Antarctic storms cool off romantic weekend

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The Independent Online

A couple who planned a romantic weekend in Antarctica ended up clinging to each other for survival after the worst blizzard in a decade left them stranded with no heating, their drinking water frozen and icicles hanging off the furniture.

A couple who planned a romantic weekend in Antarctica ended up clinging to each other for survival after the worst blizzard in a decade left them stranded with no heating, their drinking water frozen and icicles hanging off the furniture.

Temperatures plunged to minus 50C outside on Saturday as Barbara Rennie and Derek Richards huddled together under their duvet, which was soaked in snow. By the time they were rescued from their hut, near New Zealand's scientific Scott Base, they were so cold that the skin had peeled off their hands and heads.

Ms Rennie, a medic at Scott Base, and Mr Richards, a technician at the nearby US McMurdo Base, had booked the small hut as a holiday chalet. As they settled in, icy blasts drove snow into the hut and clogged its chimney.

Unable to communicate with Scott Base, they were forced to turn off their diesel heater because of the danger of fumes. Soon afterwards, the hut was plunged into darkness, because batteries used to power lights had gone dead.

Two feet of snow built up on the carpet during the 15-hour blizzard, which was accompanied by winds so strong that two shipping containers were overturned.

The couple said yesterday that they were woken early in the morning to hear their hut "shuddering and rattling" in icy southerlies that reached 140 knots. "If I'd sent Derek outside, it would have been the last I'd have seen of him," Ms Rennie told New Zealand's National Radio.

At 10pm the next day, Scott Base sent out snowmobiles to rescue them. "I've never been more thankful for heat in my life," Ms Rennie said.

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