Ulysses head was almost hidden by the enormous sleeping bag that Sam had bundled him up in.
You got to us just in time, he murmured in Sams ear.
You can say that again, young fellow. The tips of your toes had already turned dark blue. Any later and youd have got frostbite and theyd have to be amputated
But why is it your fingers and toes freeze first? Why not your bottom or your shoulders?
Thats easy. Its because when you get very cold, your body shuts down the blood circulation to your extremities so it can keep heating your vital organs. Its a matter of priorities. It was Jean-Louis who answered. He had crept into the tent unnoticed. Your body is well organised. It prefers to sacrifice a toe rather than lose its liver or its stomach.
Ulysse was quite embarrassed. He hadnt seen his father since the two brothers stowed away on the expedition, and he wasnt exactly proud of himself for having got lost in the snow as soon as they arrived at the Russian Borneo base. But he didnt want to show it
Dad, I stood up to a polar bear with Elliot, I ran in a blizzard, I jumped across a lead between two ice precipices. Im a real explorer now, just like you!
So I see, murmured Jean-Louis, rubbing his chin. You really are a pig-headed little fellow arent you, but I think you and your brother have got a lot of guts.
He looked at Sam out of the corner of his eye, and went on.
I should send you straight back home on the first plane out of here. There was a pause
But I wont, because we need a couple of camp helpers.
What do you mean?, asked Elliot, finding his voice at last.
We need stevedores to carry equipment around. And do the washing up
Oh, no, not that! cried the two boys in unison.
and help Sam and Ghislain fill the diving bottles, added Sam.
and bring the divers a nice hot cup of coffee when they come out of the water, added Ghislain, stretching luxuriously.
OK, OK, well do anything you want. Just let us stay! cried the boys.
But only if you let us go down with you for a dive under the ice pack, added Elliot, trying his luck.
Jean-Louis looked over at Sam and Ghislain, knowing he was beaten.
OK, said Sam, but were due to dive in just a few minutes, so youd better be quick.
No sooner said than done. Even though it was -20°C outside, Elliot and Ulysse pulled on their triple-layer diving suits and got ready to dive. The team had cut a hole in the ice using a chain-saw, which had given up the ghost at the end, much to Jean-Louis chagrin.
OK, you two, we stayed roped together all the time were down there, said Ghislain with difficulty, because he already had his mask on.
What if we need to do a pee? asked Ulysse, beginning to worry.
Then you just have to hold on, unless you want me to put a nappy on you
Yeah, its so cold I need to do one too, laughed Elliot.
Come on you two clowns, into the drink! scolded Sam. Ill stay on watch up here. The slightest problem, and you just give a tug on the rope, OK?.
One by one, the little squad of divers lowered themselves carefully into the freezing water.
Suddenly the continuous howl of the wind was gone, and the boys were floating weightless in the mysterious silence of the Arctic abyss.
Elliot and Ulysse were so riveted by the sight of the enormous chunks of ice sticking down under the ice pack that at first they didnt notice the strange little sea creatures imprisoned in the ice itself. It was only when the little submersible ROV used to survey the underside of the ice pack approached with its lights that they noticed the little luminescent dots shivering in the otherwise dark ice.
Loog, loog, Ulysse tried to say from inside his mask.
It was time to get out of the water, and just as soon as he took his mouthpiece out, Ulysse cried: I saw little angels down there. Little sea angels!
And there were little prawns imprisoned in the ice!, added Elliot.
As soon as they were out of the water, their diving equipment froze solid. The outside temperature had dropped very quickly. It was out of the question to go back down again. They had to get into the warm tent as soon as possible.