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Pole to Pole

Day 139: Patriot Hills

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAt the end of the season the camp is packed away in a snow cave, four feet underground, which is reopened the next year. Even aircraft can be buried and retrieved. A Cessna 185 was buried with its tailplane sticking out so they could find it again, but in the fierce winter gales the tailplane was broken by an overturned oil drum. Today it's being replaced by Bill Aleekuk, an Eskimo engineer in his first season with the company. There are no polar bears in the Antarctic and until Bill arrived last November, there were no Eskimos either.

Gradually the mess tent fills up. Tea and coffee is made from snow melted in a metal tank which is attached to a kerosene-powered heating unit. Beside the tank is a plastic container of freshcut blocks of snow - the Antarctic equivalent of a coal-scuttle or a basket of logs.

Kazama-San is preoccupied with the testing of his bike. It is a Yamaha, powered by a specially designed engine, low on noise and fuel pollution and with a thick tyre at the back, studded like a punk's belt for better grip in the snow. Kazama-San is a charismatic, infectiously jolly character. He has been by motorbike to Everest, the North Pole, and now, with luck, the South Pole. I ask him where next.

'Moon!' he shouts with a manic grin. I believe him.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 139
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 313

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