Vaughan discusses and provides information on the quest for Cape York meteorites in the late 1800s, scientific interest in the local Eskimos – the Inuhuit, as they call themselves – and Peary’s expeditions across the Inland Ice sheet.
Cultural histories usually give only cursory attention to the environment, but Vaughan integrates the people and their habitat as inextricably as they are linked in nature. Early explorers found in Avanersuaq a strange mixture of ice, desert and rock, with surprising pockets of vegetation, and wildlife that ranged from the narwhal and polar bear to the small dovekie, or little auk. The Inuhuit, they found, used their scarce resources wisely, with a lifestyle that centered on nomadic hunting.
Vaughan takes a careful look at the changes exploration and settlement brought to Avanersuaq and its people, from the prehistoric, subsistence lifestyle of the Inuhuit, to the Danish colonization of northern Greenland in the twentieth century. The construction of Thule Air Base in the 1950s is also given prominent attention. Indeed, Americans bulk large in these pages, which describe the expeditions of Elisha Kent Kane, Isaac Hayes, and Charles F. Hall, as well as Peary’s.