Thursday, November 11, 2010

You Know You Are in the Arctic When...

So picture Saskatchewan. Now go straight up, through Nunavut. Over all the rocks and trees and tundra. Over the caribou, lichen, streams, and ravens. Drop off the top of Canada's mainland, cross the frigid waters that will turn you to ice in minutes, then stiffly climb onto the shores of Victoria Island. There you are. In Cambridge Bay.

Imagine a flat, white, landscape. Depending on the day that white will be cut in half on the horizon with blue-bird sky that surrounds you 180 degrees or with a matching shade of blowing white which makes you feel like you are in one of those snow globes someone is shaking vigorously.

Welcome to the North.

It has been cold up here. Not just "oh I think I'll wear a coat today" cold but more like "oh, I think I have to bring my blowdryer and an extension cord to work today so I can de-ice my lock when I get home" cold.

My walk to work is approximately 5 mins (or 1.5 Lucinda Williams songs I've discovered). And in that time all kinds of fun and interesting things can happen to you when it is -50 with the windchill.

Things like:
-your face freezing to the inside of your coat from the moisture in your breath. As if you licked the entire front of your face then stuck it to the side of a metal door.
-your eyelashes freezing shut
-a trail of snotcicles (icicles made of snot) clinging to your upper lip
-a pain, burning, immobility of movement in the fingers which leads you to believe that your fingers are actually freezing. It is not just an expression any more.
-your earphone cord seizing up to a taught, brittle, wire instead of the normally flexible plastic handing loosely by your side.
-tendrils of hair coated by breath moisture turning into wisps of ice hair framing your face, which then melts and plasters to your forehead imediately after stepping indoors.

It's fun. It's something different all the time.  Today it is only -37 with the windchill so people are outside snow kiting in the bay to celebrate the chinook like change in weather.

Got to love those hearty northeners, hey?


Shrtstormtrooper said...

I would go batshit crazy in exactly one day. Props to you for not being like me!

Albinoblackbear said...

Lots of people think that--but really---there is TONS to do up there if you have the right clothing! :D

I actually have to say I had some of the most spectacular outdoor experiences in the Arctic (spring and summer).

The only hard part is when it stays below -50 for 5 weeks straight, oh and the 4 months of complete darkness. That is just plain annoying--though strangely less annoying than 4 months of continuous sunlight.

Cartoon Characters said...

I lived for 1 semester in Regina Saskatchewan - my second year of university. It was approx -50 below at that time.....but there is something about that cold weather that is exhilarating.
The plug ins for the cars malfunctioned and everyone was left with frozen hurt to take a deep breath.....

thundercat said...

I am an internal medicine resident at UAH and I was up in Yellowknife (and a few days in Cambridge Bay) last May! It was an unforgettable experience. I have to confess, though, that one of my first thoughts when I got to Cambridge Bay was, "I can't believe you have a curling rink here. A 2-sheet curling rink, but still!!!"

Albinoblackbear said...

CC--Yes, exhilarating and insane! :) It's an accomplishment just to go outside. hahah Sounds like Sask has some similar climes to some of my Arctic haunts (but prob a few more hours of daylight in the winter!)

TC--Nice! Sigh. I love Yellowknife...and Cambridge bay.

Had loads of fun in both of those communities--really great people up there. My poignant "?!?!?" moment was finding TRUFFLE OIL in the Northern store there! hahahah This was after working in Pond Inlet where you'd be hard pressed to find an exotic thing like cottage cheese or yogurt in the Northern.

But yes, it is those quirky things that I love about the North.

Really hope I can get back there someday!

UAH?! You must have spent some time on my Granddad's (Dr. Russ Taylor) ward...CVICU...