For a 19-year-old student from the Midwestern United States, the journey taken by Ernest Shackleton to the South Pole one hundred years ago could not seem farther away. And yet, Karl Schmaltz, of Stillwater, Minnesota, has gone to great lengths to recreate Shackleton’s expedition in an “audio journey”.
‘Into the Weddell Sea’, the second track from the album, charts the voyage of Shackleton and his men on their ship Endurance; they set sail from Plymouth in August 1914, heading towards the South Pole, finally reaching the treacherous Weddell Sea.
The Sea, with its strong southwesterly winds and drifting ice shelves, is troublesome even for the most experienced of explorers, and it is here that Shackleton found himself stranded after the ship became trapped in the icy conditions.
The track, written, produced and mastered by Schmaltz, earnestly retells the story of Shackleton, as his men are heard to receive instructions to wait for the ice to recede, before going ahead with the journey and, eventually, encountering the ice that came to be their downfall.
Schmaltz recreates the experience of the men, as the arrangement tells of their perilous passage. The listener is transported to the deck of the ship making its way across the Southern Ocean, hearing sound effects from the stormy seas to the creaking of the ship’s timber. The project has been described as a “metal opera”, but Schmaltz has, effectively, forged a genre of his own, revolutionising the way stories are told and music is heard.
Listen to “Into the Weddell Sea’ here: