Lands That Hold One Spellbound: A Story of East Greenland

Lands That Hold One Spellbound: A Story of East Greenland

Lands That Hold One Spellbound: A Story of East Greenland

Lands That Hold One Spellbound: A Story of East Greenland

Synopsis

"Far north, hidden behind grim barriers of pack ice, are lands that hold one spellbound. Gigantic imaginary gates, with hinges set in the horizon, seem to guard these lands. Slowly the gates swing open, and one enters another world where men are insignificant amid the awesome immensity of lonely mountains, fjords, and glaciers." - Louise Boyd, photographer, 1935

Lands that Hold One Spellbound is an informal history of East Greenland. Spencer Apollonio has written the only known overview of the history of this region, summarizing indigenous settlements over four millennia, and describing European explorations from the Norse period to recent years. East Greenland, running from Kap Farvel in the south to Kap Morris Jesup in the north, is an immense land of great mountains and fjords, of glaciers and meadowlands, and contrasts of weather perhaps unique in the world. It has been colonized seven different times over 4,000 years by migrants from the west. Intrepid explorers returned year after year, attracted by this land which captivated and enthralled them. But its history has never before been told. Here, each of the European and American expeditions are recounted, relying extensively on the explorers' original accounts, as well as on the author's often highly evocative narration. Apollonio details the struggles of vessels to reach the coast through the ice pack, the longest Arctic sledge journeys, the peculiar story of World War II in East Greenland, and the impact of centuries of exploration and change on Greenland's indigenous populations.

Excerpt

I think of this as an informal history, simply a story, of East Greenland. It was while enjoying the book Arctic Riviera, a collection of magnificent photographs of Northeast Greenland by the Swiss photographer Ernst Hofer, that it occurred to me that the story of East Greenland ought to be compiled. Arctic Riviera is now fifty years old, but it is the most recent book of which I am aware that says anything about the nature of East Greenland. There are very few other, much older, books concerning the region, and there are no histories of that land. This is remarkable. Books about the polar regions are numerous, and many of the well-known stories are told and retold in new publications. There is a history of Northwest Greenland, but East Greenland, a much larger area, has been neglected, overlooked, ignored. A publisher told me that no one is interested in East Greenland. That may be true, but if so it may be because its story has never been told.

A reviewer of the manuscript was disappointed by my effort. He or she found it deficient in critical analysis and synthesis – a comprehensive summing up – of the diverse and rich scientific results (tens of thousands of pages, in fact) of the numerous explorations. Such a purpose would call for a particularly qualified person. My qualifications are modest. My only trip to the east coast of Greenland was one brief visit to Station Nord in 1953 when I hitchhiked, without authorization or any excuse at all, on a resupply flight by the U.S. Air Force. Such a journey does not qualify one to speak with authority concerning such a vast land, especially a journey to Nord, particularly flat and uninteresting, not at all like the rest of East Greenland. My qualification for this effort is no more than the recognition that its story ought to be told. My purpose is simply to put in one place the remarkable stories of remarkable people who carried out the task of revealing a vast region, not for conquest or exploitation but because of . . .

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