Friday, March 21, 2008

The Pegasus crash site

Meg tries to not get bucked off by the Pegasus.

Pegasus Field is out on the Ross Ice Shelf, about 15 miles from McMurdo. It sits directly between Ross Island and Antarctica Proper, about 1/4 of the way to the continent. This is where we land wheeled aircraft after the Sea Ice Runway gets closed down in mid-summer.

Years of neglect have watched the Pegasus slowly get buried.

Pegasus Field is named after a Navy super constellation aircraft that crashed at Williams Field on October 8, 1970. The aircraft, with 80 on board, was flying from Christchurch, New Zealand, on its first flight of the 1970-71 season. They crossed the point of no return in acceptable weather conditions. However, thirty minutes before arriving at McMurdo the weather suddenly deteriorated to zero visibility, winds gusting to 40 mph in a snowstorm, and a 90-degree crosswind. With no alternative airfield, the pilot made six low passes over the airfield. On the final pass with almost no fuel left, the Pegasus attempted to land. The starboard wing was torn off completely and the tail unit broken. There were only slight injuries to five on board.

Lucas with the Pegasus in the background.

The Navy salvaged all they could, but they did not want to leave this wreck sitting near Williams Field where it crash-landed. It’s not good for morale to see a wrecked aircraft right near the airstrip as you're flying in so they dragged it out farther on the ice shelf and left it, as was the usual practice in those days. This site eventually became Pegasus Field and the crash site became a novelty for us to visit during our summer.

Patty posing atop of the Pegasus with me about to sneak attack!

Visiting the crash site is mostly an excuse for us to get off base and explore some new terrain. Most people only visit the Pegasus airfield once a year - to leave. They usually arrive at the sea ice runway. Only a small part of base visits the area regularly to work. I think the timing of this particular trip was angled for night workers because they often don't get the same chances at field trips as everyone else.

Dearest Annie.

Our tour guide, John, shows us how to leave our mark on the Pegasus. My old roommate's is on the right side.

Danny reminds us to "Watch out for the monkey fist!"

For me, this trip (and really this entire adventure I'm on) ended up mostly being about visiting with good people. Talie and Lucas were night workers so I didn't get to see them that much. I also go with Danny, Travis, Patty, Vince, Aaron, Luigi, Annie, Meg and a bunch of others. A great group all around. I can't remember a better public field trip and this wasn't the best location we went to. I wish more of them had stuck around for the winter. They were a blast. Only Talie is still here. The rest have scattered to the winds.

Me, as cargo.

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