Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Nuclear, but very differently

13/05 camp 23
Position: 77.021 N 51.731 W
Elevation: 2390 m
Distance today: 309 km
Total distance: 1838 km
Hours kited: 13h30

False start: Yesterday we had moved camp by 300 m wrote Mika. But this was not even the end of this frustrating day. The wind picked up during the night and we packed up our stuff and got going in the coldest hours. After 5 km, the security of my Speed 3 19 m2 released without reason during a short halt to change my face mask, and the lines got tangled up while the kite was on the 5 th line. The time I had sorted my lines Mika had gotten cold feet, we were tired from waiting the entire day, and set camp for a second time, after only 5 km (74.293 N 49.847 W). Misery.

We got up rather late, knowing that the best was to be expected during the following night. The wind was a little stronger than we expected and we started on 10 m2 with 21 m lines, but extended them quickly to 33 m after 40 km. The wind was not only stronger, but its direction was also much more favorable than the last days - more easterly - and we were quickly making ground. At our first real break after 140 km we already knew, that there was everything to make a good distance. Yet we also very badly needed it. Marc had made it very clear that our best bet is to reach 78 N by wednesday, if we wanted to avoid getting buried again by weak winds.

The kilometers were now flying by quickly at speeds around 30 km/h for most of the time. We got thirsty in the dry air, and when we made a short stop to drink a cup of tea at 240 km, we already felt, that we could make a nice distance. In the early morning hours, the wind turned to the south, and we were happy to stop for some sleep after a finish with tailwinds, and our longest distance ever so far.

We had started out on a flat surface with accumulations of soft snow here and there. During our progression, these wavelets got more frequent giving the impression of skiing on a frozen ocean. Soon we encountered shark finned sastrugies bumping our sleds around, and raising our worries for their contents. At the end of the night the wavelets and sastrugies ceased to big, long undulations every now and then, yet still to frequent to always avoid them, making our huge sleds jump seemingly effortlessly, as if they were weightless.

We have passed the latitude of Pitufik Airbase, from where the USA continuously maintained planes equipped with nuclear warheads in the air during the cold war - ready to strike. It happened what had to happen, one of the planes burned and crashed on the pack close to the base. Conspiration theories still speculate whether all nuclear inventory was recovered after the accident.

We are also only a few kilometers short of the latitude of another curious location of cold war history: Camp Century (77.1833 N 61.1333 W). An underground village in the ice featuring everything including a church and nuclear power station. Seriously. The story of Camp Century is definitely worth a search on the internet. You may find an account and a propaganda video, on the moment when the reactor was made critical for the first time. Weird, but strangely entertaining. The reactor has since then been removed and the camp was left to the ice a long time ago. When it was visited several years later, the ice had already started to crush its galleries.

One needs to see it in the context of this period. The time when I was in elementary school already saw the first anti nuclear movements. But the technical books for little boys of my uncles childhood still envisioned nuclear power everywhere. In ships, for space travel, for airplanes, and for cars!

When we made camp, the nuclear power source at the center of our solar system illuminated the driving snow -pushed by an invisible force over the surreal ice desert - with the glow of the early morning light. Its visible rays are for a good part at the origin of this very same force pushing our kites. They illuminate our solar panels, allowing us to communicate regularly. Nuclear, but very differently.

P.s. The two first tent spills go on my account... :

1)Toothpaste contains water - and freezes. I must have warmed inhomogeneously before using it. Uponpressing on it, it popped open on the wrong side, covering me with its precious white contents, while still nothing went on the toothbrush. Regards to Phillipe Battu who must just have returned from his own expedition to Liverpool Land.

2) When leaning back for some last relaxation before packing up and heading out, I tipped over the bowl of coffee, that was supposed to make this an enjoyable moment. Regards to "flat bowl" Thierry.

1 comment:

  1. Nice long post, and nice long run as well for today !
    I already read a lot about Camp Century, DYE 1,2,3 and so on, these were really crazy times...
    I wish you to have more of these days to cope with your initial schedule and complete the "full loop" :-)
    Florian.

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