Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sarah's Guide to Arctic Survival

So my brother is up in Alaska right now for work, and he left so suddenly that I forgot to make sure that he was given the right training to be safe. Honestly, I've never been that far north, but I did go to school in North Bay, Ontario... so although it doesn't make me an expert per se, I think I'm well qualified to write a guide on arctic survival. Although, according to me, I'm qualified to write any type of guide - all of which cannot truly be taken seriously, but I like to try.

So here is my survival guide for the great north:

1) The population is so small up there that you NEVER have to worry about population-claustrophobia. I am one of those people who actually gets claustrophobic if too many people crowd around me. Please don't test this theory... I will probably cry... and then someone will have to throw a EJCTFD card at me (to get this reference, read yesterday's blog post). So mentally prepare yourself for wide open spaces and fresh air.

2) It's pretty damn cold up there. Make sure to wear proper attire. At least 2 t-shirts and 2 sweaters under your down-filled jacket. And remember when you were a kid and you mother told you to wear your hat outside? Well, yes, you should probably listen to that advice. Otherwise you could lose a limb or a head.

3) Speaking of childhood advice, there are many animals up north that are specialized for the climate. They look at you and laugh at your down-filled jacket and big Sorel boots. Although normally we would discourage bullying and harassment, we have to be more accepting of the arctic creatures and if they laugh at us, do not make eye contact... just walk away slowly... Unless you are being chased. At at that point, refer to #4.

4) Always carry bear repellant with you. If you don't have polar bear repellant, pull out a full-size picture of a dinosaur. If a full-size dinosaur doesn't scare a polar bear, I'm not sure what will.

... maybe a house cat... those things are dangerous.

5) Attach a string to your mittens so you don't lose them. There is nothing worse than being in the great north and losing a mitten in -50 degree weather... except being eaten by a polar bear (refer to #4).

6) No matter how beautiful and clean the ocean looks, do not be tempted to go swimming in it. You will likely get hypothermia and all of your bits and pieces will be frostbitten when you come out of the water. If you speak whale, you'll have to do it from the surface.

7) About 3.5% of people in Alaska speak Spanish at home. So if you're bored up there, learn some Spanish and then go talk to 3.5% of the people in Alaska with your newly acquired skill.

8) They are well-known for their seafood up there. So take advantage of the local food for a healthy dose of fish oil straight from the source. If you are trying to catch the fish yourself, do NOT dress up like a polar bear in order to blend in with your surroundings. Fish are afraid of polar bears - as everyone should be. But don't dress up like a dinosaur either. Maybe if you're just really quiet and still, a fish will jump out of the ice water and into a bucket for you. But you might need to dress up like a fish so he'll trust you. Yeah, I would try this first... or hire an experienced fisherman.

9) If you are thirsty, do not attempt to chip off a piece of ice and eat it. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) The icecaps are already melting due to global warming, so it would be ill-advised to contribute to their demise. 2) Ice is cold... and your down-filled jacket is working so hard to contain your body heat, so eating ice would really be counter-productive.
Image from

10) Before you leave, you may wish to host a going-away party. If you don't, there may be some long-standing resentment among the peoples and the arctic foxes. The arctic foxes are amazing because they form monogamous pairs and stay as a family group for multiple generations in complex underground dens. Can you say "secret society" anyone? You definitely want to make these connections before you leave.

Seriously, how cute is that lil' fella?