Navigating in whiteout conditions while hiking, climbing, or skiing can be unnerving. But consider how airplane pilots in Antarctica must feel when they’ve got a planeload full of scientists or contract workers about to land on the Ross Ice Shelf near McMurdo Station:
One second, you’ve got a little break in visibility, and then you get socked in again:
And then you finally touch down in a clear patch and see that–luckily–there aren’t any cargo loaders or makeshift airport structures or people standing around.
Antarctica can be a dangerous place for aircraft, and in my four trips to and from McMurdo Station, I gained respect for the pilots and navigators who make successful flights in and out of this place and all over the continent each season.
I spent some time exploring the airstrip near McMurdo one day on which bad weather conditions kept the planes grounded:
This beautiful Basler…
…and a Twin Otter:
I felt amazed each of the four times I watched a tiny aircraft drop from the clouds and then land on the ice shelf to pick me up when the season was over…
…and just as I always felt the thrill of landing on the ice shelf in Antarctica, I always felt the excitement of leaving to pursue the next great adventure.
So, you’re not a pilot flying in Antarctica?
But you’ll still want to know about some tools that can help you navigate in whiteout conditions.
See my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:
“Whiteout Navigation: Essential Tools”
Navigating in whiteout conditions can be challenging and frightening. A whiteout occurs when conditions such as snow, fog, or sand cause a partial or total reduction in visibility. In a blizzard, snow may already be present on the ground, so when snow begins to fall from the sky, the horizon can disappear completely, causing great difficulty for a person trying to navigate through unknown terrain…click here to continue reading…
Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.