Friday, February 13, 2015

Follow the Red Light

Ellyn learning how to core
Follow the red light. Don't let it get too far away. Ignore any feelings your other senses might be telling you. I keep repeating this mantra in my head as we speed along on the snowmobiles. All around me is an open expanse of flat white; it is a white-out ski day without the falling snow somehow. I have zero idea of where the horizon is and can barely even see the ground in front of me. My goggles are icing up so it is hard to know if the pure whiteness is from my surroundings or simply ice on the goggles. Probably both. My fingers are frozen and my right thumb on the throttle aches. However, I can't stop to adjust as the red light might disappear. The nice warm hood on my coat flips back and I debate the merits of using my left hand to grab the hood and hold it in place versus keeping my hand tucked away to avoid losing all feeling to the fingers. Every few seconds I'm thrown off the seat as the snowmobile jumps over another ridge of ice. In case you were wondering, sea ice is not flat at all. Without being able to see the oncoming bumps, I imagine riding a bronco must feel quite similar. Behind me, I'm pulling a huge white wooden sleigh that carries our beloved ICE-MITTs. Having built them myself, I'm pretty sure any one of these bumps will totally break all of the tiny electronics or snap one of the frozen wires. Inside of the ICE-MITT is a perfectly preserved ice core that I'm trying my hardest not to break. Having accidentally broken a few with only our hands due to weak layers in the ice, I have no idea how these bumps aren't destroying the integrity of the core. Each time, I quickly glance back to make sure the sled is still attached and the generator is still running.

Cutting the core to exact ICE-MITT length

And placing into ICE-MITT (very gently)
We take a slight turn and now the oncoming wind has found a way to the one square inch below my balaclava. Again, I know I can't stop and readjust because the red light of the snowmobile in front of me, and my ticket back to the warm hut, might disappear and I'd be left in this stranded white abyss not knowing which way to go. I'm pretty sure they would stop at some point and realize that I was gone, but I'm also fairly certain that the batteries on my radio have died. Better not to risk it. The speedometer isn't working on my snowmobile, but even if it were, I probably wouldn't be able to read it. I don't know what the windshield is at -30 degrees while driving at 40-50 mph and into a headwind, but I'm sure it doesn't classify has warm. The true miracle is that our bear guard knows exactly where he is and leads us on a direct path back to land. Or at least I think we have hit land as the snowmobiles lurch over a huge hill and the white ground below begins to have a dirty gray tint. We continue on for what seems like forever, and suddenly buildings start to appear. Before I know it, we are back at our storage facility, quickly unloading the sleigh, and plugging the ICE-MITT into wall power. I can't really believe my eyes as the end plates of the ICE-MITT continue to read the same temperatures we recorded as we pulled the core out. And I'm beat.
(Note: photos for this post are from a different day for obvious reasons)

Non-standard coring technique

1 comment:

  1. Glad it is you and not me! -10 last night is cold enough.