402: 1,000 Miles North
Spoofing off of tornado chasers are these permafrost chasers, who are just like tornado chasers, but they are chasing very boring permafrost. Permafrost is a layer of ground that never thaws, unlike ground closer to the equator, where the ground freezes in winter and thaws in the spring.
The title text references the 1996 movie Twister about a crazy group of tornado chasers trying to drop a probe-releasing device named Dorothy (based on the real-life project TOTO) into the heart of a tornado. However, much of the story was about Bill and his ex, both chasers, falling back in love, another chaser who is fighting Bill for research grants and fame, and a tornado that likes to chase people. Randall comments that the movie would have been better if they had lost all of the above except the tornadoes and the scientist, which is basically all you need for a good movie. And then he continues his musings by saying that tornadoes and scientists "are all you need for anything."
This seems to be the first comic mentioning tornadoes, but since then they have become a recurring subject on xkcd, and in the next two tornado comics, 640: Tornado Hunter and 752: Phobia, tornadoes and tornado chasers are actually featured.
- [A van (almost exiting the frame to the right) and a pickup truck behind the van are driving on a road where dust blows up behind the tires. There are three mountain peaks in the background. In the rear of the truck is a cylindrical-shaped object. Above the truck there are two frames with yellow background and text. The top frame is at the height of the mountains, the other just above the truck.]
- 1,000 miles north of tornado alley
- A new breed of scientists has emerged.
- [At the base of a mountain (or glacier front) to the right, Cueball runs towards Ponytail (as shown with a curling line behind his raised leg). He is carrying a laptop in his arms, and he has a headset with antenna and microphone on. Ponytail is holding a probe in both hands, maybe drilling it into the ground. Grass and small rocks are drawn around them. At the top is another frame with yellow background and text.]
- Half researchers, half adrenaline junkies
- Ponytail: What's the reading?
- Cueball: 3.9 meters down, gradient's off the charts!
- [The pickup truck is shown in a zoom in from the side. Cueball is driving very fast, while holding a Walkie-talkie up to his head. The cylinder in the rear, from the first frame, now clearly turns out to be some kind of instrument with a small parabolic disc and a smaller antenna, and there are some labels and a text is written across it, although it is difficult to read. At the top is another frame with yellow background and text.]
- Risking everything for the thrill of the hunt
- Cueball: The freeze line is shifting! We've never seen anything like it!
- Cylinder: Riwan
- [Ponytail is holding a large video camera down towards a tiny spot of grass on the ground. She is standing in a barren field with one small mountain to the left and three small mountain peaks to the right in background. Behind her is a large box connected to a small radio with a long antenna. Cueball speaks to her over his walkie-talkie, his voice coming from the radio via a zigzag line. At the top is a final frame with yellow background and text.]
- Permafrost chasers
- Ponytail: I'm getting some great footage here!
- Cueball: Dammit, Harding, it's not worth your neck! Get the hell out of there!
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