Antarctic Ocean Map

Telling Stories Out of School

Once back at the camp everyone welcomes me back enthusiastically and wants to hear about my adventures in the mountains. They are surprised that I had the energy to accomplish so much. After some much-needed tea I take out my stones and rocks and they seem interested in my theories. However, these are my memories and they have probably seen more than enough rocks for themselves. We look through just in case we can find a meteorite but it’s not likely. I would have to break them open to really find out and I don’t want to do that and anyway the odds are so much against.

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After thoroughly cleaning and studying them, I put a few aside and carry the rest outside, where they will not be in anyone’s way. Using their interesting and unusual colours and shapes I build a small, symbolic, Zen rock garden. Within the snow setting it creates a vibrancy and looks like a miniaturised Japanese rock and water garden. I am able to emphasise the effect by using some flat, circular shapes to imitate the flow of water around the rocks. Everyone comes out to see and they are finally impressed. Hopefully they at last understand what I have been trying to explain. By the next day the wind blows more loose snow around the camp and it quickly obliterates the sight of my Zen garden. Still I know it is there and in my imagination I see the rocks. With any luck they are still there, even now

Max is still very non-committal about our chances of taking off tomorrow. I try not to show my disappointment or fears in case it sets him even more against making an attempt. Shortly afterwards, as if to prove his point and emphasise the dangers in the region, one of the other pilots returns with Hans and Christian. The winds had been so intense he hadn’t dared fly close to the mountains, in case his aircraft was blown on to the rocks. Also there was a lot of mist, creating the very real danger of flying into them because of the poor visibility. He hadn’t been able land anywhere near enough to set the two of them down, so they could tent for the night and try in the morning, even if the weather had improved. They were naturally disappointed but I had to admire their sangfroid as they merely shrugged, smiled and said they would try again when the weather improved.

We gather around one of the long central tables and start talking about previous expeditions in other parts of the world. At present there’s little else to do and dinner is not for an hour. Everyone has stories to relate and no one more so than our guide, Steve Pinfield. He tells us about his difficulties on various films, acting as either stuntman or guide in some very inhospitable terrains. On location in Kenya one of the actors he had been hired to protect had been scared of practically everything, imagining snakes and spiders in his tent and inside his sleeping bag and luggage. Steve had to go everywhere with him and check it out before the actor would enter his tent, or even stand and deliver his lines to camera. The latrine tent always had to be meticulously examined first and afterwards Steve would stand on guard outside. Eventually the actor suffered a nervous breakdown and was flown home, which Steve said was just as well, he had been on the point of braining him!

Steve’s story reminds me of the film actor, Victor Mature, who played Samson in the over-the-top Hollywood 1949 extravaganza, Samson and Delilah (the female lead was Hedy Lamarr, the incredible Hungarian beauty, who earlier in her career had swum naked in the subsequently banned film, Ecstasy). Victor Mature was also extremely frightened of animals and in one of the most important scenes where he had to wrestle with a lion he refused, claiming he was in mortal danger. The film producer, Cecil B. De Mille told him not to worry as the lion was completely docile and anyhow had no teeth. Mature wasn’t convinced and still worried in case he was gummed to death! In the end they had to use a stand-in for the fighting shots and drug the lion for the close-ups. I told Steve if he’d been stunting on the set he would have had to allow the lion to chew him up a little. Most people, including Mature himself, thought his acting was rather wooden and that he couldn’t act himself out of the proverbial paper bag. Mature, to his credit, tells the story against himself of the time he applied to join a snooty Hollywood club in the days when being an actor was mostly looked down upon. ‘Sorry,’ he was told, ‘no actors admitted here.’

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