Cold Expedition


It's my turn to keep watch and with a rising feeling of irritation I look at the countless meters I have to keep an eye on. One of them remains remarkably at zero, and that is completely impossible with the temperatures outside. Especially since all other thermometers pass values from thirty to forty degrees below freezing. That may seem quite a bit, but on this very northern island it is normal at this time of year.

As a researcher you have to pay a lot for science and it is important that that one thermometer does. We once tried to keep an eye on our instruments with cameras, but so far we haven't found a copy that can last long enough in the cold wind. There will be nothing but to take a look myself and that is something I am not looking forward to with the current snow and wind. With a healthy dose of reluctance, I hoist myself in my polar clothing. The seams tape I close with a kind of ennobled adhesive tape, to avoid heat leaks.

Outside, a cutting blizzard takes my breath away for a moment. It's dark, the polar night's gonna be here for a few more months, so I'm gonna pull out my flashlight, a standard part of our equipment. With the current cold, you do not want to be outside for a moment longer than is strictly necessary. The blizzard makes it hard to orient you, but we found something on that. From the cabin I roll a long rope in the direction of my destination and when I walk back, all I have to do is follow that rope back. Usually it is already covered with snow and icicles, as if it were a winter clothesline. In any case, I do not have to worry that the line can be a nuisance for any passers-by, with only two researchers on the whole island there is no fuss. Road signs here are an unlikely appearance.

After five minutes, feeling like half an eternity, I found the culprit. Our instruments are anchored in the ground with sturdy pins, but the Arctic Wind managed to get this piece skewed. That's no surprise and luckily I brought a hammer to retrieve the thing. This should be extremely careful, because because of the enormous freezing cold, too hard a blow can cause the material to shatter like glass. If that happens, not only will we lose precious instruments and almost unreplaceable instruments, but it will take me at least half an hour to collect all the debris and throw them in the waste bin. We are very vigilant to keep the environment as pristine as possible.

All in all, my entire expedition takes about fifteen minutes, but it is enough to get me cold and I am happy to find the relative warmth of the cabin again. Relieved I take a cup of hot coffee, and take my place at the countless meters. Also such a standard part of our equipment is the blanket that I still shivering over me. And luckily, the thermometer I just straightened is passing chilling temperatures again.


(c) 2018 Hans van Gemert

Image: Pixabay

This keyword story fits the writing challenge of December 2018.