SIR: It is barely possible, of course, that Explorer Nansen may have found his drift theory to be correct and may have actually reached his arctic goal -- the north pole. But, until something transpires to verify the rumor of his triumph, the story must be regarded as very doubtful. The question, "Is there any royal road to the pole?" may on Nansen's return to civilization still have to be answered in the negative. Those comparatively easy modes of solving the polar problem, drifting and ballooning, may never in practise (sic) prove so adequate as they appear to some to be in theory. It is most likely that the difficulties present in the arctic regions must be met and conquered in resolute, manful fashion.
The obstacles to be overcome in proceeding through the northernmost latitudes are, according to every explorer's report, simply tremendous, but that they are insuperable no one who has any faith in the energy and enterprise of mankind will for a moment admit. That the polar point will some day be attained by human beings is not to be doubted. Whether the gain to science from such a feat would be extraordinarily valuable or not, the adventurous spirit of man will not forever brook a bound to his complete exploration of the globe. Taking it for granted that daring travelers will continue to brave the rigors of arctic climes until the supreme object is gained, the best method of accomplishing the task becomes a matter for serious consideration.
It would seem that the chief drawback in all arctic expeditions heretofore has been their littleness and lack of resources. Too few persons have been engaged in them and their supplies have been too limited for the arduous work in hand. Sporadic attempts are apparently forever doomed to failure. If there were a general cooperation of scientific people in this matter, success would be certain, or if some individual of ample means should give carte blanche to the next band of explorers, the results would be equally satisfactory. What is wanted is an abundance of money and it may here be remarked that any wealthy person who will advance the sums required for the successful discovery of the pole will link his name prominently and inseparably (sic) with an achievement which will never be forgotten among men. With a well-filled treasury to draw on, the first and the most assuring step will have been taken, and the successive steps become a series of practical efforts put forth in a businesslike way.
As is well-known the highest latitude to which civilized human beings have advanced is 82 degrees, or thereabout. That point is only something over 400 miles from the pole. The distance remaining to be traversed would be little were it not for the terrible barriers of ice and snow which the king of eternal winter has reared about his domains. That chaos of hummocks and bergs cannot be passed over swiftly. It would probably require many months of laborious effort for even a properly equipped party to make its way over those rugged hindrances. It would, in fact, be necessary to construct a roadway for much or all of the distance mentioned, by the exercise of engineering skill and patient toil. The mere pickets of any expedition obviously cannot shelter and sustain themselves at an isolated spot long enough to enable them to push through to the wished-for destination. With the base of supplies remote the forlorn hope of many an exploration has suffered fearful hardships and privation, and the regaining of the main body barely alive has been often regarded as ground for devoutest thankfulness. To win victory in "The Arctic land of terrors," the outposts should be efficiently supported as well as provided with suitable equipments for continuing the forward march. The ground gained must be maintained and made the starting point of further progress. If the onward movement can only be kept up long enough, without retreat, the key of the situation is within human grasp.
Here is a rough outline of what seems to the writer to be the only sure plan of polar discovery. The scientific world, or some generous individual, is to contribute for the purpose in view, one million or more dollars. A strong capacious steam vessel is to be bought or built, and is to be freighted with whatever it appears needful for the expedition's uses. A large party of robust and hardy men is to be enlisted and placed under the command of a bold and yet prudent and intelligent leader. This vessel is to penetrate under as favoring conditions as may be secured, as far as possible into the arctic regions and to land the men on the shore of the best harbor accessible. A permanent land encampment is then to be established, made comfortable and thoroughly furnished and provisioned. The vessel may then return to the port whence she sailed, to come back the next season for news of the expedition and with additional supplies. The expeditionaries are to secure dogs and sledges in plenty and are to employ many Esquimaux helpers. A part of the vessel's cargo should consist of numerous strong wooden houses in sections, transportable on sledges to points beyond the main camp. These houses, which must be designed for warmth as well as solidity, are to be conveyed northward and erected at stated intervals until a line of stations affording shelter, subsistence and every needed utensil has been established all the way to the pole. It is hardly credible that any permanently open water would be encountered at those high latitudes, but the project might include the holding in reserve of a stout boat or two placed on runners and thus readily transferrable (sic) over ice and snow.
Each of the way-houses mentioned above would be a complete camp in itself, adapted to endure a long siege, and all the stations, would be connected by means of an extensive telegraph cable, so that every movement at each point and especially the extreme advance point, could be reported daily to the main station at the harbor. With a sufficient force of men and ample material for a campaign of this sort, there would practically be no retrogression from any forward move. Progress, however slow, would be steady and certain. The work of grading a roadway through the rough and gigantic masses of ice would undoubtedly be very difficult and it would often be retarded by the arctic storms. But perseverance would, in the end, be rewarded with success, and the undertaking might be completed in perhaps no longer a time than two to three years.
The cost of the scheme suggested would greatly exceed that of any single expedition of the past, but it would be a once-for-all affair, settling the whole matter and preventing much futile trouble and expense for all time thereafter. If it is worth while to engage in such an enterprise at all, right and feasible methods should be employed. There could be no failure of the "seize and hold" plan properly prosecuted, while the "rush and dash" tactics hitherto in vogue are wholly uncertain and the chances of their ever being successful are exceedingly small.