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FARTHEST NORTH BY MOTOR-CAR
A JOURNEY ON WHEELS BEYOND THE ARCTIC CIRCLE
BY HOWARD S. HAMILTON
S befitting true pioneers, we had only a vague idea as to how we were to accomplish our object of making a record in motoring toward the Farthest North. Our program was to go to Stockholm by way of Denmark, and then to skirt the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, and, having penetrated Lapland as far north as possible, to return south through Finland. We had arranged for a guide familiar with the tongues of the people we should encounter; the rest was to be very much a matter of good fortune.
Our easy passage through the Swedish customs tended to encourage this irresponsibility. The entrance duty amounted to fifteen per cent. on the value of the car,about $650,-a deposit to be returned to us on leaving the country. In addition, there was a charge of twenty-six kroner (seven dollars), of which ten kroner covered the official examination of the car, which we were amused to find consisted of a perfunctory inquiry as to the number of brakes we had and whether the car was safe on the road. After its four years of good and faithful service in out-of-theway parts of Europe, we were able to give our car a clean bill of health. The other sixteen kroner were for the license proper and two number-plates-red letters on a white background.
We must have tempted the fates sorely from the very first. At the Stockholm Automobile Club, people looked askance at us, and shook their heads dubiously when they saw the big, high-powered car of long wheel-base with which we intended to penetrate the North, and which had to carry a dead weight of more than two tons along roads that were not of the best and over bridges and ferries that were not likely to prove equal to the task. At
first the news dismayed us, but our courage straggled back when we discovered that there would be roads awaiting us miles beyond the 67th parallel of latitude. We learned, too, that the best objective point into Lapland was the mining settlement of Malmberget, a few kilometers north of Gellivare. Thus we constructed an itinerary, and on a favorable day in June, 1910, much refreshed in spirit, we two and our polyglot guide set out from Stockholm on our novel trip.
Happily our confidence had not been misplaced so far as the roads were concerned, because, as the sequel showed, we had good, hard, and comparatively level surfaces nearly all the way. Of course there were exceptions. The first stretch of the journey, for instance, between the capital and Upsala, and thence to Gefle, was none too good. The roadway was small, flat, and very dusty, the deep ruts giving us no end of steering trouble, as the narrow tread of the country carts permitted us to keep only one wheel in the worn groove, while the other labored through the loose sand.
We arrived in Gefle on the occasion of the great midsummer holiday of the 21st of June, encountering the usual holiday. concomitant, the maximum of inconvenience to the stranger. As the town was enjoying a three-days festival, it was extremely difficult to procure gasolene. After rummaging about, we finally found an obliging paint-shopkeeper who provided a supply put up in twenty-liter cans, at fifty cents a gallon. Thus fortified, we started northward along the coast.
The coast was a blessing to us. In sight of the sea, we managed to keep reasonably cool, but the moment we headed inland and lost the fan of the sea-breeze
small wooden sign or a stone bearing his name in plain letters, so that he may be easily reported in case of dereliction. But it was evident to us that few reports, if any, are ever sent in. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of Swedish roads is that they are "wavy," a condition we found very disagreeable, owing to the bouncing motion given to the tonneau, which was certainly an imposition upon the springs.
As we fared into the Northland there was a noticeable difference in the length of the days. In Sundsvall, which we reached in one day from Gefle, it was still dusk at midnight, although the sun had
precautionary measures of the trip had not really begun there. Knowing that the success of most expeditions depends as much upon careful preparation as upon moral "sand," we had given directions in Stockholm to have an extra supply of shoes and inner tubes shipped northward, and these we eventually picked up at Lulea, which we made in four days from Sundsvall, after many an adventure and mishap. It is difficult to be much of a stoic when a new spring-hanger does not fit and threatens a mechanical collapse; and we confess to a bad quarter of an hour when we caught sight of the pocket edition of the