The Not So Perfect Storm
— 27 May 2000
— in Arctic Program - Greenland
ShareI was jolted awake as the Coleman stove rocketed off of the table and slammed into my head.
After a long cold day of trapping Gyrfalcons in below freezing weather in West Greenland, I had finally settled into my warm down sleeping bag. Working in Greenland was an opportunity of a lifetime, and I had loved every day of it. As I drifted off to sleep I knew that if I could be doing anything anywhere in the world at this moment, it would be catching and banding these beautiful gyrs. At 2300 I was jolted awake as the Coleman stove rocketed off of the table and slammed into my head. When I opened my eyes, dazed and bewildered, I looked upwards as the white canvas sidewall of my wall tent loomed up out of the darkness, and with each new gust of wind cracked and billowed like the sail of a great ship, in turn hurling wave after wave of condensation upon my face and sleeping bag. I immediately began searching for my headlamp, first finding the dirty frying pan full of barbecue sauce that had been on the Coleman and then a spilled pot of coffee. After finally finding my headlamp I surveyed my situation and realized my first concern was the heavy duty aluminum center pole of my tent which was starting to bow and would soon break. As I stepped outside I was immediately hit with a gust of wind that buckled my knees, almost pitching me over backwards. After regaining my composure I quickly searched for a long piece of wood I saw days before to use to reinforce the center pole. Searching under the now snow-blanketed ground, I was pelted with tiny ice particles blown by the wind which worked as a sand blaster on my bare skin. Finally I found the long wooden pole and returning to the tent, I used half a roll of duct tape to attach the wood to the center pole. I dozed off for about an hour while holding up the center pole. Suddenly the tent was rocked by the hardest gust yet, hurling the cook table across the tent where it landed upside down.
The wind was getting stronger and I could tell the tent could not take much more of it; I needed to take another look outside. After unzipping the first tent fly I was met by a surprise—the zipper on the heavy duty rain fly had parted and the fly flapped wildly in the wind. As I surveyed the damage I noticed that almost all of the ropes used to hold the tent down had parted. In addition, large jagged tears had begun appearing on the sides of the tent. I began trying to grab the parted ropes but was met only with small cuts and welts on my hands as the ropes continued to elude my hands and writhe in the wind like snakes with their heads cut off. It was now time to make a decision. The wind was getting stronger by the minute and the temperature continued to drop. The tent was no longer that important; all that mattered was to keep my sleeping bag dry so I could stay alive and warm and the trapping gear safe so we could continue catching falcons. With that settled I decided to collapse the tent. I arranged my sleeping bag between two cots with everything I could possibly find put under it to insulate me from the cold, wet ground. With that done, I dropped the center pole and immediately began placing rocks allover the tent to keep it down on the ground and from blowing. The only place I did not put rocks was on my sleeping bag. The tallest point of the tent was now about 18 inches. When I felt the tent was covered with enough rocks, about 400 pounds, I found the entrance and like a gopher burrowed my way to my sleeping bag on my knees and elbows. Once in my bag I realized I had forgotten one important thing. The tent canvas was very wet and the moisture was quickly transferring to my sleeping bag. With this in mind I searched around the tent and found a tarp to put over my sleeping bag. Safely entombed in my sleeping bag with trapping gear at my feet, I fell asleep a little after 0400. It was not until the middle of the day that a local boat came out to check on me and see if I was alive, telling me the winds had been over the 100 knot mark that night.
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