UNDER THE ICE (©Words and music by Paul F. Cowlan)

The Voyager spacecraft numbers I and II, launched in 1977 and now far beyond the reaches of our solar system, both carry a  gold-plated disc of recorded earth sounds for the benefit of any interested aliens. Among those sounds, in company with Mozart, Chuck Berry and other worthies, is the song of a whale. In a mere 294,000 years these probes should be in the vicinity of Sirius, and it’s quite possible they might outlast planet Earth itself.   


Under the ice I heard a song.
And it led me south to the rocks and the frozen sun.
No words, and an unfamiliar theme.
Who was the singer? And what did it mean?
It was hard to tell, but somehow it seemed
to be saying ‘goodbye’.

At the the launch-pad I heard the voice again.
A tape-recording as the countdown began.
Earth sounds and pictures tossed into the stars,
like a message in a bottle, for someone out there
to decipher or wonder at, many million miles from here;
a whale song saying ‘goodbye’.

A bottle of wine and some paper,
I’ll carry them down to the sea:
And I’ll stand on the shore as the evening begins,
and these are the words that I’ll write as I drink,
and seal in the bottle and throw it as far as I can.

Never give your heart to strangers.
Pearls before the swine.
There so much that’s worth saving,
but we don’t have too much time.
In the heart of the ocean,
in the forest or on the land.
Even now it’s not too late
if we could only understand.
Will we never understand?


Under the stars, a bottle on the waves.
Floating westward, drifting away.
And somewhere a rocket is travelling on
in the darkness and starlight, bearing the song.
But under the ice the singer is gone.