A Guide to the Charles F. Passel Antartic Exploration Collection, 1911-2001
Born in Indianapolis on April 9, 1915, Charles Passel received a bachelor’s degree in geology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1938. The opportunity for him and his advisor, Dr. F. Alton Wade, to accompany Admiral Richard Byrd on the Third Antarctic Expedition came as Passel worked on a graduate degree at Miami. The official mission of the expedition was to look for strategic minerals, map the coastline, and explore new areas. From November 1939 through June 1941, Passel, in a group of 33 (out of the total 59) men, traveled to and was stationed at “West Base – Little America,” Antarctica. In addition to geological and meteorological study, Passel’s duties included the supervision of supplies, the operation of a radio, dog driving and a part in the care of 150 sled dogs. Passel’s most notable accomplishments during the expedition were an 87-day side trip to explore and map the Edsel Ford Mountain Range, and his work and study with Major Paul A. Siple in developing a measurement of the effects of subfreezing temperature on the human body. The result of this study, entitled “Measurements of Dry Atmospheric Cooling in Subfreezing Temperatures” was published in 1945 by the American Philosophical Society and is referred to today as the “Wind Chill Factor.”
In 1941, immediately following the expedition, Passel married Alda Sibley. His reports of the expedition findings facilitated his completion of a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 1942. He then served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was stationed in the Southwest Pacific. After the war he taught at various universities, worked for Standard Oil and then, in 1948, relocated to Abilene, Texas, to work for Walter Duncan Oil Properties. The Passels and their three daughters continued to live in Texas: first in Abilene, then moving to Ft. Worth to work at Ambassador Oil and then back to Abilene. Passel became an independent geologist in 1963 and permanently settled in Abilene in 1969.
The 1939 Antarctic Expedition fostered Passel’s lifelong interest in Antarctica, polar exploration and meteorology. In 1984, Passel used his expedition diary to write a book entitled An Antarctic Journal that was revised and reprinted in 1995 as Ice.
Correspondence, diaries, journals, photographic material, film, videos, creative works, scrapbooks, maps, charts, reports, minor works of art and artifacts document Charles F. Passel’s participation in Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Third Antarctic Expedition, 1939–1941; as well as Passel’s later interests and enterprises related to the expedition and other polar exploration. The papers are arranged in three series that cover Passel’s studies and activities during the Third Antarctic Expedition, his later study, lecturing and publishing enterprises concerning the expedition and finally, collected information about Antarctica and polar exploration in general.
The first series records the expedition through Passel’s scrapbooks, diary, logs, account of an 87-day side trip to map the Edsel Ford Mountain Range, his correspondence and other materials relating to the expedition (1939–1945). A stuffed Adalie Chinstrap penguin is among the artifacts included in this sub-group.
The second series documents Charles Passel’s work developing the wind chill factor with Paul Siple and his enterprises in lecturing and writing and about his Antarctic experience, in such works as An Antarctic Journal, Ice, and “Measurements of Dry Atmospheric Cooling in Subfreezing Temperatures” (with Siple). This series includes manuscripts, notes, publishing correspondence, clippings and other promotional materials (1939 –1998).
The third series is a collection of publications and clippings about Passel’s fellow explorers and developments in the polar regions of the Earth (1911–1998). The paper contain information about other notable participants in the expedition, including Richard E. Byrd, F. Alton Wade and Charles A. Siple. The papers also relate to the original study of atmospheric cooling measurements that evolved into the widely used “Wind Chill Factor,”.
Access to slides and negatives is restricted. For more information contact Photo Archivist.
Charles F. Passel Antartic Exploration Collection, 1911-2001, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s “History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project,” 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers