David Lewis Paget
Underneath The Ice - Poem by David Lewis Paget
I was down in the Antarctic
Taking soundings through the ice,
Working with a team of boffins,
Roger Cord and David Rice,
It was bleak out on the frozen scarp
I wore a heated suit,
And had thought to bring the oxygen,
They laughed - ‘The new recruit! '
They were tough as old shoe leather
Had been there since June the first,
And they scorned the winter weather,
Said ‘It's mild, will be soon be worse! '
So we took the caterpillar
Drove on out along the shelf,
There were signs of global warming,
I could see them for myself.
For the shelf had started parting
From the continent of ice,
With a chasm slowly forming
‘Fifty miles, ' said David Rice.
‘Fifty miles since June the seventh
When it started to appear,
It will break away completely
By the closing of the year! '
We began to take our soundings
Fifty metres from the edge,
We were getting steady readings
Of two miles or more in depth,
There was bedrock underneath us
Holding all this captive ice,
‘Can you hear that distant rumble,
Underneath, ' said David Rice.
I had wandered further over,
Listened keenly to the sound,
It was slowly getting louder
As I walked, just underground,
When the surface split and parted
Sent me reeling, wheeling in,
To a sudden forming chasm
With an ear-splitting din!
I dropped thirty feet or more and felt
My heart up in my mouth,
When a rush of water passed me
In a river, heading south,
And the ice that held me stable
Melted slowly at the edge,
Of the platform that had held me,
Of the ever shrinking ledge!
I could hear the cries of Roger
Up above: ‘We'll get you out! '
‘Just hang on; we'll get the rope, '
Called David Rice, I tried to shout.
But my throat had closed right over
In my terror, and the cold,
Which had turned my face quite ashen,
And was tearing at my soul!
Then the flow of water took me,
Took the ice that formed the ledge,
And I felt a sudden falling,
And my heart was filled with dread,
I was carried ever downwards
In a swiftly flowing stream,
Through a narrow icy tunnel…
I was dazed, as in a dream!
But I somehow found the mask and
Turned the oxygen full on,
I could breathe for thirty minutes,
Maybe more, though I was gone!
There was no-one now to save me
From the fate that filled my head,
I was sure and I was certain
I could only end up dead!
It was light within the tunnel
As I hurtled swiftly down,
With the water iridescent
From the light above the ground,
And it seemed to last forever
This descent into the deep,
We'd recorded two plus miles
To the bedrock underneath!
Then I slid into a cavern
Found myself within a lake,
Where the water ceased its flow
And I crawled out, my mouth agape,
For around the water's edges
Were the ruins of a town,
All iced up and gleaming starkly
With the light that streamed on down.
There was some sort of Cathedral
With its lofty, shining spires,
It stood silently, reflecting,
On the past ten thousand years,
There were houses stood forlornly
At the edges of the lake,
And the forms of ancient people
In their shrouds of ice, like slate!
From the roof of ice above me
Poured a hundred different streams,
And the light that came down with them
Lit this most fantastic scene,
I could see a stream of water
At the far end of the cave,
Flowing out to brighter daylight,
So I thought: 'I must be brave! '
I stood still beside the current
And I said a muttered prayer,
Whatever fate had offered me
I'd find it just out there,
I took a breath and jumped right in
The middle of the stream,
And felt it catch and carry me
Towards that lighter beam!
It seemed but only minutes
‘Til I shot out through the ice,
And I landed in the open sea,
I thought it paradise!
For only fifty yards away
The MV Australis,
Our very own supply ship there
Was anchored at the coast!
They marvelled at my story
But I saw their disbelief
When I told them of the buildings
And the people, underneath;
So I never did repeat it
To the world, although I know,
Mankind lived in Antarctica
Ten thousand years ago!
17 April 2012
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