Antarctica Project

The Antarctica Project

Antarctica is a multi-dimensional poem which includes history, politics, the natural sciences and ecological themes. I hope to visit the continent so that I can finish this epic.

Frank Hurley, Shackleton's Endurance icebound, 1914
Frank Hurley, Shackleton’s Endurance icebound, 1914

The then Penguin editor, Judith Rodriguez, read the manuscript of ‘Antarctica’ and wrote: ‘What a survey, and culmination in the great Antarctic expeditions and the continuing threat of exploitation. I imagine interest from educationalists. Everywhere I opened it were telling quotations and vivid interpretations of the documented experience. The work contributes to the research-compilation genre of Laurie Duggan’s The Ash Range, but extends it by scope and authorial commitment. AND by your intention to have it realised on radio.’

Ponting Oates with ponies
Herbert Ponting, Captain Oates and ponies on board ‘Terra Nova’ 1910

Amundsen at school, extract from book 11.

Off the Greenland coast Amundsen encountered kayaks
with two whites marooned for winter, part of a Danish
literary expedition collecting poetry.
One of them, Knud Rasmussen was convinced
the old ways were being poisoned by the civilisation
of the white chamber pot. His ambition was to explore
every Eskimo tribe before they migrated to the darkest winter night.

Amundsen spent autumn with the Netsiliks, learning from them
in exchange for demonstrating the effects of dynamite
on one of their igloos. Teraiu taught him how to build
the ice houses for one empty tin can a lesson.
He experimented with bearskin mittens and reindeer clothing.
He set his men to make things to trade, useful things;
he would not barter trinkets.


They started for the Magnetic Pole
four days and ten miles later he’d learnt
man-hauling is no fun, take plenty of dogs.
After perservering with his study of magnetism
he reached the Magnetic Pole but felt that science
was too obscure, it only got in the way.

The galvanised performances inhabit the white grounds
with a quark’s permanence, the mythic misleading.
They became the first ship to breach the fabled North-West passage,
Amundsen arrived home famous and with more impetus than ever.

Amundsen at the South Pole, December 1911
Amundsen at the South Pole, December 1911
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