Ponting

by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch

In the end we turned him into a verb:
to pont meaning to pose in ice and snow

until frozen. On the voyage south he’d be
tilting plates in the darkroom, in one hand

the developing dish, in the other a basin
of vomit. One minute he’d arrange us

in groups for the cinematograph, then rush
to the ship’s side. Once Ponco roped up

his JA Prestwich over Terra Nova’s bow,
balanced on three planks. He lost the tip

of his tongue when it stuck to the camera
at thirty below. Corneas can freeze

to peep-sight. At one hundred degrees
of frost the film’s ribbon will split.

To pont would also mean pontificate. He’d insist
on reeling the film slowly to prevent

sparks. We’d rehearse the Pole Picture:
mount the camera on the theodolite tripod,

wind twine over the trigger and guide it
round a ski stick to get the direction right.

He’d instruct us on setting the shutter, how to
use a flash in the tent with quarter of an inch of powder

and F11. En route to the Pole I sent back
negatives with the support teams, a sheet

torn from my sledging log detailing exposure
data; how composed we were, how cold.