World Poetry Day – Poems from the ALSA Archive

What would you do if you have to spend more than a year in an isolated place?  Overwinterers at SANAE and on Marion and Gough Island tried their hand at writing poems.  On World Poetry day I had a look at the poems that were preserved on the digital archive of the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa and below I share a few excerpts with you, (click on the link to read the full poem).

“In celebrating World Poetry Day, March 21, UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind. Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.

From the Wanderer newsletter  M65 July edition

You will survive
In that freezing Island, far from us but
very close to your loneliness.
Just close your eyes & know that u need
me to survive.
In those chilly weathers during those
usual snowy, rainy and in the middle of
coldness day.
When it is very windy, always remember, u
need me TO SURVIVE! !......

Oor die wit vlak waar dit wyd is,
Lê die berge breed en blink,
Wyl hul in die aandson skitter
En jou daarheen naderwink.
Van waar Krylen soos 'n seekoei
Tussen skeure opwaarts beur,
Tot waar Y-berg hoog en puntig
Hom aan tyd en mens nie steur.
Troon die pieke van Snokallen
En spierwit Snokjerringa
Oor die uitgestrekte landskap
Van ons skoon Antarktika.
En hier duskant in die leegte,
Pas by Dassiekop verby,
Lyk die wereld soos 'n braakland 
lê krewasse ry op ry.
Links om Leeuwkop loop die roete
Stadig suidwaarts, stygend, steil,
Oor die blou ys, …….. 

In a subsequent humorous voyage report in the form of a long poem, second engineer

Philip Gillon wrote:

On the second day things took a turn for the worse,
The port main engine fuel
pipe decided to burst ...
The waves were so high that they came down the funnel.
Ran out the crank-case doors and into the shaft tunnel.
Monday started off fine with only a black-out or two,
And finding out that the best way to shower.....

MARION JULY 1966 - Jim Lilly
On Marion one wet and stormy Sunday night,
The wind was blowing with all its might.
When for some reason James awoke,
To find his room filled with smoke,
Rushing out there met his gaze,
The most fearful thing - the place ablaze.
Without the time to don more attire,
He ran along and shouted fire!!!
This awoke Braam and his crew,.....
Images on ALSA Archive, copyright to 
Adriaan Dreyer, Henry Valentine, Julius Klette, Christiaan Brink, Will Jelbert

Join the discussion