Tuesday, 8 March 2011

DZ CREW - Jack 6.0 - The Storm

“We’re here!” It was Lewis’ voice and he was shouting over the sound of the storm from somewhere ahead of me. The sudden interruption to the rhythmical, dream-like shuffling through the white landscape had come as a surprise. I looked up and was instantly alarmed when I couldn’t see anyone. The storm had got worse. Snow was flying horizontally; giant flakes spun madly on the ferocious wind, filling my entire vision with white. It was like static on TV when your aerial broke, the only thing I could see that wasn’t white was the thick misty grey of snow clouds and blurred distant rocks.

There was no sign of the team anywhere.

“Hello?” my shout seemed strangely muffled and in-effective against the wind and storm that raged about me. It had closed in fast.

“Hello?!” again I shouted, as loud as I could. Then it dawned on me, if the last thing I had heard was “we’re here” from Lewis, then surely this meant that were Lizards close by? Maybe shouting wasn’t a good idea.

I walked steadily forwards, leaning with great effort into the wind that had changed randomly from blowing me sideways to now blowing right down my throat. It was hard to make progress, there was still no sign of anyone and there was no bleeping of the sensor and no voices. What was going on? How had this situation so quickly got out of control?

I stopped again to listen, lifting a corner of my two layered hats from my ear so I might be able to hear properly. I didn’t know what to do. Should I shout again or would I be putting myself at risk? How would I find the others if I didn’t try and let them know my whereabouts. I bent down and drew a quick X in the snow in front of me before spinning a slow 360 degrees, listening with all my might, straining to discern the un-natural electric bleeping noise or any voices from the natural rage of the wind and snow. Nothing. No-one. No bleeping.

If anyone get’s separated, just make your way back to the boat.

At least that was what Harrison had said over two hours previously. Unfortunately as I spun in a circle again I realised that I wouldn’t know exactly which way was back to the boat. This was bad. My heart was beginning to beat faster and there was that annoying sick feeling that started creeping into my stomach, the same feeling when you can’t find your wallet or from when you were little and you lost your Mum in the supermarket. What was I going to do? My emotions swung almost as quickly as the weather from panic to annoyance. Why didn’t all of us get a motion detector? Why was Lewis the only one member of the team to have one? Then I remembered. Bob! Of course. Contact Bob for satellite support!

Dr. Walker was our resident genius for the Dragon Zoo security team. Although she rarely left the zoo she was always on hand to provide remote support for our expeditions. But did that extend to Antartica? I grabbed the satellite phone from my back pack and pushed the massive power button on the side. It blinked into life, but the signal bar did not. I looked up at the skies as if by doing so I might conjure a satellite to pass overhead, all there was to see was grey and an unimaginable amount of white flakes spiralling at speed towards the ground. Crap.

Plan B. Keep walking and keep listening. That would have to do. If I stayed still much longer I would freeze regardless, so walking seemed like as good a plan as any. So much for remote support! So much for working as a team! It was me, on my own, with nothing but a couple of gas grenades and my handgun.

It seemed like hours but was probably only about thirty aimless minutes of wandering around in the snow storm. I hadn’t heard a single sound for any clue or had any sort of lead as to the whereabouts of where either the team or any of the lizards might be. At least fifty percent of this was good news. As I’d continued my search the storm had gradually started to abate, the snow flakes had begun to reduce in size and the wind had gone as quickly as it had appeared. With the increase in visibility came an increase in purpose and direction. I was actually able to see more than a metre ahead of me, enough to spot something on the horizon that wasn’t just flat and white. It looked to be either a large mound of snow or a bunch of rocks that had been covered by the storm. Either way it was a feature, and there was nothing else to aim for on the horizon.

Foolishly, as I walked I found myself looking for footprints. Even with the lighter snowfall and the brighter skies the snowfall was still substantial enough to mask my trail of footprints almost as quickly as I had left them. There was nothing I could think of that would be more useful or more sensible than what I was doing, looking for landmarks, looking for likely places that could accommodate either the team or the lizards. I pressed on.

The walk hadn’t taken long and upon closer inspection I discovered it was just a closely huddled bunch of rocks. This place was strange, almost alien. Especially seeing as I was alone, in complete isolation. It was like Hoth from Star Wars or something. But where could I head now? What would Han Solo do? I eased my goggles off my face to clear the build up of mist on the inside of the lenses again. As I did so I looked about me. With the added clarity of vision I spotted a definite place to head for, a small snow covered hill, but behind it was a large rock face, I could see the grey weathered texture just visible in patches where some of the snow hadn’t manage to mask. I put the goggles back over my eyes with new determination, the disappointment of the useless huddle of rocks I'd just discovered was soon behind me as I had a new target to head towards.

My awkward shuffling walk had increased to somewhere near a jog, this was the most promising thing I’d laid my eyes upon since I’d originally lost the guys ages ago. As I approached, more of the rock face behind the mound of snow began to become visible, it was actually a series of rock faces built up into a series of small hills. Because I had approached it from directly in front of it, I had missed the exciting fact that the hill was much larger than it first appeared. It was definitely worth exploring.

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