The Polar Museum Jo Shapcott

The Polar Museum


Founded in 1920 as the national memorial to Captain RF Scott and his companions who perished on their return from the South Pole, the Museum has recently undergone a £2million refurbishment. It houses collections on all aspects of life in the polar regions, exploration, history and modern polar science. A fascinating range of permanent and temporary exhibits – from penguins to kayaks, from Inuit art to the diaries of Antarctic explorers, sledges, equipment, photographs and much more – is on display, just ten minutes walk from the city centre.

Image: Woman watching fish by Agnes Nanogak, an Inuit artist from Ulukhatok in Inuvik, northern  Canada.

Agnes’s father sailed with explorer Vilhjálmur  Stefánsson as he attempted to find the Northwest Passage from the west. She was born in a camp  on Baillie Island in 1927. The family moved to Holman (now known as Ulukhatok) on Queen’s Bay in 1934, Ulukhatok (population 398 in 2006) is a small community on the west coast of Victoria Island. Agnes was noted for her skill as a storyteller, artist and teacher.

Jo Shapcott


Jo Shapcott was born in London. Poems from her three award-winning collections, Electroplating the Baby (1988), Phrase Book (1992) and My Life Asleep (1998) are gathered in a selected poems, Her Book (2000). She has won a number of literary prizes including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Collection, the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the National Poetry Competition (twice). Tender Taxes, her versions of Rilke, was published in 2001. Her most recent collection, Of Mutability, was published in 2010 and won the Costa Book Award. In 2011 Jo Shapcott was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry.  She teaches on the MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Jo Shapcott


Fox Collar Jo Shapcott

First, catch yer fox with a gripping trap,

one made all of iron, with enough clickets

to hold her but not to crush her leg.

You will do well to bury it under an inch of snow,

put meat in, and meat juices about the place.

Many fur-bearing creatures make a go of it up here,

but fox is best for what we want, with her speed,

with her thick, thick white fur all over

and on her soles, too, her roundy body,

all upholstered for the cold.  She go far north,

she do.  She is bold and will take the trap.

I heard how one grabbed seal meat

from under the bonce of a midshipman,

right there, in his tent, a fool who guarded chow

by making it his pillow.  They was all

blizzed in.  He set off an ice quake

running after she, with his blubber toes

and his lost dreams of big heaps to eat.


You got your collar, we brung eight, will

use them all, good leather, fitted

to an English fox back home for size.

You got your engraving tools, so scribe

careful thus: HBMS ENTERPRISE WQ

(you won’t fit Winter Quarters in long)

LAT 71.35 N LONG 117.39 W XX XII 1851.

Grasp her by the scruff, don’t free her

from the trap till the collar’s on firm.

Watch her run, maybe with a wobble

in her gait from where the iron bit.

But it won’t bother her much

as she goes off and off, with her big eye,

and her empty guts, maybe a hundred

maybe more miles on a hunt and a flyer

with fur feet which make the snow and ice

just a game for her, though it do murder us.


From the Franklin cases at SPRI:

Fox Collar  The area of the Franklin searches was vast and many tactics were used to send information on supply depots and rescue ships to any survivors.   Eight Arctic foxes were fitted with inscribed collars and released in the hope that the missing men would read the message.  The fox wearing this collar travelled over 120 km before its recapture in the winter of 1851-52.  There is no evidence that Franklin’s men received any of this information.

The Polar Museum


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12th March 2013 | 0 Comment(s) | The Polar Museum

Jo Shapcott’s BBC Four radio play is now available to listen and download from the link below.

Erebus is the story of Sir John Franklin’s lost voyage to the Northwest Passage, told through the ghostly voices of the Ice Master, William Braine and Lady Jane Franklin. The music is composed by Jon Nicholls.

If you would like to find out more about Franklin’s story, visit the Polar Museum’s library catalogue:

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