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Full Circle

Day 244: Nome to Wales

Michael Palin - Full CircleThe helicopter makes the half-mile crossing, but there is a complication. Because of military regulations he cannot take all of us at once, so several time-consuming trips have to be made as the weather gets progressively worse.

The rest of the crew, with camera, film and unfortunately, as it transpires, with the radio as well is taken back safely to the Munro. The helicopter does not reappear. Fraser and I, the only ones left on the mainland, can only huddle beside an aircraft hangar, out of the wind, and wait. Despite the fierce gale low cloud is rolling in toward the beach and we can now no longer see the Munro. Over Cape Prince of Wales, barren and treeless, is now an increasingly indistinct presence. I have rarely seen weather turn so angry, so fast. This, I suppose, is what western Alaska is really like. The dead calm, sun-drenched days when we were last here have lulled us into a false sense of security. I should have listened to Harry de Windt. What an absurd way to end a series, crouching behind a shed on the furthest westerly point of the American continent. An hour passes. We check our options. Fraser has nineteen dollars in his pocket. We're about to trudge back to the nearest hut and beg to be readmitted when we catch the sound of an aircraft engine over the screeching of the wind. Though we are safely plucked from the tempest on Wales beach, the most perilous part of the whole operation is still to come. The helicopter must be landed precisely in the right spot on the stern of a ship pitching and tossing in a strengthening gale. In these conditions the slightest misjudgement could be fatal. The skill of the pilot and the co-ordination of the manoeuvre by Captain Gable on the bridge made me feel doubly embarrassed to be involving such people in our harebrained schemes.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 244
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Wales - Alaska
  • Book page no: 319

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