Antarctica – Closing off.

I stood on the stern of the Orlova and into the mist this vast and frightening continent slipped away. Like a curtain it closed, bringing to an end a poignant opus that would resonate throughout my life. Ah Antarctica – if you were music, you would be Mozart.  

 Your uncompromising desolation was so often abandoned by man. They left behind ghosts; they left you to your own brooding silence. If you were art, you would be Michelangelo.


 Your beauty haunts me, I lie awake.  From depths within my mind I struggle to fathom you. Antarctica – you burst out and savage me. If you were literature, you would be Shakespeare. May we never tame you.


Travel broadens the mind but when I came to this frozen vastland it deepened my soul. I came here one person, and I left another. In different lands I found learning, understanding and culture.  In Antarctica I found wisdom.


Ah – Dear visitor to this blog, you have been a great companion as we set off to explore this vast and challenging space. Even getting there was a great challenge. A very great challenge. And how frightening it was, how large in the imagination this bleak and cold seemed. It was almost too terrifying to look at first. But then we saw it…Bellingshausen, a place where we would reckon with the devil himself.

Emil Zatopek once said that if you wanted to run, best you run a mile, if you want to experience a new life – run a marathon. That is what we came here for, and that is where it all starts. This new life is secretly hidden in the marathon’s story – twenty miles of hope, followed by six miles of truth. Could anything be so removed from reality that we can’t understand it? Can’t compare it? In those far off places the spirit I knew from the Comrades Marathon was not far off, not so different from the spirit found here on the icy Collins Glacier. The human spirit is the same, wherever you go.


How we were gripped by fear of the great behemoths that played and frolicked beneath. Standing in spellbound dread we held hands and looked on. It was such an ancient fear that we all somehow understood so well.


And another call, so faint – so immaterial in our material world. It was the majestic albatross, calling us to save ourselves. But we are incapable. We cannot save ourselves as a species we can only choke and drown in our own swill.  Unless …unless …unless.

And in the silence and in the clean air, there was such an innocence that waited for us. Curiosity – what should I fear in man? Why indeed little one, from us humans you have nothing to fear. Cry, cry out before it’s too late. Cry – while you still have the chance.


My nights are agitated dreams and distant pleadings. Where does one go to and what does one say when you have been there? Vast alien place. Terra Incognita. On the surface I may appear the same, but like the iceberg – beneath a tranquil surface – there is a depth that runs unfathomed. I am changed in ways I don’t yet fully understand. Beneath the surface I am vast.

And when the last century was still new, like astronauts these brave discoverers raced to be the first. Make a mistake on this unforgiving plateau and you only have seven seconds to live. Three men were to try, one would die. Choose wisely your travelling companions for you just never know – this might be your last act.


One man showed a selfless courage worthy of a saint. Captain Lawrence Edward Grace Oates knew the odds were against them. He knew that it was his frostbitten feet that were holding back their progress. Soon they would run out of food and the blizzards of winter were approaching. They were just going too slow. “I am just going outside and may be some time.” he told his companions. His body was never found. It was all in vein – all men on that expedition perished. Scott is judged

Of all the explorers who passed this way, Sir Earnest Henry Shackleton stands a colossus. He famously placed this advertisement in a local newspaper. Hundreds applied for the job – many are called, few are chosen. 

When all is lost, when all the chips are down – follow this man. Follow in the shoes of Shack.   

My story is told of this place. I felt the cold air and swam in the freezing water. I ran and I rejoiced. I did many other things and saw many other wonders – but that is another story.

Now to write the book.


About Tom Cottrell

A struggling author, pilgrim and citizen of Planet Earth.
Gallery | This entry was posted in 01 - The Outer Fringes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Antarctica – Closing off.

  1. At Schoeman says:

    Amazing storie! Well done Tom, on doing the ultimate one! Must have been the trip of your life!
    Most of us can just wonder.

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