Stranded Antarctica Passengers Rescued by Helicopter
courtesy family members
June 26, 2012
-- A team of explorers are hoping drill 100 feet beneath the Antarctic ice to bring back the bodies of three American fliers who died on a remote island off Antarctica 65 years ago. The lost men are shown here, from left: Ensign Max Lopez - NA, "Bud" Hendersin, ARM1C and Fred Williams, AMM1C. The explorers want logistical help from U.S. military officials, who say the project is too dangerous.
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The George One is seen being prepped for its final flight. The plane was on a mapping mission on Dec. 30, 1946 when it became lost in a blizzard, struck a ridge line on remote Thurston Island in West Antarctica and exploded.
The rescue aircraft "George 3" searches the ice for the crash site of the "George One" in January 1947.
The site of the crash of the George One is seen from above with names of dead crewmen written on the wing. Survivors (center top) wave to their crew mates in the George 2 flying overhead. The search plane discovered them 12 days after the crash. The life raft (upper left) had been set ablaze with octane fuel salvaged from the wreck by crewman Robbie Robbins. The crew survived in the tail section (top right). The men are buried under the wing just to the left of the line Robbins painted on the wing to notify the search plane of the fatalities.
The rescue aircraft, "George 2" is seen after hunting for the George One over Antarctica.
Two members of a rescue party paddle back to the amphibious craft George 2 after reaching the crash site.
courtesy of family members
Ensign Max Lopez was one of the men who died in the crash of George One.
courtesy of family members
"Bud" Hendersin -- the third man who perished in the 1946 crash. Family members of the three lost men say that over the years they have been promised by Navy officials that the bodies would be recovered if certain safety and logistical problems could be met. For their part, Navy officials say they recognize the families' concerns recovering the MIAs from Antarctica, but the operation is still too dangerous.
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All 52 passengers who spent Christmas and New Year trapped on an icebound Russian research vessel in Antarctica were airlifted from the ice Thursday in a dramatic rescue mission.
A Chinese helicopter which landed on a makeshift landing pad next to the marooned ship ferried the scientists, tourists and journalists in groups of 12 to an Australian government supply ship, the Aurora Australis.
The passengers had been stuck for 10 days in thick pack ice 100 nautical miles east of the French base of Dumont d'Urville after their vessel Akademik Shokalskiy became frozen in place.
Three icebreaking ships had been unable to clear a path to it.
"Aurora Australis has advised AMSA that the 52 passengers from the Akademik Shokalskiy are now on board," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said late Thursday.
Expedition leader Chris Turney expressed his "great relief" that the complex operation, which had been fraught with setbacks and challenges, finally went off without a hitch.
"We've made it to the Aurora Australis safe and sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese and the (government's) Australian Antarctic Division for all their hard work," Turney tweeted
The Sydney Morning Herald, which has a reporter aboard the Aurora Australis, said many of those brought off the Russian ship were relieved, with one woman crying tears of joy.
"It really has been an emotional roller coaster," Joanne Sim told the newspaper.
Their ordeal began on December 24 when a southerly front and blizzard trapped the Shokalskiy in a dense ice field which several icebreakers -- the Australis, France's L'Astrolabe and the Chinese-flagged Xue Long -- were unable to penetrate.
Efforts to reach the Russian vessel by sea were abandoned on Tuesday in favour of an aerial rescue using the Xue Long's helicopter, but heavy weather and sea ice stymied efforts until late Thursday.
A window of favorable weather allowed the Chinese crew to begin ferrying passengers at around 5 pm Australian time, with groups collected from a landing pad stamped out in the ice beside the Shokalskiy and ferried to an ice floe near the Australis.
AMSA confirmed that all passengers had reached the Australian ship at 10.16pm, some five hours after Turney first announced that the mission was underway.
Though they are free from the ice the group is not expected to reach dry land for several weeks yet, with the Australis having to travel back to the southern city of Hobart via Australia's Casey Antarctic base to refuel.
A helicopter hovers over an ice field in Antarctica.Corbis
The Shokalskiy's crew of 22 will remain on board until the ice breaks up and she can sail on under her own steam. The ship is well provisioned and those on board have not been in any danger.
Turney posted a number of videos documenting the rescue, including the red helicopter's first touchdown on the landing pad, the initial group of passengers trekking across the ice and a second load taking off towards the Australis.
The initial plan had been for the helicopter to ferry the passengers back to the Xue Long, where they would board a barge to be transferred to the Aurora Australis, the Australian government's Antarctic resupply ship.
But sea ice prevented the Australis from launching its barge Thursday, forcing a rethink.
In the end, the passengers were flown via helicopter from the stranded ship to an ice floe near the Aurora Australis, and then brought on board the Australian icebreaker in a rescue ship.
AMSA had estimated the rescue would involve five trips of up to 12 passengers and another two flights for equipment and luggage.
Passengers on the stranded ship -- an eclectic mix of scientists, tourists and journalists -- had been following in the footsteps of Australian Sir Douglas Mawson and his 1911-1914 expedition.
The team has been carrying out the same scientific experiments that Mawson's group conducted during their expedition, partly in an attempt to discover how quickly the Antarctic's sea ice is disappearing.
Board games, first-aid and other skills courses, movie marathons in the ship's auditorium and walks on the ice have helped to pass the time. They even penned a theme song about their adventure and filmed themselves singing it on the top deck.
Though they are in remote Antarctica the group dropped in on one of the world's biggest New Year's parties, broadcasting live to celebrations in New York's Times Square from their marooned vessel.