“Problème, Remie,” she said upon her return.
“Problem?” wondered Christopher. “What’s wrong?”
“One of the sensors isn’t working. It’s probably frozen. Maybe we can fix it. In any case, we’ll have to go out and get the reading on site.”
“All right,” said Remie. “Who’s going with me?”
“Christopher and I will go,” said Astrid.
Astrid and Christopher, bundled up to the fullest, climbed into the cab of the same large tractor in which they had been driven to the base the day before. They took their places behind the driver’s seat, now occupied by Remie. Nathan, down on the hanger floor, pushed the lever to open the great door and the tractor rolled out into the icy darkness.
It wasn’t snowing, but it seemed to be as the wind whipped tiny flakes of ice into the air in the beams of the ten great spotlights that led them through darkness. For the most part, the ice was smooth and the great tractor ground straight into the night.
“We’ll be there in just a few minutes,” said Remie. “This sensor is only four miles from the base.”
“It seems like a long way,” said Astrid, “especially if you were by yourself.”
“We’ve got the radio. If something happens to the tractor, we can call for help. Don’t worry.”
They had barely finished talking when they saw a blinking red light in the distance. Turning just a bit to the right, the Frenchman brought the vehicle to a stop right beside it. The light was atop a large blue box-shaped piece of equipment roughly the size of Astrid’s walk-in closet at home.
“It looks like the Tardis,” said Christopher.
“Yeah, it does,” agreed Astrid.
“This is just the control box. The sensors reach down through about 40 meters of ice and into the rock below.”
“Won’t the movement of the ice break them?” asked Astrid.
“Eventually, though the ice doesn’t move as much here as it does closer to the Ross Shelf.”
They left the tractor’s engine running and climbed out into the freezing air. Remie led them to the control box and opened a panel. He flipped several switches and then opened an interior door to check a row of circuit breakers. After flipping several of them, he pulled one out and replaced it from a small stack of them just inside the compartment. Once he did so, a bank of lights came on and he began closing the device back up.
“I can’t believe how cold it is,” said Christopher. “We’ve been out here seven minutes and I’m frozen through, even with all these layers of clothes. Look at this.” He pointed to the ice on the fur around his hood where the moisture from his breath had frozen.
“Makes you rethink global warming, eh?” asked Remie.
“Of course not,” he replied. “Humans add almost 30 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere each year.”
“Good man. You’re right of course. Measurements of the ice here show that it is almost an inch thinner than last year. That may not sound like much, but it is year after year, and the change is increasing.”
“How can you put 30 billion tons of anything anywhere and not expect it to make an impact?” wondered Christopher. “Don’t you agree, Astrid?”
The girl inventor didn’t answer. Christopher turned to see her looking out into the frozen darkness.
“I was just thinking,” she said. “I wish I hadn’t watched The Thing.”