Thursday, 9 July 2009

The cold spell

We got a really cold spell during our winter in the Canadian wilderness. It was towards the end of January, the temperature was dropping below ÷40˚C and the trappers left, since the weather was supposed to get even colder.

30. January it dropped below ÷45˚C late in the evening. We were using a wheelbarrow of wood every day. I used to stack it neatly in a wood-box, but now I just hastily rolled the wheelbarrow directly into the cabin and unloaded it on the floor.

I had my mattress next to the stove and could feel a wall of heat on my face, and a bone cold chill on my back.

I could see the metal top of the wood stove glowing in the dark. I could hear the hissing sound of wood burning.

I had to get up and load the stove during the night. I could tell by the sound of metal expanding or contracting if the stove was getting warmer or colder. I knew the sounds in my sleep.

At dawn Nina was looking at the thermometer outside, and declared ÷50˚C (÷58 F). It might have been colder. A trapper nearby measured ÷57˚C (÷71 F), before getting out of the area. The weather report on the radio spoke in general of temperatures in the negative fifties.

We went for a walk. There was no wind. No birds. It was like standing still in a photograph.

It was so quiet I could hear my wristwatch ticking. It's in a silence like this that you realize that there are always sounds. I could hear my own heartbeat: somehow transferred through clothing and amplified inside the hood.

We needed water. We carried four buckets down to the lake and started to chop the newly formed ice on our waterhole. The heavy iron bar broke like nothing. I chopped through the ice with the remains of the bar. Nina tried fishing and got a pike that wriggled just once before freezing solid.

The sun was getting low on the horizon. The woods around Bistcho Lake felt strangely fragile. Everything were covered with white spiky snow flakes. The hole landscape was like painted on thin brittle glass.