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Pole to Pole

Day 5: Ny Alesund to Kap Wik

Michael Palin - Pole to Pole2 a.m. The skies duly clear and dazzling sunlight picks out mountains and glaciers obscured for forty-eight hours.


8 a.m. I raise my blind in expectation. The sun has gone as if it were a dream, and the pile of snow at my window is half an inch higher. Walk through a blizzard to the canteen. I have said goodbye to the breakfast chef at least twice and he is now thoroughly confused and a little suspicious of my intentions. Am I really on my way to the South Pole or just trying out Great Mueslis of the World?

Heinrich is phlegmatic.

'Waiting . . .' he observes, 'everything about the Arctic is waiting.' After lunch the snow begins to ease off and in the square the Norwegian flag turns abruptly to the south. This is a sign of the arrival of the settled northerly airstream for which we have been waiting.

The journey to Longyearbyen is likely to take twelve hours at least, and it is suggested that we should break it with a stop at Kap Wik, about five hours away, where there is a trapper's hut with accommodation. This sounds suitably photogenic and fairytale-like and once the vehicles have been cleared of their carapace of snow, the sledge trailers lashed down and hooked up, and an anti-polar-bear rifle stashed aboard, we are once more ready for departure. Nick and Katie Cox honour us with an official British presence at the great moment, and Nick entrusts me with a bottle of whisky for Harald, the trapper. I am so embarrassed that we might have to slink back yet again that I avoid the chef's eye and Amundsen's severe stare as we finally pull away just after seven in the evening.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 5
  • Country/sea: Norway
  • Place: Ny Alesund
  • Book page no: 17

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