THE THULE ENVIRONMENT
PHASES OF THE SUN AND MOON
because it´s always cold, there are only two seasons here at Thule! These are the light and dark season. From February through November, the sky transitions from normal day/night cycles, to a full 24 hours of sunlight, and back through day/night cycles until we have 24 hours a day of darkness. This total darkness lasts from late November until late January. The dark season is also the coldest time of year, and coincides with storm season which runs 15 September through 15 May.
ARCTIC SURVIVAL GEAR
the full compliment of clothing will prevent hypothermia for a short period of time, even in a storm condition. It is intended to extend your outdoor survivability only long enough for you to seek proper shelter promptly. During storm season, personnel assigned vehicles must keep their ensembles in their vehicles at all times. Personnel proceeding off base during this period must also carry the Arctic Gear at all times. During dark season, wear of the parka with itsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ integrated reflective material is advisable to remain visible to vehicle drivers.
Even in summer months, frostbite can be a danger here. Wind chill greatly increases the potential for frostbite. In the winter, exposed skin can be frostbitten in less that 1 minute. If the symptoms are ignored and untreated, it can result in permanent nerve and muscle damage, up to and including the need for amputation.
Be careful when entering or exiting buildings. Snow and ice accumulate, including residual left from people cleaning their feet on the gratings. This applies to the stairs as well as the ground around the entrances. Where there are tile floors, be especially careful as this water tends to make them very slick.
No there are not giant arctic worms here at Thule. What happens is the sun melts the top layer of snow and ice during the day hours, then it freezes during the night. You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t tell from looking whether thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s snow, water, ground, or just open space underneath it, or how high it is. The solution? Stick to the roadways.
SAFE VEHICLE OPERATIONS
As the sun begins its transition from the dark season, it is low on the horizon. Glare from snow, reflection off other vehicles, and direct light can temporarily blind you. If this happens, STOP IMMEDIATELY!!!! Keep a pair of dark sunglasses with you at all times during this period and all through the light season. Put them on and wait for your vision to return to normal. Also, the reflection from headlights off ice and snow in the dark season can be a similar hazard.
These are mandatory use items for all personnel, military or civilian, assigned to or visiting Thule AB, in all vehicles with them installed. No more than three people will ride in the front seat of any vehicle, and only on bench seats. No passenger may ride in a vehicle unless they occupy a fixed seat and are properly wearing a permanently installed, functional safety restraint device.
The speed limit on base is 25 MPH maximum, but lower in some places (such as the dining hall, base gym, and the flight line). Citations for violations are written by the Security Forces, and can cause you to lose your driving privileges for a week, month, or the rest of your tour. Remember that these speed limits are not a minimum speed to drive; they are the maximum. When road conditions are less than optimum, or during the dark months (when it is REALLY cold), remember to reduce your speed accordingly. The roads here are hard packed earth and gravel. When they get wet, you slide. Often, what appears to be packed gravel and sand roadway is actually that type of material spread over packed snow or ice for traction.
Stopping distances triple in these conditions, so increase your following distances accordingly. Never lock your brakes. They should be applied until just before the point where they lock up, and then held. Although this requires a little getting used to, it is a much-preferred method to pumping the brakes, and will stop the vehicle sooner.
ONE WAY STREETS
The five one way streets on Thule are located: in front of the BX, Dundas Dining Hall, the base gym, GC Headquarters, and around the base hospital. Use extra caution while driving, backing, and walking in these areas. Newly assigned personnel and TDY folks sometimes miss the signs.
Watch for traffic signs; they are small because of the high winds we experience here. Ensure all passengers have their seatbelts on before moving the vehicle. All traffic must yield to pedestrians crossing the roadway. This does not mean swerving into the other lane to avoid them, slowing down just enough to miss them, or intimidating them by speeding up. It means coming to a complete stop, if necessary, until they completely clear the roadway. Any time you enter fog, rain, snow, or other visibility limiting factors, turn on your headlights. You may not see any better, but you will be seen.
ROAD CLOSURE SIGNS
There are signs on the roads going to North and South Mountain, BMEWS, and Det 3. There are beacons on top of these signs that flash during storm conditions. The main road signs have smaller individual lights for the individual roads. If these lights are flashing, that road is closed and you may not use it.
GOING TO BMEWS
The weather conditions change rapidly, and a trip up the hill on a dry road under clear blue skies can turn into a slippery mess with 50 MPH winds and icy, wet roads in under an hour. Couple this with your return trip being down hill, and it will get nasty. Slow Down, go back, or find a phase shack (these are small storm shelters). Vehicles have been totaled from leaving the roadway and rolling over. All vehicles going off base during the winter storm season must coordinate with Hilltop/alarm center at extension 2719. For recreational travel, contact them in person to fill out the travel request letter. For official travel you may contact them by radio on channel 3, if you have the Hilltop net.
"Phase shacks" are emergency shelters on the roads to BMEWS and North and South Mountains. Should you be out on these roads and a storm suddenly comes up on to your party, don't take an unnecessary chance by trying to make it back to the base. Stop at one of these shelters and kick in the door. You'll have to do that because the doors are sealed with a heavy lead tape during storm season to prevent pilferage. There is a phone there connected directly to the operator. Let the operator know where you are and wait out the storm. You can find these phase shacks even during storms by the reflective arrows along the road near and pointing to the shelter.
Speed limit there is 15 MPH, except near an aircraft (within 50 feet) when it is 5 PMH. Don't drive between the aircraft and a nearby building since a forklift might be unloading the plane into the building. Driving on the flight line is for official business only, and is authorized only after the driver has completed a flight line driving course and has had his/her government driver's license annotated for flight line driving.
When the temperatures change dramatically in the summer (and it does), fog develops over North Star Bay and will move into the Thule AB Valley. This fog can be so dense as to obscure the entire roadway. Should this happen to you, STO P! Pull to the edge of the road only if you can do so safely. Leave the motor running, with the headlights and emergency flashers on. Do not attempt to leave the vehicle, as you could be struck by another vehicle whose driver cannot see you. Wait until the fog has lifted enough for you to safely operate your vehicle to your destination.
Know the hazards of your work center. These can include equipment, chemicals, work conditions, or any other threat to your well being. Your supervisor is required to brief you upon initial assignment to the work area, and whenever these conditions change. After the briefing, the supervisor must initiate an AF Form 55 to document this and subsequent safety, fire, and health training.
Thule was once host to over 10,000 military members, including Army personnel assigned to Nike-Hercules missile sites. Mortars and ground-to-air missiles were part of their equipment, and they practiced with them regularly. As with any ordnance, all of it did not detonate. In 1993 one such five-inch mortar was located intact, and had to be destroyed. Should you find anything that even remotely resembles any type of ordnance, do the following:
1. DO NOT TOUCH IT, OR ATTEMPT TO MOVE IT IN ANY WAY. 2. As there should be more than one in your party, post a guard to keep others away from it as well, and 3. Contact the Security Forces, inform them of your find, and follow their instruction.
No matter now neat you might think it would look polished up sitting on your desk or chest of drawers, many of these items are live and VERY UNSTABLE. Leave them alone as they can hurt, maim, or even kill you.
While at Thule, it's recommended that you walk on the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic. Although contrary to stateside standards, this will enable you to watch for vehicles and to get out of the way should they not see you. If you are out walking after dark, wear something bright and preferably reflective such as a parka as an outer garment. This will enable drivers to see you more clearly.
Info from 12SWS
THE THULE ENVIRONMENT