18 February 2013

On June 5th, 1898, Émile Danco, the magnetician aboard the Antarctic sea vessel Belgica, died of heart failure. Henryk Arctowski, the expedition’s geologist, described his burial in a way that greatly moved me:

“In the obscurity of the midday twilight we carried Lieutenant Danco’s body to a hole which had been cut in the ice, and committed it to the deep. A bitter wind was blowing as, with bared heads, each of us silent, we left him there. . . . And the floe drifted on. . . .”

The Belgica and its crew were imprisoned in ice for over a year. From May to July 1898, for a total of 63 days, there was nothing but total darkness outside. It was during this time that Danco passed away. I can only imagine the desperation and deep sorrow these men felt as they lowered his corpse into a tomb of ice.