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Pole to Pole

Day 8: Longyearbyen to Tromsų

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleShortly after seven o'clock on an evening of piercing sunshine we pull away from Spitsbergen, round the headland, past the coal tips and out into the broad waters that lead to the Greenland Sea.

Soon a wall of grey cloud looms ahead of us and the captain says a gale is forecast. His bridge bristles with all sorts of electronic equipment, but he prefers to slide down one of the window panels, stick his head out and see what the birds are doing. He's sceptical of weather forecasts. In these waters things change so quickly.

'Once thing you can be sure of, you can't be sure of anything,' he observes. Another piece of Arctic wisdom.

He has to set a course almost due west to avoid the pack-ice along the coast, but it is from the west that the gale is coming. Thinking it may be the last meal we can cope with for a while we eat well - a rich stew cooked by Anthony, a small pale man dressed all in white, like an anxious dentist. We don't think he's Norwegian and Roger hazards that he is Russian.

'Are you Russian?' he asks him over another helping of stew. Anthony gives a quick, brittle smile and shakes his head. 'Polish.'

It turns out that the three deckhands are Polish as well.

Later, on the bridge, the captain (Norwegian) is worried that the wind is veering west earlier than expected.

'Not good for us,' he mutters. At the other end of the bridge the moustachioed chief engineer (also Norwegian) sits reading a comic book and not laughing.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 8
  • Country/sea: Arctic Ocean
  • Place: Greenland Sea
  • Book page no: 25

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