For people living near the equator, we could never imagine what it’s like living in -34 deg C temperature. In Singapore, we have an annual average temperature of +30deg C and I spend my days in t-shirts and shorts. So when Mike told me Fairbanks’s temperature would be -34deg when we arrive, that news temporarily displaced my fear about flying for more than 24 hours through Tokyo, Seattle, Anchorage to reach Fairbanks. How to tahan? (In plain English : How would I survive?)
The first thing that hit me upon our arrival to Fairbanks is that any emission, whether its from chimneys or vehicle exhausts, would create a white opaque fume. Thus when you are at a traffic waiting for the lights to change and the car in front of you accelerates, you are immediately blinded by the white fog in front. People tend to drive slow, from the poor visibility by all these white fog as well as slippery roads.
While at a Thai Restaurant near our hotel, we noticed that the cars parked alongside the roads have their engines on. I was told this is a must as the temperature would freeze the petrol or any lubricants in the engine within a short time. Many hotels or malls do provide either free or paid plug-ins for your car. With plug-ins, you then do not have to leave the engine on.
We were well prepared for the cold and were dressed in at least five layers before venturing out. Layering is more effective than dressing in one thick coat. Still, the exposure of your face to the cold does make you lose heat really fast. Thus we were not surprised that there was hardly anyone about during our short walk around the park opposite our hotel. People probably thought us mad to be out taking photos. At this extreme temperature, the breath exhaled though your nostrils would first vapourize, then condense on your face, eyelashes, brows and then freeze, creating icicles.
There were probably ice inside my nose as I felt solid movements within my nose which disappeared as soon as I step into a warm room.
With all these ice and cold outside, it would have been great to be served a cup of hot water or tea when we sit down to eat in a restaurant, right? Instead, we were served iced water. Weird. I can imagine what my mother and grandmother, who insist on being served warm water even in +30 C Singapore would say, ‘can die lah!’
In that temperature, it is also crucial that we do not perspire and thus wet our inner clothes. One wouldn’t expect to perspire in that cold right? That’s what I thought. But I was told physical exertion, like walking in knee deep snow would cause perspiration. Thus, snow shoes were invented but more about that in another blog.
My visit to wintry Alaska was an eye opener for us tropical folks. It’s an experience just to survive and blog about it.