For several Greenlandic summer nights, Hayes on
The screw-steamer Panther transited the Arctic Circle.
Drifting amongst icebergs, a floating realm of towering
Alabaster islands, concerns turned from ice navigation
To bewilderment as ship and crew struggled for visibility
In a descending mantle of opaque, villainous fog.
Unhinged by damp darkness, the rays of the low-angled
Arctic midnight sun warmed no lucent shore. As ice-
Incumbered brine passed silently below the Panther’s
Bulwarks, motionless in grey void, dense mist chained
Mariner’s hearts, struggled efforts to explore Arctic seas
And “Land of Desolation.”
Equally perplexed, ship’s compasses lost bearings,
Wandering for the elusive magnetic North Pole.
Several instruments, when joggled, failed to show
Direction true. With no landmarks by which to steer,
Hayes yearned in vain, the sun, faint-limned disc,
Would dispel veiled shadows, the ice-clouded maze.
To Hayes’ astonishment, marine layer fog becalmed
The Panther. Positioned high on the royal yard, above
Billowing clouds, he beheld Arctic delights: countless
Icebergs, their gleaming pinnacles oblivious to the
Gloom, and snow-crested mountain majesties ablaze
In gold and silver hues.
As Captain Bartlett piloted the Panther by soundings,
They emerged from the fog-bank “dead slow,” narrowly
Averting collision with icebergs and treacherous rocky
Shores. In quiet fascination, Hayes observed icebergs,
Evening splendor transformed into muted tones of
Amethyst, then pearly white, green, and blue.
This poem was inspired by events in “The Land of Desolation,” where Isaac I Hayes, MD recounts his experience similar to marine layer fog in “Part the Third. Under the Midnight Sun,” Chapter 1. “Across the Arctic Circle,” pages 191-195.
For information on marine layer fog see this link: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/ocean/marine.htm
Fog moving in St. John’s Harbour, Newfoundland: