Pam prepares a delicious meal for us, steaks, sweetcorn, mushrooms, potatoes, followed by several kinds of cookies, Canadian style. This is washed down by punch, orange juice and coffee. I help collect the dishes and whilst stacking tell Pam what I hope is an appropriate story. A husky rushes into a Western Union office and asks to send a telegram to his girlfriend. The message reads, ‘Bow wow wow, Bow wow wow.’ The clerk looks at the form and says, ‘For the same money you could add another Bow wow.’ The husky barks back, ‘That would just make it sound silly.’ Pam laughs and likes it but makes me help with the washing up. I just know she won’t stop trying until she makes it finally to the Pole.
Map Arctic Circle Photo Gallery
Afterwards I walk outside to spend some time on my own. I listen to the silence. The sun refuses as always to set and is a glorious symbol of the power of nature and how insignificant we all are individually. There’s no room for the ego in these places, particularly as we are so dependent on each other. Some people have gone off to fish, there are plenty of fish holes, but I need to be completely on my own. A perfect place to contemplate. I guess I won’t be back here for a very long time, if ever. It’s a sobering and somewhat saddening thought. Therefore the important thing is to take as much inside as possible, so I can draw on this memory whenever I need to. Time moves on slowly but at 1 a.m. I still don’t want to lose a moment of my experience here and go to sleep. Everyone else feels the same and also stays awake.
The four of us are still wearing our special T-shirts and they prove a great success and are of interest to everyone. They all find it hard to believe that in advance I had printed the expected date of our arrival at the Pole and that we actually made it. No one arrives there at the intended date! As always only the weather can decide and it doesn’t follow rules. This time, lucky for us, it did. All the others in our team want one, I promise to arrange to have more printed and will send them out on my return. On the camp notice board I pin up a Rotary Club Of London flag and write on it the date. Hopefully some Rotarians will see it one day. (At the time I had no idea that I would subsequently have the honour of becoming the President of the Rotary Club of London, the premier club outside North America.) Suddenly I feel really exhausted and climb on to my bunk and sleep for a few hours.
I can hear signs of life from the communal eating room, so someone is preparing breakfast. It’s 5.30 a.m. and I get up at 6. I’m the first from our group which means I can use the facilities to wash and shave before the others. I pull on a second layer of clothes and join the pilots who are already up and preparing for departure. They are listening on the wireless to the weather reports from Grise and Resolute. They aren’t too wonderful and the pilots express their concern. Finally they are given the OK to depart and we load our luggage back on to the trailer to be ferried out to the aircraft. We say goodbye to everyone remaining behind but particularly to Pam Flowers. She is so slight it is still difficult to imagine she has the strength and determination to try to walk to the Pole. However, we all know she has and I hope she is able to set up another attempt soon. It seems to be her most important objective and everything else in her life is just biding time until the next attempt. She’s a woman full of guts and I greatly admire her spirit. She is just so matter of fact about what she has achieved and her intended goal.
We walk out on the ice and make our way to the aircraft. This time Harry is already waiting, impatient to get underway. There is an ABC crew that has been filming in the Arctic and before they board their aircraft they film our plane revving up, our climbing on board and waving energetically from the small windows as we taxi ready for our take-off. We then have to taxi all the way back when it’s discovered that one of the crew has forgotten his case. We go through the same procedure all over again and are just about to take-off when the urgent message comes through to abort. The weather has dramatically worsened and we couldn’t land at either Grise or Resolute. Again the weather decides. Neither plane can take-off so we must all return.
We re-enter the camp and are quietly welcomed back, it happens often, we sit drinking coffee and listening to the continual weather reports. Finally Harry says we can try again and we all race down to the two planes in an effort to go whilst there is still permission. This time the ABC cameramen have their cameras and equipment still on board so fortunately can’t hold us up by filming any more. Anyhow it would probably be the same shots. Though I know most directors like to shoot the same scene many times over, just in case they can capture something different or better; they actually rarely do. It’s all part of their fear about taking a wrong shot, or a bad one, and missing the one they really wanted. It’s a long and costly exercise to have to re-shoot. But of course it could be just the excuse to return we are all looking for!
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