Can’t Stop Thinking About Antarctica

So I’m on a bad, bad, B-A-D run at the moment, baking-wise.  I’m about at the point where I’m going to take a look at the Yellow Pages for someone who exorcises oven-ghosts. Let’s be upfront: The sugar cookies I just pulled outta there look like deflated igneous rocks.


One of these things is not like the other!


 For some time now, I’ve been mentally mulling over writing something [in the playwriting sense] to do with Antarctica. The day has finally come where it’s time to put pen to paper, and I’ve been researching in bits and pieces. Apparently, I’m required to read a book from 1922 entitled

 “The Worst Journey in the World”  

By a man named  

Apsley Cherry-Garrard 


Cherry-Garrard accompanied Robert Scott on an Antarctic expedition called the Terra Nova Expedition from 1910-1913. In 1911,  he and two other team members ventured out on a trip to collect Emperor penguin eggs. Long story short: They were trapped by a blizzard, their tent blew away, and CHERRY-GARRARD SHATTERED THE MAJORITY OF HIS TEETH BECAUSE THEY WERE CHATTERING SO HARD IN THE COLD.


The National Library of New Zealand has pictures of the Terra Nova expedition on the “Manuscripts and Pictorial” section of their website [here].

 Below: Two pictures. [The captions from the National Library website are included.]


Henry Robertson Bowers, Dr. Wilson, and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard before leaving for Cape Crozier, Antarctica, 27 June 1911


Dr. Wilson, Henry Robertson Bowers, and Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard eating a meal on their return from winter trip to Cape Crozier, 1 August 1911 


 Look at them, in that first picture; they didn’t know.

After, they knew.

Look at the set of Cherry-Garrard’s mouth; look at his hands, gripping his bread. You cannot see his teeth. He is thinking: I have to eat. Is he thinking about what happened to him out there? I do not know. Sometimes, in the wake of the big and terrible, we are only thinking: At least I am warm. At least there is tea.

Later, the depths of what happened get mentally plumbed; or they should. We none of us think enough about what there is to learn after we come in from a blizzard.


Well, Happy August!  

I go back to work tomorrow. My summer break, it is over. Siiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

READER: For the love.


Spring Ice Storm

 The forecast had not predicted it,
and its beginning, a calming, rumbled dusk 

and pleasant lightning, she welcomed as harbinger
of rain. Then as night came she heard the world 

relapse, slide backward into winter’s insistent
tick and hiss. In the morning, she woke to a powerless 

house, the baseboards cold, the sky blank,
mercury hardfallen as the ice and fixed 

even at noon. The woodpile on the porch dwindled
to its last layer, she had not replenished it 

for a month and could see beyond it windblown ice
in the shed where the axe angled Excalibur-like, 

frozen in the wood. Still, she didn’t worry
beyond the fate of the daffodils, green-sheathed, 

the forsythia and quince already bloomed out–
knowing this couldn’t last. But by afternoon 

she did begin feeding the fire in the cast-iron
stove ordinary things she thought she could replace, 

watching through the small window of isinglass
the fast-burning wooden spoons, picture frames, 

then the phone book and stack of old almanacs–
forgotten predictions and phases of the moon– 

before resorting to a brittle wicker rocker,
quick as dried grass to catch, bedframes and slats, 

ladderback chairs, the labor of breaking them up
against the porch railing its own warming. 

Feverlike, the freeze broke after two days,
and she woke to a melting steady as the rain 

had been. The fire she had tended more carefully
than the household it had consumed she could now 

let go out, and she was surprised at how little
she mourned the rooms heat-scoured, readied for spring. 

Claudia Emerson



Filed under Beginning Brand New Things, Claudia Emerson, Poetry

6 responses to “Can’t Stop Thinking About Antarctica

  1. hardy

    was just thinking the exploration (in cold climes) thing because of this story on NPR the other day:
    notice the difference in time between when they get stuck and when they decide to pack it in. what were they doing that whole time? what happened that they finally said, “i guess it’s time to go home?”

  2. wheatdear

    Hardy, I was reading about that doomed Franklin expedition just yesterday [and seriously, there is a picture of the Franklin expedition next to the words “major burn” in the dictionary]. I don’t think there’s much that a ship crew could have done to dislodge themselves from pack ice back then. While they were waiting, though, they got scurvy and stuff? Scurvy would make ME peace out of LOTS of things!

  3. Sarah

    I didn’t think your sugar cooks looked that bad.

  4. Bridgid

    That man in the middle looks like he’ll never be warm again.

    I agree with Sarah about the sugar cookies.

  5. wheatdear

    If you think those are the sugar cookies I baked, you are crazypants.

  6. “They talk of chattering teeth: but when your body chatters you may call yourself cold.” – Cherry-Gerard.
    Cherry spent the rest of his life haunted by the death of his friends. It’s an amazing story. When the surviving members of the expedition set up a memorial for the Polar Party, they chose Tennyson as an inscription:

    “Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and though
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

    Thanks for the post!

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