Wednesday 1st April; Day 4
Location; Resolute Bay
Temperature; min minus 27°C- max minus 16°C
Distance Travelled; 0 kms
In complete contrast to the night before, I had the worst night’s sleep for as long as I can remember. At almost 2 hours notice we were told we were no longer staying in the hotel, but sleeping in tents outside. Considering I had just voluntarily decided to spend 5 weeks in the arctic, my annoyance may come as a surprise.
However, even if you were intending to spend your 2 weeks leave in the Maldives, if you were suddenly told you had two hours to go, you may be a bit ruffled. Imagine how much more perturbed we were that all the survival equipment we had lain out for inspection and testing, all the supplies that needed counting, all the equipment that needed preparing, all the food that needed sorting etc had to all be thrown into rucksacks with indecent haste, and carted out to a tent that was to be our home for the next month.
The night was bitterly cold, and although it was only an exercise in familiarising us with our equipment, it was a harsh lesson. Our sleeping bags are rated to minus 40 Celsius, but our bodies are not. In other words, we could sleep naked inside our sleeping bags, and be quite comfortable, but anything outside would suffer. The only catch is that you cannot hide your head inside the sleeping bag as well because the moisture in your breath would freeze and create a layer of ice.
So we all had to sleep with our noses poking out, and anyone who has seen my nose will know I took this too far, and consequently I had a night of constant torture. Imagine sleeping with an ice cube on your nose. Eventually it will become so cold, you cannot sleep, so you pull your hands out to warm your nose, and your hands become cold. You replace your arms and try to sleep, only to find your nose is back at square one, so what do you do? Wear a facemask or balaclava? Except that eventually builds up a layer of ice from your breath, and so you are back at square one…and so on and so forth until it is time to get up…except you never really were asleep in the first place.
Today was the first day I actually felt that I was on top of things. The sun was shining and it was relatively warm at minus 16. And today we were practicing cross-country skiing. If it were not for some monumental poor administration from certain authorities, I could have been the first Omani to compete in the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, in biathlon, which is a combination of cross country skiing and shooting. I have competed at 3 British championships (held in Germany) and that is where I got my nickname, the Sultan of Snow.
So while all the others were falling over and plastering sunscreen on their faces, I was zooming around giving advice to the experts, and it felt great! Perhaps this was “schadenfraude”, the German word for taking pleasure from others misfortunes, but I can’t deny I finally felt after the horrible start to the day, this would be my day. It was also April Fool’s Day, so perhaps it was more my day than I realised…
At any rate, I quit ski practice early to try and sort out the hundreds of outstanding other items including trying to get in touch with the radio station Hi FM in Oman. The coordination of the time a day I am calling and the time they are expecting my call in the studio has been surprisingly hard. For a start the time difference is 9 hours. Whilst calling someone and not getting an answer can be an inconvenience, it becomes a lot more so when the temperature is so low that the phone will stick to your ear if it isn’t in a leather case, and the battery runs out twice as fast as the cold drains the power, and arctic wolves start circling…then it becomes a case of self preservation over redialing!