Early plane found in Antarctica


2015-06-26 11:55:16


Early plane found in Antarctica

Nearly a century on, the first British Vickers plane is yielded up by the ice

For the past three years, a team of Australians have been searching for a plane in the Antarctic ice.

The plane, made in 1911, was the first one off the Vickers production line in Britain, just eight years after Wilbur and Orville Wright's historic flight. It was taken to Australia with a romantic goal: the first flight over the Antarctic cap.

Unfortunately, the plan came down to Earth with a bump - quite literally, when a hungover pilot crash-landed the plane in Australia. However, explorers led by Douglas Mawson took the main body of the plane over to Antarctica anyway, hoping to use it as a sort of tractor for dragging.

Unfortunately the plane proved ill-suited to the task, and the engine seized up. This was not the worst misfortune to befall Mawson's three man team as one of their number fell to his death in a crevasse, along with several dogs and the bulk of the team's supplies.

Mawson's remaining companion died of frostbite, and he just barely struggled back to safety alone. Australian conservationists have been keen to locate the plane as part of aviation history.

On New Year's Day, under the light of a blue moon (a rare second full moon in a month), due to the lowest tide ever recorded in the region, a carpenter with the team spotted a section of metal under a few feet of water, and mentioned it casually to his colleagues, who went into a near frenzy.

Mawson was an intrepid explorer, being part of the first explorers to reach the Magnetic South Pole, after being part of Shackleton's unsuccessful attempt to reach the geographic South Pole. Shackleton's expedition also left some interesting items in the ice, including some whisky.

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