In The Mix: Part 6: Five get excited on Baffin Island

In the Mix – Part 6: 5 get over-excited on Baffin Island by Jane Risdon

If you’ve been following anything written by me you cannot have failed to have noticed I enjoyed a long career in the international music business before turning my hand to crime writing and to penning the award winning novel, Only One Woman, with my friend Christina Jones.

With the series, In the Mix, I’ve (hopefully) tempted you with snippets from my life as a manager of recording artists, musicians, songwriters and record producers I’ve worked with during my career – of course names and identifying information have been changed; I’m too young to fall foul of horse’s heads and concrete boots, and I hope to enter the Witness Protection Scheme when the time is right and I can spill the beans then.

September is an interesting month memoir-wise. It is the month some decades ago when my husband and I not only took 5 hyper young musicians on an aeroplane for their very first flight, but we were taking them to San Francisco to record their first album as well. September seems to be a significant month when lots of things seemed to have happened throughout our career, and no doubt I’ll share more about it in future snippets from In the Mix.

Back to the flight to America which was delayed for 10 hours at Gatwick. No reason was given but it wasn’t fun. For starters I had to eat pizza, which I hate, as nothing else was available at the time and hunger won. It was a huge mistake. I suffered several hours into the flight with what we concluded was food poisoning; not much fun stuck on a transatlantic flight when you want to go to bed preferably with a loo close by!

As well as coping with food poisoning which everyone else escaped, we had our time cut out keeping 5 teenagers under control as their excitement at being on a plane and travelling to America, got the better of them and they became rowdy having spent several hours chatting up the flight attendants who were serving vast amounts of alcohol which we both tried to control, without much success.

The lights in the plane’s cabin kept flickering and eventually went off for several minutes resulting in a female engineer lifting the aisle flooring and getting underneath with her tool kit. Lighting was eventually restored and all seemed fine. The flight continued on towards San Francisco for a few more hours.

The in-flight screens – for passengers following the journey – showed we were flying over Greenland – always a fabulous view which we have both long enjoyed during many transatlantic flights. The band looked out of the portholes enraptured by the views beneath, chattering non-stop to each other whilst enjoying an alcohol-free period much to our relief, and our near-by fellow passengers.

It soon became clear that the plane was having a few problems. Lights continued to flicker and the cabin became colder than usual. Instead of flying straight it appeared to be dipping, nose first, and it was losing altitude. Eventually the pilot decided to say something over the PA. Apparently they needed to ‘refuel,’ and he was looking for a suitable airport. Right! Looking out the porthole closest to us it was abundantly clear that unless the plane was equipped for landing upon ice that might be problematic. As far as we could see there was nothing but ice and there wasn’t any sign of an airport.

Sitting on a darkened plane descending almost nose first over nothing but ice was somewhat disconcerting as you can imagine.  The ice flows turned into one huge iceberg and for miles and miles that was all that was visible from the air. Meantime the pilot insisted that there was nothing to worry about – however, he said, the flight attendants should sit down and belt up.  Passengers were told to vacate the loos, return to their seats and to put their seat-belts on. Nothing to worry about apparently, just a precaution. 5 excited musicians quietened and became 5 frightened musicians.

After what seemed eternity the announcement came that a landing place had been found – ominously no mention of an airport, just a landing place – and that we would be on the ice in no time. Ice? Everyone gasped and strained to see out of the portholes as indeed the ice got closer and closer.

Eventually, flares could be seen lighting a strip of ice and in the distance there was what appeared to be a wooden hut. But nothing else. The plane eventually touched down and travelled a considerable distance along the ice before stopping.

Outside on the ice there appeared about a dozen people wrapped up against the cold, and their faces – hidden deep inside huge fur-lined hoods – covered by scarves, standing with flares in their hands and others holding what looked like blankets.

Told to gather our things and to leave the plane in an orderly fashion we were all handed blankets by the flight attendants as we moved along the cabin and, upon reaching the ice, we were given more blankets and told to wrap up and move around to keep warm. It wasn’t clear how long we’d be on the ice as the plane ‘refuelled,’ we were informed. We didn’t need to be told to move, it was freezing. I’ve never felt cold like it before or since, especially through shoes. Our feet lost all feeling after a while.

Several hours passed before everyone was allowed back on the plane and it prepared to take off. None of the men who were on the ice as the plane landed spoke to the passengers – who were far too cold to speak, the freezing air choking anyone opening their mouths.  They melted into the mist which had descended upon the ice just before take-off, though their flares could be seen once the plane was airborne again following what seemed like an endless journey down the flare lined ice.

The pilot announced that all was well, we’d made an emergency landing on Baffin Island in the Arctic Circle, not far from the North Pole. Apparently, Polar expeditions used it as their base. Right.

Excited passengers chatted about the adventure, 5 musicians thought it was totally awesome and cool, and I moved closer to the loos hoping that there wouldn’t be any more adventures during the trip. Now that was asking too much…

If you enjoyed reading part 6 of In the Mix and would like to read more, please look back through the pages before this.

Instalment #7 will be in the next issue. Thanks so much for reading.

Jane xx