This is, if possible, even mare stupendous in grandeur than the fjords farther south, for a good deal of the way the sheer cliffs rise like this, almost perpendicular to the water, and tower overhead three-quarters of a mile, straight above the steamer’s deck. Not even Norwegian thrift can wring a living out of the land in many spots along this fjord. The patches of green moss or grass or stunted shrubs that do live here and there in sunny crevices are not enough to warrant attempts at human habitation, though a sail of only an hour or two would bring us to a little harbor where there is a tiny hamlet with a church.
Great numbers of sea-fowl of various species haunt these waters. A considerable amount of the costly eiderdown of commerce comes from coast islands and promontories in this vicinity, and is an important source of revenue for the few inhabitants of the region. It is gathered during the mating season, when the eider-ducks, both female and male, strip the delicate stuff from their own breasts to line the nest for their young. If the down is removed from the nest the birds almost always manage to provide a second lining. A single nest sometimes yields to a daring cliff-climber a quarter-pound of down. It takes four pounds of the crude material to give one pound of absolutely perfect fluffy down, but the latter is worth ten dollars a pound, so there is great financial temptation to keep men and boys at the dangerous trade of gathering it, for the decoration of fair ladies’ opera cloaks in far-away Berlin and Vienna and Paris.
On once more towards the northeast our own route continues, as outlined on Map 1, until it reaches, in a little less than 71° of latitude, the northernmost town in all the world. The place is marked 98.