Polar Numbing Stinging Cold

It’s cold in Point Hope.

Better words for cold according to the thesaurus –Siberian, algid, arctic, below freezing, below zero, benumbing, biting, bitter, blasting, bleak, boreal, brisk, brumal, chill, chilled, cool, crisp, cutting, frigid, frore, frosty, frozen, gelid, glacial, having goose bumps, hawkish, hiemal, hyperborean, icebox, iced, icy, inclement,intense, keen, nipping, nippy, numbed, numbing, one-dog night, penetrating, piercing, polar, raw, rimy, severe, sharp, shivery, sleety, snappy, snowy, stinging, two-dog night, wintry

We were warned when we left Shishmaref – “It’s cold up there.” We thought a few degrees colder would not make too much of a difference. Hmmmm…. I’ve been comparing Shishmaref to Point Hope. It’s true, it is only a few degrees colder here. But this week the “real feel” temperatures have been hovering around minus 40! When the high says 4 degrees, it’s likely that we may hit the high at 3 o’clock in the morning, not mid-day as you might guess. The sun does peek over the horizon, but not enough to warm anything yet. So, we are relying on wind currents to bring us some warmer air flows.

Last year, Jack bought a wolf ruff for my parka. One of our Shishmaref friends finished it and attached it to my coat. It makes a huge difference in blocking the wind. I have polar fleece pants with a wind-blocker lining. I have thick neoprene “muck” boots. I often wear two hats–one with a face blocker. For me, all these are necessities, even for the relatively short walks to school, the post office, or to the store.  One of my students walked home from the school last Saturday without a hat and got frostbite on her ear!

I can feel every crack in my armor.  If my mitten exposes my wrist, it hurts. The slit between my hat and the face blocker stings with cold.

The words in the thesaurus don’t do justice to the cold up here.

Arctic School Bus

When I heard that Point Hope had a school bus, my first thought was that a bus seemed extravagant in a village that stretches barely over 1/2 mile  from tip to tip. Not only do we have a school bus, but it’s a shiny, brand-new school bus that just came off the barge this summer. Wow, I thought, our school district is rich!

Once winter set in, my perspective changed. These days, walking the scant 150 feet from the front door of our house to the school is no small enterprise. Bundled up from toe to nose and nearly getting blown off my feet by icy blasts of wind, I totally get the school bus. Within minutes, any skin exposed to this wind begins to hurt! Who would walk to school in those conditions? There are days I wish I could take the school bus.