Saturday, December 22, 2007

an incident...I guess

Hello everyone,

As some of you know, I was involved in a little incident with the Basler (a DC-3 twin engine turbo prop airplane) on our most recent field expedition. The field work went well and we got a station installed at Siple dome and one at Mt. Patterson. But then we had a little problem during take off from Mt. Patterson. Some have called it an incident, others have been calling it a hard landing (although I don't know how you can have a hard landing when you havn't actually taken off). I call it a plane crash. Basically what happened is, as the plane went to take off and we reached flying speed, one side of the plane went up and the other didn't. The left wing got caught in the ice and sent the plane tumbling. My seat came unbolted from the floor with me still strapped into the seatbelt. When we finally came to a halt, we were all in big pile in the corner of the plane with all of the equipment. We got shaken up pretty bad, but there were no major injuries other than some minor cuts and bruises. We are all doing well and thankful the crash wasn't any worse. The plane, however, did not fair so well. The wings, props, and tail all got bent up pretty bad. The landing gear, skis, and hydraulic system (the red stain in the pictures below is hydraulic fluid) all were ripped from the plane and strewn about the ice. She won't be flying any time soon. After the crash, we got out of the plane and broke out the survival bags. We set up a camp and used the stove to make some fresh drinking water. We were in constant radio communication with McMurdo and after about 20 hours stranded on the West Antarctic ice sheet, they sent two twin otters to come and rescue us. We didn't have very much food so they sent some hot soups, stews, and sandwiches with the twin otters. It was a pretty delicious meal since all we really had to eat was some emergency survival bars. But actually I thought the bars were pretty tasty. People seemed to get a kick out of watching me eat them anyway.

We have come across a couple of news articles about the crash. Here are the links.

NY Times - This one is pretty accurate except they don't mention the seismic stations, they just call them 'other sensors'

The New Zealand Press - This one is way off. It is filled with inaccuracies and misinformation.

I think the Washington Post is planning something in the near future as well - hopefully with a picture. I'll post the link when it comes out.

Thanks to everyone for your comments! Keep them coming. I love hearing from you guys. In the next post I will have some pictures of our station installs and life at McMurdo. We will have some down time over the next week or so so I hope to do a lot of blogging. Merry Christmas everybody!

Ok, on to the pictures. Not sure how long these will stay up. NSF may have some spies out there trying to prevent these pictures from getting out. They told us not to share them for "a while" and in my book "a while" is a pretty vague term so I'll go ahead and assume it has been "a while."



Our field camp with Mt. Patterson in the background.

Some more shots of camp.



John said...

The only reason the NYT did a story on it was because the NSF were forced to put a press release out because The Press in Christchurch ran an initial story about it, for which Mactown officials refused to provide any details! If not for the NZ media trying to cover it, it's highly unlikely the NSF would have ever admitted a thing. If anything, it's amazing the initial report was as accurate as it was. There's a reason why journalism is known as the first draft of history...

Mom said...

I am glad to hear that no one was badly hurt. Be safe!
Love, Mom

Shaneo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

Wow! Radical!

Ryan said...

Wow! Radical!

Kutt22 said...

Amazing. Love the contrast between your story and the news reports. "But I call it a plane crash..."
Glad you're ok, I was worried I might not get another lighter.
Just kidding. Be safe.

Dana said...

I was on that very plane a year ago flying around near the South Pole. I'm glad you were the one to experience this excitement. I just got a nice flight on a fully stuffed airplane. Glad everyone is OK.

Andy said...

Mitchell, hey man it's Andy Tuerck. I saw Smith & Smyth last night down at the "head" and Ryan was telling me about your blog and you incident. Great job on the blog, I love all the photos (technical stuff & scenery both).

I know why you weren't wearing a winter coat in those photos - you wanted to rock that Boundary Waters Canoe Tee! I also know why you didn't mind the survival bars - probably because you've been forced to eat Pemican bars back in the day and now anything is edible after those!

Keep livin' it up,

Luce Antartica said...

Thank you Mitchell for the story and for the photos. Glad that everyone was safe. Best wishes. Lucia S.

brian said...

Wow, that's quite a story! I'm glad no one was hurt. I'll bet you're grinning from the whole experience though. I have fond memories from my Antarctic adventure in 2002. I'm jealous you're there now, and not me! Anyway, enjoy and stay safe.

V P said...

Awesome pics!

I'm working crash rescue at McMurdo.. heard there were some pics of this on the I Drive but havent found any... would it be OK if I used a couple of yours for a blog post?

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