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  • As we puffed and sweated, each of us gave off just as many gallons of water vapour as any long-distance athlete. Yet the cold air of the Barrier is drier than any desert. It was in our finnesko that this difference first gave us trouble.

    Finnesko are Norwegian boots made completely of reindeer fur. The fur goes on the outside, and they are cut big enough so that one can wear three or four pairs of socks inside. There is also sennegrass, a fine dried sedge that insulates and absorbs moisture, to stuff them with. Finnesko were invented, and ours were made, by the Lapps of northern Norway, who herd reindeer for a living. The Lapps know everything there is to know about warm boots. But we differed from the herders: we had no fires on which to dry our finnesko, and at the end of the day they were as damp as pairs of well-exercised spaniels. It was a great relief to peel them off. But removing one's feet allowed the frigid air to rush in, like a witch's curse, turning these soft, pliable, comfortable things to stone.
    Richard Farr, Emperors of the Ice: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic 1910-1913 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013), ch. 6

    December 26, 2015