Greenland Arctic gale descended, snow
Blowing amongst sea ice, sails torn, bow
Planking shredded, we made for protected Sutherland Island. Clouds darkened before
Advancing seas, foaming waves rising, flying
Spray freezing in schooner’s rigging, icicles
Formed fast at Fahrenheit twenty degrees.
Thirty fathom frozen chain laid, bow anchor
Dragging, our stern hawser torn lose, schooner
Pendulum swinging. We neared islands of
Solid ice in four fathom of freezing seawater.
In shallows, spray flailing o’er ship, shrouding
Decks in ice. Top heavy, heaving to, we raised
Storm sails, attempting struggled headway.
Into billowing snow we sailed, salvation of
Open capes, running amidst the wind, towards
Lines of Ghost-like icebergs, ravaged by
Crashing surf. Impervious to howling gales,
Dark clouds scudded overhead. Seas raged
Frothy and wild, white-streaked blowing snow,
Obscured distant Ellesmereland.
For hard night we fought to maintain course,
Plowing lashing waves. Icebergs looming,
Nearly crashing on starboard decks, we prayed
For Cape Alexander, protection of high cliffs,
Shuddering winds, open water off the bow,
Squalling seas gave way to clearing clouds,
Beams of benevolent sunlight.
This poem was adapted from prose of Isaac
Israel Hayes, MD, “The Open Polar Sea,”
during an Arctic gale off the far northwest
Greenland coast, August, 1861.