“I try in vain to be persuaded that the pole is the seat of frost and desolation; it ever presents itself to my imagination as the region of beauty and delight.”

Captain Robert Walton, “Letter III” from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

They clothe themselves in steel and seek the grave
of Mary’s monster; they live the ebbing life
of a blue whale beached on ice. They sail as brave
as any men; and more than men whose strife
was borne through arctic folly, they court a wife
whose name is science. They bear spirit lamps
across the frozen fields, wield learning’s knife
before the polar threats. As knowledge stamps
affixed in frigid gales, they make their icy camps.

“Follow me; I seek the everlasting ices of the north, where you will feel the misery of cold and frost…”

Frankenstein’s Monster

What will their minds, their eyes, and sensors find
upon the floe—their catch the fatal trace
of creation casting itself off? Entwined
with life-feeding currents of sea and space,
will they find a way to fall on Nature’s grace?
Her face, like his, is weathered, warped, and scarred
with leads—wind-blown cracks which mark the chase
given by man to his monster. A child marred
by makers waits for them—truth’s victim and its guard.

“Did you not call this a glorious expedition? And wherefore was it glorious? Not because the way was smooth and placid as a southern sea, but because it was full of dangers and terror… Be steady to your purposes and firm as a rock. This ice is not made of such stuff as your hearts may be…”

Victor Frankenstein to the crew of Walton’s ship

Poet’s Notes:

Beginning in the autumn of 2019, and continuing through 2020, scientists aboard the ice breaker Polarstern are completing an Arctic research mission called MOSAiC. Intentionally, the ship has become frozen into an ice floe where it will follow the current until the next melting season. The featured image, by Marcel Nicolaus, is used under international Creative Commons license CC-BY 4.0.