At 8:00 I could not lay any longer, so I popped out of my sleeping bag and turned on the computer and started to type. The snow-like blindness from the stress of looking into the computer screen in this bright light still ailed me on that morning of the 4th day but I kept on pounding on the keys writing down very important details that the outside world would need if it had to find me.
The 4th day also had another positive note to it. The sun was shining between fog banks and what a fantastic world it was outside! I remained at the keyboard, pounding away for my life the important codes and important sequences that might be needed. I would not leave this camp now until I had all of this done. But the sunshine started me thinking about Ellesmere and, with this thought, my spirits came back and I became my usual positive and excited self. It was with great relief that I finished these messages and after double checking everything I gave it a file name and aimed my mouse at 'save'. I pushed lightly with my left thumb. That burden was gone.
After a boring bowl of noodles, the sun enticed me out of the tent. It was glorious outside and I was happy. To celebrate the day, I took a long walk visiting various ice blocks that were near the camp and safe to venture upon. In the normal fog, I am stuck on my own home block. To walk too far away would mean getting lost if the fog tightened up. So this was my first real excursion on the Arctic Ocean and it was fantastic!
Just as I had figured, the travel conditions seemed to be improving with time even though the fog was perpetual. This made me start to lay plans for leaving to Ellesmere. After several hours I decided I would leave late the following afternoon on day five. I would pack the camp and simply move about 400 yards. The important thing was to get moving. On returning to my camp, I pulled my partially loaded canoe and it pulled slicky. The temp had dropped to 28 with some snow flurries producing ideal surface conditions. I was charged up and ready.
At 6:00 I decided to send out my important message so I wired up the antenna to the transmitter and then connected the transmitter and computer together and fired them both up with the 12v batteries. I then loaded the message into the satellite software and waited for the satellite pass. At 6:41 the connect light came on the transmitter as it made contact with the satellite. The satellite then gave the transmitter permission to do its job and transmit. The red transmit button went and I sighed a sigh of relief. I had one other message that preceded the important one that described my condition and it was dreary and a little pessimistic. I knew, however, my next positive message would set everything straight.
The transmitter light blinked off as usual, then on in a steady glow of red which meant solid transmit- my message was on its way. I was happy and almost proud of myself. When I stopped pointing the antenna toward the satellite, I noticed that both the connect light and the transmit light were still on. I turned off the transmitter and turned it on and both came on again. That was weird I thought, as I felt a tinge of panic go up my spine. With finger shaking, I checked the download status on the computer to see if my important message was transferred to the satellite. It showed a partial upload of my negative message which meant that only the first, and the worst part, would be read by the other side in Minnesota. But equally disturbing was that my important message still remained in my computer. I thought for a minute this couldn't be a malfunction. I even thought for a second that maybe the US Navy was jamming me. It sure made me understand the scenes in the movie 2001, when Hal the computer took over the space station, for this computer was truly my life. I checked all the connections and replaced batteries and then ran two more passes with the same result - all of the lights remained on - the system was dead.
I decided in the evening to just try to forget about being lost out here and head for the sleeping bag. I marveled at how crazy this all was. A technical problem at this turning point, when I was ready to go, and how would they find me if I needed help? This was an interesting perspective to have and, in a way, I was motivated to figure this out. I just wished it were as straight forward as driving a dog team.
The best news, however, is that I slept another long night and I was now successful into forcing myself back on Central Time and back into rhythm.