Sunday, August 15, 2010

Amundsen’s Dogs

My Antarctica (Pancake Ice)

Amundsen's Dogs

In loose drift,
the bicycle wheel clogs
but Amundsen ices the runners
and the sledge, laden
like a steamer ship
follows the dogs smartly.

Happy dogs, running
fighting, resting in the snow
they like to burrow in,
let the drift cover them
like a comforter
and tuck their noses under their bushy tails.

"This land looks like a fairytale!"
Amundsen exclaims, and he builds
hundreds of cairns like ice queen castles
marking the route at intervals
to suit his dogs.

So much energy contained in each rest:
men conferring, dogs alert and wagging
still tethered to the ship-shape sledge
skis, flags thrusting upwards
all straining the reach the South Pole

(c) Meliors Simms

I wrote Amundsen's Dogs a few months ago, while immersed in my big Antarctic project, when I was devouring all the Antarctic books I could lay my hands on. The poem was inspired by a book of Amundsen's photographs, mostly snapshots he took himself. Unlike the British expeditions, he didn't have a professional photographer in his party. His photos aren't as brilliant as Ponting's or Hurley's but they evoke the mood of his expedition quite well. It seems impossible to write about Amundsen without reference to Scott, and this poem is as much about Scott's second as it is about Amundsen's first.

BTW For those less obsessed with Antarctic history than me, in the days before GPS a bicycle wheel was attached to a sledge and measured the distance covered. Not very accurately, because if the snow was soft the wheel wouldn't turn.

I whipped up this little piece of Antarctic stitching very recently. Despite my enthusiasm for oil and mining, it seems I can't leave the ice completely behind. Pancake ice is so pretty and apparently there's more of it about these days. Unfortunately this is caused by warming polar seas and itself contributes to a feedback loop by allowing the seas to warm more quickly.

I made Pancake Ice as a small continuation of My Antarctica series. Ross Island is already earmarked for a buyer, and continental My Antarctica is probably out of the price range of most people who follow this blog, but Pancake Ice, mounted, is only 21 x 16cm, and priced accordingly. Email me if you are interested.

1 comment:

mermaidsdrown said...

I enjoyed your poem.