Sunday, March 22, 2009


I shivered as I curled up under my luxurious cashmere throw. I wore two sweatshirts, sweatpants and socks. And yet, I was cold. I got out a heating pad, turned it on high and put it on my feet.

I was reading "the Terror" by Dan Simmons. I am a historical novel junkie. I prefer novels based on medieval England or Biblical characters, so this one was a few centuries outside my favorite genre.

The basis for the book was the mid-nineteenth century Arctic expedition commanded by Sir John Franklin and Sir Francis Crozier. With two ships (the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror) rigged for ice exploration and a crew of 125 souls, they set out to discover the elusive Northwest Passage. Suffice it to say, things did not go as planned. They were frozen solidly in place for two years without the expected summer thaws. They endured, not months, but years, of sub-zero weather, dwindling food, coal and rum supplies, mutinous uprisings, frostbite, long periods of 24 hours of darkness, followed by long periods of 24 hours with the brightest sunshine reflecting off the frozen tundra of ice and snow. They experienced the most harsh weather conditions Planet Earth has to offer. They succumbed to scurvy, overcrowded conditions, a horrendous lack of get the picture. And the "thing." The "thing" was ever watching, ever mindful of their presence; ever lurking to destroy every creature that breathed the cold desolate air.

Now, if this had been their first expedition, I might understand. (For some in the crew, it was indeed their first experience--and last, I might add.) But many of these men had been on numerous similarly dangerous adventures. I have to wonder, what drives humans beyond the expectation of a comfortable and safe life? What about the unknown inspires some to leave home and hearth, safety and comfort to risk their very lives to explore the frozen vacuity of Antarctica or the Arctic to search for the Northwest Passage? Why would one sail across an ocean with merely a hope that one will not drop off some far distant edge into never ending nothingness?

I am quite sure that, left up to me, we would all still be speaking some form of Hebrew and living on a very small parcel of overcrowded land somewhere between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Not that I totally lack any sense of adventure or discovery. I am currently on a quest for the perfect white blouse. I will leave no store in the mall unexplored until I find it.


Anonymous said...

Thats our Joy!!!!

gloria Coker said...

Ok I get the terror- now for the important question- does the Sham Wow really work?

Barbara Duke said...

Sure, the Sham Wow works. My husband gets sucked into buying one everytime he sees them. I no longer go to the mall with him.

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