An official account of the famine prevailing in Northern Sweden states that some 70,000 people are in distress, the trouble extending from the 61st to the 67th degree north latitude, and from the Gulf of Bothnia and the Russian border far into the interior.
It is probable that quite 25,000,000 kroner (£1,113,363) will be necessary to save the population from grievous reduction by starvation. About 800,000 kroner has thus far been subscribed, one-twentieth of which came from the Swedish citizens of the United States. The 25,000,000 kroner mentioned does not include the amount necessary to keep the cattle through the winter, nor to provide seed-grain to sow in the spring.
Both these points are vastly important, because the perishing of the northern breed of cattle and the disappearance of the seed-grain suited to the latitudes involved would be a calamity fraught with the gravest consequences for the future.
It is a well-known fact that southern cattle cannot live nor southern seed produce even the poorest crops in the far north. The cattle now in the famine districts are small hornless beasts inured to the Arctic winter, and the peasants are making pathetic sacrifices to avert the extermination of the breed.
Disease is certain to grow out of the present conditions unless relief be rapidly supplied, for the people are eating the innermost bark of the Norwegian pine and other material unfit for food. The sap-bark of the birch was formerly used for making famine bread, but this year it is unsuitable, and hence the resort to pine, from which it is impossible fully to extract the turpentine.
The pine is dried, ground to powder, and mixed with stewed Iceland moss. Ordinarily good fodder has been obtainable by mixing reindeer moss with aspen bark, but in many places neither of these is available, and the sufferers are substituting finely chopped twigs of birch, willow, and mountain ash. This mixture is boiled and fed to the cattle warm.
Unhappily, the milk from cows so fed makes bad butter and cheese, and predisposes consumers to typhoid fever.
Among the other strange afflictions of the north is an extreme scarcity of fish in the numerous rivers, and lakes of the tableland. These waters are usually filled to overflowing with excellent food of this land, but at present the fisher-folk return to their homes from fishing expeditions almost without reward. Even the ptarmigan, hitherto found in enormous quantities in the stricken region, seems almost completely to have disappeared.
Plans are in contemplation for increasing the effort of the nation to abate the distress. Sixteen hundred car loads represents the total of provisions and fodder shipped north to January last, the whole valued at about 400,000 kroner.