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Pole to Pole

Day 139: Patriot Hills

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleAway from the coast, there is no life, and therefore no bacteria; no disease, no pests, no beasts of prey, no human interference. It is a clinical environment . . . It can only be compared with life under the ocean or in space.

I read this description of Antarctica, from Roland Huntford's book The Last Place on Earth, over an early-morning cup of tea in the mess tent. Outside the air is barely moving. The silence is almost indescribable. It is as if everything you know that makes noise, that gives life, has been suddenly switched off. Bruce's wife had described it as a deafening silence, which is exactly what it is.

I slept fitfully, still troubled by a rumbling, discontented stomach, which has a knack of knowing when I'm furthest from a lavatory. It isn't just a question of getting out of bed and going next door. It is a question of getting out of bed without waking five other people, putting on trousers, a sweater, a jacket, two huge boots, a neckband, a headband, a Balaclava, sunglasses and a pair of gloves, walking a hundred yards across the ice, remembering you've forgotten your roll of toilet paper, coming back, treading on someone's head, and then finding a Japanese motorcyclist has got there before you.

Still, once enthroned in solitary splendour, one does experience an acute feeling of accomplishment at having got there at all. The view from the loo is immense and empty. There is no one out there, for thousands of miles.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 139
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 312

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