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Pole to Pole

Day 138: Punta Arenas to Patriot Hills

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe dangers of Antarctic life begin as soon as you set foot on the ground. It is an extremely slippery continent, and all of us shuffle about trying not to fall over and generally getting in everyone's way. There is not much time for a welcome. It is probably the busiest day of the season at Patriot Hills. Twenty-eight people and their gear have to be unloaded and dragged across the ice to the camp, a half-mile away. The plane must be refuelled and on its way back again to Punta Arenas within two hours, otherwise the engines will freeze up.

I decide to walk to the camp.

Ahead of me, a crusty surface of wind-blown ice and snow ridges called sastrugis stretches to the horizon.

The sky is clear, and we are back in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

The wind is mercifully light and my thermometer reads twenty-two Fahrenheit. Minus six Centigrade. Nothing serious.

I think of where I am, now only 600 miles from the South Pole. On my globe at home I would be on that dark, unseen area at the base which never gets dusted. How ironic that the reality should be quite the opposite. Clean, clear, dazzling brightness. And silence except for the crunch and squeak of snow under my boot.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 138
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 309

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