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Peter Wilson
Polar guide

Eric Wehrmeister
Filmed + recorded
Point Wild, Antarctica
Lat: 61°05 S
Lon: 54°52 W

And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken—
The ice was all between.

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.

It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!

Two centuries on, and the ice is no longer 'all around'. The cryosphere is melting. Ice's cries—its 'cracks' and 'growls', its 'roars' and 'howls'—are now those of a substance in retreat. Antarctica disassembles, drifts off, dissipates; the Larsen B ice-shelf, Thwaites Glacier (with a melt-void at its heart). In the North-West Passage, ships' navigation devices scream alarm as vessels pass unhindered through areas of sea that the GPS registers as frozen, impassable. In the Greenlandic village of Kulusk, the local glacier has retreated so far that the noises of ice calving from its face can no longer be heard in the houses.

What would Coleridge have made of this Anthropocene of ours, with its vanishing glaciers, drowned islands, surging storms, silent oceans thickened by plastic, not sea-weed? He would have recognised it for the horror it is—and written into it, against it.

Robert Macfarlane