Throughout this book there have been many references to the Eskimos who live nearer to the north polar orifice of the earth than any other people but who are not found near the south polar orifice. Of people in that region, people who in our opinion undoubtedly were Eskimos we shall have something to say in the next chapter. Or rather we will let other people say it--for the finding of people in the Antarctic was a unique occurrence which has never been explained before. It has simply been recorded and wondered at. Ours is the only explanation, and this chapter is the necessary preparation for that explanation. The question that this chapter will answer is, "Who are the Eskimos and whence do they come?" That it is necessary to pose the question is shown by what Nansen has to say on the subject. For Nansen tells in the second volume of his authoritative work, "In Northern Mists," all that has been previously discovered about the Eskimos and one is astonished to see that it all ends in a question mark. In other words only a little is known about the Eskimos, and as to their origin nothing is known.
And yet the Eskimo must have come from somewhere to his present habitat, for as Nansen says "his world is that of sea-ice and cold, for which nature had not intended human beings"--implying, of course that the Arctic regions were not the original home of this race.
He goes on:
"As men of the white race pushed northward to the 'highest latitudes' they found traces of this remarkable people, who had already been there in times long past; and it is only in the last few decades that anyone has succeeded in penetrating farther north than the Eskimo, partly by learning from him or enlisting his help. In these regions, which are his own, his culture was superior to that of the white race, and from no other people has the arctic navigator learned so much.
"The north coast of America and the islands to the north of it, from Bering Strait to the east coast of Greenland, is the territory of the Eskimo. . . . . . Within these limits the Eskimos must have developed into what they now are. In their anthropological race-characteristics, in their sealing and whaling-culture, and in their language they are very different from all other known peoples, both in America and Asia, and we must suppose that for long ages, ever
since they began to fit themselves for their life along the frozen shores, they have lived apart, separated from others, perhaps for a long time as a small tribe. They all belong to the same race; the cerebral formation, for instance, of all real Eskimos, from Alaska to Greenland, is remarkably homogenous; but in the far west they may have been mixed with Indians and others, and in Greenland they are now mixed with Europeans. They are pronouncedly dolichocephalic; but have short, broad faces, and by their features and appearance are easily distinguished from other neighboring peoples. Small, slanting eyes; the nose small and flat, narrow between the eyes and broad below; cheeks, broad, prominent and round; the forehead narrowing comparatively above; the lower part of the face broad and powerful; black, straight hair. The color of the skin is a pale brown. The Eskimos are not, as is often supposed, a small people on an average; they are rather of middle height, often powerful, and sometimes quite tall, although they are a good deal shorter, and weaker in appearance, than average Scandinavians. In appearance and also in language they come nearest to some of the North American Indian tribes."
We shall find later, however, that other observers think the Eskimos are nearer in type to the Chinese than to any other race.
Nansen admits that he is puzzled--in common with other enquirers, no two of whom agree--over the origin of the Eskimo race. The central point of their culture, he says, is seal-hunting, "especially with the harpoon, sometimes from the kayak in open water and sometimes from the ice. We cannot believe that this sealing, especially with the kayak, was first developed in the central part of the regions they now inhabit; there the conditions of life would have been too severe, and they would not have been able to support themselves until their sealing culture had attained a certain development. Just as in Europe we met with the 'Finnish' sea-fishing on a coast that was connected with milder coasts further south, where seamanship was first able to develop, so we must expect that the Eskimo culture began on coasts with similar conditions. . . . . ."
Dr. Nansen then discusses the various possible mild coasts on which the Eskimo might have learned his sealing and navigation, but he cannot come to any satisfactory conclusion and says that the question will have to be left open.
The fact that the question cannot be settled in any other way naturally impresses us with the probability that it will be settled through the application of our theory. The coasts near the polar orifice on the inner side of the earth would afford the ideal conditions for the earliest habitat of the Eskimo race,
and, as we shall see later, there are other facts which make us certain that the Eskimo race as we know it today is an overflow from settlements on the borders of the polar orifice. Not only shall we show later that there has actually been communication between the Eskimos of the north and the Antarctic region--we shall show that that uninhabited part of the world has been visited by Eskimos or similar people coming through the interior of the earth--but many things in Eskimo history and tradition point to their coming from the interior.
First, however, let us note that Nansen lists quite a number of scientists all holding "various views as to the origin of the Eskimo", which, however, are all different from the idea set forth by Nansen that they must have come from a milder climate than their present one. Nansen notes that on the American Arctic islands the Eskimos no longer live as far north as they once did--as where older traces of them are found. It is evident in this case that they began north and gradually made their way south. But that beginning was not only north but was in the interior. And in many other cases we shall see that the farther north one goes the more one sees traces of Eskimos and we shall also find it true that all their traditions point to the north, and even to a condition of things which can only be explained on
the theory that they once lived in a land of perpetual sunshine--which the interior of the earth is.
As further illustrating scientific ignorance about these people, we may see further what Nansen has to say:
"How early the Eskimo appeared, and came to the most northern regions, we have as yet no means of determining. All we can say is that, as they are so distinct in physical structure, language and culture from all other known races except the Aleutians, we must assume that they have lived for a very long period in the northern regions apart from other peoples. It would be of special interest here if we could form any opinion as to the date of their immigration into Greenland. It has become almost an historical dogma that this immigration on a larger scale did not take place until long after the Norwegian Icelanders had settled in the country, and that it was chiefly the hordes of Eskimos coming from the north that put an end, first to the Western Settlement and then to the Eastern. But this is in every respect misleading, and conflicts with what may be concluded with certainty from several facts; moreover, the whole Eskimo way of life and dependence on sealing and fishing forbids their migration in hordes; they must travel in small scattered groups in order to find enough game to support themselves
and their families, and are obliged to make frequent halts for sealing. They will, therefore, never be able to undertake any migration on a large scale."
The above strengthens our position very materially, for all the migrations of peoples with which history deals have been on a large scale, whole tribes staying together and moving in concert along definite routes. But if the Eskimos had come to the north from more southerly climates or even if they had come from so far away as China, or from the wilds of North America, they must either have come up all together--which Nansen tells us is impossible--or they must have scattered themselves over a much wider territory than they now occupy. In other words large numbers of them have become "lost" as far as any particular route is concerned. Nansen gives a map of their present and past distribution in his book, and it practically proves alone, without further evidence, that the Eskimos came from the north, for they only occupy the north coast of America, and the islands to the north of it, from Behring Strait to the east coast of Greenland, and that marks the limit of their territory. Now how could small groups at different times, starting out at points far away from this, all converge to that one small field of distribution? Why did not many of them stop at favorable parts on the way? Why did they not mix with and modify other tribes whom they met on the way, leaving traces that the anthropologist
could note and trace down? No, the map of the distribution of the Eskimos shows that they came from the north, from over the lip of the polar orifice, and settled upon the first suitable land that they reached.
That the Eskimos left the interior of the earth very early perhaps when the northern climate was milder than it is now and therefore more attractive to them--seems probable. Nansen says:
"There can be no doubt that the Eskimo arrived in Greenland ages before the Norwegian Icelanders. The rich finds referred to among others by Dr. H. Rink, of Eskimo whaling and sealing weapons and implements of stone from deep deposits in North Greenland show that the Eskimos were living there far back in prehistoric times."
And in a note appended to this statement Nansen adduces evidence to show that in those prehistoric times the Eskimos lived more to the north than they do at the present time--a very significant thing to admit, seeing that it points to a northern and not a southern origin and starting point.
But the Eskimos had learned a number of things, that is to say they were not a new tribe emerging from savagery but had a history behind them, when they did take up their abodes on the northern shores of the outer world. Nansen remarks that they: "must have had at the time of their first immigration much the same culture in the main as now,
since otherwise they would not have been able to support themselves in these northern regions."
He further tells us that:
"Their means of transport were the kayak and the woman's boat in open water, and the dog-sledge on the ice. Their whaling and sealing were conducted in kayaks in summer, but with dog-sledges in winter, when they hunted the seal at its breathing-holes in the ice, the walrus, narwhale and white whale, in the open leads, and pursued the bear with their dogs. In winter they usually keep to one place, living in houses of stone or snow, but in summer they wander about with their boats and tents of hides to the best places for kayak fishing."
That sounds as though it were the pursuit of seals, whales, etc., which gradually brought the Eskimos out of the interior polar regions into those of the exterior in the first place, and as Nansen goes on we see that he constantly emphasizes the fact that they moved further south. And although it was more temperate after they had passed the very cold region which is just south of the polar inland sea, they "no longer found the same conditions of life as before, the ice was for the most part absent, the walrus became more difficult in the open sea, and winter fishing from the kayak was not very safe."
That quotation answers any reader who may wonder why the Eskimos emigrated from the interior in the first place, where the climate is mild, out into the regions of North Greenland where it is harder. The answer is that the Eskimo is by nature a hunter and fisher, just as some tribes of the earth are naturally agricultural and stay fixed in one spot while others are nomads and roam. The Eskimos were hunters and fishers of whale, narwhale, seal, etc., and they pursued their prey gradually over the polar lip. As long as they had sought these creatures in open water they had great difficulty in catching them. When they came to an ice-bound region, which they would do after they had come down past the region of warm currents and open sea around the poles, they found it easier to catch their prey. When they went too far south, so that the sea became warm and open again, they could no longer do this so easily, and so, as Nansen points out they remained in the localities where the winter meant ice:
"Southern Greenland, therefore, had no great attraction, so long as there was room enough further north."
In other words the Eskimo who came too far south found out what we have seen that the polar explorers from our own countries found out--a greater abundance of life further north.
That the Eskimo came from the interior of
the earth, that is to say, from a location which they could not easily explain to the Norwegians who might have asked them where they originally came from, is shown by the fact that the early Norwegians regarded them as a supernatural people, a species of fairy. When we remember that in the efforts of these Eskimos to tell where they came from they would point to the north and describe a land of perpetual sunshine, it is easy to see that the Norwegians who associated the polar regions with the end of the world, certainly not with a new world, would wonder at the strange origin thus indicated. They would. naturally assume that these were supernatural beings who came from some region under the earth--as that was always considered to be the abode of fairies, gnomes, and similar creatures.
And according to Nansen this is precisely what happened. He says:
"I have already stated that the Norse name 'Skraeling' for Eskimo must have originally been used as a designation of fairies or mythical creatures. Further-more there is much that would imply that when the Icelanders first met with the Eskimo in Greenland they looked upon them as fairies; they, therefore, called them 'trolls,' an ancient common name for various sorts of supernatural beings. This view persisted
more or less in after times. Every European who has suddenly encountered Eskimos in the ice-covered wastes of Greenland, without ever having seen them before, will easily understand that they must have made such an impression on people who had the slightest tendency toward superstition. Such an idea must, from the very beginning, have influenced the relations between the Norsemen and the natives, and is capable of explaining much that is curious in the mention of them, or rather the lack of mention of them, in the sagas, since they were supernatural beings of whom it was best to say nothing."
Nansen then goes on to tell us that when these Skraelings were mentioned in Latin writings the word was always translated by "Pygmaei" which meant "short, undergrown people of supernatural aspect"--that is like fairies; and it was precisely that sort of being who had always, in the middle ages and as far back as classical times, been supposed to inhabit Thule--Thule being the ultimate land beyond the north, being in fact, no doubt a conception really based on what is the actual fact, as proved in this book. It is seldom that there is not a basis in fact for the myths and ideas of antiquity, and this belief in a land beyond the poles inhabited by a strange people was very widely distributed. In fact Nansen tells us that from St. Augustine the knowledge of these pygmies "reached Isidore; and from him the knowledge was disseminated over the whole of mediaeval
[paragraph continues] Europe partly in the same sense, that of a more or less fabulous people from the uttermost parts of the earth; and partly in the sense of a fairy people. Supported by popular belief in various countries, the latter meaning soon became general. Of this Moltke Moe gives a remarkable example from the Welshman, Walter Mapes (latter half of the twelfth century) who in his curious collection of anecdotes, etc., (called 'De Nugis Curialium'), has a tale of a prehistoric king of the Britons called Herla. . ."
Nansen then goes on to repeat the tale which represents this king as meeting with Skraelings or Eskimos, and being taken by them beneath the earth. Of course in the form in which it is given by this Welsh-man of the twelfth century it is only a fairy tale. But may there not be a basis in truth for such a tale? It is remarkable how many early legends represent people as going under the earth or into an utterly strange realm, and when we remember what feats of navigation the early Norsemen could perform--we must remember that they first discovered America it looks as if they might have penetrated to the interior and so made a basis in fact for these very frequent tales of people finding a supernatural realm and staying there for a long time but at last coming back. In this connection we may mention the fact that the early Irish had a legend of a land far beyond the
sea where the sun always shone and it was always summer weather. They even thought that some of their early heroes had gone there and returned--never to be quite satisfied with their own country again.
A thirteenth century Norwegian authority is quoted by Nansen to show that the Eskimos were known then as a supernatural people, small in stature, who "have a complete lack of the metal iron; they use the tusks of marine animals for missiles and sharp stones for knives."
And Nansen adds:
"The curiously correct mention of the Skraelings' weapons must be derived from a well-informed source, and the statement established the fact that the Norsemen met with the Eskimos of Greenland at any rate in the thirteenth century."
We may also add that the fact that the Norsemen knew them as well as this and yet thought that they were supernatural people who "when these are struck while alive by weapons their wounds turn white without blood"--the fact that they really knew them and yet had ideas like that about them, shows that they did not regard them as ordinary human beings. And only the fact that the Eskimos came from some strange land, thought to be supernatural, would account for such strange ideas being held.
The early Norsemen did, however, wonder where these people could possibly come from, and Nansen
tells us that whenever they went north they took particular notice of any abandoned Eskimo dwellings that they might happen to see. He says further:
"In an account of the voyage to the north, about 1276, we read that at the farthest point north there were found some old Skraeling dwelling places, while farther south, on some islands, were found some inhabited ones. In agreement with this it is stated of the men who came from the north in 1266 that they saw no 'Skraelingja vistir' (dwelling places) except farther north than in Kroksfjardarheidr, and therefore it is thought that they must by that way have the shortest distance to travel wherever they came from. Thus we see that the Skraeling? were found in and in the neighborhood of Kroksfjord but on the other hand not in the extreme north where only old sites left by them were found."
In other words, one first met the Skraelings, then as one went farther north one met their deserted dwellings, showing that their progress was from the direction of the north. And Nansen adds in a footnote that these ancient observations are quite in conformity with later researches and therefore to be given full credence.
Nansen also gives us another remarkable fact, a piece of direct evidence of the Eskimos' having
lived in the interior of the earth. He mentions the finding "out at sea" in 1226 of "pieces of driftwood" shaped with "small axes"--which he thinks may mean stone axes--and adzes (the Eskimo form of axe) and these pieces of wood had "wedges of bone imbedded in them."
Now we have already seen that driftwood from the interior of the earth is a common phenomenon in the Arctic regions. That they were not from a point near land is shown by the fact that the Norwegians who found them were much impressed and spoke of them in a way which showed that they thought the discovery something very much out of the common and something "not due to Norsemen."
Nansen also quotes an archbishop in 1520 who refers to the Eskimos as being very unlike other peoples, coming, as he says, from "the north-northwest of Finmark" and he seems to think that they live in underground houses--which again may be a reminiscence of the idea of their living under the surface of the earth or in its interior.
And Nansen also says that these Eskimo settlements were not only increased by the tribe growing but by "fresh gradual immigration from the north"--which clearly points to further additions from the interior of the earth.
That the present day Eskimo is not quite like
the type described above, Nansen attributes to Scandinavian intermixture after Norwegian communication with the Greenland colonies had been cut off in the fourteenth century--due to internal troubles in Norway--and the larger race had been forced to amalgamate with the smaller Eskimos from whom they had previously kept aloof. So the Eskimo race as we know it today is not the same in physical appearance as the race that ordinarily came out of the interior of the earth.
We have mentioned that the Eskimo has been compared in appearance and type to the Chinese. The authority who does this is the late Dr. Nicholas Senn, professor of surgery at the University of Chicago, who has made an Arctic trip and written some very interesting things about it. He says:
"The Mongolian type of the Eskimo is pronounced" and again: "The affinity of the Eskimo for the Chinese was well demonstrated by the actions of a little Eskimo girl that Mrs. Peary took home with her in 1894. The first thing that attracted her serious attention was a Chinaman she saw on the street, while the many new things she saw in the great city of New York that usually interest children made little impression on her."
Now it is quite possible that the Eskimos are not descended from any tribes driven out of China as that
might imply, but that the Chinese as well as the Eskimos originally came from the interior of the earth.
That they originally came from a land of constant sunshine, from a country away past the northern ice-barrier is the tradition of the Eskimos themselves, and it is a tradition which must be given full weight, for it could not have arisen among them in the first place without good cause. On this point Dr. Senn says:
"When questioned"--as to the land of their origin--"they invariably point north without having the faintest perception of what this means."
Naturally the Eskimos do not know that the earth is hollow and that ages ago they lived in its interior, but they have clung to that one simple fact--they came from the north. Dr. Senn denies that they have any characteristics in common with the North American Indian and thinks that they are the remnant of "the oldest inhabitants of the western hemisphere." In this attributing of great antiquity to them he may be right--at least he there agrees with Nansen. But the interior of the earth and not the western hemisphere is evidently the place of their original abode.
As for the land of perpetual sunshine, the Eskimo, of course, does not remember that as something he himself has seen, for it is very questionable if any of
the Eskimos of the present generation have ever penetrated to the interior. But it is a well known fact that every race has its idea of a "golden age" or paradise which is generally composed of the elements which are handed down in its stories and myths as being characteristic of its earliest home. Thus the Eskimo legends handed down generation after generation, tales of the interior land with its ever shining sun, and what could be more natural than when the Eskimo came to build in fancy a paradise for himself and his loved ones after they should die, that he should reconstruct this first home of which he had heard only in dim legends? That, at any rate is just what he has done. Dr. Senn, discussing their religion, says:
"They believe in a future world. . . The soul descends beneath the earth into various abodes--the first of which is somewhat in the nature of a purgatory: but the good spirits passing through it find that the other mansions improve till at a great depth they reach that of perfect bliss, where the sun never sets, and where by the side of large lakes that never freeze, the deer roam in large herds and the seal and the walrus always abound in the waters."
That paradise might serve as almost a literal description of the land in the interior of the earth, and the way in which the Eskimo indicates a preliminary purgatory before it can be reached may well be the reflection of a memory handed down in the tribe of
the great hardships and difficulties of the ice barrier between that wonderful home and the present situation of the Eskimo on the southern side of that great natural obstacle.
It is also interesting to note that when the Eskimo first saw Peary's effort to get further north than the great ice-cap of Greenland beyond which they themselves had no ambition to explore--they immediately thought that the reason for his trying to get further north was to get into communication with other tribes there. That idea would hardly have occurred to them if it were not for the fact that they had traditional or other evidence of people in the supposedly unpopulated north.
With such a weight of evidence all pointing one way it is very hard to resist the conclusion that in the Eskimo we find a type, changed now and mixed with other types, but still something of a type of human being that has inhabited or very likely still inhabits the interior of the earth. We can certainly find no origin for them that explains their present situation. And their legends admit of no other explanation either. For those legends certainly point to the same sort of land as every chapter in this book has pointed to--a land of perpetual sun and mild climate, a land corresponding to the "Ultima Thule" of ancient legend and that may sooner than the skeptic expects, be opened up once more to those who go properly equipped to seek it.