National Geographic : 1936 Jun
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE following us. Logan had disappeared and Hubbard was almost hidden by evil-look ing black masses wrapped about its lofty summit. That night Bob Bates, Randall, and I had a serious conference. To cross the Saint Elias Range was one thing. To map it, photograph it, and still cross it, was another. To establish our upper base soon enough to complete our job before the June thaws meant either more dogs or further assistance from the plane. RANDALL PILOTS THE "FLYING FREIGHT" On our flight that day we had made one discovery-that Bob Randall was an amaz ing pilot. Bates and I put our problem up to him, pointing out that any airplane which had flown us three all day at 16,000 feet should have no trouble taking off on a limitless wind-packed landing field at only 5,000 feet-the supposed altitude of the glacier fork. The next day, working beneath leaden skies on instructions marked upon one of the pictures we had developed at Carcross, Randall flew two loads of our equipment from the lower camp to the fork, landing them exactly where we wished. As the clouds rolled up Lake Bennett and we real ized that we were again trapped by storms, we were elated at having saved the men at the base many days of heart-breaking work. While the base campers toiled steadily, freighting supplies up the 20 miles of glacier which separated them from the air plane cache at the forks, Bates and I sat restlessly in Carcross, storm after storm preventing us from making our last, short photographic flight. When it did clear once, a take-off on the rough ice shattered a vital part of the motor mount on the Fairchild and meant the loss of three golden days of cloudless weather, welding and repairing the plane unsheltered on the surface of the lake. My finger tips still feel numb with cold as I recall screwing and unscrewing the windshield bolts to permit the tip of the acetylene torch to reach the cracked sec tions of tubing. No sooner was the airplane in flying shape than another storm came screaming in from the coast, and it was not until the twenty-second, nearly two weeks after our last trip to the glacier, that the clouds broke again. The weather was not yet good enough to make our last photographic flight. The barometer had suddenly started down again, as the sky cleared on the evening of the twenty-first, and we realized that we must make an attempt to get in to the glacier with the last load of dog food. We had hoped to combine the two flights, taking the pictures after leaving 600 pounds of cornmeal and beef tallow for the dogs at camp, but we could not postpone the food a minute longer. The last dog food at camp had, we figured, already been eaten one day before and the dogs would be fast making a tremendous hole in our cereal and butter supply. As we warmed up the plane shortly after daybreak, ominous storm-caps were forming on the hills all about Carcross and a thick, frosty mist hung over the lake. Only Bob Randall and I went on the flight. We hoped against hope that the other men had been able to push their way through to the airplane cache at the forks. If the weather broke, we might even help them up with a last load or two from their lower camp. Circling low over town after a quick take off, we climbed steeply westward toward the mountains. The clouds tossed in somber, leaden banks to the west and south. A blustering northerly wind blew huge twisters of powdery snow off the peaks passing be neath us. Now and then, flying at 10,000 feet, we soared over patches of threatening mist. Higher clouds rose ahead in dense banks, and we climbed to 12,000 feet to clear their shimmering crests. An hour and a half out of Carcross a tiny gap in the mists showed ahead, just east of the towering mass of Mount Hubbard. Our glacier lay below us, a broad silver streak with sickly gray cloud shadows scudding swiftly across it. We cut the motor and started down in wide circles. The lower camp was nowhere to be seen. All about where it had been were endless banks of fresh, untrodden snow, burying any vestige of a trail. One tiny black dot, half covered by the immense drifts, might possibly be a lone tent. We could not tell. NEW CAMP FOUND THROUGH A HOLE IN THE CLOUDS Speeding on up the valley, we circled over the upper cache eighteen miles farther on. There to our joy stood the new camp, nestled cozily beneath the cliffs at the left side of the great ice barrier that separates the upper from the lower half of the glacier.