January 3, 2010

Expedition Uncovers Relic Of Antarctica’s First Plane

An expedition to Antarctica has uncovered what they believe to be the remains of the first airplane brought to the continent, according to a recent Reuters report.

The aircraft was discovered on an icy shore close to where it had been abandoned nearly a hundred years earlier.

The artifact, a single propeller Vickers plane, was brought to Antarctica by explorer Douglas Mawson during an expedition from 1911 to 1914. When the plane proved to be non-functional it was abandoned.

The plane was discovered on New Year's Day.

It was a lucky and important find according to Dr. Tony Stewart, leader of the current expedition. Other pieces of metal tubing were found among ice-encrusted rocks on the shore of Commonwealth Bay during an unusually lower low tide. The pieces matched the tubing from the plane.

The plane was to be used by Douglas Mawson to stage the first human flight over the Antarctic ice cap, but that dream was cut short even before the expedition set sail from Australia in 1911. The plane crashed in a demonstration flight in October of 1911, shortly before the departure of the expedition. There were no injuries or fatalities, but the wings were damaged. With no time for repairs, the wings were removed and Mawson had planned on using the aircraft as a flightless hauler to carry equipment across the frozen continent.

Even as a hauler, with wheels replaced by sled-runners, the plane was a failure. The engine froze up in the biting cold. The Mawson's Huts Foundation, which backed the current expedition to Antarctica, believes the plane became frozen in ice and was carried slowly toward the sea by way of glacial ice over the last century.


Image Caption: Mackay, David and Mawson raise the flag at the Magnetic South Pole Jan 16, 1909. Courtesy Wikipedia


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