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Pole to Pole

Day 12: The Barents Sea

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleMy alarm sounds at 1.30 a.m. It has to work hard to be heard above the cacophony of an engine grinding, revving, reversing and thrusting frantically. Up on the bridge Stein apologizes. The last ship he refuelled 'didn't know what he was doing'. Feeling all the better for forty minutes' sleep I scan the grey waters for whoever it is that has invited us aboard. At around two o'clock the Jan Mayen materializes on our port side. She is two or three times the height of the Norsel and her stern-gate is bathed dramatically in a sodium orange glow. The ship-to-ship transfer will be by crane, and as I am to be hoisted out over the only recently unfrozen waters of the Barents Sea, I'm put into a survival suit. This is a big, clumsy, rubberized affair, which looks as if it would instantly convert to a body bag once I hit the water.

'Do not be afraid,' grins one of our Polish crew with relish as he slips a rope under my arms. He signals to some faceless figure high above me and I'm suddenly ascending, swinging like a box of toilet paper, a case of beer or any other piece of goods, over the side and across the water, then up and up into a different world. The sailors on the Jan Mayen are not scruffy and informal like our friends on the Norsel. They are smartly clad in yellow PVC with tall black boots, like policemen round a road accident. Unlike the Norsel, wildly bobbing below, the Jan Mayen is almost motionless. We are led indoors and shown an air-conditioned bridge with quietly clicking consoles and men sitting around as if they were in Star Trek.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 12
  • Country/sea: Arctic Ocean
  • Place: Barents Sea
  • Book page no: 28

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