Pole of Cold – lecture review
A packed Ondaatje theatre at the Royal Geographical Society witnessed a very special story told with great passion and energy on Monday night this week.
Felicity Aston described the journey of 36 000km that she made with two companions in a specially adapted Land Rover Defender to Oymyakon: the ‘Pole of Cold’ – so called as it is the coldest inhabited place in the world, with temperatures getting down below -70 degrees Celsius. There was also an excellent exhibition of images and artefacts on display, and the Land Rover itself was parked outside the Exhibition Road entrance, still covered in mud.
The story was told with stunning images, taken by the photographer Manu Palomeque.
I was delighted to have the chance to speak to Felicity before the lecture, and she thanked me for the educational resources that I wrote to accompany the journey.
For the purposes of the project, these had to be written before the journey was finally completed, but I was able to set in motion some enquiries that could be developed in the future, and there is also a wealth of audio visual material on the project blog and website.
Felicity drew us in from the first minute by asking us to imagine a place so cold that we could hear our own breath freezing, where metal became as brittle as plastic and where every drop of moisture was frozen solid.
There were tales of reindeer herders, meeting Father Christmas, travelling the Road of Bones, surviving the cold, the ice roads and the benefits of the cold.
She finished by reminding us that the winter, which is often thought of as being dark, is actually full of colour and that, as the ‘Lord of Cold’ who she met in Oymayakon (and gave a lift home) said, it can also be our friend. She asked us to think about what winter meant to us, and whether we had changed our mind after the story we had heard.
I had to leave before the questions session as I had a long journey back to Norfolk, rather less than the 36 000 km that Felicity had travelled, and on a day which, ironically, was the warmest of the year. Before leaving, I had a chance to run my fingers through the Siberian mud on the Land Rover – the closest I’ll probably get to visiting the region in person.
Many thanks to Steve Brace for the invitation to have drinks before the lecture, and to Rita Gardner for her warm welcome.
Best wishes to Felicity for her future travels.
Pole of Cold URL: http://www.poleofcold.com
Image of me and Felicity, taken by Gisli - I'm the scruffy bloke on the left..