09 December 2009

-35° is cold!

Despite the best efforts of United Airlines I eventually got to Saskatoon at about midnight. Saskatoon is a town of 200,000 in the middle of the Canadian prairies. I thought Boulder was cold, but it wasn’t even trying. Saskatoon was in a whole different league, the temperature when we landed was -30° and forecast to get colder.

I was met by my host Luis who seemed like a very nice chap. In this part of the world there are so many messed up accents (Canadian, French, French-Canadian, American etc) that I didn’t even realize that he was Argentinean until half way through the journey. Turns out he is from Buenos Aries and knows Gonzo and Ernesto, it’s a small world.

He dropped me at the hotel and I went straight to bed. Next morning I was up and the temperature was down, to -35°. I went for a bit of a walk to try and photography -35°. It looks different, difficult to explain, steam is rising everywhere and the light has a metalic golden colour to it. The river was frozen and there were small pressure ridges and lose blocks jammed together in a huge jigsaw. The ducks didn't look especially phased, maybe they have antifreeze in their blood.

About 500 m from the hotel I realized the error of my ways, just as the bare flesh on my face and hands started to ache. I took a few pics, juggling the camera from one hand to the other. Then I headed back. I could feel the hairs in my nostrils freezing and my face was burning, the skin on the back of my hand took on a waxy white appearance. I had only been out 10 minutes!This was awesome, I have never been out in temperatures this low.

At that point a man on a bike cycled past…

Went to the Uni, meet some students and went through their work, then gave my talk, which went fine, good audience of about 40. In the evening went for a meal with Luis, his very excitable wife and some guy called Paul who epitomized the lecherous lecturer, 60 years old, goatee, slicked-back hair and a very high opinion of himself which was expressed in a loud voice. Anyway we had a nice meal and I got back fairly early.

Up at 4.30, taxi to the airport with a very random Romanian who kept tapping my arm and calling himself my friend. Then the flight was delayed because the hydraulics were frozen. The pilot said that was common at -35, which I found rather worrying since I am pretty sure that -35 is quite common at 35000 ft.

Missed my connection to Alaska so now sitting in Minneapolis waiting for the next one having narrowly missed being routed via Houston…

Apparently it’s much warmer in Anchorage.

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