20 April 2016

Scott Expedition, 100 Years Later

What hubris was it
that grabbed hold
of his brain--
what madness seized
him, and said: Here,
where others failed
and died, here
I shall succeed;

In that remotest
part of the world
where there is no
night for months,
no horizon, no markers
by which to navigate.
Just the punishing
expanse of glacial
landscape in every
direction; no sea
and no sky, just
bare white desert
stretching infinite.

The bright yellow
sledges and red
rucksacks and blue
parkas were the only
colours to bend the eye.

And then, with
a headwind the whole
way for the first
nine hundred miles,
the two-man team
ran out of food.
Grit and determination
failed, gave way
to hypothermia
and malnutrition,
and there were times
he wanted to give up,
to die in the desert
of endless white noon.

Starving, ready
to lie down
in the snow,
'utterly pathetic,'
he radioed for supplies.

Sitting, eating
the smoked salmon
and cream cheese
on crackers before
resuming their journey
in the fabled footsteps
of the ill-fated Capt.
R. F. Scott (buried
under the ice),
he contemplated
his own failure
to complete this journey
unassisted, with only
what he could carry.

But surely the man
who died alone a century
past in the cold
on that shelf of ice
at the very edge
of the known world
would not begrudge
his successors' success.

written 17-02-2016

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