Morning dawned threatening along the
Nova Scotia coast, slate gray seas, horizon
Rose-streaked over Sable Island. Steaming
Four days northeast, we reached Cape Race.
Southerly winds ushered warm air, sticky
Salt taste, foreboding seas amongst icebergs,
Wave-hidden growlers, menacing bergy bits.
Under a waning opalescent sun, wisps of fog
Descended, specters floating low on gelid
Waves, unraveling connection with water,
Land, and sky, beckoning a southerly gale,
Pitching waves, vaporous air invading the
Banks, loss of benevolent light.
By mid-day gauze-like fog obscured all sight,
An opaque wall penetrated by fog horns and
Radar. Desperate struggles in foaming seas,
Shipping waves, entombed in marbled-mist
Streaming on the windscreen or blinding
Bright when the sun, a veiled glimmer,
Attempted futile sunny breaks.
Too rough to stand watch on forward decks,
Lookouts retreated to the wheelhouse. Radar
Pierced the dense miasma, visualizing jagged
Lines of icebergs. We proceeded cautiously,
Lights glaring aloft, dodging growlers, filthy ice
Rolling in and out of crested blue-gray slopes.
The crew exhausted, we pushed north by nor’
East, plotting Cape Farewell. With iceberg alley
To our stern, diesels churned all night, smashing
Waves until we sensed first light, approaching
Greenland’s mountained coast. Four hours
Standing middle watch relieved for precious sleep,
Motion of ocean swells, a mariner’s uncertain peace.
This poem provides in verse form a modern-day crossing of the “outer capes of Newfoundland,” as depicted by Dr. Hayes, in “The Open Polar Sea,” Chapter 2, pp. 18-20.