Mid-Summer – yet Antarctic aircraft crash site can not be revisited

I notice this sad story from the New Zealand Herald – Bodies of ice-crash trio will be flown to Canada – re the Canadian Twin Otter aircraft lost in the Antarctic that has been found on Mount Elizabeth with no survivors.
Early this morning there were plans to recover the bodies but within a few hours the story changes to “Body recovery delayed until October”.
We still have near five weeks of Summer left and I am puzzled that considering the wealth and resources available to three modern Western nations that these fliers can not be recovered and flown home to their people this Summer. I am puzzled that an assumption is made that next Summer season will be better. Also next October is mid Spring – a season far from predictable – only last October the Australian Antarctic supply ship the Aurora Australis was icebound until early November.
Surely with all our national wealth, power and modern technology and a century of accumulated polar experts experience a watch can be kept on weather conditions at Mount Elizabeth and a recovery tasked if a window of opportunity arises before winter sets in. I see now this Canadian article – Officials halt efforts to recover bodies of Canadians in Antarctica crash.
Looking forward to this story developing as more operational people get involved.
From my perspective I like to see officials reported as making sensible utterances. Saying that “…the aircraft appears to have been on course …” – does not cut it for me – likewise the invoking of winter weather while summer has a month to run defies logic.

3 comments to Mid-Summer – yet Antarctic aircraft crash site can not be revisited

  • Gina Harris

    This is a very sad story. Clearly the agencies mentioned have made their assessment based on their experience in these conditions, the logistics required to recover bodies and so on. I’m sure their decision was not taken lightly especially given that there are grieving families who are affected. I don’t think it’s particularly helpful for you to use your soap box and/or this tragedy to take a cheap shot at officials. Perhaps you could tell us of your experience of search, rescue and recovery in Antarctica before you question the decisions of those who have expertise in the field.

  • WSH

    Antarctic operations cost Western taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year and I am as entitled as anybody to expect sensible media releases from Govt “officials” and not padding with obvious statements that tell us nothing.
    For example -
    - we all know that conditions at 3900m on an Antarctic mountain could be expected to be “hazardous”.
    - we all know that another Winter is ahead.
    - we all know that conditions are cold down there.
    - I do not think anybody expects Antarctic weather patterns to have “forecast 100% certain” stamped on them.
    - and when an aircraft has just crashed into a mountain I am looking for Official Govt statements to be a little more anchored in reality than to be claiming it “…appears to have been on course…”.
    But look I am sorry if what I have posted here offends anybody – nobody has to stay and read. I think we still have “free speech” here.

  • mark

    Warwick, i am currently on station on the continent. I knew all three men. That mountain range is particularly remote and inhospitable. It is within the New Zealand search and rescue area. It may be that the information available to our officials is sketchy.I also understand that the AAD director had been asked to not speculate or release names at this stage for obvious reasons regarding next of kin etc.

    Here is another link.

    www.ctvnews.ca/world/recovery-efforts-called-off-at-site-of-antarctica-plane-crash-1.1131601

    It suggests that the pilot may have have made a turn too early. The weather had turned foul at the time and visibility was no doubt very poor or non existent.

    It would be doubtful that a recovery could be made in October. That month is merely the beginning of the summer research season.(It is now coming to an end, with our air ops to finish within the next three weeks.)
    I would expect that recovery would occur later.

    This time of year can be particularly unpredictable with regard to weather. It is also my understanding that the fuselage is located in a very steep ice face approx 200m from the tip of the mountain peak. Unstable, extreme cold and high winds making recovery extremely dangerous.

    At this time of year it would be highly risky to have air ops, especially choppers, operating in that environment regardless of the technology available.

    They were friends of mine.

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