British explorer of the Antarctic.
Typewritten Manuscript Signed at the conclusion, five pages, quarto, undated .
Ernest Shackleton, a fervent admirer of Fridtjof Nansen and his work, writes a glowing review of the English translation of In Northern Mists by the Norwegian arctic explorer. Nansen had achieved by this time the status of the elder statesman of modern polar exploration. The work, translated by A. G. Chater, was published in two quarto volumes by Heinemann’s in 1911.
Ernest Shackleton begins his review by describing Nansen’s work as a “magnificent epitome and analysis of all our knowledge and records of the Northern corners of the earth from the earliest times of history. Dr. Nansen has taken infinite pains to solve the bewildering problems of his subject, to find where old writers copied each other, where they simply embroidered an ancient theme, where perhaps a few invaluable additions to precious knowledge might be discovered in a mass of myth and legend. His great personal achievement, his vast knowledge and long experience combine to make him the ideal man to carry out the task he set himself, and give the narrative the fullest authority.
“Dr. Nansen’s expositions and discussions upon the tangled ideas of the ancients and the early middle ages are interesting, but it is not until we come to the voyages of the Scandinavians that we find much solid, dependable fact to go upon. According to Dr. Nansen it was the Norwegians that first ‘ steered straight across the Atlantic itself, and thereby discovered America.’ This discovery of Greenland and of America-the most interesting part of the book-is described and examined exhaustively. He gives an admirable analysis of the saga of Eric the Red describing the voyaging that brought the ship to Wineland the Good. He declares that certain Norsemen actually discovered, and landed on the mainland of America, somewhere about the end of the tenth century. Among the interesting things embodied in the analysis of this saga must be noted the very great importance of Ireland and Irish ideas in this affair. Dr. Nansen continues his history down through the time of the decay of the Greenland Settlements when we see how strong was [the Norsemen’s] hold upon the north of Europe, and how their influence touched the South and East through the Russian trade route.
“So vast is the subject that he only brings it down to the voyages of John Cabot and the Portuguese Corte-Real. It is to be hoped that he will not fail to continue the magnificent work so well begun. A book from Dr. Nansen recounting the tale of Arctic exploration since the sixteenth century would be the last word. To write such a book, three things were essential: knowledge, experience, and keen critical judgment. All these Dr. Nansen possesses in the highest measure, and besides these he has the priceless gift of vision, of imagination.
“This is a wonderful story, the story of adventurous Greek and Phoenician[s] turning into unknown terrifying seas, finding of the hardy Norsemen and the holy-minded Irish priests finding their way from island to island across the drear[y] and forbidding ocean, settling in bleakest places, indomitable, enduring, resolute to take their needs in spite of every adverse condition. Whatever there may be of controversial in his conclusions may safely be left to his fellow students, they and all of us can only be supremely grateful for the best book of its kind that has ever been produced.
“You must read this story slowly; you must have an atlas at your elbow while you read, for there is no modern map that can be referred to. That is the only hint of a fault that I can find. There is a complete index, and a bibliography that is in itself an admirable possession. A word of praise must go to the translator: the book reads as though it had been originally written in his English, and Dr. Nansen’s style is excellently reproduced; simple, lucid, eloquent and dignified.”
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