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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 5: 29 September

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysA soldier with a machine gun patrols outside a tiny concrete guard hut as we pass. The trees on either side bend rather wearily: we're in the land of parched grass.

Suddenly we're inside the canal and in the middle of a picture from the Boy's Book of Wonders. Walls rise at 90 degrees with only 2 metres leeway on either side of us. The three pilots, one on each side of the bridge, and the chief pilot in the middle, now have their trickiest work to do. If the stern of the ship swings at all, it will strike the dry sandstone walls. The negotiation of the Corinth Canal must be one of the top maritime stunts, a display of navigational skills, not just by this boat but by the tug, which is guiding us and keeping us on course, our own steering being ineffective at this speed.

The pilot on the starboard corner cracks his fingers, occasionally calls out some warning in Greek, and the captain then goes to his gyroscope and checks our course. We're flying four flags at the moment, the red and white flag emblazoned with the lion of St Mark, which is the flag of Venice, the red, white and green flag of the Republic of Italy, the red and white flag to signify a pilot on board, and the blue and white flag of Greece. Also up the masthead is Nigel Passepartout with his camera, ever in search of the Great Shot. His presence provokes terrific shouts and consternation from the crew below.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 5
  • Date: 29 September
  • Country/sea: Greece
  • Place: Corinth Canal
  • Book page no: 30

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