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Pole to Pole

Day 140: Patriot Hills to the Thiel Mountains

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleDan, who looks like a plump Lee Marvin, learnt his flying in the USAF and later in Alaska. As we assemble our gear I catch him looking thoughtfully at the plane. I ask him if he knows the Pole well.

He scratches at a white-haired chin. 'Never been there.'

He must enjoy seeing my jaw move up and down, soundlessly, for his eyes have a twinkle as he adds: 'I'm from the north, I've come down south here for the winter . . . to enjoy the nice weather.'

I try to make the best of it, tapping the side of the plane.

'Still, I'll bet this aircraft must have seen plenty of polar action . . . '

'Nope. This'll be the first trip for a single-engine turbine Otter to the Pole.'

It transpires that neither pilot nor aircraft, nor even Scott, our Adventure Network escort, has ever been to the Pole. We're all first-timers.

Now I know what Mike Sharp was talking about when he told me yesterday that Adventure Network's success was 'based on enthusiasm, really . . . We're an ex-company of adventurers that . . . still want the adventure.'

At 3.45 p.m. we say our farewells, not just to Patriot Hills, but to Basil and Patti, who have to stay behind. Though they have known this all along, it doesn't make it any easier to leave them so close to our final destination.

We squeeze into tiny seats, made smaller by the bulkiness of our clothing. It is rather like sitting at nursery-school desks. We share the cabin with a drum of kerosene as well as camera, camping and catering equipment, pumps and ice shovels. The only empty space is the gangway, and that is soon filled with an aluminium ladder.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 140
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 315

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