Saturday, January 10, 2015

Arctic traversal

Some people say that true adventure is dead, that everything important in the world has been explored and every great feat of man against nature has been accomplished. But I know that this is not so! How do I know? Because I myself have just completed the first traversal of the Minneapolis Arctic. I have returned from an epic three and a half mile journey of daring winter survival and endurance. My solo adventure was much in the fashion of Scott, Shackleton, and Roald Amundsen. Though I grappled with frostbite, death, disaster, and failure, I have not only survived, but I have met with a success, and I herewith share the journal of my great adventure!

9:30 a.m.  Prepare for departure. Predicted temperatures far, far below zero! I am swaddled so heavily in layers and varieties of garments that if I slip and fall I will be completely unable to right myself and will instead have to lie on the ground helplessly, waving my little protruding arms and legs feebly while starving predators nose me but find no purchase for their fangs.

9:37 a.m.  Temperature hits minus 40 F! That's not the real temperature, it's the wind chill temperature. The air temperature is only minus 11 F, but it is traditional in accounts such as these to always use the most dramatic numbers available. And if those numbers aren't dramatic enough, lie!

9:39 a.m.  Ferocious wind gusts spike the wind chill temperature to an astounding 183 degrees below zero!

9:45 a.m.  My cheeks hurt! I decide to raise my balaclava up over my mouth to protect my cheeks even though this will cause the mouth area of my balaclava to get all wet and then icy. Already I am making sacrifices for survival!

9:51 a.m.  As one would expect in the Minneapolis Arctic I run into very few people. I do see one other explorer with his dogs, but I know he is no match for me as he is too lightly dressed and his dogs are completely naked. I reflect sadly that they will probably all be dead by lunch.

9:53 a.m.  Cars pass me by like space aliens. The drivers look upon me with an expression of sympathetic amazement. This may have something to do with the long icicles that are now hanging from my eyebrows. I do not wipe them away, rather I wear them as a badge of courage.

9:56 a.m.  I no longer see the luxury homes along the river as houses, rather as precarious bubbles of warm gas.

10:04 a.m.  Open water on the Mississippi! How cold does it have to get for the whole river to freeze! It has barely been above zero F all week, and yet before my eyes is a steaming patch of open water. Geese are gathered like dead things on the ice around it. They do not move and look like dirty chunks of ice blown off the river by the fierce winds. A particularly strong blast of wind comes (minus 207 degrees!) and I am almost certain that I see the geese cower. These cowering geese will be the last life I see on my journey north.

10:17 a.m.  The powerful winds are blowing straight at me from the North. I wonder if, when I reach the North Pole, I will know it because it is the spot from which all winds emanate in a perfect circle of south.

10:29 a.m.  Curiously only one part of my body is painfully cold, an obscure section of my neck buried under five inches of wool, cotton, and fleece.

10:36 a.m.  I am nearing my destination. The traversal is almost complete. I seem to have sadly missed the North Pole.

10:45 a.m.  I complete my journey. I am the first one to make a complete traversal of the Minneapolis Arctic. I am elated to be alive, but I am also haunted by my failure to locate the North Pole. I look about me, Pooh-like,  for some kind of large stick lying around that might be the North Pole. My belated search bears no fruit.

12:30 p.m.  I arrive to work at my library, exhausted and with mixed feelings. I see one of my co-workers who was born and grew up in Poland. This co-worker is standing behind the automated check in machine, at the farthest northern windows of the library. I say "Hi."  

I have found the North Pole! The success of my epic journey is complete!


  1. I touch the computer screen. It is icy.

    I wonder, too, if you had been unable to go on: Would you have, say, called over one of those naked dogs and, suggesting you had a treat, called it over only to stab it with your icicles in order to cut it open and bury your hands inside. This almost happened in Jack London's "To Build a Fire." It did happen in a Star Wars movie, but it wasn't a dog.

    1. I didn't think of it with the dogs, but if I had been just a bit colder who knows what I might have done to those geese. I shudder to think. But then, I suppose that is part of why we pursue adventure, to test ourselves and take the measure of our souls. Would I have stood the test, or would I have become a geese killer? Perhaps I'll find out this week when the temperatures drop down once again.


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