Wintering me softly…

The Polar Night makes everything around become purely sleepy! We don’t know how it feels for the trees or animals but for the human beings the Polar Night feels like a bear’s lair that will never let you out from its warm, cozy, lazy, and sleepy hugging grip.

The Polar Night in Khibiny, Photo by S.Konyaev

The only thing that somehow helps me to struggle through this feeling (let’s call it nominally as “bear-lair-mood”) is the long station’s to-do list. It not only involves the preparations for the next year’s field training and research season (or, let’s be honest, the preparation is the never ending process) but also any emergencies that may occur from time to time. If you lose the momentum and decide to relax for a day or two the to-do list becomes even longer, giving good truth to the saying “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today”. As the Arctic winter is so unpredictable as you will soon read, it’s a good idea to be prepared for everything and anything.

The relatively rapid drop in temperature down to –30oC led to our most recent incident at the station, a burst water pipe. This showed that the pipe system at our station is not properly insulated! The huge stream of hot water sprayed out of the pipe coming into contact with the -30oC air making every tree within the vicinity have a nice icy cap. It of course gave the station’s territory a glamorous Christmassy look but winter wonderland aside it took almost 3 hours of repairing and an out of hours midnight call to the local plumbing service (with which they were not too happy about). In such a moment I understood that the closeness to any kind of settlement is the necessity rather than a pleasant bonus. I cannot imagine how they deal with such an emergency at the remote field stations! God bless them!

Student's accomodation at Khibiny station. Photo by S.Konyaev

To step back from the incident at hand, I must say that winter is also a great time for the long put off inventory check – which is the job pushed hardest by the faculty’s administration. We, at the station, also think so even though the procedure takes over a month and a half to check all the accumulated possessions we have collected over the years the station has been in operation.  It’s not a secret since the station has its own history of several generations of scientists having walked through and stored equipment at this station from the hard post-war period and collapse of the Soviet Union to present day.  In saying this nothing should come as a surprise, although you may find something hidden away in the wilderness of the stations corridors that does make you step back in wonder. One such find that had this affect on me was when I stumbled across the collection of Khibiny insects hidden away, its this kind of small surprise that makes inventory so much more pleasant. What’s next? I assume there will be many more interesting scientific discoveries and I should probably get back to the history of the station. But wait a minute, I guess that is another story for another day (check out my next post about station’s history).

The warmest greetings from frosty Russian Arctic,

Yulia

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