Monday, March 03, 2014

A Greenland Yarn: Lost in the Fog

The temperature dropped like a stone and soon I was shivering: I had to get moving, and at first I just ran, hoping to catch the others, but it was useless. All I did was disorientate myself, so that when I finally just stood and looked around I had no idea which way was which or recognise any feature.

I was completely lost, in the fog, in Greenland, in icy conditions, with no compass and totally inadequate clothing. I knew I needed to go south, but without luck or guidance I'd most likely head the wrong way, in a land where there was no human settlements for 200 miles in any direction.

Think! I told myself, sitting down on a rock. Think!

There must be clues nearby. Never again would I leave the ship without a compass but that would be for later. I knew enough of natural navigation to be able to orientate myself from the sun or stars but there could be no sign of either in the white out conditions I found myself in. There was nothing in sight apart from scattered rocks in every direction.

Except there was something else - the odd creeper, shrivelled ground hugging bushes. Not much, hardy types, that couldn't survive without direct sunlight, so it had to grow on south facing slopes. I stood up, transfixed. I could do this!

Scouting around the valley a pattern began to emerge: signs of green on just the one side while the other was bare. I knew now where south lay, and quickly headed off.

At times it wasn't possible to keep a steady southerly course but had to zig-zag around the terrain. In one valley I wasted valuable minutes debating whether to go left or right when straight ahead was barred by a steep cliff. I chose right and was delighted when half an hour later I spotted the waterfall with a rock wedged above it we had passed on the way out. I was back on the right track.

An hour or so later I scrambled down a rocky slope almost tripping over one of Aurora's shore lines. The dinghy was waiting, with the last of the main group about to go back on-board.

"There you are" said the ship’s mate. "You're just in time for tea".

To be continued...

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