Menke's Iceland Accident - Things That Went Wrong and Right
On the Positive Side:
- Seatbelts - Fortunately, we were wearing them. Our injuries would have
been far more serious had we been ejected from the pickup truck.
- Clothing - We were dressed in one-piece snow suits appropriate for the
cold weather outside. Almost everything in the vehicle was ejected and
lost during the accident, so the clothes we were wearing were our main
- Equipment in pockets - We has some useful equipment in our pockets, such
as compass, pocket knife, lighter, and flashlight. Other equipment in the
cab of the pickup was mostly lost.
- Knowledge of terraine - We had studied maps of the region and knew where
we were and the direction from which rescue was likely to come.
- Accident witnessed by second vehicle - Had we been in a single vehicle,
we would have had little hope of rescue.
- Cargo isolated from Passengers - The cargo didn't crush us because it
was in on the flatbed of the pickup truck. Our fate might have been
quite different in a single-compartment style vehicle.
- Survival equipment in vehicle - I managed to find the emegency tent
that had been ejected from the vehicle. It kept us sheltered for 8
- Method of contacting rescue - The witnesses had the training and
means (radio telephone) to call for help.
On the Negative Side:
- Tight Scheduling of Experiments: A modern seismological experiment
is conducted under very tight schedule (in terms of equipment and
personel availability) and minimal budget. While we won't work in
what we feel are dangerous weather conditions, we can't wait around
for perfect weather, either. Thus there is the possibility that
mariginally acceptable weather may suddenly take a turn for the worst.
- Last Minute Changes in Personel. A person who was originally
scheduled to drive was reassigned to a different project at the
last minute, because of another, high priority situation that arose.
This put an extra burden on the field manager, who then doubled as
- Insufficient consideration of how to abort an outing that was
underway. The accident occured as we decided to turn around and
return to base camp, with the process of turning causing confusion.
- Reliance on GPS for bearing. GPS provides bearing only on a moving
vehicle, and thus can cause confusion when one is stopped. A
magnetic compass would not have had this problem (although it may
have to some degree suffered from deviations due to the magnetic
signature of the rocks).
- Food - We had no food with us, because the outing was planned as
short. Emergency rations in the pockets would have been helpful.