“MINUS 40 DEGREES and NO HEAT !
I was watching the movie "Titanic" again and the last scene ... when Jack froze to death in the North Atlantic ... reminded me of my experience while tracking the icebergs as they travel south in Baffin Bay between Greenland and Canada. I was the OINC of a detachment of SP-2H's that had been tasked out of NAS Argentia, New Foundland, Canada. We had been tracking icebergs on a thirteen hour flight and were at the Northernmost leg when we lost our heaters. The nearest airfield was Thule AFB which is almost on the North East part of Greenland. Our temperature in the cockpit got down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The copilot and I took 10 minute turns at the controls while we each regained our flexibility by doing brisk in-place exercises. We were about an hour from Thule, which was in the midst of a heavy snow storm. Thule AFB is at the bottom of a 10,000 foot fjord and we were brought in to a successful landing by GCA.
While we were waiting for a new solenoid to repair the heating system, I met a Canadian pilot that had a single engine airplane with landing skis which he said was an Otter. He was going to an Eskimo village about 100 miles North of Thule and invited me to go with him on his trip. I agreed to go since there was little else to do while waiting for the solenoid. We took off on a clear morning and before long we had landed at the Eskimo village. We were greeted by a very friendly group of Eskimos, who were very glad to see us.
After he delivered his supplies, he showed me how to make an igloo with a hunting knife. The igloo didn't take us long to make and the hard snow was perfect for making it. It was amazingly warm and pretty comfortable. We didn't spend the night, but I'm sure I would have had a good rest in it. After a while we got in the airplane and went back to Thule. The rest of my stay was pretty uneventful except that an Air Force Officer froze to death just outside the door to the O’Club. I left before the case was fully investigated, but the consensus was that he had drunk too much and got disoriented before he could get indoors.