Below Zero

Once the thermometer gauge dips below the zero mark it is like we enter a whole different world.  Strange and curious things start to happen, cars, houses and our bodies stop functioning like they usually do and rules from the “above zero” world don’t apply anymore.

Humans in Below Zero

Six months ago, before we moved to Alaska I would have considered -10F really really cold and would probably have avoided leaving the house altogether.  These days when it is -10F or even -15F outside I find it balmy and will drop everything I’m doing to go outside for a ski or a for a walk to take advantage of the “warm weather.”  What craziness..

Once the temperatures are -20F and colder however, being outdoors becomes a little uncomfortable and at -35F and colder it becomes pretty darn uncomfortable and it’s essential to bundle up to the point where the only thing visible are your eyes (and even then your eyeballs and eyelashes freeze) and doing normal chores like pumping gas and loading groceries in the back of your car becomes extremely un-fun.

My frozen eyelashes.

A 10 minute walk from my office/trailer to my classroom results in eyelashes that are frozen together and I can barely open my eyes to see where I am going, frozen nose hairs that feel like giant buggers but are not (or “snotcycles” as my friend Monica put it) and frozen, iced-over hair where ever it sticks out of my hat.  The thing with frozen hair is that it becomes susceptible to being broken off like icicles and hence can lead to an involuntary haircut!

Cars in Below Zero

The main difference for cars between above and below zero is that once the minus sign appears (-) you gotta plug your car in.  Huh? You want me to do what? Yes, you read right, plug the car in.  Garages are a very rare commodity in Fairbanks, the only time my Jeep is ever garaged is when it is at the mechanic.  The rest of the time it is outdoors in whatever temperatures are thrown at it.  After a certain level of cold (it varies by car, somewhere between 0F and -20F) the fluids in the car engine freeze which means your car won’t start or it will seek revenge on you later on if it is forced to start in such cold weather.  To avoid this, I have a block engine heater, an oil pan heater and a warming battery blanket installed, all of which run to an outlet that sticks out of the front grill next to the license plate.  The better parking lots around town have outlets for every parking spot where cars can be plugged in with an extension cord.  It is a pretty funny sight actually walking through a parking lot with cars plugged in, looks like the cars are on leashes and need to be tied to posts so they won’t run away.

It also turns out that windshields crack when it’s -20F outside and you blast the heater on the dashboard inside.  Hmm…who knew?  Without naming any names, some of us learned this the hard way.

One of the first mornings when the temperatures fell to -25F the radio news announcer issued a caution for people not to go fast over bumps in the road because the frozen plastic bits on the cars could go flying off in all directions…great as if the 2 inch layer of ice isn’t hazardous enough, now I have to watch out for flying frozen plastic bits.  My jacket that has a plastic outershell that always freezes as well as soon as I set foot outside, which makes for a very stiff, crinkly experience.

Here is a picture that has nothing to do with cars or plastic, but is a Halloween pumpkin that has been outside since October! Since it's virtually a freezer outside it will stay preserved until spring when we will make a pie out of it..

Cabins in Below Zero

In general I think our cabin it pretty well insulted and our one and only toyo heater in the living room is holding up pretty well in keeping our house warm – for the most part.  A few days at -25F revealed an ice build-up on our windows INSIDE the cabin.  Along with a recent discovery of ice on our electricity outlets again INSIDE the house.  Our bathroom with the shower, unfortunately the room furthest removed from the heater, is probably the coldest room in the house and I know this because after we take a shower the entire bathtub freezes over, which means the next person to take a shower has to start it off standing on a layer of ice..brrr…

Frost build-up on the INSIDE of our window.

Nathan noted the other day when it was -30F that going from outside to inside our house was a whooping 90F difference in temperature!! We keep the indoor temperature at around 64F…  What can I say, we like to pose challenges of adaptation to our bodies on a regular basis. Keeps them on their toes…

Sun o’ Sun, Where Art Thou?

Now to the most important question when living in Fairbanks in winter….Sun where are you??? On winter solstice we had 2 hours 40 minutes of sun, from 11am to 2:40pm.  And since we are so far north the sun is never at a 90 degree angle in the sky, in summer it might be about 60 degrees but in winter it seems the sun just creeps along the horizon which actually makes for beautiful scenery because it seems that it is always either sunrise or sunset, there really is nothing in between.  The time sequenced photos below will show you what I mean.. it is a little bit small but if you click on it it should open in a separate window.

Sunrise to sunset a few days before winter solstice.


~ by yhossain on December 26, 2010.

2 Responses to “Below Zero”

  1. Not bad you two. Sounds like you are holding down the fort just fine. If you need a vacation to the tropics, Maine is a mild 24F with blizzard conditions right now. we have about 10″ of snow since last night. I love your posts, glad to hear things are well.

  2. Hey! Thank you so much for your comment. I never know if people are liking the postings or not, so comments are always hugely appreciated. 😉
    Maine does sound balmy right now. Are you stuck there for a while b/c of the giant snow storm?
    PS: Come visit!

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