It was an exhilarating hike last summer, with my family, when my old man mentioned the Northwest Passage. I was confused, as the trail seemed lost in the thick woods. And the light hardly pierced through the canopy of branches and leaves. It turned out that my father was thinking of a novel that he read during his younger years. The Northwest Passage was a shortcut to life goals, which dreamers would pursue relentlessly. He hardly recalled the details except for a tale of a young man who wanted to be a painter of natural scenery. But he needed a subject. He found himself in the middle of the Civil War, surviving the unchartered wilderness in the West.
The events came to mind several months later while staring at a gray sky and soggy garden. I was certain that Kenneth Roberts, who penned the novel, had a basis behind his premise. It turned out to be a shortcut between the West and the East, but thick ice would cover much of the Arctic region. The Age of Exploration took a different level, as the powers-to-be scrambled to set foot on faraway lands. No one knew what would dwell in those places. Then and there, I was somewhere else. I should be penning a novel, but it was a rainy afternoon. And I rather do nothing else.
Blessing in disguise?
My housemates were talking about the discovery of HMS Terror in Nunavut's Terror Bay. The ship was in good condition. They were mulling about the possible stories.
The crew braved the harsh Arctic winter, but they didn't make it to the Bering Strait. It was huge news in England, which prompted to do a search-and-rescue mission for many years. But nothing was found. My housemates haven't been to many places, yet they seemed obsessed about a region several thousand kilometers from home. They read a book by Dan Simmons, where the doomed expedition of HMS Terror was shrouded in superstition. The surviving members of the crew were terrified of an Arctic creature, probably more hideous than the gigantic squids that lurked beneath the surface of the warmer seas. It didn't help that a Native American girl was with them, who kept on muttering about the spirits roaming the cold place. It would make an entertaining yarn during a weekend when we rather thought of ways of distracting ourselves from the coursework.
I would bet that no one foresaw global warming, which would diminish the ice shelf. Many would be alarmed about it, but the whereabouts of HMS Terror were known. Perhaps the fate of the crew would remain in mystery, but the possibility of an Arctic region without ice might expose some secrets. There would be a volcano up north, even the remains of a deserted community. I wasn't thinking about the fate of the polar bears, traveling into the warmer areas searching for food. How about Antarctica? Studies revealed a desert beneath the ice shelf, a volcanic region that could have a violent past. Someone from the class mentioned about the Hollow Earth, but I would suspect another novel that was penned during the turn of the 20th century.
A fascinating idea came to mind. The desert would reveal structures similar to the Nubian pyramids. A landmass allowed the inhabitants to travel southwards. It could be a premise of another historical novel, but I was imagining again.