Thursday, February 21, 2013

Power to the People

Of course I didn’t sleep - not a wink. For some reason I’d been taking on water for several days, probably some physiological response to the dry Arctic conditions. I wasn’t alone as I’d overheard others complaining about the same thing. But there’s a limit to how much interstitial fluid you can hold until it needs expressing. Quite why my body chose the wee hours of the coldest night of our journey to force me outside and make yellow snow only it knows. But it was a relief that my early morning systems were still functional at that latitude. (Really, way too much information - ed.)

Nick wasn’t quite so lucky. His toes had shut down again and he had no sensation or apparent circulation when he woke up. There was no way that he was going to get warm enough around the campfire that morning and evacuation seemed prudent. We flagged down a passing car and bundled him into it with the promise that we’d meet at the finish line. 

The last bulwark against Eva’s complete electrical failure occurred when her sole remaining battery isolation switch failed. We either kept her running or the battery would simply drain away. We weren’t that far from the finish and were intent on making a run for it, so stopping didn't seem necessary. At the next village, 45 minutes up the road, we found Nick all warmed up in the mayor’s office. He said the pain was excruciating as the blood returned to his toes, which meant we’d made the right call earlier. After a cup of tea we went back to the bikes and Eva had died. Simply died. She wasn’t going to bump-start either. Fortunately, the chief engineer of the town’s power station came by and towed us to the plant. There, he hooked up the battery to one of four diesel turbines that churned out a combined 800 kilowatts of power. And we waited. We had lunch, rode a snowmobile, and watched the sun slipping into afternoon, and waited… 

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