At temperatures below freezing point, cold enough to keep boiling water stuck in the atmosphere, the survival of these four young Alaskan boys is nothing short of miraculous. Twenty-seven hours after they were declared missing by the townspeople, the boys were found huddled together inside a tiny cave, trying to protect the youngest one from the intense cold. They were all treated for severe hypothermia after being found.
Earlier this year, in February the small village of Nunam Iqua was thrown into a panic when four children who went on a snowmobile trip failed to return at the expected time.  Getting lost in the blizzard of Alaska is a regular occurrence, but the children were not expected to have wandered too far. However, a heavy snowstorm disoriented them and they lost their bearings, wandering for miles in the wrong direction.
The parents of the children — Christopher Johnson, 14, Frank Johnson, 8, Ethan Camille, 7, and Trey Camille, 2 — raised alarms when they’d been out for over 4 hours and search parties were instantly mobilized. With a population of about 207 as of 2018, Nunam Iqua is pretty small, and so residents of neighboring villages joined in the search. They reached out to the authorities and the Alaska State Troopers, U.S Coast Guard, Army National Guard, and Emmonak Search and Rescue Team all joined in the search by land and air.
Everyone defied the freezing storms to find the children but as the hours wore on, the weather conditions became impossible to maneuver. At about 2 am, the search leaders ordered everyone to go home. They couldn’t afford to lose more people to the storm.
A chance discovery
According to Karen Camille, the mother of Ethan and the youngest one, Trey, she’d been on the verge of losing her mind that night. The children were supposed to have been out for just a short ride.
“It became an hour and the weather started being bad, and that’s when we called for someone to go out and look,” Karen told KTUU-TV. 
Thankfully, things went in favor of the desperate community when one of the search leads, first responder Bryan Simon went as far as 18 miles from Nunam Iqua. Simon was looking out for the children as he rode slowly on his snowmobile. He brought his vehicle to a halt when he spotted some movement at a distance.
“It didn’t look like anything, and then as I got kinda closer, I saw movement,” Simon told the Alaska Public Media (APM). 
In a tiny snow cave with dimensions 1 ft. by 3 ft., the four children were found alive, lying closely together to prevent wind from coming in through the opening. Their will to survive was so strong that they were huddled around the 2-year-old, Trey, to protect him from the elements since he was the most vulnerable.
“Right away, I looked for that little infant. When I got kind of close to them, I thought I’d only seen one kid,” Simon continued. “The infant was in there and the boy laid over the infant, and on his left side, a little older boy covering the draft. The seven-year-old was laying right above them like he was blocking the wind.”
It was a heart-rending moment for the members of Simon’s team as they pulled the boys out and began to warm them up with their own bodies while they waited for the Coast Guard to arrive. Fiften minutes later and 27 hours after leaving home, the boys were airlifted to the nearest hospitals to be looked after while their families were contacted.
A miraculous outcome
Speaking to APM, Simon’s teammate, Herschel Sundown, reported that the area where the boys were found had previously been searched. They would have been found a lot earlier but the team had entered from the wrong point.
“It’s just the angle that we came in that we were able to spot them,” Herschel said. “The will to survive in these boys is amazing.”
Their survival was a remarkable feat, a testament to the bravery and strong will ingrained in all the children.
The boys were in bad shape when they were found, but they were expected to make full recoveries shortly. They were all treated for severe hypothermia in the days that followed. The oldest, 14-year-old Christopher Johnson, was operated on to remove a hernia that had developed as he’d tried to pull the mobile out of the snow.
Thomas Camille, Trey’s father said of his vulnerable little one: “It immediately brought me to tears. I never would have thought that he would make it. Being two and with weather like that, people usually don’t make it … Tough kids, all of them.”
It would take quite a while for the boys to recover from the trauma, but hopefully, it would just be one of those childhood experiences. We can also hope that kids who live in weather-volatile locations will learn not to wander too far from home.
- ” 4 children survive more than 24 hours lost in Alaska blizzard.” Global News. Meaghan Wray. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
- “UPDATE: ‘Cold, hungry, and tired’ 4 children missing from Nunam Iqua found alive.” Alaska News Source. KTUU News. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
- “Rescuers found lost Nunam Iqua children in a hole in the snow, huddled around the youngest child.” Alaska Public Media. Greg Kim. Retrieved November 6, 2020.