Tuesday, July 26, 2016

In the Eye of the Beholder

Land of Desolation - coverYou see what you are looking for. Last week we wrote about William Bradford's Arctic Regions. On the same trip Bradford enjoyed on board the Panther was the experienced arctic explorer Isaac Hayes (no, not South Park's "Chef," an earlier Isaac Hayes) who also wrote a book about the trip. Bradford saw beauty and his text oozes with awe and wonder, but Hayes appears to have seen something very different in his popular account of the north aptly titled, Land of Desolation.

Having been north several times, Hayes found the journey "devoted to the study of the picturesque" a novelty, and he particularly enjoyed the lack of responsibility:
There can be no more comfortable situation on board a ship than that of a passenger. You are not expected to know any thing. You are content to trust to the captain, who is presumed to be quite competent to look to the safety of his ship, and therefore to your own.
Hayes had led his own expedition, and he was certainly content to let someone else run this one and spend his time in observation.

Land of Desolation - Glacier of Sermitsialik
The contrast suggested by the title is pretty stark until you dive into the text. Then you realize that Hayes had a deep appreciation for Northern waters and peoples:
The morning came fresh and sparkling as the eyes of our fair oarswomen, who, singing to the music of their splashing oars, came stealing over the still waters, bearing the good pastor in his arctic gondola, while we were yet at breakfast.
 To read more about what he saw, ask for Stef G742.H41.

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