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Pole to Pole

Day 136: Punta Arenas

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe main dangers in Antarctica, she warns us, are the cold and the wind and the snow. Exposed areas will get quickly frostbitten, and snow-blindness is painful and easily acquired. A snowstorm can come down at any time so 'always move in a party of people'. When we leave the hotel tomorrow morning we must be wearing and personally carrying everything we need; 'You must be a self-contained unit, and able to operate should the aircraft put down anywhere in Antarctica.'

We're assured there is a permanent doctor on the base. His name is Scott, and, as some wag shouts from the back of the room, 'his rates for open-heart surgery are very reasonable'.

'His success rate isn't quite as reasonable,' comes the reply.

I'm surprised, talking to Anne afterwards, to find how few people have ever been to the South Pole. Higher, colder, less accessible than the North, it remained unvisited for forty-four years after Scott left in January 1912. The US Navy landed there in 1956 and scientists have worked at the Pole ever since, but few outsiders have visited. Anne estimates that in six years of operation Adventure Network have taken no more than twenty-five or twenty-six people all the way to the Pole.

Which makes me feel even more special, and even more apprehensive when, later, I look out over the multicoloured roofs of this compact, characterful town, and go through my check-list for the last time.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 136
  • Country/sea: Chile
  • Place: Punta Arenas
  • Book page no: 303

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