ARCTIC PASTURES 488. Another Tundra Region.—North of the evergreen forests, at the very top of the continent, is the treeless tundra. If you were dropped down upon it you could not tell whether you were in North Canada, North Alaska (Sec. 355), or North Russia. Here, on the wide plain that reaches from the Atlantic across Europe and Asia to Bering Strait, live the people who tamed the reindeer long ago, while our ancestors, who lived farther south, were taming the cow, the horse, the sheep, and the pig.
The reindeer is the animal best suited to be of use to men living in the tundra. It has wide, flat hoofs that enable it to walk on the wet earth or the snow crust without sinking in. Its hoofs are also long, and there fore good to dig under the snow of the Arctic blizzard to get grass and moss that serve as food. Having a skin covered with warm, thick hair, the reindeer is as much at home in the cold tundra as are sheep on the Scotch highlands, or cattle on the ranches of Texas.
489. Lapland.—The European tundra is a land where yellowish men live. No one knows when they first came there with their flocks from Asia. These tent-dwelling people live in tribes. Between the White Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, their country is known as Lapland. -The only property the Lapps have is a herd of reindeer and such things as can be carried by men aided by reindeer. The useful deer carry the Lapps on their backs in summer, drag their sleds across the snow in winter, furnish their owners with meat, milk, and cheese for food, and with skins for clothes and tents. Rein deer skin makes the warmest kind of leather gloves, so the skins are prized by people who live in regions where the winters are cold. Though Lapland is a part of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, the Lapps may be said to govern themselves, because when they move about with their flocks and herds they are far away from the seats of government.
You remember (Sec. 357) that when Mr.
Jackson wanted someone to teach the Eskimos in Alaska how to become reindeer farmers, he sent to Lapland for reindeer and for herders to teach their art.
490. Future.—For ages the tundra has had as many reindeer as its scanty pastures could feed and as many nomads as its rein deer could support. In the future this region will probably not change, unless minerals should be found. The results of finding minerals are shown by what is hap pening at Spitzbergen.
491. Spitzbergen, a group of Arctic islands larger in total area than West Virginia, and lying about 500 miles north of Norway, belongs in this region. Owing to the in fluence of the warm Atlantic currents the harbors on the south west are open to steamships from May to October, and only the northeastern parts are glacier covered.
Before the World War, tourist vessels visited Spitzbergen regularly, and men have often stayed to hunt walrus, seal, polar bear, and fox; but in those days no one ever really made his home there. The island was a no-man's land until it was given to Norway by the Peace Conference at Paris, in 1919.
There are large deposits of coal that may in time supply Norway's needs. When the Vikings discovered Spitzbergen in the twelfth century, they called it the "land of coal coasts". Norwegian and Swedish coal-miners now work there all the year. They use electric light in the mines and all through the months of winter darkness. Thus Spitzbergen may become a home for men during the long period while they are digging out the minerals which nature has placed there. It would seem strange to live in a land where for two months in summer there is no sunset and for two months in winter no sunrise, and where there are whole days of evening twilight and whole days of dawn.