Free English essays: Dying in the Arctic   2 comments

Dying in the Arctic

I hope you enjoy this post. It is in three Levels: Level 1 for beginners, Level 3 for Intermediate learners and Level 5 for Complex English. This post isn’t in my new book ‘Writing with Stardust’ a descriptive book for students. Many more chapters describing nature are, however.

For much more of these types of posts, please check out my new book Writing with Stardust by clicking the book title or image. I hope you enjoy the blog post.



















the   crunch of snow

the   crackle of snow

the huff   of breath

the   grunts of pain

an   entombed silence

an alien   shush

lacerating   winds

howling   huskies

hissing   of the sled

wind   like a screech owl





wind   blasted


frozen   wasteland

Godforsaken   wilderness

azoic,   lunar landscape

monochromatic   snow desert

a   paradise of death






Siberian   cold

Cossack   cold






polar   bears




negative   thoughts

drifting   ice

wind   chill

white   outs

‘walk   out’


carbon   monoxide



arctic hare

arctic foxseal


polar   bear


lemming   ermine


 musk oxen





Labrador   tea

arctic   willow

arctic   poppy

moss      campion


white   dryad

pasque   flower

purple   saxifrage








peregrine   falcon



snowy   owl

snow   geese









banshee   winds

the   lamentation

of the   wind

messianical   winds


shivering   body

numb   feet

snow   blindness




heart attack



necrotic   flesh


trench   foot



1. The Arctic snow was powder-whiteCOLOURS

2. It crunched and crackled under my feet.  SOUNDS

3. The landscape all around me was lifelessFEATURES

4. The wind was chilly and icy to the skin.  COLDNESS

5. A platoon of mosquitoes danced above my head and bit me often.  PERILS

6. I saw an Arctic fox ghosting past me in the distance.  ANIMALS

7. The only plant I saw was a sorry looking cloudberry bush.  PLANTS

8. Penguins with clowns’ feet waddled across the snow.  BIRDS

9. The screeching wind rose up and I put up my tent.  WIND

10. My numb feet were glad of the warmth inside the tent.  SENSATIONS


I trudged and tottered through the snow. It felt as if I was walking in a wilderness of zombie-white. The Arctic winds had died down, leaving me wrapped in the prison of my mind. All around me was an eerie, entombed silence and the only sounds were my grunts of pain and the slow scrape of my sled on the snow.

The frozen, featureless wasteland that I was stumbling through had nearly killed me three times already. It made me think, not for the first time, that my attempt at a solo crossing of the Arctic was a bad idea. The first time was a polar bear, a lumbering, head-swaying, ranger of death who had tried to breach my tent. Luckily for me, the gun fired this time and scared him away. Some of my friends on earlier expeditions weren’t so lucky when the trigger jammed with the cold. The second time was when I fell into a narrow crevasse. The sled wouldn’t fit through the gap and I was able to haul myself up after an hour of dangling in the jaws of death. The third time was my own fault. I went out to hunt for food and killed a large walrus. Nearly too late, I saw six large figures bearing down on top of me. The wolves were wraith-like in their approach and I beat a hurried retreat, leaving the walrus there. I could hear them crunching the bones and growling at each other as I left. I often wonder if it was a penguin I had killed whether they would have come after me. There’s not much meat in a penguin, but a man, that’s a different story…..

The Cossack-cold winds are constantly licking at my clothes, trying to find a way to kill me. I try to avoid the drifting ice as best I can and use my G.P.S every night. Negative thoughts constantly creep into my mind and I try to push them aside. What if I break my leg? What if I forget to put on my glove? What if wolves aren’t satisfied with one easy meal? It’s a tough environment out here, a cold house for an adventurer. The Arctic has 500 flowers, apparently, but I’ve only seen one-a withered, stunted willow that looked as lonely as me. I saw a peregrine falcon once also, as white as an orchid and screeching at me in an alien voice. Other than that, there’s just me and the snow.

The wind is whipping up again now. It’s time to put on an extra layer or I’ll perish with hypothermia. I hope I can make it through the day again. I hope that’s the wind and not the wolves howling….


The greatest threat from the Antarctic is not that which lies without but that which lies within. Although it is a paradise of death and a snowy tomb for all but the most obdurate of men, the Antarctic is not the problem. You are.

All the psyche evaluations, stamina training and modern equipment in the world won’t prepare you for what’s in store. You are entering a cadaverous-white crucible of death, a place where all the worst elements of nature have been excommunicated to. You will encounter starvation, sleeplessness, frostbite, dehydration and death- if you are lucky. If you are unlucky, you will die at the end of a slavering, polar bear’s fang or by falling down a snow hill in the shape of a troll’s tooth. There you will lie down in snow as cold as a barrow wight’s soul and wonder how any environment could hate life so much. The stultifying silence will be as eerie as the moonscape of white you gaze upon. The necrotic, gangrenous flesh of your broken leg will smell of sewers and old trash cans. In the Antarctic’s final irony, the colours of your leg will match the aurora borealis: blue, purple and green. You will look from one to the other, the sky a marvel and the leg a horror clip, and you will despair. Welcome to the Antarctic.

That is just one possible scenario. You see, the perils of the Antarctic are many and a slow, lingering death is just one of them. Whiteouts are just one of the many threats you face. You can be clumping along, your feet crunching the snow like popcorn exploding, when the sky turns a bright, crystalline-white. The wind rises and keens like a screech-owl and you have to scramble to put your tent up. The sky belches out a rumbling sound like the drums of doom and you had better hurry. It’s your last warning. The snow whips across the desolate tundra and you are confined to your tent for an hour, a day, a week or any time of nature’s choosing. Inside the tent, the stove you brought to heat your food can kill you more insidiously than the frore air outside. Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the Antarctic’s great ironies. Even the warmth that you provide for yourself needs careful monitoring. If you are not precise in your preparation and habits, you are destined to fail the test of the Antarctic.

The real test of the Antarctic is your own mind, however. ‘Walk out’ syndrome is a real and present danger. Before we get to that, let us look at how it comes about. You have spent two weeks already in the Antarctic. You burn so many calories per day hauling your sled that your fat reserves are running low. Your mind compensates by playing tricks on you. You crave food that you can’t have, whether it is a burger or a chocolate bar. It consumes your every moment, this promise of a future reward. Some psychologists call it ‘future positive transference’; others might call it the first descent into madness.

On top of that, the isolation of the Antarctic begins to take its toll. You miss your friends and family. At night in your tent, you begin to compose imaginary conversations with them. That is why the ultimate punishment in a prison is solitary confinement; being part of the tribe is an atavistic craving that all humans share. Take that away and a man or woman feels ostracised and worthless. Finally, your mind begins to tell you that you can survive this experience better than other mere mortals can. So, even though you know it is odd, one night you find yourself walking out of your tent for no apparent reason. Remember the words of  Lawrence Oates on the Captain Scott expedition? “I am just going outside and may be some time.” Curiously, the man he entrusted to write a letter for his mother, Edward Wilson, made no reference to any words that he spoke. It is still the subject of controversy. Self-sacrifice for his friends or ‘walk out syndrome’? Who is to know?

Of course, like all environments, the Antarctic has a certain beauty on occasion. Not all of it causes a desolation of the soul and a harrowing of the heart. The hallowed silence and monochromatic whiteness can seem comforting in a stark and alien way sometimes. The aurora borealis mentioned previously has the most psychedelic colours known to man. It swirls and shape shifts across the sky like the changing colours of silk veils, from luminous-blue and royal-purple to electric-green. The moon can be impressive too, hanging in the sky like a low-watt globe and giving off a pasty glow. It might not seem like much, but it is the only symbol of hope you will see in this forlorn desert of snow. You will not see the bat-winged shadows of any trees (tundra means ‘treeless plain’ in Finnish). You may get a flash of palsied pearlwort or withered hair grass, the only flowers known to grow south of 56 degrees Celsius. You may even see a flock of snow geese passing overhead, appearing out of nowhere like something from a Celtic fairytale. These may also be the first symptoms of snow blindness or the initial stages of hallucination.

Either way, if you intend to go there, be aware of the perils you will face. The Arctic and Antarctic hide the bones of many brave men who thought they could defeat it. If you think you are special, one in a million perhaps, just remember that our planet has 8 billion souls living on it. That puts your odds of survival at 8,000 to 1, even if you are one in a million. It’s not for me to say, but perhaps the best advice you could take is to leave it to the polar bears and penguins….

For much more of these types of posts, please check out my new book Writing with Stardust by clicking the book title.



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2 responses to “Free English essays: Dying in the Arctic

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  1. This is sooo good, good job!!

  2. Hi Azwaar:
    I hope you are well. Thanks for the kind comment and it is very appreciated. Keep well and cheers for now. Liam.

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