After this, I’ll be quiet about Antarctica for awhile

They did it.

They walked 1800 miles in 105 days, following Scott’s footsteps, and made it back to safety at Scott Base, Antarctica. And made history.

The band of armchair explorers followed on the blog, Google Earth, and Twitter yesterday evening as Ben and Tarka walked the final miles. The online community was buzzing. I can only imagine what the reception was like at Scott Base. And their relief. And how overwhelming people and buildings and furniture and everything else must have seemed.

There’s a webcam at Scott Base, with a bleak view of some storage containers, vans, and the choppy ocean. Last night, some online followers were begging the expedition support team to ask Ben and Tarka to step out in front of the camera.

At one point after their arrival, briefly, someone (or two) stepped into the lower right corner of the frame, and I took a screen capture. Was it B&T? I’ve no clue. But let’s just say it was.

Ben and Tarks at Scott Base?

I don’t know exactly why I’m so obsessed with Scott’s story, but I just plain am. And thank you for bearing with me.

I’ll wrap this all up by leaving you in the words of others: of the Irish poet Derek Mahon, who writes about the terrible last words and moments of Captain Lawrence Oates, who walked out into the white and never returned; of Herbert Ponting, expedition photographer, who survived; and of Edward Wilson, some say Scott’s closest friend, who perished with him in the tent, 11 miles short of One Ton depot.

Antarctica

‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’
The others nod, pretending not to know.
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.
He leaves them reading and begins to climb,
Goading his ghost into the howling snow;
He is just going outside and may be some time.
The tent recedes beneath its crust of rime
And frostbite is replaced by vertigo:
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.
Need we consider it some sort of crime,
This numb self-sacrifice of the weakest? No,
He is just going outside and may be some time
In fact, for ever. Solitary enzyme,
Though the night yield no glimmer there will glow,
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.
He takes leave of the earthly pantomime
Quietly, knowing it is time to go.
‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’
At the heart of the ridiculous, the sublime.

–Derek Mahon, Gallery Press, 1985

The Sleeping Bag

On the outside grows the furside. On the inside grows the skinside.
So the furside is the outside and the skinside is the inside.
As the skinside is the inside (and the furside is the outside)
One ‘side’ likes the skinside inside and the furside on the outside.
Others like the skinside outside and the furside on the inside
As the skinside is the hard side and the furside is the soft side.
If you turn the skinside outside, thinking you will side with that ‘side’,
Then the soft side furside’s inside, which some argue is the wrong side.
If you turn the furside outside – as you say, it grows on that side,
Then your outside’s next the skinside, which for comfort’s not the right side.
For the skinside is the cold side and your outside’s not your warm side
And the two cold sides coming side-by-side are not the right sides one ‘side’ decides.
If you decide to side with that ‘side’, turn the outside furside inside
Then the hard side, cold side, skinside’s, beyond all question, inside outside.

–Herbert George Ponting
from South Polar Times, Vol. 1, 1911

The Barrier Silence

The silence was deep with a breathe like sleep
As our sledge runners slid on the snow,
the fate-full fall of our fur-clad feet
Struck mute like a silent blow
On a questioning “hush” as the settling crust
Shrank shivering over the floe;
And the sledge in its track sent a whisper back
Which was lost in a white fog-bow.
And this was the thought that the Silence wrought
As it scorched and froze us through,
Though secrets hidden are all forbidden
Till God means man to know,
We might be the men God meant to know
The heart of the Barrier snow,
In the heat of the sun, and the glow
And the glare from the glistening floe,
As it scorched and froze us through and through
With the bite of the drifting snow.

–Edward Adrian Wilson from South Polar Times, Vol. 3, 1911

4 thoughts on “After this, I’ll be quiet about Antarctica for awhile

  1. I just discovered your blog! All because I’ve also been obsessed with Ben and Tarka’s expedition. I’m having withdrawals, as reading Ben’s daily entries was how I started each day at 4:30 AM while drinking my one cup of coffee with coconut milk. I’m sorry I didn’t “e-meet” you sooner. We could have worried about them together. =) I’ll anxiously await Ben’s TED Talk while recovering from my Scott Expedition addiction.
    Melissa

    • Nice to meet you! I know what you mean about withdrawal…. I’m so glad they’re still updating the blog with something every day, at least for the moment. Stay in touch, fellow Antarctic addict 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s