Image via Wikipedia
A friend of mine was recently interviewed by a major UK paper. She posted a link to the article with an unnecessary apology for the inaccurate headline that used the terms North Pole and South Pole as synonyms for the Arctic and Antarctica. As an interview subject, Sue Flood has no control over a headline.
To those involved in the business of polar travel that headline reflects one of the marketing challenges faced in a world of Search Engine Optimization and keyword content. Polar professionals use the terms North Pole and South Pole to refer only to invisible points on the planet at 90N or 90S. To use the terms as synonyms for the generic but accurate Arctic and Antarctica is tantamount to a sin. Using the terms inaccurately is the sign of an outsider, an amateur, a dilettante. No one mistakes Sue Flood for an amateur. She has the ice creds to call herself a polar professional.
Yet…the amateur is the person marketers of polar product want to capture. If amateurs refer to the polar regions by inaccurate terms, then the online content must include the terms with which people search for polar travel information. I came to terms with that conundrum by writing an article about inaccurate terms used by people when referring to the Polar Regions. I thought of it as an educational piece for seekers of information, and a clever way to ensure my former employer’s polar professionalism was not eroded.
When we insert keywords into a search field, for the most part, we do not worry about syntax or spelling. We insert keywords or phrases in a kind of stream of consciousness. Just use Google Insight for Search and take a look at how people search for your favourite subject. For example – more people search for Antarctica using the adjective Antarctic than the noun. The latter is part of the former, so the problem may be minor, but the point is the same: Writing for keyword content if you use search data undermines the English language and that irks me.
Image via Wikipedia
Robert Falcon Scott and four companions reached the South Pole 100 years ago today. The goal of that British expedition team was to be the first in history to reach the bottom of the world. They failed by five weeks.
The team rested. Scott wrote of his disappointment in his journal. Then they began what became a death march. A month later the team was one man down. Two months later all lives were lost.
The five died for the glory of King, Country and Science…and in the manner of Greek Tragedy – for personal loyalty. Not quite a band of brothers – Scott was a stickler when it came to rank and class – they shared a common purpose.
Scott became a national hero, lionized in press and film. His companions became mythic heroes, whose names were conjured when examples of selflessness were required during dark and difficult times.
In a twist that has fascinated me for a lifetime, the man who became the first to reach the South Pole, became a footnote in British history books, overshadowed by Scott in the English-speaking world.
Captain Scott’s accrued accomplishments should outweigh his one, dramatic, tragic and complete failure. They should, but that has never been the case. His expeditions to the south polar region contributed greatly to science, art and photography. Let’s spend the next 100 years celebrating that, not his deadly hubris.
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.
Tragedy has been the theme this week. An inevitability when writing about Robert Falcon Scott‘s expedition to the South Pole, the centenary of which we will mark on January 17, 2012. I had planned to write something lighter today as much for my mental health as anything else. But I awoke to read that a cruise ship ran aground in Italy, with a loss of eight lives. Tragedy continues to be the theme this week.
Travel is not without risk. Travel has never been risk free. The consequences of risk, however, happen to someone else. If we didn’t believe that we would not travel, and there would be no travel industry.
In my circle of acquaintances there are many for whom travel must include risk. They choose the risky route, the dodgy destination, the adrenaline inducing activity. Most travelers choose the option with the least risk – the perception of smallest risk. May they continue to be deluded.
When I am faced with the uncomfortable, I turn to poetry. Today was no exception. Walt Whitman comforted me, as I mourned the loss of lives in Italy. He comforted and surprised me. As I thumbed through Leaves of Grass, I came across a poem he wrote about a Greely expedition: Of That Blithe Throat of Thine.
Whitman wrote of his inspiration: “(More than eighty-three degrees north – about a good day’s steaming distance to the Pole by one of our fast oceaners in clear water-Greely the explorer heard the song of a single snow-bird merrily sounding over the desolation.)”
I am familiar with polar prose. Polar poetry is a new concept. One I will pursue for the next three days: My tribute to those who risked all and lost.
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.