Jan. 27, 1989:
Clear, Calm and -78°.
At nine, three and six I fed the fire but ice came to both water buckets and pretty strong. I had to break it before I could pour water from the plastic bucket. After seeing it a -72° when I called it a day I just wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what it would be come morning. Certainly not 80 below but it was so close I couldn’t be sure if it was -79° or 80 so I made it a -78° due to liquid in the tube separating a bit at the very top of the red. I just couldn’t believe that it could get so cold at Twin Lakes. After chores I went out on the lake to experience real cold. It was colder, the air had a bite to it, and it had better be dead calm or it would burn like dry ice.
Well now! What is causing this very unusual cold and how long will it last? From the 12 Jan. to the 28th now and all readings except two below zero and nearly all of them pretty far down the scale. The morning reading average for the past five days has been a -55° and I thought a -44° was cold.
So now at 8:30 we are headed in to another night of preventing frost damage to my perishables.
— Dick Proenneke
In a letter to me, dated April 1, 1989, Dick wrote, “…the cold set in Jan. 12th and ended Feb. 1st. The last two weeks of Jan had a morning ave. temp of -48.8° and from Jan. 24 for seven days a -58° ave. Was fortunate to have a -90° reading thermometer for I saw it a -78°. Not official of course and I would like to see how it compares with a weather service thermometer. At -80° the red did start to separate at that temperature. I wish I could report that my cabin was cozy warm but you know it wasn’t. But no pipes frozen and no fruit or vegetable due to being elevated and as stove at night and me stoking the fire 3-4 times at night. Strong ice in the water bucket several mornings. Here at the table writing I had my sleeping bag warmer hot rocks laying on the table by my writing hand. Great sport and I am glad I was here to experience some Siberian cold.”
— Monroe Robinson
15 thoughts on “-78°”
I have been working my way through this book and I am consistently amazed at Dick’s grit, sense of humor, and resourcefulness. What an inspiration!
Ugh, he’s far tougher than I am. I’ve felt in the windy -50s F and that was pretty awful. Quibbling over 2-degree around -80F is too much.
-52 degree wind chill is the coldest I have ever experienced and I shall not again if I have anything to say about it! I can’t imagine anything colder. Big bag of NO!
In an alternate life I would give it a go. For some years now I have aspired to live in a cave. Too many earthly connections though.
-78!! I didn’t even know that was a thing!
1971 Alaska recorded a temperature of -80 as the coldest on record. Late January of 1989 was a particularly cold spell. By the current standards of wind chill calculation it reached -100 with the wind. Nice to have an account of someone who lived it to talk about how they experienced it.
I worked in Antarctica as a carpenter for 10 years wintering over twice. I know exactly how Dick felt!
The worst I’ve seen is -36°F before the wind chill was factored in. That was too much for me. I’ve got to admire how Dick lived his life.
I made a small carving bench for the living room. When my wife saw it the room temp became very icy.
The movie about Dick Proenneke was the first thing that really made me want to learn to work by hand rather than machine only. And the main reason I wanted to learn to carve spoons.
Where can you see the movie about Dick Proenneke? I would love to watch that.
Check with your local PBS station – it runs here from time to time
At one point I owned a dvd copy but I loaned it and did not get it back. The book is sure to be an amazing look into Dick’s life and having the two together would be a great combinatuon because you get to see how he worked.
There are four videos produced by Bob Swerer that one can find online. Two are sometimes shown on PBS. There are also two free videos one can watch; both produced by the National Park Service using Dick’s movie film. They can both be found online with a little looking. The first, One Man’s Alaska, was produced in 1973 to promote Twin Lakes country into a new national park. The second, No Place Like Twin Lakes, was produced after Dick left Twin Lakes to live with his brother in California. Below is a link to this second video.
Goodness glaciers batman that’s cold!
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