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Pole to Pole

Day 10: The Barents Sea

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAt 10 a.m. I check our position on the satellite indicator - 75.47 North and 16.25 East. We're entering the Barents Sea, named after the Dutchman who first discovered it in 1596, and the waters are shallower but cooler, fed by an Arctic rather than Atlantic current. This means that as we head east to the fishing grounds we have to push through a thickening ice-field. Up to now the ice fragments have floated by rather forlornly, looking like upturned tables and chairs, or floats heading home at the end of a parade. But now, as the air gets colder, the ice-blocks are growing in size as the open water between them decreases.

Stein (pronounced Stain), as we now call the captain, picks his way carefully. Some of these ten-foot ice-blocks have wide, solid platforms below the water which could cause damage if met head on. The ideal way to deal with them, he explains, is to keep the bow riding high over the ice, which then passes along the keel and is split by the weight of the ship.

When we are in the thick of the ice, Stein cuts engines and our intrepid cameraman is winched off the deck onto a convenient floe. I personally think it's too early in the journey to get rid of him, but I'm overruled. The sight of Nigel's solitary figure drifting slowly away from us is quite disturbing and I'm sure we all take far more pictures of him than he ever does of us.

The eerie sound of ice scraping along the hull continues for much of the day, before we are through into clear but rugged seas again. Roger, puffing on his pipe and looking increasingly like Captain Pugwash, surveys the spray flung high by waves breaking on the bow, and smiles with satisfaction.

'The devil's coming on the dancefloor, Mike.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 10
  • Country/sea: Arctic Ocean
  • Place: Barents Sea
  • Book page no: 26

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