Large flat expanse, cold wind whistles
Down from ice-caps to open sea,
Tow'rin' cliffs make you feel so small,
Polar bears trace the shore for seals,
Muskoxen form protective wall
To keep their calves away from us.

Inuit guide, mukluks and gun
Knows weather 'head, and finds his way
Thru featureless land I’d be lost.
Shows me his bear kill site with pride0,
Fries food inside coating the tent,
Yet he is scared of bumble bees!

“If you eat you will get hungry,
Or if you stop you will get tired.”
That is counter intuitive
Only for those who don’t walk miles,
And miles and miles... John Rae did hun-
-dred years ago1, fleet foot' and light.

Unlike Sir John Franklin burdened
With science and such prejudice
That would lead them to early grave.
Yet high Arctic keeps secrets well,
Would not unlock until we lis-
ten' close to those who live up north...

Northwest Passage, like a siren
You promise gold, far eastern shores,
Yet not conquered 'til new cent'ry2.
Amundsen beat also the Brits
As he did to the Southern Pole
Travelling light as ‘Long Stride’ Rae3.


Sept.2018: A copy was added to the Stromness Museum collection of John Rae artefacts, c/o Aimee Leonard, John Rae Song Workshop

0: Only the Inuit can kill polar bear (save self-defence) in Canada, and their quota was one a year
1: this was composed in 1980s after an Arctic summer, and Rae explored the Arctic in the 1860s
2: Amundsen sailed the Northwest Passage in 1903, a decade before reaching the South Pole
3: Rae befriended the Inuit, who called him in Inuktitut: Aglooka ᐊᒡᓘᑲ , English: "long strider"