It has distinct geographies, possibly nationalities. Today the Arctic cold hit, which was a bit of a shock really. It’s different. And cold, capital K cold, as my dad would say.
As you guys have probably guessed by now, I’m Australian. For an Australian I’ve done a pretty good job to check out some of our countryside. The red centre, the mountains, the tropics etc. And occasionally out there is gets cold. There’s different types of cold for the different places and times. There’s the cold that comes around Christmas time, in Summer, when you’ve spent a day at the beach and suddenly the sun goes down while you’re still wrapped in a wet towel. There’s the cold of winter when you’re walking along the beach wrapped up in your raincoat in a squall. There’s the cold that comes in the desert at night, which is a precious empty kind of cold and you can feel all the dust and hot rocks cooling off. There’s the cold in the highlands where the back of my drizabone actually frosted over whilst I was sitting by the fire. There’s the snow in Winter when it can drop to -3 or so, and the mountains in summer where it once rained overnight and then froze and we woke to a jingling sound of the leaves rustling in the wind with frozen water droplets on them chiming when then rustled together.
They’re all cold, and they’re all different. I had expected something else when I came up here. After all, it’s the Arctic circle. I’ve read stories about the cold. Beautiful descriptions of what happens to your skin at -30, what happens to the ground and the rocks. Of cold that needles in between stiches in your clothing and freezes liquids well inside your jacket. There’s rumours of nose hairs freezing. But when I landed here it was a balmy 7 degrees, just like the winters at home. There was the occasional breeze off the glacier but nothing to write home about. It was hard to imagine what all the fuss was about.
Yeah, naive Aussie.
We had a taste of the cold on the ship. When we were sheltered behind a glacier, I stepped out on deck and almost got blown away. Within a minute or so I couldn’t feel anything in my fingers and my fingers managed to get too cold to be registered by the touch screen on my phone. New first world problem for the list.
But we really got a taste yesterday. It wasn’t a full white out (where there is too much snow in the air to see beyond your nose) but you could see how it would get that way. It was cold, well into the minus, with a wind that rapidly picked up. It’s snowed quite a lot over the last few days, and because it hasn’t melted and refrozen the snow is still quite loose. As some of you may know, as snow gets colder it gets drier, this is logical but not something I regularly think about. So the snow didn’t stick to anything and instead is free to fly around the sky happy as a little lark, very much like a fine sand. It was fantastic, the snow gave shape to the wind, so you could see all the eddies and movements around buildings, or the snow willy-willys as we would call them. And it was cold, the wind added a new edge to the cold. Rather than just the dry that sucks out the heat, it had barbs, needles. It was something completely new and different, and it finally felt like the Arctic.
I’ve already outlined my respect for the people who’ve lived and worked up here in the years before modern comfort and convenience, but wow. They must have been made of steel. It’s not easy, and even if I kitted myself out properly I can’t see myself surviving long out there.
That said, it is an awesome experience, and it is nice to have got at least a taste of the real North before we have to leave!