Tom L-C, Wikimedia Commons

Weather Suspends Antarctic Search for Plane

Twin Otter in the field, Antarctica. 2005Tom L-C, Wikimedia Commons

A search in Antarctica for a plane carrying three Canadian crewmen that went missing on a flight from the South Pole has been suspended due to bad weather, rescue officials said on Thursday.

A rescue plane circled the area where the Twin Otter aircraft disappeared at 10:00pm (0900GMT) Wednesday but could not find it due to high winds and heavy cloud cover, the Rescue Coordination Center New Zealand (RCCNZ) said.

Officials said the missing plane was on a routine supply trip from US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to the Italian Antarctic base at Terra Nova Bay when it lost contact.

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The plane belongs to Kenn Borek Air, a Canadian firm based in Calgary that charters aircraft to the US Antarctic program, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) said.

Rescue coordinator John Ashby said a DC-3 Dakota aircraft circled the area for five hours but could find no sign of the missing plane amid 170 kilometers per hour (105 miles per hour) winds, solid cloud cover and heavy snow.

"The forecast for the next 12 hours is for similar conditions, but if there is a break in the weather the joint New Zealand and US field rescue team is ready to go from McMurdo Base at short notice," he said, as the search was suspended overnight.

RCCNZ said the search involving fixed wing aircraft and helicopters was concentrating on a rugged area midway between the South Pole and Terra Nova, which lie about 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) apart.

RCCNZ spokesman Steve Rendle said there were hopes the three men, whose names have not been released, were still alive.

"If the beacon is operating, which it is, that's a good sign as a heavy landing can tend to prevent the beacon working, so that's a positive sign at this stage," he told Radio New Zealand.

The plane was equipped with survival equipment, including mountain tents, and supplies sufficient for five days, RCCNZ added.