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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.As for the actual journeys taken by Pytheas, short of recovering new material these will have to remain unknown.Nevertheless, as Map 1a above shows, few lengthy voyages are required to reach Greenland from Europe or the Mediterranean in any case.No doubt all outsiders are guilty of trespass, especially those who violate the domains of specialists, but as far the Northwest Passage and my own experiences are concerned, here I will claim - to some extent at least - to know whereof I speak.It was in fact my lot to spend almost two decades in the Canadian Arctic, firstly on the east and west coasts of Hudson Bay, on James Bay, and then at a variety of locations largely along the lower reaches of the Northwest Passage itself.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.
A recent historian of the Arctic supports Nansen's view, seeing in Pytheas' sea lung a word picture, perhaps, of the gentle and rhythmical undulation of the ice rising and falling with the movement of the sea, linked possibly with some suggestion of the exhalations of the sea-mist which so often hangs, cold and dank, above the ice edge in the Arctic'.
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.