Set over the long dark months of the Arctic winter, Dark Matter follows ‘Jack’ an adventurer on an expedition to a remote uninhabited bay. As night returns and his companions are forced to leave one by one. Jack discovers that he is not alone as something fearsome walks in the dark.
Praise for Dark Matter ‘The ultimate test of a good ghost story is surely whether you feel panicked reading it in bed at midnight; two thirds through, I found myself suddenly afraid to look out the windows, so I’ll call it a success‘
The Observer (British newspaper)
Dark Matter A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver
Read the extract below taken from Michelle Paver’s novel. In it, the hero, Jack, sees a lone figure in the bay for the first time as he returns from a hike. When you have finished reading answer the comprehension questions. In the bay, an oar flashed. A rowing boat was taking a party of men back to the ship. I would have to hurry, or I’d miss saying goodbye to Eriksson. Twilight came on as I scrambled over the stones. The wind dropped to a whisper. I heard the creak of my anorak, my labouring breath. I was still five hundred yards above camp when I saw a man standing in front of the cabin, by the bear post. His back was turned, but I could tell it wasn’t Algie or Gus. It must be one of the crew, taking a last look at the cabin he’d helped to build . The sun was in my eyes, but I made out that he wasn’t dressed like a sealer. Instead of overalls, he wore a tattered sheepskin coat and a round cap, and ragged boots. I called out to him. ‘Hullo, there! You’d better get down to the boats, or you’ll be left behind!‘ He turned to face me, a dark figure against the glare. Fleetingly, I saw that his hands were at his sides, and that one shoulder was higher than the other. There was something about the tilt of his head that I didn’t like. He didn’t make an agreeable impression. All right, he made a disagreeable one. I wanted him away from my camp and safely heading for the ship. And irrationally, I wished I hadn’t drawn attention to myself by calling out to him. Feeling foolish, I continued down the slope. I had to watch my footing. When I looked again, I was relieved to see that the man had gone.
Check your understanding of these words from the text
Bay Crew Tattered
Scramble Cabin Ragged
Glare Impression Attention
Questions 1. The writer chooses to let Jack see the figure for the first time when he is alone. Why do you think that is? 2. Why do you think the writer choses not to put too much detail into the description of the figure? 3. Why does Jack wish he hadn’t called to the figure? 4. How does the extract make you feel?
Now read the next part of the story and fill in the twelve gaps with any word that you think fits. Tip Dark Matter is set in 1937 so occasionally the language is a little different to contemporary English. In this extract you will read the line ‘ loitering with intent to pilfer’ - this means - ‘waiting for a chance to steal something’.
Some time later, when I reached the shore, Mr Eriksson was at the water’s edge, waiting with the last of his crew to say goodbye. There was (1) ...... sign of Algie or Gus, and the men seemed nervous, glancing over (2) ...... shoulders at the vanishing sun. I didn’t see anyone in a sheepskin coat, so I mentioned the straggler to Mr Eriksson. He looked at me sharply; then (3) ...... to his men. Taking my arm he drew me aside. ‘You make a mistake,’ he said in a low voice. ‘There was no one at the cabin.’ I snorted. ‘Well, but there was you know. But that’s all right, he’s obviously (4) ...... in the other boat.’ Scowling, Eriksson shook his head. It occurred to me that he thought I might be accusing one of his men of loitering with intent to pilfer, so I said quickly, ‘It doesn’t (5) ......, I only mentioned it so he doesn’t get left behind.’ I gave an awkward laugh. ‘After all, we’d rather not have an uninvited guest making a fourth with us in our (6) .......’ Eriksson didn’t seem to (7) ...... that. Brusquely, he asked if I’d (8) ...... to the man. I told him no, except to urge him to hurry up and join his fellows - which, clearly he had. The Norwegian (9) ...... his mouth to reply, but just then Gus and Algie came down, bearing our parting gift of claret and cigars, so he (10) ...... his chance. Algie and Gus made an embarrassed little speeches of thanks, and Eriksson reddened and thanked them back. His manner was strained. I don’t think they noticed. When it was my (11) ......, he took my hand and crushed it in his bear’s grip. ‘Good winter, Professor,’ he said, his grey eyes holding (12) ....... At the time, I couldn’t make out his expression. But now I wonder if it wasn’t pity. Then he was in his boat, and his men were pushing off.
Dark Matter was first published in 2010 and is available at www.orionbooks.co.uk and the school library. If Arctic horror is your thing then here are a couple of movie recommendations you could try. John Carpenters 80‘s classic The Thing about an alien found in the snow that can take on the appearance of anything it kills. Or 30 days of Night where small town sheriff Josh Harnett has to defend his Arctic outpost from some hungry vampires until the sun comes up.
Making a movie An adventure can happen just about anywhere. You don’t have to be in the jungle for something incredible to occur. But whether you’re up a mountain or on the street the number one thing an adventurer needs is a camera to film their expedition. Otherwise who is going to believe that all those things actually happened?
Now that you’ve read about Captain Scott’s travails in the Antarctic and seen Bruce Parry living life in the jungle it’s time for you to have an adventure
Using your phone or camera make a short film (1/2 minutes) of you going somewhere or doing something you have never done before. Before starting out, remember that when an anthropologist such as Bruce makes documentaries, they have a lot of training, a whole film crew with them and are sensitive to local customs. So the only rules you have to follow are that whatever you film can’t be illegal or endanger yourself or others. When you’ve finished upload your film to www.facebook.com/singlestepuk. For each film write a 150 word commentary on what happened and whether the experience was how you imagined it. If you’re stuck, check the facebook page now as there are some examples already on there
Scott of the Antarctic Antarctica is enormous. Almost entirely covered in ice, which is in places over three miles thick, the UK could fit into it over fifty times.
Completely surrounded by the vast Southern Ocean, it is high, windy and extremely cold. It is the only major landmass on earth without an indigenous human population and there are no life forms on the continent except around the coast. Until as late as 1820 no one had seen its mainland, yet by 1890 adventurers from around the world were planning expeditions across it’s forbidding landscape.
An Expedition Imagine you and your partner are on an expedition to the South Pole. You will have to travel more than 800 miles across possibly the most dangerous terrain in the world. Using the map above, you would travel from Scott Base by the Ross Sea to Amundsen - Scott point, just above the Transantarctic mountains. What problems do you think you’d face? How would you solve the following issues; • Travel • Food • Warmth • Transportation See what solutions you can find
• What if it was 100 years ago? • How would your decisions change? • Would you want to be known as the first person to make it to the South Pole and be remembered as a hero? Even if it meant dying in the process?
Robert Falcon Scott The photos on this page are taken from the most famous and perhaps ill fated expedition in history. A century ago Captain Robert Falcon Scott set out with his companions for the South Pole. His fate and that of his team would remain a mystery to us today if he hadn’t kept what has become the most famous diary in exploration history. In it Scott documented the trials his team suffered.
Captain Scott’s Final Expedition In 1910 the Terra Nova set sail from New Zealand bound for the South Pole. On board, with animals, provisions and scientific equipment was Captain Robert Scott and his team. Their aim, against quite terrifying odds, was to become the first men to reach the South Pole. But there was far more to their expedition than simply writing themselves into the history books. Along with Scott were twelve scientists travelling to unlock some of the secrets of the unexplored land mass. Their weeks aboard the ship were gruelling as the Southern Ocean battered them incessantly. If any member of the party had failed to understand the ordeal that lay ahead then the continual fight to save the animals, fuel and food from howling gales and giant waves, was the perfect introduction to the hardships in store. And after the horrors of the open sea, the team had then to endure the long haul through the ice pack to their base camp. Watching their fuel supplies dwindle and the ship sustain more damage, it must have been tortuously slow. The hut the men built when they finally arrived at the main base still stands today, preserved perfectly in the Antarctica ice as if frozen in time. Oddly Scott chose to divide it between men and officers giving each of them a separate living space. Once the hut was readied and the supplies stored, Scott set out with the main expedition to set up the advanced camps they would rely on, on the return leg of their journey. It was these men Captain Oates, Dr Wilson, Lieut Bowers and PO Evans who would become infamous along with Scott for the tragedy that was about to unfold. And it was that depot laying that would be their final undoing. Scott’s plan was to leave forward bases filled with supplies that would mean the men would have to carry less on their return journey. However, setting up the last of these proved difficult because of the weather and Scott was forced to leave the supplies twenty miles short of where they’d planned to. With the supply route laid to ‘One Ton Camp’ Scott and his men camped down through the Antarctic winter, to wait for the spring thaw and their attempt on the Pole. This period proved hard for all of the men with the unrelenting Antarctic dark and in particular the mission by Bowers, Cherry - Garrard and Wilson to ‘Crozier’ point.
Captain Scott and his men outside the hut.
Middle: Wilson, Bowers and Cherry Garrard return from Crozier Bottom: Captain Scott writing his diary in the hut.
Their return is shown in the middle photo on the opposite page and the condition they came back in shook all the men who were about to leave for the South Pole. With the return of the sun, Scott and his men left At the same time a Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amundsen left from Ross Island 100 km nearer to the Pole. The Norwegians were experienced Arctic explorers and had chosen to take dogs and skis with them, while Scott had decided to use ponies, motorised sledges and only a few dogs in support.
“We marched on , found that it was a black flag tied to a sledge bearer ....... This told us the whole story. The Norwegians are first at the Pole. It is a terrible disappointment, and I am very sorry for my loyal companions. Tomorrow we must march on the Pole and then hasten home with all the speed we can compass. All the day dreams must go; it will be a wearisome return” January 16th 1912
The conditions the men faced on the journey were horrendous. The ponies were unable to cope with the conditions and died slowly one by one meaning the men had to haul the sledges across 800 miles of ice themselves. Often they were only saved from death by the ropes that bound them together as they’d fall into crevasses that covered the land. Their sleeping bags froze meaning the men soon suffered from frostbite as well as sleep deprivation and malnutrition. All of this only to find, inevitably that Amundsen had reached the Pole first . It was utterly demoralising and both Scott and his men were heartbroken at the realization that they had been beaten. But the real tragedy lay in the journey home for the five men. Evans pictured here furthest on the right was first to die after a fall and serious concussion meant he could go no further. Then famously on the 17th March Oates, (pictured far left, suffering severe frost bite, left the tent telling his companions, ‘I am just going outside and maybe some time.’ He was never seen again. The remaining three are known to have survived until Scott’s last diary entry on March 29th, eleven miles short of the last supply depot Scott had built the previous year. A supply depot Scott had wanted to set twenty miles further south but had been prevented from doing so because of the weather. You can read the final paragraph of Scott’s last diary entry here.
“Every day we have been ready to start for our depot 11 miles away, but outside the door of the tent it remains a scene of whirling drift. I do not think we can hope for any better things now. we shall stick it out to the end, but we are getting weaker, of course, and the end cannot be far. It seems a pity, but I do not think I can write more.”
For God’s sake look after our people
A search party was sent out from McMurdo Sound after the end of the Antarctic Winter of 1912. It found the bodies of Scott, Wilson and Bowers on the 12th November, bundled in their sleeping bags inside their tent covered in snow. The party took Scott’s diary as a record of what had happened but the bodies of the three men were left, wrapped in the tent and buried under a snow cairn where they still remain today.
He did not - would not - give up hope to the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning - yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, ‘I am just going outside and maybe some time.” He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since. Scott on the last days of Lawrence Oates
“My companions are unendingly cheerful, but we are all on the verge of serious frostbites and though we constantly talk of fetching through I don’t think any of us believes it in his heart ” Captain R.F Scott
Robert Falcon Scott Questions
â€œBut, for my own sake, I do not regret this journey.â€?
Using the text on the previous pages see if you can answer these questions about Captain Scott and his expedition to the South Pole.
1. The only reason Captain Scott travelled to Antarctica was to be the first man at the South Pole? True or False 2. The team knew they had a good chance of achieving their goals? 3. How did their sea journey to Antarctica change the way they saw the expedition? 4. What were the difficulties the team found as they travelled through the ice pack? 5. What remains in Antarctica of the Scott expedition today? 6. What mistake did Scott and his team make as they stored their supplies? 7. What was the worst part of the Antarctic winter for the men? 8. Amundsen had no previous experience of conditions like those in Antarctica? 9. What dangers did Scott and his men face? 10. Why is Captain Oates death so famous? 11. Where was Scott found? 12. Why do you think Scott kept a diary?