As the days grow longer, I’m getting up a little earlier and trying to concentrate my mind on the story of HMS Erebus, the book which I have set myself to write in time for publication at the end of next year. I always found libraries rather stuffy when I was at school but now I’m looking at archive material, there’s something exciting, almost thrilling about seeing letters and diaries that were written 170 years ago, often from the furthest ends of the earth.
Talking of ends of the earth, I’m just back from researching Erebus material in the Falkland Islands. It’s such a quiet unspoilt, un-polluted environment that it’s hard to imagine there was a war there in 1982 – the year we were shooting Monty Python’s Meaning Of Life. The echoes of the conflict reverberate. I was there the week after the Falklands Marathon – won by an Argentinian.
The islands are bare and rather beautiful and I had a great time at the excellent Dockyard Museum and a very comfortable stay at the wondrous Waterfront Hotel. The RAF flew me down there – an 18 hour flight from Brize Norton via Ascension Island, which is an old volcano and the only piece of land sticking out of the Atlantic for hundreds of miles.
Was only there for a two-hour stopover but just enough time to see the the great sea turtles labouring towards the ocean after laying their eggs. Dragging themselves, exhausted across the sand, but once in the water, off like a rocket. After all, they swam over from Brazil to lay those eggs. I’d never seen anything like this before, which just shows that if you’re curious enough, travelling is never over. Watch this space!