Gloaming, means ‘twilight’ or ‘dusk’ and comes from the Old English word glōmung. Scott also comments on the variability of the wind and the difficulty of ‘sailing’:
The wind is strong from the south, and this afternoon has been very helpful with the full sail.
But soon after;
Blizzards are our bugbear, not only stopping our marches but the cold damp air takes it out of us.
At times, being driven before the hellish wind certainly felt like The Inferno:
The hellish hurricane, which never rests,
drives on the spirits with its violence:
and there they curse the force of the divine….
Now here, now there, now down, now up, it drives them.
…so did those shades I saw approaching, borne
By that assailing wind, lament and moan.
Canto V, Inferno, translated by Allen Mandelbaum
The archetypal hero, Ulysses – referred to many times in Riding the Ice Wind - as with the other heroes below - travelled to the underworld in order to seek out the ghost of the prophet Tiresias and get instructions about his return home. Sisyphus, whom legends suggest was Ulysses’ father, dwelt in hell but yearned for a return to the world. Milton’s Satan was flung headlong from heaven and Adam was exiled from the garden. Orpheus descended into hell to rescue Eurydice and, on losing her, wandered the world forever in despair. Theseus was forced to enter the labyrinth to hunt down his Minotaur. One of the labours of Hercules was to slay Cerberus, the dog who guarded the gates of hell, the hell that Dante, the foremost poet of the Western Canon, saw as composed of wind and ice.
The exact text from The Inferno (translated by Allen Mandelbaum) reads:
Beneath each face of his, two wings spread out,
As broad as suited so immense a bird:
I’ve never seen a ship with sails so wide….
And he was agitating them, So that three winds made their way out from him
And all Cocytus froze before those winds.
A harpy is a man-eating half-bird/half-woman, also identified with the Sirens from the Odyssey. Harpies are also represented as storm winds in the Odyssey and are supposedly the daughters of Zephyros, the West Wind.
“But even so I wish and long day by day to reach my home, and to see the day of my return.” Homer Odyssey 5, 220.
This was something Amundsen longed for:
so that we could breathe freely. Up here we were seldom able to draw a good long breath, if we only had to say “Yes”, we had to do it in two instalments.
An allusion to the book of Daniel in the Bible. Daniel interprets various stories and apocalyptic visions. In one of these his companions Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are cast into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar but come out unscathed; in another, a disembodied hand writes a prophecy of calamity on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast – mene, mene, tekel u-pharsin.
The reference in the book implies that having escaped without damage, David would be inviting doom to attempt the same crossing again.
Inspired by a beautiful passage from The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje in which the protagonist, Almasy, lists a dozen wonderful names for romantic but ill-fated winds.
Aeolus was the keeper of the winds in Greek mythology. He gives Odysseus a tightly closed bag of captured winds so that Odysseus can use them to sail gently home to Ithaca.
Allusion to Shakespeare’s inspiring play Henry V and the monarch’s impassioned speech before battle which starts:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!
The word for wind and spirit are the same in Hebrew, “Ruah” and in Greek, “Pneuma”. Ruah is also the word for “blow” and “breath”. The King James Bible translates the Hebrew as “And the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.” The image of wind and its identification with creation is a prevalent leitmotif in Riding the Ice Wind. See further the bookmarks for page 18, and the theme Prometheus blowing life into Man and God into Adam and Eve.
There is a biblical connection between ice and birth:
Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath engendered it?
– Book of Job.
A mountain range in Wyoming, America. Tetons are derivations of the Spanish word for breasts and this is an image connected with maternity as the author starts to imaginatively connect with the imminent birth of his and his wife’s first child.
This is the paragraph that links back to the moment featured in the introduction on page 3:
Now, two years after that initial bolt for freedom, I was lying not far from the very remotest point on the planet, off the map, enveloped in whiteness. I couldn’t help but consider the radical turn my life had taken. No one can ever tell me now that you can forecast how things will pan out.