Part III: Assorted Nightmares
In the middle of the night, we were awoken by a sound something like a large calibre rifle discharging very close to our ears. I sat up, ears ringing, to find everyone else rustling uncomfortably.
“What the hell was that?” I shouted above the bells in my head.
Others raised in their sleeping bags and shook their heads with looks of concern. No one knew exactly, though we all had our suspicions. We gently rested our heads back into our sleepingbags, and shivered, mostly from the cold, and fell back to sleep.
The next morning we peeled the foam pads from partially melted indentions in the ice, revealing what we had suspected the night before. There was a fissure in the ice large enough to insert the better part of our arms. A crack exploding with the sound of a sonic boom, right underneath where I slept, made me feel vulnerable.
Most of the dangers that we faced on this trip were manageable in the sense that there were certain precautions that could be executed making risk calculate-able and foreseeable. Cold was the most likely danger. It acted slowly, and beset upon its victim with ample opportunity for alarum. Cracks in the ice were altogether different. The fact that a hole may open beneath me at any time, and send me crashing beneath the surface where I would be left bobbing against the bottom of an ice sheet, scratching and clawing for a last gasp of air concerned me. We were to spend the duration of our trip on ice, with only short interludes of dry land portages that connected the lakes. I began calculating my odds.
In Part IV, I take to the trail in earnest.
* * * * *
For further reading on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s interpretation of the Antarctic, consider:
Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which can be retrieved for free at Project Gutenberg.