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Full Circle

Day 1: Little Diomede Island, Bering Strait

Michael Palin - Full CircleIt's mid-morning in late August and I'm sitting on a rock in the middle of the Bering Strait.

I'm not the only one here. As well as the six other members of my film crew there are a hundred and eighty-two Inaluk Eskimos for whom this mile-long granite outcrop is home. Down below me they go about their business. Fishermen dismember walruses, cutting the precious meat into fat, stinky chunks which they conceal beneath shrouds of plastic sheeting like objects in a murder investigation. Their wives spread the skin of the walrus out to dry on wooden frames, alongside braided lengths of seal intestine, strips of herring and morsels of beluga whale. Others repair boats, tarring and painting and tinkering with outboard motors. Most of the sixty children who live on the rock spill noisily onto the school playground for a lunchtime break. A handful of men in hard hats disappears into the treatment plant beside the huge water storage tank that dominates the small, steep waterfront settlement.

From my precarious perch I look down at the messy jumble of huts with something approaching despair. Everyone else on this rock seems to know what they're doing and why they're here.

I try to concentrate - Nigel is pointing his camera expectantly and Fraser's wind-baffled sound boom is aimed at me like a cattle prod. A documentary series waits to begin. Yet, as I sit here, I feel less like a television presenter, more like Alice in Wonderland.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 1
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Ignaluk - Alaska
  • Book page no: 12

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