(in memoriam Robert Falcon Scott)
Copyright © by Eva Van Daele-Hunt 8/2012
Recorded for Pegasus 8/2014
Lead vocals: Rafael Van Daele-Hunt; harmony vocals & piano, Eva Van Daele-Hunt
All Rights Reserved - Used by Permission
(In the winter of 1911/1912, the Englishman Robert Falcon Scott and the Norwegian Roald Amundsen competed for the honour of being the first man on the South Pole. Scott's ship, and hence his whole expedition, bore the name 'Terra Nova'.)
Cape Evans, day 1. It’s the first of November in 1911 AD.
The moment has come. We’ve departed due south in detachments on sledges and ski.
I’m keeping this log wrapped in oilskin - it seems like a lifeline to lands I once knew.
God knows - maybe scholars will read it some day, though it is not applause I pursue.
Amundsen, finally! Why all the secrecy? Why would I stop you and how?
I've faced fate before, I have never shown fear nor regret, and I’m not starting now.
The Pole’s so much more than a dot on the map where meridian lines interlace.
We’re politely denying; „It’s science“, we’re lying, and yet we both know - it’s a race.
Day 32. The weather is worsening. All are soaked through and nigh blind.
The motorized sledges won’t work in the cold - we’ve unloaded and left them behind.
Two ponies were ailing and had to be shot - they were spending themselves in this snow.
Once we climb Beardmore Glacier it’s bound to clear up. We’ll raise speed on the polar plateau.
Day 54. It is Christmas. We’ve laboured a good 18 miles through the storm.
Had pony-hoosh, plum-duff and biscuits for dinner, our tent overcrowded, but warm.
We sang a few carols, then sat in a hush while the wind sang its answer outside.
The world seemed so vast - we sought refuge in laughter, yet, deeper, the emptiness cried.
Terra, Terra Nova, last white rim on the map and a promise unsaid,
Terra, Terra Nova - always just one pace ahead. . .
Day 65. 88 degrees south. I have chosen for strength and esprit,
five men for the pole: Laurence Oates, Edward Wilson, "Taff" Evans, H. Bowers - and me.
The others turn back - their support shift is over. They’re brooding and hard to console.
Teddy left me the handkerchief flag from his wife; I have pledged it would fly on the pole.
Day 74. Lord, I’m tired. My toes feel like marble and start to turn black.
We’ve now man-hauled the sledges for 400 miles and I feel every step in my back.
Still, we’re cheerful and blithe - we’re so close to our goal! One more day at this speed might suffice.
Our hearts race ahead - we can hardly keep up. There is something ahead on the ice. . .
Amundsen, say, do you care who I am? Does it sting when they mention my name?
My men give account of your poise and good nature. My jealousy fills me with shame.
Still it’s I who broke ground! You’ve not challenged my claim. Your blunt telegram was but a dare.
For all set-backs and strains, we have not given up - do you hear me? We almost are there!
Day 75. He was first. We’re defeated. A tiring trip back lies ahead.
Amundsen left us some stores, meaning well, but it feels like derision instead.
We’re disheartened. Great God! What a desolate waste of harsh edges and pitiless light.
No prize for our toil and no nightfall to veil the offence of that flag in the white.
Terra, Terra Nova, grey horizons close in in a strangling embrace,
Terra, Terra Nova, where do we go from this place?
Day 105. There’s a shortage of oil - it appears our tins were unsound.
Minus 40 degrees. Each 200-pound-sledge starts to clog up and freeze to the ground.
Evans has fallen - he’s addled and weak. I’m afraid he won’t last at this pace.
Step by step we walk into a hazy, bright void and the winds cover up every trace.
Day 133 - - - or four? I lost count a few pages ago.
Laurence Oates knew his illness was slowing us down. In the evening, he left for the snow.
When he opened the flap, said „I may be some time“, we were struck by the courage he showed.
There was greatness and strength in that quiet, last choice, though it was not in line with the code.
Amundsen, how I am struggling to wish you fair skies and a swift, safe return!
Survivor and victor. I smile as I watch our last oil feebly flare up and burn.
Yet, each day, in my mirror, your eyes hold my gaze, so alike in ambition and pride.
In the books, maybe, I will live on for a while as your shadow - the Captain Who Tried.
Day 142. Pray, England, provide for our wives when we’re gone.
Wilson and Bowers have not stirred for hours. I’ve hardly the strength to write on.
Barely 12 miles to the depot, and yet half a world and a lifetime away.
I’ve lain waiting for almost a week in this blizzard. . . drawing closer each day. . .
Amundsen - - - Roald, somehow you were here by my side in these frozen, lost lands -
almost a friend midst a terrible beauty that no-one but us understands.
It was done. In the face of that feat it seems vain who was first, if we came back or not.
Anyway, thanks that you stayed till the end. Robert Falcon Scott.
Terra, Terra Nova, past the ridges and rifts when the north-winds have died,
Terra, Terra Nova - only one step to the side. . .