For eleven freezing months, the team of scientists had tried without success to adjust to Siberia.Long periods of boredom were punctuated only by occasional expeditions, none of which yielded anything of scientific worth. They did not even lead to a single anecdote worth relaying to those back home. There were no terrifying animals nor deathly blizzards to survive. Nobody even fell over on the ice in an amusing way or tripped and fell face-first into the snow with a silent and hilarious thud. They saw no-one and nothing but each other. And now it was time to return home.The ship departed without incident from the coast at Logashkino then crossed the East Siberian Sea. After rounding Wrangel Island it headed south through the Chukchi Sea. And from there the ship - whose name no person aboard ever said aloud, on account of its phonetic similarity to a remarkably rude piece of Scottish slang - chugged slowly but surely towards the Bering Strait.Except quite suddenly, that slow and sure advance became so slow that it started to seem as though the ship had stopped moving altogether. The scientists on board rushed to portholes and windows to check. They knew all about motion and velocity and what-have-you, so each felt very qualified to judge whether or not the ship was still moving. Each determined it was not.For a minute or two, no scientist said anything. Furtive glances were exchanged. Each person present quietly hoped that they would not be called upon to formulate a rescue plan, and silently convinced themselves that they were the only person thinking in such a manner.'Hello! You are stuck! Hello?'A loud voice from without broke the silence. A single Yupik, clad in an enormous jacket with a fur-lined hood, had crossed the ice. He was stood, bellowing, approximately 20 metres from the immobile nose of the ship. One scientist, a man in his mid-30s, braved the cold wind and ran to a little balcony overlooking the solitary hollering Yupik.'Yes, we are stuck,' he shouted.‘Do you have chocolate?’'Did you say chocolate?’'What?''Did you say chocolate?’‘Yes. Do you have any chocolate?’It was too cold to wonder why the question of chocolate had been raised. The scientist knew there was still some cocoa rations on board. He took the executive decision to trade them for whatever help this Yupik could offer. There would probably be some recriminations from his fellow scientists, but they would come later and would probably be minor in scale.He shouted back to the Yupik and told him there was chocolate on board. The Yupik threw his arms in the air and roared a loud hooray.
An arrangement was reached - the scientist would find a way down to sea level and in return for chocolate, the Yupik would assist the ship in making its escape from the icy waters. Thirty minutes later, the scientist let himself fall from the foot of a dangling rope ladder into the arms of the Yupik. She - at close quarters, it was immediately obvious that the Yupik was a woman, and a beautiful one at that - set the scientist down carefully on the ground.'Do you have the chocolate?' she asked.'Yes. Here,' said the scientist, handing over the first of the many bars stashed about his person. The Yupik took it gratefully, opened it and popped a white square into her mouth.'This is delicious. It is white chocolate, yes?'The scientist nodded: 'Now tell me: how do we get our ship out of here?''Wait,' said the Yupik, eating another rough-snapped triangle of chocolate. The scientist waited for her to finish chewing.'Well?' he said.'Very, thank you,' answered the Yupik.'What about the ship?''Oh. The ship is stuck.''And how do we get it out?''We wait,' said the Yupik. 'You, your friends, and whatever other chocolates you have on board can wait for the ice to thaw at my home, with my family and I.'The scientist was equal parts relieved, frustrated, excited and anxious. He was frustrated because he had anticipated that the Yupik would provide some speedier solution to the ship's problem than simply waiting. He was relieved because of the Yupik's easy confidence that the ice would thaw before long. He was excited because he and his fellow scientists would now have the opportunity to spend time with a remote and fascinating people. And he was anxious because he still had to break the news to the rest of the ship that their chocolate rations had gone.After a thoroughly illuminating time with the family of Yupik - about 18 hours, in total - the ice was thawed enough for the ship to begin moving again. As it made its way through the Bering Strait, the absence of chocolate was revealed.Voices were raised, mutiny threatened, a makeshift brig constructed in a dim and dusty storeroom below deck, and the hapless scientist court-martialled for his treachery.At his sentencing, more than one person recommended some form of capital punishment but the surprising absence of a cat-o-nine-tails ('what sort of ship doesn't have a cat-o-nine-tails?' one furious chocolate-starved scientist screamed) put paid to that idea. Instead, he was imprisoned for the remainder of the journey.His crime? The theft of chocolate with malice aforethought. As his cell door slammed shut, the mob cheered loudly. Back in Siberia, the Yupik family ate bar after bar with abandon.