After a three hour, bone-rattling flight in sub-zero temperatures, an assessment is in order. But all I can say is that I can’t feel my feet or my hands and I’m not even sure I have a nose left, because that’s how cold it is.
From the “comfort” of the LC-130 military air transport, I squint at the blocky bus-like vehicle coming toward us, dipping and turning as it follows the contours of the ice leading to the runway—no, not runway. Skiway, they call it. Planes can’t have wheels here. Past it, in the distance, I make out tiny figures that emerge from the box of a building that will be home-sweet-home for the next year.
Thoroughly whacked out from lack of sleep, deaf from hours of engine noise, snow blind from the endless field of white in front of me, I feel disembodied. Hardly present. A spectator in my own skin. From moment to moment, I forget where I am and why I’m here. To remember, I have to trace things back from the beginning.
Still images, snapshot memories, pass through my head. Childhood. The nearby watch factory turned museum. Glass cases of gears and cogs, fine-grained spanners and compasses. Hugging the girth of the smoke stack, surely the biggest thing in the world, letting it radiate the sun’s warmth back through me.
My father, worried and confused. My mother, bedridden and wan. A young me by her side, wondering where the tools were to fix her. Tip-toeing, speaking in whispers. Up to and including the funeral.
College. A woman in a world engineered by men. Learning and loving, falling and breaking and coming together, then leaving. Graduating, moving on.
An adult, finally. A real job in the real world, with responsibilities and consequences. A catastrophe and a trial with its public acquittal but private tragedy. Then the years chasing peace, watching it skitter ahead to an oil rig out of Shreveport, a fishery in Sitka, a mining camp in Yellowknife.
Until eventually, short of leaving the planet, there was only one place left. Where people had to be crazy enough to go, but not enough to go crazy. Where nothing but skill and guts and merit got you through and you might be able to show yourself that you had what it took to be normal and helpful and wanted and—
Everyone jumps as a terrific BANG! jolts the plane. The cabin doors yawn wide and air—impossibly cold—rushes down the makeshift aisle. A man in a red parka waddles into view and takes a wide stance at the head of the aisle. He pushes back his fur-lined hood and tugs polarized goggles under his chin, revealing a jovial face.
“After that plane ride, you probably can’t hear me, so I hope you can read lips,” he says and spreads his arms wide. “Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the bottom of the world. Welcome to the South Pole.”
You can read more about Cass in THE WINTER OVER.
Each winter, the crew at the Shackleton South Pole Research Facility faces nine months of isolation, round-the-clock darkness, and one of the most extreme climates on the planet. For thirty-something mechanical engineer Cass Jennings, Antarctica offers an opportunity to finally escape the guilt of her troubled past and to rebuild her life.
But the death of a colleague triggers a series of mysterious incidents that push Cass and the rest of the forty-four-person crew to the limits of their sanity and endurance. Confined and cut off from the outside world, will they work together or turn against one another? As the tension escalates, Cass must find the strength to survive not only a punishing landscape but also an unrelenting menace determined to destroy the station—and everyone in it.
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Meet the author
In addition to The Winter Over, Matthew Iden is the author of the Marty Singer detective series—A Reason to Live, Blueblood, One Right Thing, The Spike, The Wicked Flee, and Once Was Lost—as well as several stand-alone novels.
Iden’s eclectic resume includes jobs with the US Postal Service, an international nonprofit, a short stint with the Forest Service in Sitka, Alaska, and time with the globe-spanning Semester at Sea program. Trips to Iceland, Patagonia, and Antarctica have given him a world of inspiration. Iden currently lives in Northern Virginia—close enough to the woods to keep his sanity, close enough to the Capital Beltway to lose it.
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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win copy of The Winter Over, either paperback (U.S. residents only), Kindle copy, or audiobook, winner’s choice. The giveaway will end February 6, 2017. Good luck everyone!
The Winter Over is available at online booksellers.