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Pole to Pole

Day 9: The Greenland Sea

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleA night of varying degrees of instability. Occasionally some steep pitching and tossing which has clocks, books and glasses sliding onto the floor. The engine noise is a loud, persistent, constant factor we shall have to get used to. Noise insulators, like stabilizers, were never part of the Norsel's specifications.

Egg and bacon breakfast. Fraser is worried that we have been given no lifeboat drill. Roger had awoken in the night to find a large sailor in his cabin. He was a messenger from the captain who had seen some ice near by and thought that we might like to photograph it.

Wintry conditions. Snow flurries on deck and a heavy sea. Seabirds like tern, fulmar and kittiwake, rest on the ice-covered bow before resuming their graceful gliding search of the waters.

I show Fraser the findings of an American survey, published in the shipping magazine Trade Winds, which asked people for whom they would give up a seat in a lifeboat. Of men, 67 per cent would give up a seat to their wives, 52 per cent to Mother Teresa, but only 8 per cent to Madonna. Of women, 41 per cent would give up a seat to their husbands, and only 3 per cent to 'men not their husbands'. I don't think Fraser's even found the lifeboat yet, so the question is academic.

I ask the captain what our maximum speed is.

'Well,' he pulls heavily on a yellowing hand-rolled cigarette, 'with a light load, good weather and the current behind us . . . ten knots.'

I reckon it will take us thirty hours just to clear the coast of Spitsbergen and another two days before we reach the fishing fleets on the Barents Sea.

Such is the pitching and tossing of the ship tonight that as I lie in my narrow bunk I experience the not unpleasant sensation of being stretched. First of all my body tries to slide out through my feet, then a moment later everything tries to escape through the top of my head. Go to sleep wondering how one could design a machine to reproduce this effect.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 9
  • Country/sea: Arctic Ocean
  • Place: Greenland Sea
  • Book page no: 25

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