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Pole to Pole

Day 138: Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleOne of the Canadians is enthusing about what Antarctica does for her.

'I go through a sort of cleansing process out here . . . I don't drink coffee, I don't smoke.'

I could certainly do with a bit of cleansing. Beneath my nose I feel a spot about to break through - my own personal nunatak - my throat is dry and sore and my rib aches. What sort of awful germs will I be unloading on this purest of continents?

We are getting close to landing. Bruce likens putting down on a blue-ice runway to landing on a cobbled street. The sun has melted pockets in the ice, called 'suncups', which makes it trickily uneven. The ice is so slippery that he cannot risk using brakes and must control the aircraft with engine throttle only. But a big-wheeled aircraft like this could never put down on snow.

At 7.45, turning one last time in the lee of a low rocky range, Bruce lowers the DC-6 onto the translucent, glassy, blue-green surface of the Antarctic ice-cap. There is much noise as the tone of the engines rears higher and we are bumped and swung. Snow swirls past the window as we create a temporary blizzard. After a moment or two of sound and fury, everything settles down and Bruce eases the aircraft round and taxis towards a cluster of oil drums and a converging group of Ski-Doo-hauled wooden sleds.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 138
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 308

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