“Hmm” I thought to myself as the plane taxied towards the terminal through the icy darkness of a Greenlandic winter's morning. “I wonder what –36C feels like?”
Moments before, this was the news that the pilot had given us, slotted in almost un-noticed amongst the airport arrival information. Stepping from that heated aircraft onto the tarmac for the first time was an unforgettable experience, people use the phrase “like stepping into a freezer” but it’s worse than that, literally, by about another 20C.
Boil a kettle, fill a mug with its water then step outside and immediately throw the contents into the air. Normally this just results in a mess but at –30C and below something quite extraordinary happens: It instantly turns to snow. Now that’s how cold –36C is!
Life in the Arctic therefore, particularly in winter, can be quite a challenging environment to find yourself in. I’m sure that everyone has felt cold at one time or another. Even in the summer, experienced crew will have the odd fleece tucked away just in case. But the state of being cold is, of course, relative. How do you cope when you swap a windswept car park on a cold November evening for the teeth of a gale on a sheet of sea ice in the darkness of a Greenlandic winter?
Well, like most things in life, experience counts for everything but for those of you that haven't had the pleasure of -36C, here are a few basic pointers to help you on your way: