Sen. Angus King’s jaunt to the Arctic last weekend was not one of those plum overseas trips that lawmakers are sometimes known to take in the name of research. Traveling to the middle of the Arctic Ocean, where temperatures rarely break zero, is the polar opposite of cushy.
King, I-Maine, left Friday for an up-and-back trip to the U.S. Navy ice camp constructed in the middle of the frozen ocean to participate in something called the “ice exercise.” According to the Navy’s official blog, its last “ice camp” was in 2011, where campers blogged about the experience of testing submarines in Arctic conditions.
One of the Navy’s blogs answered questions from children whose fathers were part of the mission.
Others on the trip included Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M.; Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations; Interior Secretary Sally Jewell; and Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall. The trip, Pearce’s office said, allowed the group to check out “the ongoing Arctic training of our submarine fleet onboard the USS New Mexico.”
King’s office said he was particularly interested in how the melting Arctic ice can create more waterways for global shipping.
So the lawmakers didn’t dine at fancy Parisian restaurants, but they apparently ate well — or at least a lot. The Navy blog reports they had to eat 5,000 calories a day to offset calories burned from the intense cold. The food, described as “fantastic,” is frequently Middle Eastern or Thai.
In an email to the Loop, King described the trip as “amazing” but noted that it’s an “extreme” assignment.
“The trip wasn’t without its tense moments,” King said. “Breaking the surface was a difficult maneuver and, in fact, there was an eruption of applause as we broke through.”
Still, King probably was more equipped than one person from a warmer state — whom he declined to identify. As they prepared to leave, a travel companion teased King for showing up in jeans and a fleece jacket: “Look at the senator from Maine. I wear more to bed than he wears to the Arctic!”
With The Washington Post staff writer Colby Itkowitz.