Penguin’s eggs, the Antarctic, and how to keep warm
It’s below freezing in London at the moment. How do you cope with the cold weather? Last year I found an unusual solution – this book.
It’s called ‘The Worst Journey in the World’, and it’s by a guy who rejoiced in the name ‘Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard’, and was on the Polar expedition with Captain Scott.
The ‘worst journey’ wasn’t actually the trek to the Pole, but a 2-month quest he and two others took through the Antarctic in the depth of winter, to collect some penguin’s eggs which scientists at the time thought might be a vital missing link in evolutionary studies (spoiler alert: they weren’t).
It was pitch black the whole time. They trekked 70 miles in the snow, sometimes travelling just 1 mile a day in temperatures of -60. It was so cold that each morning they had to prise their sleeping bags open so that they’d freeze with a hole where they could insert themselves at night. It was so cold that their sweat iced up immediately and didn’t melt, so they walked everywhere with massive sheets of ice moulded to their bodies.
All their teeth fell out after the nerves died. If they stood still for more than 30 seconds, their clothes and harness would become frozen into position and they’d have to man-haul sledges in that pose the whole day.
It was bloody cold, is what I’m trying to say. At one point their tent blows away during a huge blizzard and they lie on the floor in a icy cave, waiting for death. Then the blizzard lets up a bit and they struggle outside to realise the tent has miraculously been caught on a bit of rock outside. It’s nail-biting stuff.
What’s really heartbreaking is that not only were the penguin’s eggs a massive red herring, but when Apsley took them to the Natural History Museum a clerk basically told him to piss off and stop bothering people doing important scientific work. Then nobody even bothered to dissect the eggs for years.
After reading this book I had a mental epiphany, which is that if they could cope with two months of this, I could cope with getting out of bed in a cold flat and getting into a hot shower. So if you want to feel slightly warmer than a man with only a reindeer fur sleeping bag between him and the frozen Antarctic waste, I recommend this book. It is quite long though.
If you don’t have time to wade through 600 pages, and you don’t want to crank up the heating bills either, I recommend these things instead:
- Get two hot water bottles (one for your feet and one to cling to desperately). You can even make your own covers.
- Knit some handwarmers that you can wear indoors while still being able to type, make cups of tea etc. I recommend this pattern.
- Uniqlo Heat Tech is surprisingly good. It’s all polyester, but somehow breathable. The tights are particularly amazing.
- I have been living in my boyfriend’s Snugpak army surplus bodywarmer non-stop for the last week. It’s a bit Made in Chelsea to actually wear out of the house, but it does have military grade warming properties.
- Accept any invitations to go out. Whether you’re in a public place or someone else’s house, at least they’ll be paying for the heating.
Any other strategies for the current weather?