National Geographic : 1953 Apr
Fletcher's Ice Island, a United States Air Force Station, Drifts Near the North Pole Born of an ancient glacier, this 150-foot-thick slab of fresh-water ice gave Americans a floating but stable platform to establish camp and make a leisurely study of the secrets of the inhospitable Arctic Ocean. Air Force planes like this parked C-47 had no great difficulty landing even before a runway was leveled . Tumbled alt-water pack ice, which discourages permanent stops at the top of the world, grinds at Fletcher's far shore. Distant camp shelters scientists taking records of weather, ocean, and ice. Two tracked weasels dot the trail. So might Keenan Land, President's Land, and Sannikov Land. Takpuk Island certainly wa . Its discoverers, an Eskimo, Takpuk, and the crew of his sloop, landed there in 1931, photographed it, and left still thinking it was land, but their photographs show an ice island. No discredit reflects upon the brave and experienced Arctic explorers of another day. Men of the Air Force, including that radar- man, can testify that ice islands closely re- semble land, particularly when the viewer is walking around on one on a summer day. Air Age Overcomes Ice Barrier Discovery, hi tory, old my tery are one thing; our Air Force mis ions of today and tomorrow another. What u e could be made of ice islands in the Arctic, repository of vital secrets of ocean and weather? For more than 2,000 years the unpredict- able pack had denied man more than brief and hazardous visits to its domain. To this day, no ship can smash through it at will. Some have managed to buck and thread a way into the ice in summer. Winter locked them fast; the fortunate ones came out again, but many fine vessels perished. Lt. Comdr. George Wa hington De Long's Jeannette was crushed in 1881, a mi hap which cost the gallant naval officer his life. In the same year Leigh Smith, an intrepid Arctic ex- plorer, lost Eira, a specially built steam yacht, which sank in two hour . Some seven years earlier Tegetthojj, under Lts. Karl Weyprecht and Julius Payer of the Austrian military forces, was crushed and abandoned. The Briti h have left many hips in the Arctic, among them the ill-fated ir John Franklin's Erebus and Terror. Other casu- alties are Karluk, used by Vilhja1mur Stef- ans on 's Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913- 1918 , and the Russian icebreaker Chelyuskin, smashed in 1933.