National Geographic : 1959 Jan
stop a little way before you get there," when we felt that horrible, prolonged sinking sen sation. The Sno-Cat's hood rose up and up in front of us, then there was a jolt, a pause, and a final nerve-shattering lurch. Carefully we crept out and scrambled to firm snow, to find the front pontoons clawing at the far edge of a chasm like the one that had almost proved our undoing earlier. Recovery took less time than before, but we had cracked the steering platform of the rear pontoons, and repairs went on late into the night and the next day. Less than a week later we were our third major recovery when Da' Able dropped almost out of sight mense crevasse. Here for the firs used our crevasse-bridging units-14-foot lengths weighing 125 pounds and stressed to carry four tons. We had to fill the chasm below the stranded Sno-Cat by shoveling in snow until we had a surface capable of support ing the bridging team. As we held our collective breath, the re covery vehicles began to strain, the Weasels whining, Grandmas growling, and then, like some monster rising from the deep, Able heaved and wallowed its way to the surface. Three Narrow Escapes in a Day faced with By the time we had made about 200 miles, vid Pratt's Squadron Leader John Lewis, commanding in an im- our Royal Air Force contingent, arrived in our t time we Otter aircraft, bringing a spare Sno-Cat pon toon and other replacement parts. John was JONSTEPHENSON welcome, too, for his sense of humor. It was he who had remarked, when being fitted for his windproofs: "I'm 42-44-46. Call me Pear!" We changed to night travel through the crevasse region. The lower temperatures, we reasoned, would give a crisper surface and perhaps add strength to the snow bridges. In the crevasses at the foot of the Which away Nunataks, however, the warmer weather had wrought great changes. We were fre quently astounded by our luck during the earlier journey. Continually the old tracks led across the now-sunken lids of great cre vasses which could easily have swallowed all our vehicles, and we were obliged to probe for new routes and stronger bridges. Twice in one day we nearly lost Ken. First a snow bridge gave way beneath his skis, and they fell 80 feet, to be lost forever. Fortu nately the crevasse was narrow, and he saved himself by a truly remarkable display of acrobatics. New skis were taken to him, for it would have been foolhardy to walk in such an area. Later, as he knelt to examine a hole he had cut in a snow bridge, the whole bridge dropped away, leaving him balanced prayer fully on his skis over a four-foot-wide gap. Finally, to cap our day, when the probing was over and we were walking to our tents beside the vehicles, the snow gave way be neath Jon Stephenson and left him hanging by one elbow over a deep, dark hole. Aus tralian Jon emulated his national beast and In the Theron Mountains the author found coal and sedimentary rocks that offered valu able clues to Antarctica's past. Fossil plants showed that 200 million years ago the conti nent supported tropic vegetation. RAF Squad ron Leader John Lewis, pilot on this exploring flight, stands beside the Auster ski plane.