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Pole to Pole

Day 11: The Barents Sea

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleSnowstorms and high seas. I don't feel nauseous exactly, but the sight of the breakfast table replete with fried eggs, gammon, sausages, yoghurt, mayonnaise, fish paste in tubes, cheese, bacon, prawn spread and two kinds of salad in plastic tubs moves me fairly smartly up on deck. It's furiously cold and bleak but I stare at the horizon, as recommended, and take a few gulps of Arctic air until the moment of queasiness passes.

This morning everyone is slipping and sliding about, and in one 60-degree lurch all the drawers fly out of the captain's desk.

The first sign that we have reached the fishing fleets is a parade of Russian stern-trawlers, tossing about in the waves. I ask Stein if he refuels Russians. He shakes his head. 'They don't have the money.'

A week and a half from the Pole and the good news is that we are almost exactly on our target of thirty degrees East. The bad news is that we shall be around here for at least forty-eight hours as all the ships we are bunkering are in a twenty-five-mile radius.

The sea is too rough for ships to be fuelled alongside, and Stein has to opt for the more tricky and time-consuming bow-to-stern operation. Once a ship is about twenty feet astern lines are thrown and when secured a black rubber pipe is hoisted across and the fuel is pumped through. Our first customer, the Norwegian fishing boat Stig Magne, has to stay connected for an hour. Great skill and seamanship is required on the part of both captains to keep their vessels the right distance apart, whilst both are soaring and plunging wildly on thirty-foot waves.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 11
  • Country/sea: Arctic Ocean
  • Place: Barents Sea
  • Book page no: 27

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