The Arctic Circle is the northern most ‘circle of latitude’ on the planet Earth, for which at this time and moment in space happens to be where I live; the planet, not the circle. Whoops, sorry about that last statement; I may have spent too many winter hours vicariously traveling Time and Space with Dr Who, on Netflix.
Imagination aside, as a quick review, there are 5 major circles of latitude; semi-imaginary horizontal lines that circumnavigate the Globe, and are used for traversing and pinpointing geography. 1. The Arctic Circle encompassing the area “near” the North Pole. 2. The Antarctica Circle, which as I type this suddenly appears to me for the first time in my life as the Anti-Arctic Circle; is located near the South Pole; where penguins proliferate, scientists constantly mock one of the original 13 American colonies by claiming that a chunk of an iceberg the size of Rhode Island just broke off the continent, and according to one of the X-Files movies, the location of a large ALB; Alien Landing Base, which is my acronym not theirs. “Hey, what’s the A-Z Challenge without some Aliens!?” Number 3 and 4, would be the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere and The Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. These two receive little mentioned except in reference to Christopher Columbus and the false notion that he was the first to discover “America and the New World,” blatantly disregarding the achievements of the Vikings, the Irish, the Portuguese, and any other group who took to the sea. Number 5 is the Queen Mother of all latitudes; The Equator, which bisects the Globe, and traditionally the line that ocean-going men called Shellbacks, who have crossed the Equator in ships, haze, belittle, and gently beat the crap out of men called Polliwogs who have not crossed “the line.” Rank has NO PRIVILEGE! I have been both of those men, and the Shellback ceremony is one of the most time-honored, good-natured, and exciting things that ever happened to me during my Naval Service. As a side note, if you ever find yourself as a Polliwog, don’t continually smile and laugh your ass off during the initiation; it only enrages the Shellbacks and brings more attention to yourself. Take it from someone branded “Special Case-Level 5.” Yes, that’s me in the picture with my clothes on backwards and inside out, and smiling, as I crawl through two-week old food scraps on my way to the “garbage shoot.” Don’t worry; I’m still laughing!
Anyway, life, as I hope to show you, up in the Arctic Circle is not just a frozen wasteland. There are 10 cities with a population of at least 30,000 people or more. There’s train, bus, and air lines that operate there. Because the earth tilts its axis away from the sun, the temperatures can reach -58 degrees Fahrenheit, but when the North Pole is tilted towards the sun, the temperature in some places can get as high as 85 degrees F and produce the land of the ‘midnight sun.’ The people drive snowmobiles, hike, ski, and sled, but they also swim, bike, walk, lounge outside, and go bowling. There’s phone service, internet access, and Chinese food restaurants. Because of the Gulf Stream, some of the locations in Norway and Russia have open and unfrozen seaports year round which we will also find out, may bring unwanted attention.
Things are not always as imagined. We don’t need Dr Who to teach us that.