The west shore. (Portland, Or.) 1875-1891, June 01, 1884, Page 175, Image 12

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IT is becoming quite the fashion to sneer at the North
Pole, or, more properly, to doubt the existence of
such a piece of geographical furniture, and speak disre
spectfully of the efforts made to reach it by enthusiastic
explorers and scientific "cranks." Even "Symmes'
Hole," now almost forgotten by the general public, comos
in for a share of the ridicule; though there are not a few
firm adherents to the theory of that thoughtful officer -and
it certainly is hard to disprove who hope some day
to visit that wonderful world in the interior of the earth,
when science has conquered the icy dragon which guards
the portaL For half a century the public mind of Euroie
and America has been kept constantly upon the rack,
because of some exploring expedition headed Poleward,
and the necessary half dozen secondary .expeditions dis
patched to the rescue of the first from the disasters which
almost invariably overtake them. Yet this long interest
in one geographical enigma, and the sustained effort to
solve it, are far from equaling similar interest and exer
tions made in the same general direction many years ago,
resulting from another practical application of theoretical
geography. The Bearch for the Northwest Passage ex
tended over nearly three centuries of time, and included
Borne of the most memorable expeditions the annals of
geographical exploration lear. To trace it through all
its shifting assets, and to detail in full each successive
step which added to the positive knowledge of geogra
phers, and iu consequence demolished all their old
theories and furnished a foundation upon which new and
equally erratic ones were erected, would require a bulky
volume. In this article it is proposed only to present
the leading and most interesting of its constantly varying
phoses, and to speak of those memorable voyages which
finally accomplished its solution, gave to us our first
knowledge of the great extent of the North American
Continent, unraveled the mystery of the Pacific Ocean,
and finally determined the exact relation it bears to the
Atlantic and the great sea of ice surrounding the goal of
more modern explorers.
The fifteenth century saw many revolutions in scien
tific ideas, but nothing so great ns the revelation made
near its close that there existed a vast continent of which
the great civilizations of centuries had been ignorant. In
1492 the Genoese navigator, Christopher Columbus, a
firm believer in the unpopular idea that the world was a
sphere, sailed westward to reach that land of fabulous
riches, the Indies, which every one knew lay to the east
ward, and landed upon a little island of the West Indies.
Little did he (bream that he had stumbled upon one of
the outlying pickets of a new continent, but supposed he
had simply encountered one of the little islands that were
known to abound in the waters washing the eastern coast
of the famed Indies. English, Spanish and Portuguese
navigators soon discovered the mainland of lxith North
and South America, which were for some time believed
to be entirely disconnected. The latter received the
name of America, in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, whose
claim to such an honor was. to say the leant. Ur from
meritorious; while the former was called Novus Mundus,
the New World, and was generally supped to be a
lortion of the continent of Asia. To bo sure, this would
make of Asia a continent of prodigious sizo, but at that
time the extromo Orient was as much a matter of goo
graphical speculation as was Central Africa a few years
ago. From the natives it was soon learned that a Vast
ocean lay beyond the continent then called America, and
as this was supposed to bo bounded on the north by thin
vast eastern projection of Asia, it was entered ujx)n the:
maps as the " Great South Sea " several years before the
reports of its existence were verified by actual observa
tion. In 1513 Balboa first gazed upon its broad expanse
from the heights of Panama, proving not only the fact of
its existence, but that America and Novus Mundus were
united by an isthmus. The result was that the hitter
title was dropied and the former extended to comprehend
the entire New World.
A new belief began now to take possession of the map
makers that America was a distinct continent and could
be circumvented, and the South Sen entered, by sailing
either to the north or south. Since it was the fabulous
wealth of Cathay and the Indies and tho treasures of the
magnificent Island of Cipango upon which the thoughts
of Eurojie were bent, n route by which this great ob
structing continent could be passed was sought for with
unremitting diligence. As early as 15(X) n Portuguese
named Gnspar Corterenl coasted along the shore of
Novus Mundus and entered Hudson's Itay through the
struitu of the same name. - I'p'm these he bestowed the
title of the "Straits of Anian," though for what reason, or
what is the significance of the name, is a mystery to the
present day. This ho retried to communicate directly
with the Indian Ocean, a (tody of water now known to lie
more than ten thousand miles to the southwest Even
with the scant geographical knowledge of those times the
idea whs scouted by educated men; yet nxm the maps of
the period such a passage was indicated in the latitude of
sixty degrees, leading indefinitely westward from tho
Atlantic, and variously named "Straits of Anian,"
"Straits of Labrador," or "Straits of (JortereaL" In
1519 a navigator named Magellan, a Portuguese, who had
several times visited the Indies by passing eastward
around the Cajm of Good Hope, sailed under the flag of
Spain to search for a southern passage into tho South
Sea. Three yours later one of his vessels returned,
having entered the Pacific through the Straits of Magel
lan, crossed it to the Indies, and readied homo by pass
ing around the southern extremity of Africa. This
voyage contributed more to geographical knowledge than
any other expedition beforo or since. It demonstrated
that America was a. distinct continent, separated from
Asia, on the south at least, by nn ocean of gigantic pro
portions; that the Indies could positively he reached by
sailing westward, and that the world was not only a
sphere, but there was a salt water highway by which
vessels could sail completely around it.
The prevailing opinion that there existed a Northwest