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Jolley Prize 2015 (Shortlist): 'Crest' by Harriet McKnight

Reviewed by
September 2015, no. 374

Jolley Prize 2015 (Shortlist): 'Crest' by Harriet McKnight

Reviewed by
September 2015, no. 374

It takes more than half an hour to put on all the layers of the dry suit. First the woollen thermals, then the thick undersuit and the neoprene seals around the neck and wrists. Finally, the membrane shell. All this before we even look for the hole in the ice. By the time we hit the water we are as plump and blubber-thick as the more cold-adapted creatures: seals, whales, little penguins that leave trails of bubbles blurred behind them like a zoetrope strip. Pierre calls it our sumo suit, the ‘Japanese Squeeze’. Will tells him it’s the closest Pierre’s ever got to an exotic embrace. Pierre says he is innocent and pure and doesn’t want to know about Will’s sordid carry-on. We’ve been working together so long that this kind of thing seems funny. When we step off the Zodiac onto the ice, we move like one gangly animal. We scan the horizon and sniff the air. The centre of gravity low in our bodies, every bit of us on high alert to feel if the frozen sheet bends at our step. There are no shadows here. It makes it hard to see what we’re looking for: a place where the ice opens and we can slip down into the hanging cathedral beneath.

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