In Memory

1 Feb

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There are some projects that leave me feeling downright giddy. Often these are the tiny things I have made for my nieces and nephews- a knitted piece of pie, a set of spiked dinosaur mittens, coloring books for a summer roadtrip with the wee ones. This week’s project, however, is not one of those sorts of projects.

Last week, a plane wreck in the Queen Alexandra mountain range, halfway between South Pole Station and McMurdo Station, took the lives of three men. I didn’t know the crew personally, but of course many did. Somehow, their deaths feel like the loss of some distant cousins- I didn’t really know them, but they are family nonetheless. In the grand scheme of things, It’s a pretty small group of us who live and work here in Antarctica.

I am always amazed that south of the Antarctic circle, when there is a plane crash or a missing helicopter or a fishing boat engulfed in flames, the first conversation is how to help and not who will pay, or who is responsible. Oh certainly that conversation happens, but rescue efforts are in motion well beforehand. This time, weather stymied rescue efforts for a few days, during which time we all hoped for the best and expected the worse. Word finally came that the crash had been both sudden and fatal, and the best thing I can say about that is that even if rescue teams had been able to get up there any quicker, the outcome would not have been any different. Somehow there is some tiny solace in knowing that the pilot, co-pilot, and engineer aboard, spent their last minutes flying over the Transantarctic mountains, and not suffering from hypothermia on top of massive injuries while awaiting rescue.

Eight days later, all of the members of the SAR teams have returned, debriefings have been held, and now plans are being made for memorial services. I was asked to make a book for the community to sign in memory of the three who died. It is not exactly the sort of project that leaves me giddy, but I am pleased with the result, and hope that it will offer a suitable way for people to honor these three members of our Antarctic family.

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You can find more information on the crash here. 

Kenn Borek Air has posted a memorial site for the crew.


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