Base Camp

Base CampChapter Seven

Part One

The Ancaster’s bow was held against the edge of the ice by the forward thrust of her gently idling engine, whilst Boz and his companions swiftly disembarked.   They were joined by a small group of burly Kronstadt sailors with sledgehammers and spikes who, with practiced efficiency, made the coleyfishtrawler fast.  A relatively flat area of ice-shelf, amidst the piled up, tortured humps and pinnacles of the pressure ice, was selected for the camp and the tents pitched.   The supplies were unloaded and three large wooden crates winched safely from the deck.   As the sailors set up a fuel dump and established radio contact with ship, and HQ back in The Land of Green Ginger the Lord Ancaster slipped away from the edge of the ice and turned south.   The party watched her grow small and disappear below the horizon – a last puff of white smoke against the turquoise sky, reflected in the glass-like sea.

“No time to get comfy.” said Boz, grabbing a claw hammer and setting about one of the crates.    Phoebles and Bert Wold took up jemmies and attacked a second.   After some frantic action the group found themselves admiring two steam powered Brockhouse Corgi snowmobiles with sledge trailers, surrounded by potentially useful firewood.   Meanwhile Ferdy and Ginsbergbear had been delicately unscrewing the top and side panels of the third crate to reveal an Avro 620 autogyro in magnificent fire-engine red.  Strawberry emerged from one of the bell-tents with the atlas and a plan of action that he was desperate to convey to the others.

Tutting moodily Boz and Phoebles reluctantly joined Strawberry in a huddled conference while the bulky shape of a Petty Officer separated out from the fuel dump and rolled towards Ferdy.   He was a man-mountain, so craggy that goats could have grazed his slopes, defying the climate in a sleeveless telnyashka and carrying a drum of aviation fuel on his shoulder whilst swinging a hand pump from his free arm – the autogyro would soon be ready for the off.   However, even with the best efforts of the naval detail the construction of an airstrip took most of the day.   By dusk it was completed, straight and flat, with an orange windsock to one side at each end.   Ginsbergbear was relaxing in a campaign chair outside his tent, drawing on a catnip filled Peterson bulldog briar as Ferdy approached the others, who were still engaged in animated planning.   The bear winked and jabbed the mouthpiece in their direction.

Eventually, late into the evening, by the guttering light of several Tilley lamps a consensus emerged and it was possible to retire.   The matelots, lubricated with Pusser’s Rum and worn out by their vigorous postprandial horn-piping had long since fallen silent.   The ice moaned, hammocked sailors snored, and dream pestered cats mewed and twitched.

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