News A pedestrian makes their way along a snow packed street in Indianapolis

Much of the United States is currently in the grip of a polar vortex, a system of dense air producing plummeting temperatures and swathes of freezing weather, bringing some parts of the country to a halt and causing chaos in others.

Freshers enrol for the course

Greg Wood on an initiative to enlight students on the ways of the Turf

LAST RESORT; Spitsbergen

The nearest human habitation to the North Pole, the Svalbard islands have belonged to Norway since 1925. Other countries, though, have exploited the mineral reserves here: the Russians, in particular, have mined coal in the islands since 1932. But with the end of the Cold War, both the Norwegian and Russian mining communities are having to face up to the prospect of life without state subsidies. The Norwegians are now marketing Svalbard as a holiday and conference centre.

Anderson ex machina

Rock star appears in Birmingham beneath Mothership-lookalike. Boy, can she summon up hi-tech heaven

LETTER : Pricey pupils

From Mr David Wallace

Golf: Scotsmen stand up to the cold

SCOTLAND'S Sam Torrance and Gordon Brand Jnr both shot 54 to share the lead in the first round of the weather-affected Chemapol Czech Open at Marienbad yesterday.

Polar conqueror lifted off

(First Edition)

First 'loner' reaches Pole

Pole position: on Friday, Borge Ousland became the first person to reach the North Pole alone and unaided. It took him 52 days to haul his sledge 1,000km, and he reported his arrival with the words: 'Expedition ended. Want pick-up.

Pole position

A Norwegian, Boerge Ousland, who plans to be the first person to reach the North Pole alone and without help from dogs, snow-scooters or airdrops, was poised to reach his objective by this morning, Reuter reports from Oslo. His spokesman said yesterday he had only 7.5 miles left in his 620-mile trek, which has taken 52 days.

Launch of Sector Iceman Challenge

(Photograph omitted)

Coaster abandoned

(First Edition)

That strange fellow in your chimney: He's an old-fashioned fantasy, but we keep inviting him back. Margaret Visser reflects on a benevolent symbol . . . of what?

THE MODERN version of him first took shape in New York City in 1822. He was very small indeed at that date, an elf in fact, who fitted with ease into the narrowest chimney stack. He flew through the air in a sleigh full of toys, drawn by reindeer who could land on rooftops. His clothes, which covered him from head to foot in fur, were understandably begrimed with soot. He was a heavy smoker.

Letter: Beware, falling rockets

Sir: So Caithness may become Britain's Cape Canaveral (report, 3 December). Nick Parsons, the government spokesman who waxed lyrical about the unbroken vista of sea and ice from the Pentland Firth to the North Pole must have been there in grim weather, or he would have been less certain that bits of his rockets could not fall on human heads. The Orcadians, whose islands are normally visible from the Caithness shore of the Pentland Firth, may have a less optimistic view. Shetlanders, Faroese and Icelanders may also prove small- minded about the prospect of passing away courtesy of Mr Parsons' 'fall away' rocket stages. Or is 'everyone's a polar bear past Caithness' the official view? It looks rather like the assumption that radiation from Dounreay could do no harm as 'nobody' lives there. I suggest the Isle of Dogs as an alternative location for the rockets.

Weekend Travel Update: Bad trip

PAUL R HUDSPITH of Nottingham says that it is all very well our printing articles every week recommending places to visit. In his opinion it would be more useful to provide a guide to places to leave well alone.

'Cape Canaveral' for Caithness

DOUNREAY on the north coast of Scotland could become Britain's first space centre. Managers at the nuclear plant are negotiating with European aeronautics companies to establish 'a mini-Cape Canaveral in Caithness', and work on the multi-million pound scheme could begin next year, writes John Arlidge.

Curator's Choice: Scott Polar Research

Robert Headland is curator of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. He has made several expeditions to the polar regions. His favourite piece in the museum collection is the original black flag which Amundsen planted at the South Pole and Scott brought back.
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