Friday 15 November 2013

5th Thule expedition:
'Nature is great; but are not men greater ?'

Knud Ramussen 's 5th 'Thule' arctic expedition (1921-1924) was the most ambitious of all, covering most of the territorial extension of the Northwest Passage on dog-pulled sleds.

As he reaches the end of the expedition report in his book Across Arctic America, Knud Rasmussen takes with him his companions of adventure, Anarulunguaq and Miteq, to New York city. They both had lived their whole lives in a continent of ice and sea, knowing only a two dimensional world where the only concern was to hunt the next meal, on land or in water, leading a slow pace of life as nothing more has to be done after eating, the immense world around a white carpet or the iced covered ocean.

Then, there, surprise, amazement and even panic...

'I stood on the roof of a skyscraper looking out over the stony desert of New York. (...) Anarulunguaq stood beside me.

"Ah", sighed Anarulunguaq, "and we used to think nature was the greatest and most wonderful of all ! Yet here we are among mountains and great gulfs and precipices, all made by the work of human hands.(...) Nature is great; but are not men greater ? Those tiny beings we can see down there far below, hurrying this way and that, they live among these stone walls; on a great plain of stones made with hands. Stone and stone and stone. There is no game to be seen anywhere, and yet they manage to live and find the daily food.
Have they then learned of the animals, since they can dig down under the earth like marmots, hang in the air like spiders, fly like the birds and dive under water like the fishes; seemingly masters of all we struggled against ourselves ?

I see things more than my mind can grasp; and the only way to save oneself from madness is to suppose that we have all died suddenly before we knew, and that this is part of another life.

Nature is great; but man is greater still."


Anonymous said...

Would be conjecturable if New York were not so ugly.

Mário R. Gonçalves said...

Sorry, I disagree. New York is a man-made wonder, I think.