If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Grey skies, grey light, trees in black and white. I’m hungry for colour and sunshine and maybe even just a break from frigging with the white balance on my camera. These softly lengthening days of February have been so dull this year that the extra daylight looks more like daylong twilight. It’s a good thing HappyJack™ has a happy tail to motivate me or I might not leave the house at all on days like this.
What a strange winter we’re having this year. Yesterday we had snow flurries in the morning, freezing rain in the afternoon and then snow flurries again overnight and this morning. It looks pretty, but under that blanket of snow there’s a thick layer of ice that makes walking treacherous. The ice is also still coating the trees and hydro wires which is a bit of a worry. It’s supposed to start warming up tomorrow again with a projected temp of +5 by Friday and after that who knows.
Our polar exploration has finally found success. This morning the normally low-key Jack Brown returned to camp in a state of total excitement. His face and beard were full of frost and his cheeks were pale with cold, but he was highly animated and his words came out in a breathless flurry. “North, near, big” were all that we could make out at first, but as Jack began to warm-up in the relative comfort of our hut his tale took on more sense. North of camp and a mile or so past the temporary weather station that we’d cobbled together, Jack had sighted what appeared to be 2 large tusks almost completely free of ice and above the snow line. The news quickly generated much excitement and in a matter of minutes the ennui that has plagued this mission had lifted totally and a happy buzz of commotion took over. Maps suddenly found their way to our makeshift table and everyone began to ready themselves for the march out to Jack’s discovery. Scientific instruments of all sorts were located, checked and packed on our smallest sledge. There was a small area of deep sastrugi between our camp and the site and I thought that the small sledge would best traverse the accursed peaks and dips. The day was dull, but thankfully polar night is still ahead of us and Jack’s tracks made navigation to the site easy. Within an hour the team was ready to go and we set out into the day full of happy anticipation. It was a short march and within 3 hours we could see the tusks from the eastern cliffs. When the tusks were first sighted Ned Barkley let out a whoop of excitement and the entire team became re-energized. A few hours of difficult descent later and we were all standing gaping in awe at Jack’s find. The tusks are massive and confirm my hypothesis that woolly mammoths did indeed migrate this far north. The head of the beast is partially exposed and should not be difficult to excavate. I ordered that a temporary camp be erected and sent Jason Digger and Ned back to our permanent camp with orders to pack up as much equipment and food as possible and relocate it to this new site. The hut and a supply of food will be left behind for our return journey, but the ponies are to be used to drag the sledges as far as possible and are then to be slaughtered and butchered. The men will then don the harnesses and drag the sledges the rest of the way. The find is so exhilarating that the entire team seems barely aware of the deep exhaustion that will set in soon. I have already begun taking measurements and am quite excited to begin the process of documenting this find for the Royal Society.
(With a nod to Sir Ernest Shackleton, the greatest polar explorer of all time.)
As I am in Vilnius until Wednesday, I would like to take this small moment to cast a shadow (work will most likely occupy the rest of my time). Thank you, Nightjar, for those lovely photos of flowers and sunshine (really – today I got back to the hotel, refreshed Affinity, and it was… wow) – in sharp contrast, this is what we have: a look at Vilnius in evening (NB: there is still light, a month ago it would be completely dark!).
Here is a song from Estonia, to complete the Baltic triptych:
The end of winter at least seems to be nigh, but since one can never know what March will bring, it’s best not to cheer too loudly yet. (Actually, I wouldn’t mind real winter for another couple of weeks, it’s the yoyo I hate. Pick one, Winter. You can’t have it both ways.) The one noticeable difference now is the light – it is no longer dark outside when I leave work (had a bit of a shock Friday). Yay!
But today we will take a short look back at the Winter That Was, because it is, after all, Ronja’s favourite season.
We had some very strange weather overnight. Let’s see…at 9 pm the temp was -2º C with light freezing rain and everything was covered in a heavy layer of ice. By midnight the temp had climbed to +11º C with heavy pouring rain and over the next few hours the heavy accumulation of ice just melted away. By 6 am almost all of the ice was gone, the rain had stopped and the temp had plummeted back down to -6º C with high winds and intermittent bouts of fine snow. If I hadn’t checked the forecast I would have woken this morning to temps colder than when I went to bed and I would have been completely baffled about the disappearance of so much ice.
It’s been raining here most of the day and with the temp hovering between -1º C and +1º C all that rain has been freezing and accumulating. Just stepping out of the house is dangerous. I slipped several times going down my front stairs and once I was at the bottom there was no-where I could go beyond a small patch of grass. Every surface is coated with about 1.5 cm of ice. Even poor low to the ground and 4-footed Jack fell twice going out to pee. The schools are closed, city buses have been canceled and I haven’t seen a single car drive past my house all day. The big, heavy trees are groaning and cracking under the weight and my birch tree has already lost a sizable limb. The forecast says it should all melt soon though, with temps expected to warm up overnight and reach a high of +12º C tomorrow. I hope they’re right.