Four Degrees Celsius

Four Degrees Celsius by Kerry Karram

Book: Four Degrees Celsius by Kerry Karram Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kerry Karram
barometer dropped and there is every reason to believe the storm we are having will become worse. The boys are feeling glummer than they have for some time and some have expressed the wish that we had not left the mud shack with its stove at Dease Point. Of course, the toughest part of it all is the admission from the Eskimos that we probably could have crossed the straits the day after we landed. However, here we are and here we’ll stay a while … Our supper tonight was raw fish. It is hard going, but down it went.
    Life was anything but easy on this harsh and treacherous portion of the Arctic coast. October 30 dawned colder, with the wind changing direction. A delicate pink light rinsed the landscape, creating an eerie, luminescent glow, but there was nothing delicate about the fierce cold that bullied them unmercifully. The wind cut into their lungs like a knife and their nasal passages crackled and bled. Frostbite was a major concern. Lacking mirrors, the men frequently inspected one another for telltale patches of white on their faces.
    The Domex men had learned to live by the terms demanded by the Arctic, and they stayed inside their igloos waiting for conditions to change. Knowing that he needed food in order to generate body heat, Pearce was enticed to eat a little seal blubber for breakfast that day, something he wrote he would never do again. There was very little food left, and unless Charlie and Jimmie arrived back before nightfall, both the dogs and the humans would be completely out of sustenance. In what was possibly hunger-induced imaginings, a very peculiar thought came into Pearce’s head. What if the residents at Cambridge Bay might not take the Domex men in because they smelled of seal oil? Where would they go then?
    As well as disordered thinking, emotional fragility was another effect of chronic hunger. Powerless and frustrated, the men could do nothing to change nature’s moods. Smouldering anger and frustration finally erupted. Rumblings of mutiny surfaced, and some of the expedition members gave notice to Major Baker that they could not stand the waiting anymore and they would be attempting to cross the strait in the morning, with or without the help of the Inuit. This would be the first act of open rebellion, and one that was bound to fail. Navigating the treacherous pressure ridges, ice hummocks, and the possible deadly channels of open water without the Inuit could only spell disaster. MacAlpine was acutely aware of this and the necessity to follow the Inuit decisions, yet he was equally aware that he was losing control. He knew a small mistake in judgment in this remote region of the earth could easily mean death, but for that matter, even good decisions would not guarantee survival. They would need luck as well as the Inuit skill for their trek through the labyrinth of the Arctic channels towards Cambridge Bay.
October 30, 1929
    Richard Pearce’s Diary, Peechuk Point
    Major Baker, while agreeing to the probability of good ice across the straits, told them they could do what they chose, but that in his opinion a change in the wind might again cause the ice to break and form floes and the attempt should not be made without food (which we did not possess) as they might be caught on an ice floe for several days. If they went, they did so on their own responsibility and directly against the Colonel’s expressed wishes of playing safety first. We were with the Eskimos who knew ice conditions and would take us over at the first safe opportunity. Furthermore, the party was not to cross without being accompanied by the Eskimos. Major Baker discussed the situation with the Colonel and it was agreed that if Charlie did not return tomorrow and Major Baker could persuade one of the Eskimos to go that he would do so in order to get possible communication by wireless out from Cambridge Bay. This is the saddest entry I have made in my diary, but I feel it is a case of empty stomach and

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