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Day 3: Living in a Refrigerator

WORLDWIDE | Monday, 21 October 2013 | Views [1058]

Glacier with fallen Ice Chunks White Rock patterns against ice

We are camped bang opposite the mighty Russell Glacier. The wind hitting the glacier comes back and chills our bones to the last ligament. Last night, bunking in the tent, I couldn’t sleep well. The wind kept howling and there was activity in the Glacier. Jas told me in the morning that a flap in my tent was open, small enough to not let anyone pass through, but big enough for why I was freezing despite the sleeping bag. I wonder what the temperature must be like. Surely well below freezing point.

Jason gave me his 105mm to shoot macro and explained the flash system - two flash guns and a wireless commander unit - mounted on the lens. The two flashes on the lens made it look like Sputnik, only ready to orbit the world of macroscopic splendor. Macro lenses are fast and delicate, and focusing can give the uninitiated a tough time. The depth of field works half and half, unlike other lenses where it is two-thirds backward and one-third forward. It is amazing that there is so much on either extreme of the nature spectrum. The fine lichens and moss to the majestic glacier across us. So, layered like a wooly mammoth, I set around looking for details in the finer form.

macro beauty

Wandering, I also found an abandoned cabin nearby which was airlifted here to be used as an emergency hospital and to rescue lost travelers stuck at the site when floods broke out in the area some years back. Inside, there was a lot of graffiti. Mostly people’s names and hearts scribbled on its rusting walls. Which the survivor’s and which from tourists and locals camping in the area, one couldn’t tell.


After lunch, we headed to the Glacier edge. From up close, the Glacier looked even bigger. A stream gurgled and ice blocks and stone boulders speckled around. Jason surprised me by lending me a 200-400mm, and helped me mount it onto a tripod, to look for the ‘finer details in the bigger picture’. After he left, and each time I loosened the ball-head on the tripod, the lens became free to move and with its each wobble, my heart skipped a beat. The weight of the lens alone was so much that I did not want it crashing itself from a slip fall. Once I got the hang of it, and was reassured that the lens was steady on the tripod, I loved shooting the abstract in the detailing.  Before the trip, super telephotos and zooms were never on my gear lust list, reserving it for sports or wildlife photography. Jason introduced me to lens versatility.  

Some shots later, the sun came out and beamed at us. I rushed with my other body, which was mounted with a 24-70 on my DX frame, towards the edge of the glacier. The light glowed amber in the magical evening elegance, glowing the icecaps a warm shade of yellow. As I ambled around shooting landscapes, there was activity in the glacier; small pieces would let go, and the crash, even if minor, roared. I suddenly remembered Adam’s warnings on how a flood could materialize in the area any moment and that we were camping in high alert season. We were asked not to venture close. I was way beyond the prescribed territory. I looked at the glacier, smiled and took a few more shots. A sense of quest rushing through my veins!

18 Russell Glacier

The sun was shining longer than usual today, and just when I thought the light would be gone, it came out stronger and glowed the mountain behind the glacier in a hue of orange. I packed the tripod and lens, I was eager to reach back up, and take some landscape shots, but the equipment was too heavy for my tiny frame to maneuver fast. By the time I made it back, the light was gone.

We’d been here for over two days, and I needed to take back-ups. I tried taking backup on my laptop, and after one card, it gave up to the cold, which depletes charge even without usage. My camera batteries were also dying despite hugging them close between jackets and my body throughout the day, and when sleeping at night, making sleep very, very uncomfortable.  I should have provided the laptop a fair share of my sleeping bag space, and probably slept snuggling with it. I put the balance on Jason’s laptop as he always sleeps with his. 

After the mellow golden glow, with passing hours, the cold started setting in. It was mind-bogglingly cold. I couldn’t feel my hands, the nerve numbing winds made you wish you were elsewhere, the warm Bahamas perhaps. I still had to write my journal entries. Sitting outside my tent, my hands numb, I scribbled on in an incorrigible hand. Today is our last night here and despite this very testing alliance, I am going to miss Mighty Russell.

We waited for some northern lights to come with some music and thankfully a small fire to warm our freezing bones. As if to test the cold and tease us further, Dan went ahead and got a small ice block from the glacier as we joked about melting it and drinking a thousand year old protozoa embedded somewhere between its layers and mutating ourselves. The next morning, that slab would be sitting on the table, just as we left it, without melting.


Tags: abandoned cabin, camping, floods, macro, russell glacier

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