ARCTIC PASTURES, POLAR SEAS, AND POLAR ICE CAPS 355. The Arctic tundra.—The land north of the Great Northern Forests is a treeless plain called the tundra. (Fig. 14.) It has less snow fall each year than has New York or Michi gan. The air is so cold that it does not hold enough moisture to make deep snow. In a few weeks the summer sun melts the snow from all the land of Arctic America, except the ice of Greenland and a few mountain tops. This happens because for weeks and even months the sun shines at midnight as well as at mid-day beyond the Arctic Circle. This continuous heat melts the snow and warms the land so that moss, flowers, and grass grow rapidly, and the land is soon bright with flowers. Even blue-grass, like that in Kentucky (Sec. 83), grows at Etah, Greenland, a thousand miles beyond the Arctic Circle. Two or three feet below its flower-decked surface the tundra earth is still frozen. This underground ice, melting a little, keeps the top moist, so there is never any drought. This condition is true of all those parts of America north of the limit of trees and not covered by the ice cap. Name some of these lands. (Figs. 14, 94.) What governments rule them? 356. The animals and waterfowl.—In sum mer the tundra buzzes with the sound of millions of mosquitoes, and is noisy with the cries and calls of ducks, geese, swans, loons, and other waterfowl that go there to eat mosquitoes and grass, and to rear their young. In winter when the ground is frozen hard and covered with snow the water fowl have migrated to the southland, some going as far as Argentina. The tundra is the permanent home of the caribou, or wild reindeer. In summer he finds pasture and in winter he gets food by digging away the snow to eat the grass and moss that lie beneath it. His enemy is the wolf pack. The wolves in this region live almost entirely on reindeer.
357. The Eskimo and his future.—The Eskimo hunts along the seashore and on the tundra, living in his tent in summer and in his snow house in winter; but a new era is dawning for the Eskimo. He is becoming
a reindeer farmer.
White men have always thought that the tundra was useless, but the explorer Stefans son and other men are now sure that it is to become a land of reindeer ranches, which will furnish much venison (reindeer meat) to the people who live far away to the southward. The reindeer industry is already succeeding on the Alaska tundra. This is lucky for the Alaska Eskimos. who were about to starve because the white men were killing so much of the game on which they had lived.
Mr. Sheldon Jackson, an American super intendent of schools for the natives of Alaska, persuaded the United States Govern ment to buy some tame reindeer from Lap land and Siberia, and to hire Siberian rein deer herders to come with the animals to teach the Alaskan natives how to take care of reindeer. The Alaskans have learned. The flocks have increased. In 1892 there were 1200 reindeer. In 1921 there were over 200,000, even after the natives had eaten 100,000. The Eskimos would rather follow flocks of reindeer than hunt wild animals for a living. They are proud of their new flocks, which furnish them with food and clothes and something to sell, and which also serve them as beasts of burden.
The American superintendent of schools in Alaska travels each year with reindeer teams more than a thousand miles, inspecting schools. He says reindeer are better than dogs as sledge animals. (Fig. 286.) The Canadian Government has recently given large grants of land to companies that will raise reindeer, and in a short time there may be millions of those very useful animals.
358. A land of ice.—People used to think that all of northern North America was covered the whole year with snow and ice. This is true only of a part of Greenland. All of Greenland except the southwestern and southeastern coasts is cov ered with solid ice, hun dreds and thousands of feet thick, and having new fallen snow on top of it.