Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cold is Relative

When the thermometer in the tree next to the house again said -30F this morning, I began to wonder if the needle had gotten stuck. Five days at minus thirty is a long time for us. My daily (outside) hour of contemplation has been getting cut to twenty-five minutes, which is about how long it takes my fingers to get totally numb. Snowmachine traffic goes way down, and hardly anyone is walking around town. The cold has us in a grip that suppresses activity.

Yesterday, Henry wanted to try to get to his ice fishing net a few miles upriver, to get it out of the water before it freezes in completely. The river ice is now as much as five feet thick in some places. It has been too cold to go by snowmachine for the last five days; he thought we might be able to get there by truck.

The Ice Road was in beautiful condition, and had even been plowed since our last ride on the river. The road went smoothly and cleanly to Kwethluk, but bypassed the turnoff to Akiachak, which was the direction we needed. We never made it to the fish net, but we had a lovely drive on the river. There was a fair amount of traffic on the road, despite the bitter cold; we even passed a big fuel truck headed up to Kwethluk.

Much of the traffic was probably due to Slavik, the Russian Orthodox Christmas celebration which begins today and lasts for a week. Kwethluk has historically been one of the central villages for the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska, with resident priests and a large and beautiful sanctuary. Many people from surrounding villages gather in Kwethluk for Slavik.

Our great good fortune during this cold snap has been the lack of wind. It has been very quiet and nearly windless for most of the five days since the thermometer dropped to -30F.

The weather forecast has been predicting a warm-up over the next few days. Possibly even to +30F by mid-week (I hope not; +20F max). When I was outside this evening, it definitely felt just a little bit warmer. The thermometer read minus twenty. Part of me was pleased that I could actually feel the difference, and part of me was in disbelief that I could find minus twenty to be warmer than anything. When we get to zero, it’ll be time for shorts and flip-flops. Cold is relative.

Photos by The Tundra PA



Blogger Sarah said...

I would have thought that whether it was minus 20 or minus 30 you'd be so frozen you wouldn't be able to feel anything!

Beautiful photos, as usual.

Monday, January 08, 2007 1:15:00 PM  
Blogger Norma said...

Outside? I don't even go outside when it is 30 above.

Wonderful photos.

Monday, January 08, 2007 3:05:00 PM  
Blogger TheTundraPA said...

Sarah--it's interesting that even at that level of cold, you can feel a 10 degree difference. My coldest personal record to date is minus 40 (not counting wind chill). Definitely colder than minus 30. You just can't stay out long in that kind of cold. Thanks for visiting!

Norma--it's all in the gear! With the right stuff on, you'd be amazed at how much you can enjoy the cold (for brief periods, anyway). I've acquired a great liking for it. Thanks for visiting, and for commenting.

Monday, January 08, 2007 7:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi TundraPA:

Even some Canadians in your readership are cringing at the idea of ice roads. My Mum used to take a bus across Wollaston Lake to get to work. A BUS!! On a LAKE!! I know, I have no idea.

Despite the cold, or more likely because of it, it sounds oddly gorgeous. Thanks.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 9:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We in Puget Sound get paralyzed when there's an inch of snow and the temp hits 30 above. Having spent some time in the minus regions and having found it (to an extent) invigorating, it's amusing here. But where you are: wow! Your words are as beautiful as your pictures. Awesome, in the actual sense of the word.

Thursday, January 11, 2007 8:43:00 AM  
Blogger TheTundraPA said...

RR--the Ice Road definitely takes some getting used to, especially when you hear the ice cracking underneath your vehicle. It really is gorgeous. Thanks for visiting, and for commenting.

Dr. Schwab--thank you so much! I appreciate your kind words. Check back--I will shortly get a post up about how warm it has suddenly gotten here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007 8:47:00 PM  
Blogger J said...

I agree with Norma. I don't go out when it's +30F! Luckily, we only get that cold in the deepest, darkest part of winter (we have the weather of Seattle).

Germany Doesn't Suck

Saturday, January 27, 2007 7:09:00 AM  

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