North Pole Journey: Day Four, Part Four

BY Parvati

Day Four: Sunday September 26, 2010
Part Four
In the wind and -25C weather at the North Pole, Rishi unveils our video camera from beneath its own miniature “snow jacket”, while Sunanda sets up the tripod for the shoot. I take out my props, walk quickly through my routine now on snow, consider my performance flow, and check the lighting. The sun is fading fast but it will have to do.
Rishi starts shooting immediately. There is no time to lose. The two pilots told us that we can be on this huge sheet of ice for no more than three hours if we are going to make it back with enough gas and avoid any turns in the unpredictable Arctic weather. That is fine. In this polar cold, batteries don’t last long.
Dressed in my gold Natamba costume from head to toe, I position myself on the snowy ice to start my first song of four, when I realize I cannot move my hands. The deep cold has already frozen the acrylic paint on my costume gloves. This means I cannot press “play” on the backing tracks on my iPod, which is attached to me, buried inside my jacket and snuggled in with an additional hot pocket for warmth and battery life. Our boom box (plan A) having been lost on our various flights from Toronto to here, we start this shoot already working our plan B. Rishi’s iPod and earbuds are tucked into my costume and is the source of sound for my performance.
Since I am unable to start the music, Sunanda steps forward to help. But we quickly realize a problem: when Sunanda pushes the iPod start button for me, she partially undresses me, then zips me up, during which time I need to start singing. The first song comes in right off the top. Sunanda is now in the shot.
Thinking only of speed of execution, we pull the iPod from inside my snowsuit and clip it on my belt outside my gold costume, then frame the shot as a close up, so that Sunanda can push the button and quickly leave the set. It’s a plan! Away we go!
My face is now tight and numb, and icicles are forming on the strands of hair that escape from my hood. It does not even occur to me that it may be hard to sing in this dry, freezing weather. I start to sing. Rishi shoots. All is going well until about one minute into the song. The sound completely dies on my headset. In the extreme cold, the batteries have already run out. 
We quickly move to plan C. We will use the iPad. But then we realize that the iPad is back at the plane, a good 30 minute walk from where we are standing. But if we are to shoot at all, we have no choice but this.
Rishi captures footage of the surroundings and I review my performance in this setting, while Sunanda runs back to the plane as quickly as she can in the thick, crunchy snow over the frozen ocean.
Shortly after Sunanda leaves, Rishi looks at me with terror, his face rigid in the harsh cold. When we first landed, Rishi found that he was not able to operate the camera properly with his gloves on, so he took them off. Now, his hands, in such a short time, are literally beginning to freeze. He tells me he cannot feel them. I place his gloves back on his hands and rub them briskly to warm them up. He begins to feel like his hands are on fire, signs of early hypothermia.
Sunanda returns. Without a moment to lose, she zips open my snowsuit, pulls out the iPad from her coat, stuffs it inside my costume and pushes the headphones into my ears. Again, we face the same problem with her being in the shoot, but we see that we have no other choice.            
With all these delays and technical difficulties, we now only have twenty minutes to go through all four songs, which means one take per song. I drop any possible thoughts of disappointment that may be creeping into my mind and focus exclusively on my performance. This is what I have come here to do. This is as it is. No amount of grief will change it. I am focused on nailing each track.
We shoot all four songs straight through. Just as the last song comes to an end, the battery of the iPad also dies. I see this as Grace. We actually did it. I am comforted knowing that we are running two cameras so there will be some options in the editing. This footage will suffice to show my performance in the North Pole, where we have come to help raise awareness of the melting polar ice. This is already a success.
We quickly pack up our video and performance gear and walk back to the plane to collect our tent, find a spot to pitch it and begin the two hours of healing work we have come to offer our Mother – the planet Earth.