The first pipes froze today, and it’s not yet Christmas. It wasn’t a fun sight, water and ice everywhere, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Murphy’s Law works double time up here, in the far north. In many ways, winter is a fun time. Most of my memories involve having fun, but that’s what kids did, never mind the cold and come in only when there was no energy left to stay outside. But for adults, it’s an entirely different story.

In my many years on this planet, I have witnessed some strange things during the winter months, like cold blustery blizzards. Back in the day, storms were ordinary events, lasting for weeks at a time. Storms could blow up right in your face without warning and so it happened to our boss one night. We were working the winter shift for a now-defunct airline, starting at 5:30am and ending when the last plane shutdown.

It was our boss’s night out, so he took off with the company truck. Our gang woke up to a snow bomb and no truck to take us to work. Grumbling and complaining, we walked to work. The boss was nowhere in sight and the same for the truck. Soon, a complete snow-suited goggled operator showed up to tell us he uncovered our truck under a 12-foot snowdrift in the middle of the road with his bulldozer. Meanwhile, the boss, who had recovered enough to dig his porch free of packed snow, assured us that he was still alive.

Another time, while waiting out a storm way the heck up north, the local airline agent advised us after the storm blew itself out that she had checked out the runway, which was nice and smooth. According to her garbled message on the HF radio (bush radio to those in the know), it was good to go. After putting all the passengers on board the Twin Otter, we took off over the treeless landscape of northwestern Quebec.

Sure enough, the runway looked good enough to land and after lining up for final approach, we quickly got absorbed in the fluffiest snow in the world and the plane slowed so fast and yet smoothly, that the seatbelts cut right into our abdomens as we doubled over with all the negative gravity force. Popping open the back door, I jumped into chest-high powder and literally swam around in the snow to secure the brace for the tail. Of course, all the heavy equipment in town was broken down at that time, and the runway couldn’t be cleared. But the Inuit quickly used toboggans from the local co-op and lashed them to the wheels. Thus the plane taxied out and actually could takeoff way beyond the limits of the runway, riding on a mix of old and new technology, and beating Murphy at his game.

During the same time, the weather quickly changed to include some freezing rain to its concoction and the aircraft was quickly coated in ice, making it impossible to fly. The captain whipped out a little hand-held scraper and asked me to start working at clearing the plane free. What about the deicer, I asked. Doesn’t work up north said the pilot, so I placed the deicer pump down and went out to do the impossible.

An hour later and having scraped off a few patches here and there, I went to see if deicing really wouldn’t work in the north. I discovered the little pump, which I put down in haste, was sitting on top of the small oil heater. It looked like it was going to expand and explode, so I went out to spray the plane down. The heated alcohol mixture literally blew out the nozzle and the plane was quickly deiced with the hot vapours. I ran back in to tell the captain and he said, let me write that down in my logbook and recommend heating the deicer before spraying. Murphy was beat again.

Today, there are so many contraptions out there to beat Murphy’s Law during winter months that eventually, none of them will work in Canada’s frozen north. Sometimes, it’s pure luck that helps out in the end. Have a nice winter and holiday cheer to keep you going. Signing off from the frozen north…