Point Barrow, Alaska [72?N 156?W]
What does it feel like to wobble along a snow filled, wind whipped ocean when the temperature is -50 degrees?
Not very nice, is my answer.
I stepped out of my support vehicle at 8:20 AM. It was still dark. Off I went dodging snow drifts while struggling against a strong wind to keep my parka hood on my head. The blowing snow caked on my goggles. As I couldn’t see far I watched my feet hoping they would lead me in a straight line.
As we moved farther away from Barrow I was glad to have a guide. For a while at least he was in radio contact with the Barrow Rescue team just in case trouble developed. The gas in the guide’s truck was, however, unexpectedly near empty. As my eyes watered and face cover became encased in ice, I wondered how this mistake could have occurred.
A few hours later the romantic silence of this immense waste land was interrupted by the roar of a snow machine. It appeared out of nowhere and somehow located us in the middle of a sea of whiteness. The operator, Tad, was a friend and hunting buddy of my guide who had responded to a radio message asking for emergency gasoline. “Lucky I found you”, he said. “The wind is blowing away your tracks.”
I knew we were headed east so as my guide attended to the refueling I kept walking alone heading directly toward the rising sun. Big mistake!
Being so far north on the earth to sun moves very rapidly circling in the same pattern for millions of years. As a result I tracked it farther and farther from my true route.
My guide had kept a close watch on me. When he found me he explained my error. Embarrassed I redirected myself in the right direction.
Merrily, now sweating profusely with all of my heavy clothing, I ever moved forward until I slipped on a large chunk of ice smashing my face into the surface of the frozen ancient ocean.
Having walked 14 miles in 5.5 hours I licked my wounds and headed back to Point Barrow for the night.