Greenland columned sandstone mountains, photo courtesy of NASA, Michael Studinger.
Greenland columned sandstone mountains, photo courtesy of NASA, Michael Studinger.

Along rocky shores of Kennedy Channel,
Wind and tide force abrasive groans from
Colliding ice floes. As winter releases its
Reluctant grip, flocks of chanting Dovekies
Return to roost on higher rocks. With ages
Past, summer in Ellesmere Land blossoms
Forth anew, then as swiftly, retreating sun
And warmth usher in the fall and winter’s
Dark curtain of long and bitter nights.

My eager footsteps follow the arduous paths
Of Arctic heroes Elisha Kane and Isaac Hayes,
Explorers, who 150 years ago, scrambled up
These ragged mountain summits to survey the
Extremis of northern, barren lands.

In cataclysm of fire and molten rock, Greenland
And Ellesmere were cast by Vulcan’s hammer.
Stony embryonic siblings, they drifted to their
Noble place, cup-bearers to the Geographic
Northern Pole.

In forceful throes of Darwinian Evolution,
Primitive life emerged, unique and specialized
In form. Segmented-shelled sea scorpions,
Bristling with legs and claws, and sharp-toothed
Spiny sharks glided freely in a azure-blue,
Primordial Laurentian sea.

Preserved as petrous portraits, ancient centipedes,
Propelled by flowing legs, once scurried past
Spindly-limbed plants that reproduced by
Spewing spores into a tropical-forested breeze.

My mind and senses overwhelmed, I am humbled
By the grandeur I behold. From the ragged Ellesmere
mountaintop, I peer to distant Greenland plateaus,
Powdery white with a fresh diadem of snow. Like
Kane and Hayes, I wonder what ancient memories are
Held deep within these majestic Silurian headlands?

What knowledge was forever lost to wasting effects
Of penetrating ice and snow? Perhaps Kane and
Hayes were the first to know when discovering
Fossils along the high-sloped beach below, marveling
At impressions of prehistoric creatures, their brittle
Stories preserved as fossils forever engraved in stone.

Inspired by The Open Polar Sea, Chapter XXX, Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes, 1st edition, Hurd and Houghton, 1867.

This poem was originally posted on the New Bedford Whaling Museum “Arctic Visions” exhibit blog.

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