In January 2019 there was an avalanche tragedy in Norway. I would like to extend sincere condolences to the decedents, their families and loved ones and all the rescuers and local people who were involved in some way.
The circumstances made me ask a question on twitter: What is the longest complete avalanche burial a person has survived?
The response was to my question was very good and I would like to publish the contenders, in no particular order. Hopefully the links will all work, some are not in English but I don’t think that poses a problem in this day and age of online translation.
1903, Norway 56 hours: The postman who dug himself out with his post horn (trumpet)
From time to time there are media reports of people who survive avalanche burial of an hour or a couple of hours.
I know these are the “miracles” and the exceptions. My next post will be a collation of various survival (death) curves as they have evolved over time. New Zealand snow is very maritime which makes it heavy and difficult to extract air to breathe if buried.
Until then, please share my joy about the avalanche stories with happy endings
With thanks to Håkan Bakke, Marcus Lindahl, Inigo Soteras, Jose Ramon Morandeira and Kjetil Brattlien for their contributions and lively discussion.
PS. I would like to add another success story from March 2017 of a young female who survived for 4 hours below 1.5 metres of avalanche snow in Norway. Click on link below for the report the report , PDF in Norwegian. She was found by a rescue dog. She did not have an air pocket but no snow in nose or face or mouth and her ribcage was free to move she reported. She was discharged home with her parents to Germany after 3 days in hospital.Thank you to Kjetil Brattlien for adding this case history which he was involved with.
PS. I have just become aware of a historical long avalanche survival in New Zealand.
14 January 1973, Flight Lieutenant Paul Gazley was buried in an airborne avalanche in Noleen/ Hooker Glacier for 11-12 hours and survived DOC pamphlet mentioning Paul Gazley
“Keen mountaineer, RNZAF pilot, and former New Zealand Junior Diving champion, Flight Lieutenant Paul Gazley left with boundless energy, infectious enthusiasm and sights set as high as Mount Everest. He had miraculously survived a 12-hour burial in a massive airborne avalanche off Mount cook a few years before. The Airforce party of 27 was caught in a slab avalanche. Paul was buried for a second time. But this time he never returned home alive.” is in the abstract of the book written in 2004 by his widow, Karen Gazley
I expect there is more detail about her late husbands first avalanche rescue, so if I manage to obtain a copy of ht ebook I will update this post.
(Paul Gazley, Geoff Boyd, Brian Cottew & Peter Hunnibell all lost their lives in an avalanche at Ball Pass 23 July 1975. There were 27 of Air Force Crew on a training exercise building snow caves when the avalanche struck.)