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Arctic Field Party Work by Captain Robert A. Earle, C&GS

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On the following morning we started utilizing several of the Caterpillar tractors with small shovels to dig out our own camp which was located between the Air Force camp and the air field. The snow had completely obliterated many of the vehicles, piles of equipment, and all but the tops of the quonset huts in our area. Luckily, the previous year's party had made a rough survey of the area, placing oil barrels at strategic locations so that we could use tractors to shovel roads between buildings and supply dumps, etc. After this was done, a great deal of shoveling had to be done by hand by our Esquimauan workmen. After about a week, during which time our party had built up to approximately 35 men, we were able to heat and move back into our own quonset huts and start preparation for the long trek across the North Arctic coast to Tigvariak Island.

To transport our equipment, we had four Caterpillar tractors, each of which was equipped with a blade on front, and a cherry picker, plus two large pipe splints and several cooking and bunking houses which had been built on splints. Our first job was not only to take out supplies but also to build go-devil sleds. This type of sled was built of long, shaped 12x12 timbers which had been sheathed with a metal from oil drums. These sleds were used to haul lumber, quonset huts, and similar types of material which could be chained to a low sled.

Due to the fact that the North Arctic coast in winter time is practically indistinguishable from the sea areas, it was necessary to have a trail-marking party mark the entire trail across this section of coastline. The trail was laid off on the sea ice between the pressure ridge, which is a point wherein the ice has become broken and piled up, usually lying about a mile from shore, and the low banks which although practically indistinguishable, mark the high water line. This party, under Lt. Don Jones, spent about a week finding the initial 80 miles of trail for the cat train and then returned to camp to start leading the initial cat train.

The initial train consisted of four tractors, each drawing two or Picture of a snow cat.three sleds loaded with equipment, and about a half dozen weasels. At first we attempted to keep the train moving for ten hours daily; however, we soon gave this up as blowing snow and bitter cold would obliterate or make it impossible to see trail markings after darkness had fallen. Even though small flags which designate the trail had been placed 100 yards apart, it was often necessary, due to exceptionally low visibility and drifting snow, to have men precede the train on foot. The speed of the cat train was between three and four miles an hour; thus 25 miles of travel was considered a good day's accomplishment. Many times during the course of this trip we would get off the trail and have to send out scout parties in weasels to locate our position.

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