4 November, 1997

4 November 97

CONDITION III for all locations.

REGIONAL WEATHER SUMMARY...A low pressure system on the Ross Ice Shelf will spread cloud and snow into the area this afternoon. Blowing snow will develop late this afternoon as the wind picks up.

TODAY..Partly cloudy becoming cloudy late this morning with snow and blowing snow developing

early this afternoon.

Visibility: Unrestricted lowering to 1 to 3 miles in blowing snow this afternoon.

Wind (knots): Light becoming southeast 10 this morning, 15 to 25 this afternoon. High -15C/+05F. Lowest Wind-chill -40C/-40F.

TONIGHT...Cloudy with periods of snow and blowing snow.

Visibility: 2 to 4 miles in blowing snow.

Wind (knots): Southeast 15 gusting to 25.

Temperature steady near -15C/+05F. Lowest Wind-chill -40C/-40F.

WEDNESDAY...Cloudy with periods of snow and blowing snow. Visibility: 2 to 4 miles in blowing snow.

Wind (knots): Southeast 15 gusting to 25.

High -12C/+10F. Lowest Wind-chill -35C/-32F.


High -15. Temperature steady overnight near -15.


Next sunrise in February, 1998

YESTERDAY'S EXTREMES: 03 November, 1997

Maximum Temperature: -13C/+09F

Minimum Temperature: -21C/-06 F

Peak Wind: 26 Knots

Lowest wind chill: -46C/-51F

Today was the day I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I was being sent to snow survival school. Heather Long and myself met the other ten parcticipants at the Field Safety Training building at 9:00 AM. After introductions and general remarks we had about one hour of classroom instruction before loading our gear, food and ourselves into the large track vehicles that would take us to "Snow Mound City" which was to be our home for the next two days.

The snow class consisted of a mixed group of recently arrived Navy pilots, scientists, graduate students, Heather, and myself. The goal of the course was to provide us with the knowledge necessary for our survival in the field and to also provide first hand experience in utilizing the equipment and newly acquired knowledge.

In the classroom session we were instructed in the use of the equipment contained in the survival bags which all individuals leaving McMurdo for the field are required to have. We were informed about the ever-changing weather here and the importance of having the correct mindset . We talked about and analyzed situations that happened in the past which ended tragically with the death of those involved. Hopefully we would get the point and not make the same mistakes.

Next we were to be given a chance to put what we learned into practice. We traveled to a place out on The Ross Ice Shelf known as Snow Mound City because of the numerous snow mound shelters built by previous classes. The instructors remained while we set up camp and gave us instruction in quarrying snow to build a wind wall and how to build several different types of snow shelters.

The weather was changing and we needed to get things under control quickly so we did not build the snow shelter most other groups were required to build. We soon bid farewell to our instructors and were told they would return to pick us up about 9:00AM the next day after which we would have a second day of training. We finished building our snow walls and tents then made dinner. We were beginning to feel a group consciousness. All the talk of needing each other and working together was about to be transformed into stark reality.

We knew the weather forecast had warned of an impending severe storm but after dinner the sky had cleared and the sun was shinning. Four group members decided to go on a "hike" before turning in for the night. I had had but a few hours sleep the night before and decided to turn in early.

No sooner had I gone to sleep when I was awakened and told that the four group members had failed to return . The weather had suddenly changed and it was now Condition I (the most severe weather condition). The remaining instructor had been notified by radio of the missing party and returned to our camp ASAP. We attempted to locate the missing people in the track vehicle before the SART (Search And Rescue Team) was to be to be called in. Luckily we found them in a nearby safety shelter. They had been caught off guard (just like we were warned in the classroom) and wisely decided to stay put.

When we returned to camp the instructor seriously contemplated terminating the course due to the severity of the weather. We were all given an option to stay put or return with the instructor. Everyone chose to stay put since this was exactly the type of weather we were being trained to survive in. The die was thus cast and the instructor drove off, immediately disappearing in the storm. I had vivid thoughts of how surreal this all seemed. I filled my drinking bottle with boiling water, stuffed it down my sleeping bag, and turned in for the night.

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