A Storm in the Light

Submitted into Contest #77 in response to: Write a story set in the summer, when suddenly it starts to snow.... view prompt

5 comments

Adventure Inspirational

Mother Nature is one heck of a woman. A comforting caretaker, helping you through the day, but she also has a bit of a temper sometimes. She gives you life but can also easily take it away from you. She can be hot one minute, then cold the next. Hard to predict at times, but you always feel her omnipresence: either for good or bad. I bring this up as there have been several times where she has tried to put a stop to my life: through no fault of her own, of course.

One hot summer, early August, to be exact, I was working as an environmental consultant in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, and did much of my work in the field. It was hard work: hauling gear through the bush, fording streams performing aquatic research to try and help save the environment (in turn, of course, saving Mother Nature). My job was to capture fish in some ungodly difficult places to reach while carrying heavy gear and trying to avoid the bugs, and at times, the bears. Newfoundland usually has quite a moderate temperature, but in summer, it can get pretty hot, though. There's an old saying that you can experience all four seasons in a day. I can vouch for that, as I have been in 30 degree Celsius weather while watching icebergs float by. A misstep anywhere outside civilization there can lead to disastrous consequences.

The real story starts here. My job charged me with flying up north, way up north, to a remote town only accessible by helicopter. I led a crew into the bush to do fish surveys and tracking them in a river downstream of a proposed mine. We had to make sure the effluent would not disturb the nesting grounds of an endangered salmon species. So I packed up our gear, grabbed my crew, and were off to the St. John’s airport. Then it was two planes and one helicopter to arrive at our final destination in Schefferville, Labrador, Canada: 54.9 degrees north latitude. That meant it was only a few hundred miles from where the Arctic starts. Not a place that you may think is hot, but trust me, it is sticky and humid, especially when you are in the bush. The sun was beating down mid-day as if you were down in the tropics. The worst part was the bugs: mosquitos everywhere, black flies, and flying annoyances that probably had yet to be identified as a species.

Our home base was at a mining camp occupied by the roughnecks who were doing test drilling for the mining company. Their gruff exterior was in stark contrast to our clean-cut science geek persona. The guys were nice enough to us as long we stayed out of their way and didn’t interfere with their meal times. Luckily, since I was a higher-up, I got to stay in town at a cozy bed and breakfast and drove a work truck down some pretty dicey dirt roads, sometimes through ruts, mud, and the ever-present three hundred-foot cliffs. Nevertheless, I drove in every day to do my job. When I got there, I would check my gear, muster the crew, and prepare for the daily helicopter ride into the bush. Then I would tell our pilot where to go, and he would try and find a landing spot, but more often, we had to hover a couple feet above the ground and jump out and unload a bunch of gear amid the wash of the blades, and the deafening noise from the turbine. It was pretty exciting. When the area was clear, we would duck down, and I would hold a thumbs-up then he would take off with whir and be gone. The air became calm and quiet, leaving us deep in the woods on our own on the side of a large river to go about our work.

Walking, as best we could, down the river banks (when there was any) we used rod and reel to try and catch our goal; an endangered species whom we were there to protect. If a fish was caught, I was in charge of surgically implanting radio tags into them (under anesthetic, of course) and then released them back into the river for future tracking upstream. It was much less ideal doing surgery there than in my lab back in civilization, but that was not the point of our mission. We repeated this every day for about a month, battling the bugs and only coming across bears a few times. You certainly do not want to get in their way when it was a couple-hour helicopter ride to the nearest proper hospital. But we trudged on knowing we were helping the aforementioned: Mother Nature.

Then came one fateful day. It seemed to be business as usual, sunny day, warm, clear skies. We reached a wide spot in the river, about 200 feet across, just above a small rock waterslide, maybe a seven-foot drop. Nevertheless, I saw a pool above it that I was sure had fish in it, so I waded out in the cold water to the middle of the river. The water was not too deep, two feet at most, and I started to cast out to see if anything was there. Things were going well, and then you could feel the air pressure drop; it was rather ominous. The sky began to dim slightly, then a little more, and then it became noticeable that something was not right. I stood there in the fast water, stuck in place, I started to hear a low rumble, and then it got louder, and then it got to a fever pitch! Unable to move my feet, I just turned around to see a dark, white wall bearing down on me. It was a freak hail storm. I could not get to shore; I could never move fast enough in the water to outrun it. All I could do was face away as it pelted me hard. I could feel myself starting to get moved slightly towards the top of the rock waterslide knowing, that if I fell over it, I would not last too long in the cold water, and my colleagues would be hard-pressed to get me out if I were to hit my head on a rock. Even then, they would have to alert the helicopter of an emergency and hope he got there in time to get me back to camp. 

Luckily, as I stood there catatonic, the storm flew by, and the darkness faded back to light. The air got warmer, along with my faith in myself for standing up with what Mother Nature was throwing at me. I made it back to shore and was happy not to be hurt or worse. We all chalked it up to an act of God, or perhaps it was an act of his oft-cruel mistress. The day continued, we called for the helicopter and packed up the gear, the next loud sound we heard was the roar of the blades, and the next thing flying towards us was not a freak summer hailstorm. I got back to the comfort of the camp; it was dark by now. With gear stowed, ready to continue for the next day. I looked up into the night sky only to see the magic of the glowing Northern Lights. It just goes to show you that even in the face of a potential winter storm in the hot summer air, that there can be beauty in the sky above if She wants there to be.

January 22, 2021 01:01

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5 comments

Matthew Eubanks
02:57 Jan 29, 2021

This was a lot of fun! It was neat to hear about your experience. I was kind of expecting something a little more dramatic with all the build up from the beginning. But it was sincere and cool and I got to know about a place I’ve always wanted to travel to. thanks for sharing !

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Eric Deitch
19:03 Jan 29, 2021

Yes, I know it was long-winded on the start-up when I was writing it. However, that was just the way I perceived the situation and how the diatribe went. Ya, I could have easily died that day, but it was just an odd story about a freak situation that really happened to me. Thanks for the comment, I know where you're coming from when it comes to the rather anticlimactic plot. Cheers.

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Matthew Eubanks
20:19 Jan 29, 2021

I thought it was fun. i appreciate sincere story telling that takes me to a new place. It was vivid in that way.

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Matthew Eubanks
20:19 Jan 29, 2021

I thought it was fun. i appreciate sincere story telling that takes me to a new place. It was vivid in that way.

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Matthew Eubanks
20:19 Jan 29, 2021

I thought it was fun. i appreciate sincere story telling that takes me to a new place. It was vivid in that way.

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