National Geographic : 1956 Aug
The National Geographic Magazine derfully hospitable and considerate hosts. From Little America, late in January, ant arctic veteran Lt. Comdr. Jack Bursey and a six-man trail-blazing team headed across the inland ice in two Sno-Cats and a weasel. Their hoped-for destination was about 600 miles away at latitude 80° S., 120° W., the chosen site for the U. S. scientific outpost in Marie Byrd Land. But bad crevasses and engine trouble slowed the trail blazers and at last forced them to turn back 381 miles out. An Otter aircraft had supported Bursey's party by laying down fuel caches. On Feb ruary 3, while ferrying four members of the trail group back to Little America, the Otter failed to turn up. Six days later, Lt. Don M. Sullivan, flying another Otter, spotted the smashed plane on a snowy mountainside in the Edward VII Peninsula near La Gorce Peak. But there were no men in sight. The search plane couldn't land-the snow surface was too rough-so radioed the posi tion and returned to Little America. A heli copter flew out and found tracks leading away from the crash scene. The "chopper" fol lowed them and overtook the seven missing men 45 miles to the northwest. Crash Victims Unhurt None of the party had suffered anything worse than shock and scratches. The search Otter made rendezvous with the helicopter; between them the two aircraft evacuated the rescued men to Little America. It was miracu lous that no one was hurt. Their story: "We'd swung north of our course to duck bad weather. Ran into clouds, whiteout, and freezing drizzle. The plane iced up fast. We couldn't hold altitude and mushed, nose up, into the mountainside with out ever seeing it till we hit." They had broken out tents and dug into the snow. With food and fuel they were com fortable enough. On the fourth day they took off on foot toward Little America. They knew their exact position and figured they had enough food at least to reach Okuma Bay, where seals could be killed. It was on the inland ice also that Antarctica struck one more fatal blow as the bitter au tumn settled in. Construction Driver Max R. Kiel of Joseph, Oregon, was using his D-8 tractor to shove snow into an ice chasm to fill it up and thus make a bridge, when his vehicle plunged through another crevasse, hid- den and unsuspected. So deep was the crevasse that neither the body nor the ve hicle could be recovered. Early in February I left Antarctica, return ing to New Zealand on Arneb and continuing home by sea and air. By the end of March all ships had left the Ross Sea area. Behind, 93 men remained at McMurdo Sound and 73 at Little America. These groups would spend the long antarctic winter getting ready to build the South Pole and Marie Byrd Land bases, work that will begin late in 1956, weeks before ships can reach Antarctica. In March, Admiral Dufek led Glacier on a notable survey cruise halfway around the frozen continent. The purpose of the voyage was to find sites for two additional IGY sci entific bases on the coast of Antarctica. Site Found for New Base Bucking the wretched weather of the ant arctic fall, Glacier's survey teams picked one base site on the Knox Coast, at the Windmill Islands in Vincennes Bay. Inland from this shore reaches out the vast expanse of Wilkes Land, named in honor of Charles Wilkes. As a young lieutenant, Wilkes led an American exploring expedition that skirted this coast in 1840. It was Wilkes, in fact, who first recognized that Antarctica probably was a great continent. Admiral Dufek intended also to locate another base site near Gould Bay in the Wed dell Sea. So late in the season this place could not be reached, although a party got ashore at Byrd Bay in Queen Maud Land. Having fully proved her worth on a diffi cult maiden voyage, Glacier at last departed antarctic waters on March 30. I hope this brief narrative has made it evi dent that the field tasks of Operation Deep freeze were a cooperative effort of 1,800 well trained men and officers. On any large-scale expedition, and par ticularly where the scene of action is so hos tile as Antarctica, success depends on efficient day-to-day fulfillment of responsibilities, in cluding many that may at the time seem trivial. The over-all supervisory role which I held freed me from most operational detail. The attainment of most of the goals set before Task Force 43 reflects great honor on the United States Navy. It is a tribute, too, to all the officers and men who took part in the expedition.