence of Crocker Land by its influence upon the tidal currents of the Arctic Sea, and just as Leverrier said to the gazers in the observatories, “Look at this point in the sky and you will see a new planet,” so Harris, in effect, said to the adventurers in the far north: “Look in this place, north of America and Siberia, and you will find a new land.” And in both cases those who looked saw what had been predicted.
This wonderful resemblance goes still farther. Loverrier and Adams were able to predict the size of the unseen planet, and so Harris has been able to predict the probably size of Crocker Land. He thinks, from its influence on the direction and force of the tidal waves, that it may cover an area of 500,000 square miles. That is about as large as the whole of the New England Middle, Atlantic Coast and Gulf states (with the exception of Texas) put together. It may be that the whole of the mysterious area concerned may not be covered by land, but that it may consist of a great archipelago, many of whose islands, however, must be of large extent.
This may be the true “Atlantis,” that continent of mystery of which Plato told the legend, and which was fabled to have sunk beneath the sea, with all its millions of inhabitants and all its treasures of antique civilization. The old traditions frequently connected the fabled land of the Hyperborians with Atlantis. In this case the glittering peaks which Peary glimpsed may be all that now remains above the sea level of the original home of the human race.
Many times the effort has been made to prove that the most ancient legends and traditions contained in the literatures of all nations, from the Chinese and the Hindoos to the Greeks, can best be explained upon the supposition that they all refer to a time when the human race dwelt in the far north, within the Arctic Circle, and in the immediate neighborhood of the North Pole. The most curious proof of this is found in the fact that the old legends seem to indicate that in the beginning men saw the heavenly bodies revolving around them in a horizontal direction, as they would appear to a person situated in the neighborhood of the Pole. There, instead of rising and setting every day, the sun, moon, and stars simply move round and round the sky with the rotation of the earth on its axis. There the heavenly bodies rise and set only once a year, and six months of daylight is followed by six months of night. Dr. W. F. Warren has shown that ancient traditions refer to such a condition of things as being familiar to the earliest men, before they emigrated from the birth land of their race toward the equator. Anaxagoras, an ancient Greek astronomer, has a singular passage in which he says: “In the beginning the stars revolved...the sun."
ARTICLES SUCH AS THESE ARE SUCH FUN CURIOSITIES THAT GIVE US GREAT INSIGHT INTO THE TIMES OF SENSATIONAL JOURNALISM. FRAUGHT WITH HALF-TRUTHS, FABLES, AND OUTRIGHT LIES, THESE TALES SOUGHT TO TITILLATE READERS, ENTICING THEM TO PURCHASE THAT PARTICULAR PAPER OVER ANOTHER. OCCASIONALLY, THEY PRESENTED, UNDER THE GUISE OF SCIENTIFIC AUTHORITY, A PARTICULAR AGENDA. IN THIS CASE, ONE PARTICULAR ETHNOCENTRIC VIEW OF MAN’S ORIGINS, PERHAPS COMPETING WITH NEW DATA THAT WERE BECOMING AVAILABLE AS THE SCIENCE OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND THE IDEAS OF DARWIN GAINED GROUND.