This is another one of my "AH-Lite" worlds (or as David
put it, a "semi-permeable membrane" AH). Basically, I was reading
a book on the history of Arctic explorations one day and came across this
bit of information on Perry's 1906 expedition:
In June, at the end of the expedition, Perry was on Cape
Thomas Hubbard - the north most point on Axel Heiberg Land - when he spotted
about one-hundred and twenty miles to the northwest what he thought was
another large island. Nothing too unusual in that: Arctic explorers had
been finding new islands in the waters north of Canada for the last several
Since this expedition was another flop as far as reaching
the North Pole went, he named the island after one of his biggest sponsors, George
Crocker, in what was probably a thinly disguised effort to insure he'd
For no clearly defined reason I can discover, the public
took to this new island and all sorts of weird theories started being spun
about it. One of the more interesting was the proposal that this island
was heated by volcanic activity and thus would have plants and animals
and all sorts of weirdness, an "Arctic Atlantis," so to speak.
Well, I couldn't let that one pass up.
Unfortunately, Perry's "Crocker Land" proved to be but a phantom. Whether
he'd seen clouds on the horizon, or an arctic mirage, or whether he just
made the whole thing up out of a need for next years' funding, no one knows.
But when the American History Museum expedition in 1913 got to the place
where it was supposed to be they found nothing but pack-ice. They went
a little farther - still nothing but ice.
So, like Freitag did with Kasyada, I shoehorned in another
chunk of land on the globe. Mine's a bit smaller (about 200 x 75 miles)
and sufficiently out of the way that it could have existed without stretching
the probability of history proceeding as it did too much, but this is still very much AH-Lite.
Freitag did his land as a semi-utopic social experiment,
more than anything else. Me, I had no such noble notions. What I wanted
was an island that Burroughs would feel right at home writing about: Lost
tribes, extinct animals, ancient civilizations, vast volcanic caverns,
the works. But I wanted it also to be as realistic as possible, so that
people who had more than a fourth grade education in physics, geology and/or
biology wouldn't run screaming from the room.
My initial plan was to do a fake "history of" book on
Crocker Land, but that pretty quickly bogged down. Since then, I've played
with it occasionally, but only lately have come back to it in any serious
way and that was because I got Bryce 3D and was able to start making all
these cool graphics of the island.
What I'm going to show you at the moment is a few clips
from the bogged-down book, a bit of wild description of life on the island,
and some of those aforementioned "cool graphics."
(the following is the "Table of Contents" for the book.
In a lot of ways, it give a good feel of what I was trying to accomplish
in spite of the fact that I never did more than a tiny fraction of the
stuff under those headings)
Table of Contents
FIRST STEPS: 1913 - 1929
Chapter 1 - The First Expedition
THE GOLDEN AGE: 1930 - 1939
Chapter 2 - The Cross Disaster
Chapter 3 - The 2nd American Museum of Natural History
Chapter 4 - The Royal Navy Arrives
Chapter 5 - The Royal Navy Returns
THE WAR YEARS: 1940 - 1949
Chapter 6 - Amelia's Flight
Chapter 7 - "To The Center of the Earth!"
Chapter 8 - The Chart-Makers
Chapter 9 - The Japanese "Invasion"
THE DAWN OF SCIENCE: 1950 - 1959
Chapter 10 - "Send in the Marines!"
Chapter 11 - Earhart Field, and other Comedies
Chapter 12 - Eruption!
Chapter 13 - Ross Station
MODERN TIMES: 1960 - 1975
Chapter 14 - "Have you considered asking them?"
Chapter 15 - "DEW" not Pass Go
Chapter 16 - The International Geophysical Year
Chapter 17 - "Why would you want that?"
AND FOR THE FUTURE?
Chapter 18 - "Alvin" and the Crocker Trench
Chapter 19 - "The City of the Dead"
Chapter 20 - "CLARI" - Crocker Land Arctic Research Institute
Chapter 21 - ?
Appendix A - The Geography
Appendix B - Flora & Fauna
Appendix C - The People
Appendix D - The Explorations
Some notes on above. The "First Steps" section was meant
to be, obviously, a history of the early expeditions, complete with the
obligatory Arctic Disaster (The "Cross" expedition). The "Royal Navy Arrives"
chapter was to detail an expedition by an RN destroyer up a lead to the
island (during an unusually warm summer) where it would get trapped in
Crown Bay for two years (leading into the next section).
The "Golden Age" section covered the later expeditions.
Amelia Earhart's flight to the island, the almost comical "San Francisco
Hollow World Expedition," which would have been a small group of ill-prepared
loonies, convinced that the route into the hollow interior of the Earth
was to be found on Crocker Land, and finally some actual scientific study
of the island and its first decent mapping.
The "War Years" would have the Japanese sending a small
"invasion" force to the island (all fourteen of them) - mostly to see what
the U.S. and British scientific expeditions there were doing - and the
U.S.'s massively panicked overreaction, resulting in the creation of a
military base and airfield on the island. This base would then be mostly
covered when Mount Fitzhugh erupted in 1948.
In the 50's science starts to make a comeback on the island.
The establishment of a permanent research base - Ross Station - and anthropologists
finally make their appearance to talk to the natives, rather than speculating
from five-thousand miles away at what they thought they believed/did (thus
the sarcastic quote for the chapter heading: "Have you considered asking
them?"). The military would be back as well as I have part of the "DEW
Line" being built on the island (it would actually be perfect for that,
but I digress).
In the 60's & 70's (the book would supposedly be "published"
in 1975 - primarily because even when I was just doing the TOC, I kinda
ran out of things I wanted to write about before I hit the 80's) we see
explorations of the seas around the islands, the discovery (when a glacier
retreats) of an ancient city that seems to have nothing to do with the
Inuit tribes on the island, and the discovery of oil on the island - which
changes the civilized world's views towards this far away land (thus the
final section "And for the Future?" with a question mark).
The appendixes, I think, are self-explanatory...
(this next little bit of fun is from the very first chapter.
It's on the American History Museum's expedition to Crocker Land. OTL,
they found diddly - it's a little different here...)
Chapter 1 - The First Expedition
The American Natural History Museum Expedition of 1913-17
was the first set out with the express purpose of reaching Crocker Land.
After setting out from [fill in details from book - adjust dates below
Finally, just after the middle of May, they neared Crocker
Land itself. The following is from Donald B. MacMillan's journal. After
all these years, certain sections of this journal are no longer completely
legible and the text in square brackets is the educated guesses we've made
as to what was originally written.
April 21st - At noon took sighting, we are at nno
north, nno west. After setting camp for the evening, I managed
to sight Crocker Land from the top of a pressure ridge...Estimate another
30 miles or more to the foothills...A [clearing of] the fog surrounding
the land allowed us to sketch details of the mountains before night set
in, but the shoreline remained obscured by the heavy fog the whole time.
We remain in high spirits. I estimate two more days until we reach land.
April 22nd - Another clearing of the fog gave us a glimpse
of the land. We have discerned what appears to be a vast forest stretching
along the south-facing slopes of the mountains ahead of us for as far as
we can see. It may stretch the whole length of the southern coastline It
neither grows too high up the mountains, nor too low, seemingly bound within
a elevation of 200 to 2000 feet. I suspect the lower boundary to be the
limit at which there is sufficient yearly sunlight, and the upper to be
a temperature limit.
Crocker Land's Boreal Forest does indeed run the whole
southern coast, and the altitude limits MacMillan estimated are very close
to the actual ones - as are his reasons for those limits. The Boreal Forest
may indeed be the single most unusual biom on the entire planet.
April 23rd - This morning soon after setting out the dogs
began to howl and a long lead opened up in from of us. We moved back from
it to a high spot to try and see [a way around] the lead. From there we
could see that almost the entire remaining distance to land, which I estimate
at about 2 miles, was [composed] of many leads which joined into open sea
near the still fog hidden shore... After weighing the options, we [decided
to head north in] an attempt to circumvent the open water.
The Crocker lead nearly encircles Crocker Land during
the summertime - indeed, during very warm summers it has been possible
to sail into it from the Bearing Strait. Even during the winter large sections
of open water remain around the river stream mouths emptying into the sea.
April 28th - Still no way across the open water, but it
appears to be narrowing. Today a heavy sulfur [smell] drifted to us from
the land...My suspicions that it is volcanic heat which warms this place
May 4th - We lost a team of dogs and most of the equipment
on one of the sleds that they were pulling when an ice bridge collapsed
beneath them dropping them into the sea. [Erick was] able to salvage some
of the supplies from the water, but much of what was dragged ashore was
damaged or destroyed by sea water...Food supplies have been shortened,
and we must [begin the] trek back no later than June 15th now, instead
of the planned July 25th.
May 6th - Sun sighting [shows us at nno north,
nno] west. We have found a large glacier issuing from the mountains
of Crocker Land and spilling out to sea, filling the gap between the sea
ice and the shore...If we can find a way through the pressure ridges, we
have our bridge to Crocker Land!
MacMillan's expedition was very fortunate. Perry's Glacier
was at the time experiencing a surge which enabled it to bridge the full
width of the Crocker lead. By the next season, it had pulled back, leaving
a morass of icebergs where the expedition's bridge had been. Only five
times in the last 70 years has it been possible since to cross the glacier
into Crocker Land.
May 10th - We have camped on the northwest edge of the
glacier and the route to [shore] from here appears clear.
Tomorrow Crocker Land!
May 11th - [The Expedition] first stepped on the shores
of Crocker Land at nno north, nno. The mountains
here rise quickly from the gravel of the shore...Away from the glacier
[temperatures are] in the high 30's to low 40's at mid-day...fog [swirls]
around us constantly due to the warmth...[with]out snow, the sleds would
be useless except for the [wheels we have] brought...We have set up a base
camp alongside a stream. It issues from a steep cañon which provides
[shelter for our] campsite. The water is palatable, but tastes faintly
of sulfur like many hot [springs]...We treked 5 miles along the coast and
have seen that the mountains become less steep and I feel they open up
into a plain within 50 miles. We have chosen this way as to be our route
into the heart of Crocker Land.
May 12th - We were [awakened last] night by the barking
of the dogs and a roaring such as I have not heard before. We found our
dogs to be in battle with a large white feline, not unlike a tiger in appearance,
but smaller and stockier. Shots from our weapons frightened the beast off
but we did not hit it. [We lost] two dogs...made our way along the shore
from base camp. A second camp was set up at the 25 mile mark. Grasses have
begun to appear along the shore on those areas not shaded by the mountains
May 14th - We have reached the plains...[found] huge herds
of caribou and musk-ox grazing on the tall grass...Many strange variations
of normal northern plants exist on this plain and on one lone mountain
we observed a large grove of trees at about the 1500 foot mark of its southern
face. I have noted species from both Canada and Siberia here which suggests
that Crocker Land may have once been a part [of the land] bridge between
the two. [Erick] spotted another
group of large brown animals about 5 miles away with the telescope, but
he was unable to identify them. We plan to investigate tomorrow.
MacMillan's idea that Crocker Land had been part of the
Bering land bridge found much favor with the scientists of the time. It
wasn't until the late 1940's that geologists proved that it had always
been an island and the land bridge theory faded (though Velikovski tried
to revive it in the late '60s)...
And that's where I left it off (note: I never have worked
out the exact degrees latitude/longitude, so that's why they are in "nn"
format here. Maybe now that I've done the maps more accurately I'll get
to it). There are lots of bits in [ ] marks. These were meant to suggest
that the original expedition diary was in poor-ish shape, and the writers
were putting in their own guesses of what was written there.
The island was meant to be surrounded by "Crocker Lead"
- a strip of open water kept that way by the volcanic heat of the island.
The problems of crossing this lead were to figure heavily in the "Cross
Disaster" chapter. Occasionally, this lead would open up further, and connect
with others from the Bering Strait - thus allowing the Royal Navy expedition.
This would be rare, however, and no one would risk it until the Wood's
Hole expedition in the mid-60's when they brought in the submersible "Alvin"
to explore the trench on the north side of the island.
Crocker Land was meant to have some surviving Ice Age
mammals - dwarf-mammoths, a distant (and much smaller) relation of the
cave lion, and perhaps even a wooly rhino or two.
As you'll see on the "Vegetation Map" that follows, nearly
half of the island is barren and/or glaciated and most of the rest is tundra/grassland
mixed. There's also a special biome I came up with, the "Boreal Forest,"
which basically is a taiga-like forest that survives only because it is
high enough on the south-facing slopes to get enough sunlight during the
summer (Crocker Land is high above the Arctic Circle, after all).
The island is peopled by an offshoot of the Inuit. There
culture would be pretty much similar to their continental brethren, but
they would be more settled and would have some weird beliefs about the
vast network of volcanic caverns on the island (some would go down quite
deep). These beliefs would be the fuel for the "San Francisco Expedition"
but I want it stated quite clearly now, I had no intention of any actually
hollow Earth/Journey to the Center of the Earth style realities. Basically,
I wanted them to be the "comedy relief" of the book.
There are also remains of another, earlier people that
- amongst other things - built the "City of the Dead" discover in 1968.
I never had a clear idea, really of who these people were supposed to be.
But, darn it, I wanted a lost civilization.
Some test oil drilling would be done over those last couple
of decades covered in the book, but as of 1975, while the oil crisis had
brought interest in Crocker Land reserves to a fever pitch, no one had
yet worked out the tiny problem of transport in any fashion an oil company
would be willing to finance. While the book obviously wouldn't cover it,
I suspect Crocker Land oil would still be there "now" because this really
is a pretty insurmountable problem.
Following is three maps and a "picture" I did with Bryce
3D and two maps I did with Corel Photopaint of the island.
The Geothermal map shows that the island has five active
and nine dormant volcanoes, and pretty much sits on top of an enormous
Yellowstone-like geothermal hot spot (which ought - on further reflection - make it be sitting in an enormous "Super Volcano" caldera...but no one's thought of such things in 1975, so I'm safe not mentioning it in the "book"). This is what keeps the place as ice-free
as it is, and it is pretty much littered with hot springs, geysers, and
other Yellowstone-like thermal activity.
The "MacMillan Plains" are where the vast majority of
the Inuit live - and also where the vast majority of the ice-age mammals
live. The tribes there have a strange ("strange" in that it's necessary
but you wouldn't expect it to exist) taboo against hunting these larger
land herbivores, which is why they still exist. Whales, though, they're
perfectly happy to hunt, and the place is a major whale destination point.