Writer Chris Epting uses the haiku format to express his polar experiences. I can understand why. Gushing to anyone who will listen – and those who do not want to – about Antarctica or the Arctic is a first response inevitability. But there comes a time, when a visitor to the polar regions searches for the essence of the emotion of the experience. That is the moment when less becomes more.
I have been writing about the polar regions for more than seven years. In a year when centenaries are the norm, seven years is insignificant. I expect I’ll be writing about the north and south polar regions for the rest of my life. I have yet to express my deepest feelings with the precision they demand.
My quest to uncover polar poetry has led to the following links:
I was flabbergasted to discover that Emily Dickinson wrote something with an arctic aspect. I should not have been. Dickinson lived during that period of Arctic history when the Royal Navy searched for Sir John Franklin and his lost expedition. That event permeated English society like the aroma of roses on a summer’s evening.
If you want a sneak peek at Chris Epting’s polar haiku, you’ll have to join Facebook. You’ll have to scroll some, but you’ll find bite size pieces of his heart’s polar song.
Petty Officer Edgar Evans, RN
Welshman, Edgar Evans, joined the Royal Navy at 15. Eight years later he met Robert Falcon Scott aboard HMS Majestic. Although Scott was his superior officer, the pair developed a bond that saw Evans join Scott’s first expedition to Antarctica, and his final, fatal journey to the South Pole.
Edgar was one of the four men, Scott chose to accompany him on the last leg to the South Pole. Edgar injured his hand just prior to reaching the Pole, an injury that failed to heal, contributing to Edgar’s physical and mental decline.
His condition was exacerbated by a concussion received when he fell into a crevasse, as the party negotiated the Beardmore glacier on the return journey from the Pole. Too ill to continue, his four companions left him behind in an attempt to reach a supply depot as quickly as possible. Once their goal was reached, they returned for Edgar, emptying a sledge for the rescue. He died at the supply depot on the night of February 17, 1912. The first of the Scott’s five-man team to perish.
For all my dislike of the mythical hero that is Scott of the Antarctic, I cannot deny that Robert Falcon Scott was capable of engendering great loyalty in the men with whom he served. My opinion of the man is tempered by the respect in which he was held by those who knew him best.
May Wilson, Oates, Evans, Bowers and Scott forever rest in peace, on that harsh, unforgiving continent at the bottom of the world.
Yorkshireman John Robert Francis Wild CBE, RNVR, FRGS was one of only two men to earn the Polar Medal with 4 bars. He was a member of five Antarctic expeditions, including, the Endurance expedition under Sir Ernest Shackleton. Wild was left in command on Elephant Island while Shackleton effected their rescue. Wild served under Robert Falcon Scott and Douglas Mawson during their expeditions to the southern continent.
After his rescue, Wild volunteered to serve in the First World War. He was given a polar assignment – Royal Navy transport officer at Archangel, Russia. He learned Russian prior to the assignment.
Wild was with Shackleton when he died at South Georgia. To honour the boss’ obligations, he assumed command and continued the expedition to Antarctica. Wild eventually settled in South Africa, falling on hard times due to a struggle with alcohol. He died there in 1939.
Wild was cremated, but his ashes went astray. His last wish was to be buried on South Georgia near Shackleton’s final resting place. That is about to happen at last. What I wouldn’t give to be part of that historic return.
Why should you care? Neither Shackleton, nor Scott nor Mawson were polar medal with 4 bar recipients. All of them relied on Wild’s skill and commitment. He was a true Antarctic hero.
Image via Wikipedia
About 20 years ago, I lived in a small town on a large island on Canada’s West Coast. One cloudy spring day the Royal Yacht Britannia anchored off shore. Using the ship’s tender the Queen and Prince Phillip with an escort of Mounties came ashore. As the Royal Couple stepped on the quay, the sun broke through the clouds, the rain stopped and the Mounties removed their rain slickers, blossoming like red poppies right before our eyes. I will never forget that magical moment.
Fast forward to 2011. Britannia, after 40 years in service, has retired. She is permanently moored as a tourist attraction in Leith, Scotland. Reading about the self-guided tour, I was surprised to learn that Britannia called at Deception Island, Antarctica in 1957, long before regular expedition cruises for the general public began.
My next trip to Scotland, then, must include visits to two great ships with Antarctic connections - Royal Yacht Britannia and in Dundee – Discovery - the ship that sailed Captain Robert Falcon Scott to the Antarctic in 1901, only 56 years before Britannia’s visit to the bottom of the world.