arctic

Essays

Darwin's Polar Bear

Darwin's Polar Bear

Musings upon the whys and wherefores of polar bears, particularly in relation to their forest-dwelling cousins, played an important but often overlooked role in the development of evolutionary theory. Michael Engelhard explores. more

The Myth of Blubber Town, an Arctic Metropolis

The Myth of Blubber Town, an Arctic Metropolis

Though the 17th-century whaling station of Smeerenburg was in reality, at its height, just a few dwellings and structures for processing blubber, over the decades and centuries a more extravagant picture took hold — that there once had stood, defying its far-flung Arctic location, a bustling urban centre complete with bakeries, churches, gambling dens, and brothels. Matthew H. Birkhold explores the legend. more

The Orkney Finnmen Legends: From Early Modern Science to Modern Myth

The Orkney Finnmen Legends: From Early Modern Science to Modern Myth

At the end of the 17th century there appeared the first noting of a mysterious kayak-paddling “Finnman” seen in Orkney waters. Jonathan Westaway explores the subsequent explanations and how early modern science's fascination with unfamiliar objects, and the “out-of-place” in general, helped conjure the idea of an Inuit presence in the region and, in turn, a new chapter of Scottish folklore. more