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He described the amber island of Abalus, now thought to have been Heliogoland, whose inhabitants traded amber with the Teutones of Jutland.Pytheas seems also to have sailed far north up the western coast of Norway, to a land called Thule, six day's sail north of Britain.

Moreover, returning to the accounts provided by Pytheas, when the latter speaks of berries in the same arctic context (Magnusson 1976:9) this too I can relate to a fiord on the east coast of Baffin Island and can vouch that a form of edible "blueberry" does indeed exist in this forbidding and unexpected northern location.

Thus all things considered I would tend to place more credence than most on what Pytheas reported concerning the north - passage of time, ambiguities and third-hand accounts notwithstanding.

And then, and only then, might one begin to appreciate the North, and know what is left unstated in such things as the entry in the log of a 1940's RCMP Dog Sled Patrol that simply reads: "Ran ahead to encourage dogs". During my time along the Northwest Passage I was required to make daily synoptic weather observations at many of the locations mentioned above on a year-round basis, and at times, e.g., on the southern shores of Victoria Island, also required to furnish daily ice reports during the summer months.

And it is here, I suggest, that the old adage "there is no substitute for experience" becomes applicable.

Much dotty ingenuity has been devoted to explaining this weird statement.

A common suggestion is that sea lung means jelly fish, but that does not help to explain the environmental conditions that Pytheas was trying to indicate.After that it is a relief to turn back to the critical Polybius, whose reaction to Pytheas' word picture can be imagined. Still, we cannot tell whether Polybius quoted Pytheas with perfect accuracy in the first place, and while future attempts to account for the sea lung' will be enthusiastically welcomed by students of the curious it probably must remain, like other details of Pytheas' voyage, an insoluble puzzle.(David Mountfield, A HISTORY OF POLAR EXPLORATION, Dial Press, New York 1974)Not a word of his original narrative of this epic voyage, On the Ocean, survives .It was a rainy, sunless place, where the inhabitants lived by agriculture.They grew millet, which they threshed in covered barns, and supplemented their diet with herbs, roots and berries.For example, after reading Pytheas' description of a phenomenon called "sea-lung" discussed by in the context of legendary Thule: There remains one further matter concerning Thule that was related by Pytheas: the curious phenomenon he called the 'sea lung'.As Polybius quoted him, he said there is neither sea nor air, but a mixture like sea lung, in which earth and air are suspended; the sea lung binds everything together.(Markus Magnusson: VIKING: Hammer of the North, Orbis, London, 19, emphases supplied)I would suggest with some confidence that this was "Storis Ice" - a strange, barely fluid form of ice and seawater that occurs just before the ocean freezes over and winter sets in for the duration.I observed this strange phenomenon just once during my northern sojourns - again north of the Arctic Circle on the southern coast of Victoria Island, but once seen it is never to be forgotten.It was neither water, air nor ice, but a mysterious substance which the explorers named 'the lung of the sea'.One day's sailing further to the north, the water was solid ice.


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