"We know we're on our own."
June 19, 2016 11:48 AM   Subscribe

 
Respect to the brave people putting their safety on the line to come to the aid of their fellow humans like this.
posted by Harald74 at 11:59 AM on June 19, 2016 [34 favorites]


Holy. Crap.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:01 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hope everything turns out alright. This is a pretty major endeavor. My best wishes for all involved.
posted by hippybear at 12:10 PM on June 19, 2016


Man, Antarctican bush pilots are badass!

Back when you could set your geographical network on facebook and it determined who was able to look at your profile, I had my location set to Antarctica because I thought it was funny - until I started getting messages from bush pilots and other people headed to McMurdo Station asking when I'd be down there and if I was interested in hanging out when they were at the station. One of my life goals is to come up with a valid reason to use my limited set of scientific skills in Antarctica. I'll add "and not need to get airlifted out during the Antarctic Winter" to that particular goal.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:16 PM on June 19, 2016 [34 favorites]


Godspeed.
posted by rodlymight at 12:26 PM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sending a rescue mission to the ISS is basically less of a big deal than getting a rescue mission to Antarctica at this time of year. That's mind boggling.
posted by COD at 12:27 PM on June 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Hope they remember to do the blood test with the hot wire before putting him on the transport.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:27 PM on June 19, 2016 [80 favorites]


Oof, godspeed and good luck.
posted by town of cats at 12:44 PM on June 19, 2016


Is it accurate to call them bush pilots if they're operating in Antarctica? I don't think there's any bush down there. They oughta get their own classification and associated mythology.
posted by kingv at 12:51 PM on June 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


One of my life goals is to come up with a valid reason to use my limited set of scientific skills in Antarctica. I'll add "and not need to get airlifted out during the Antarctic Winter" to that particular goal.

What if it's a horror movie scenario with flesh eating ice monkeys though.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:53 PM on June 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


The closest thing to flesh-eating ice monkeys down there is us.
posted by Rangi at 1:05 PM on June 19, 2016 [62 favorites]


What if it's a horror movie scenario with flesh eating ice monkeys though.

With the full moon engaged, surely it would be were-[flesh eating ice monkeys]. It's the only logical possibility.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:14 PM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


What sort of monster would a flesh eating ice monkey turn into under the full moon? Do we even want to find out?
posted by hippybear at 1:16 PM on June 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


The photo of a winter walk in full Antarctic moonlight looks like something out of Chesley Bonestell.

The comments are worth reading too, for their discussion of airplane model vulnerabilities and logistics as well as the vagaries of the Antarctic moon -- and a startling little tidbit:
On a side note the temperature reached a low of minus -135.8 degrees F there just last week the lowest temperature ever recorded, thanks to Man Made Global Warming.
posted by jamjam at 1:29 PM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


ChuraChura, think of the opportunity to study the social interactions of primates in captivity!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:30 PM on June 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


1. During the Eocene, Antarctica was basically a tropical rainforest, so there are likely early primates buried and fossilized below the ice - there are already people finding dinosaur fossils in Antarctica!

2. I should work on translocating snow monkeys to Antarctica, and then teach them to eat flesh.

3. In order to collect really good behavioral data, I'll also need to collect fecal samples to look at stress hormone concentrations. Anyone volunteering to be an assistant?
posted by ChuraChura at 1:43 PM on June 19, 2016 [21 favorites]


I used to apply for the various 'summer' jobs down there; stuff like office drone, kitchen worker, basically anything I thought I'd have even a tiny chance at. They're all temp/short term jobs, of course: none of the really hardcore science jobs that demand wintering over. None of those temporary five-months-and-out jobs pay very well, which makes it even funnier that last I heard they get something like two thousand applicants for every job opening.

ANYhoo: the Antarctic summer season for tourists is around December-February; for the seasonal staffs, it's usually October/November-March. Which means that now, the second half of June, in heading into the heart of winter, and it's getting worse each day. There's probably no daylight at this point, and won't be for months. So: needing to evacuate one, possibly two people, in shitty-getting-shittier weather and total darkness, in smallish planes. And probably bringing in replacements for those two evacuees, too.

Ah well, the good news is they've got Canadian pilots --- for several reasons, I'll bet on a Canadian pilot in that kind of situation over anybody else.
posted by easily confused at 2:00 PM on June 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


Being in Antarctica is serious business. I seem to recall they screen people who go there very carefully for precisely this reason, otherwise you might find yourself performing your own appendectomy.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:16 PM on June 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


Three pilots from the same company remain entombed in their wreckage from a failed Antarctic flight in 2013. This is no picnic.

Its incredibly difficult to predict to be sure of local weather conditions before hitting the commit point on carrying on to the final destination, with just enough fuel to get there and back. If something goes wrong there is not much room for error.

I've been fascinated by the ferry pilots who move light aircraft from North America to Europe, with similar concepts as they hop from Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, to Scotland with similar issues but this takes the cake.
posted by C.A.S. at 2:20 PM on June 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is it accurate to call them bush pilots if they're operating in Antarctica?


I think if you drive a Twin Otter, you automatically get the designation of "bush pilot."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:41 PM on June 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


The closest thing to flesh-eating ice monkeys down there is us.

yes good that's the tagline now do the trailer
posted by poffin boffin at 2:46 PM on June 19, 2016 [49 favorites]


Hey easily confused - at the risk of stimulating your jealousy... My cousin was a construction worker at Palmer Station this spring! He is also a photographer and the shots he posted to Facebool were unreal.
posted by entropone at 2:47 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I remember a student of my father's coming to dinner years after graduation and telling us stories of working in the Antarctic. The one i remember was how the heater broke, and they had to take turns going out and working on it. Each person would be out for about 5 minutes before their hands were too cold to hold tools with usable gloves, then they came back in, describe what they had done to the next person, and then sent them out, hoping that their hands would be warm again by the time their turn was up again. I asked how they were able to do that, and he looked at me and said 'the other option was freezing to death." Maybe he was teasing, but it had an impact on me.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:53 PM on June 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


> I think if you drive a Twin Otter, you automatically get the designation of "bush pilot."

The pilots who fly the floatplane Twin Otters between downtown Vancouver and Victoria are undoubtedly skilled, and could fly into much more remote areas, but I'm not sure I'd call them bush pilots.
posted by thewalrus at 2:55 PM on June 19, 2016


Man, Antarctican bush pilots are badass!

Those are arctic bush pilots.
posted by srboisvert at 3:01 PM on June 19, 2016


I am only willing to support this plan to translocate flesh-eating snow monkeys to Antarctica if we also bring hot tubs.
posted by biogeo at 3:02 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


During the Eocene, Antarctica was basically a tropical rainforest, so there are likely early primates buried and fossilized below the ice - there are already people finding dinosaur fossils in Antarctica!

Sure, sure, it always starts out with scientific wonder, but it ends with chanting the names of Boston T stations. I've been to this rodeo before.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:05 PM on June 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I thought a Bush Pilot was a someone who flies a bush plane or modified plane in a often harsh, undeveloped or uncivilized areas which include everything from Africa to Arctic. People are often surprised that polar areas have deserts too.
posted by futz at 3:08 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


In other words, I think the word Bush brings a certain terrain to mind just like Desert.
posted by futz at 3:10 PM on June 19, 2016


Did you just make this into a political thread? I mean, yeah Bush reminds me of a desert too, but....
posted by hippybear at 3:11 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was thinking more "pubic bush"...but of course your dirty mind goes straight to politics.

Get your mind out of the gutter hippybear!
posted by futz at 3:15 PM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've already had both my appendix and my gallbladder out; surely, that makes me an ideal candidate for antarctic research.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:28 PM on June 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


Did I miss it or does it not say what is wrong with the scientist being evacuated?
posted by bleep at 3:30 PM on June 19, 2016


THEY WON'T SAY AND IT'S DRIVING ME MAD

it has to be worse than a stroke or breast cancer so tbh i think it's pretty obvious

it's chestbursters
posted by poffin boffin at 3:34 PM on June 19, 2016 [19 favorites]


Good luck to the crew and the evacuee.

I know some folks who've wintered over at pole, but happily all of them completed their winters without major personal incident.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:50 PM on June 19, 2016




In 1999, a doctor who discovered a cancerous lump in her right breast treated herself — even performing her own biopsy and administering her own chemotherapy — for almost six months until the weather thawed enough for a rescue plane to arrive.

This is both an act of legendary badassery and probably a frustratingly high bar to set for everyone else down there who's contemplating calling in the rescue crew at this time of year.
posted by invitapriore at 4:18 PM on June 19, 2016 [28 favorites]


I suspect it would be a HIPAA violation for them to say, if it's medical, which is by far the most likely. Even if it was criminal I suspect they'd just lock someone up until daybreak, it's not like you can't conduct court proceedings over a internet link if needed. And given they've chosen not to evacuate for strokes and cancer, it's unlikely that even a mental breakdown would result in evac. So almost certainly a medical emergency with a high risk of immediate death.
posted by tavella at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's really amazing to think that, in this technological day and age, where we have machines rolling around on Mars and satellites beaming images back from the far edge of the solar system, there is still somewhere here on Earth that is essentially dangerously unreachable for part of the year.

Hoping all goes well.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:28 PM on June 19, 2016 [9 favorites]


Looking at Kenn Borek's web site, that looks like a fun place to work. The Mia Salvage project video reminded me why I used to like our shipyard's special projects group. Never had to off-station to Antarctica for one, but I suppose we'd be the closest if a submarine on ICEX needed something major fixed.
posted by ctmf at 4:55 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Kind of crazy that the best aircraft we've got is 50 years old.
posted by humanfont at 5:03 PM on June 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think I've seen this movie. This is how the demon from the mysterious vault that the researchers discovered and broke the seal on finds its way to civilization...
posted by jferg at 5:08 PM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is both an act of legendary badassery and probably a frustratingly high bar to set for everyone else down there who's contemplating calling in the rescue crew at this time of year.

i'm ready to call 911 when i drop the ps4 controller on my toe
posted by poffin boffin at 5:50 PM on June 19, 2016 [11 favorites]


Kind of crazy that the best aircraft we've got is 50 years old.

Actually, this is kind of how technology works. When the Twin Otter was designed the engineers knew that there was a lot they didn't know, and they left a lot of wiggle room in because of that. Nowadays engineers have much better models and especially when you're designing an airplane you use that to get the weight down to the bare minimum. You meet your targets with some precision.

But the old stuff? No, that's sturdy as hell because nobody really knew where the limits were. That's why a Twin Otter can fly to the South Pole in winter and no other aircraft can. It wasn't designed to do that, but it was designed to do whatever, where that was a great big question mark. Modern engineers have a list of specifications where that question mark was in 1950, and they design to them. The guys who designed the Twin Otter didn't know if it might be flying on Saturn or something, so they made it tough.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:17 PM on June 19, 2016 [57 favorites]


Kind of crazy that the best aircraft we've got is 50 years old.

The design is 50 years old.


For comparison, the primary four-engine turboprop transport used by all branches of the US military (and in many other capacities) is 60 years old. The main strategic bomber used by the US Air Force is also 60 years old. Some things just work.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:20 PM on June 19, 2016 [16 favorites]


Health problems in remote places are scary. I know someone who didn't catch that his headaches and fever were malaria until he collapsed and went into a coma in the middle of forest surveys in southwestern Liberia with one other person. His field assistant, Isaac, had to carry him out of the forest on his back, and then get him to the nearest hospital. Isaac called my friend's wife in the US to say "Scott is very sick and he's in the hospital in a coma," and then hung up. They finally figured out where he was, and he recovered fully, but man, it made me really concerned about keeping tabs on my health while I was doing fieldwork.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:26 PM on June 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


Calgary's Antarctic rescue mission delayed by weather
The aircraft are currently held at an airport in Punta Arenas, Chile, at the southern tip of the South American country.

Canadian planes wait in Chile before flying to Antarctica on medical mission
CALGARY – Two Canadian planes that are on their way to Antarctica on a medical mission are waiting on the southern tip of South America for favourable weather to complete their journey.
posted by rodlymight at 6:39 PM on June 19, 2016 [6 favorites]


Twin Otters are fantastic planes - they still make 'em:

http://www.vikingair.com/twin-otter-information

Safe travels.
posted by parki at 6:41 PM on June 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


I suspect it would be a HIPAA violation for them to say, if it's medical, which is by far the most likely. ... So almost certainly a medical emergency with a high risk of immediate death.

The one article mentioned that the first person to be have been evacuated was the doctor and they did it not so much because he was in imminent danger of dying, but because, if he did die or was completely incapacitated, there'd be no doctor.
posted by hoyland at 7:15 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I dream of a modern airframe constructed from advanced materials and modeled on a supercomputer and able to glide smoothly through the most challenging conditions with the aid of computers and fly by wire tech.
posted by humanfont at 7:28 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


The thing that chilled my blood was that the fuel turned to jelly. You make the wrong decision, your fuel will cool down and that's it. My very best wishes to the pilots and crew for the safest and most uneventful journey.

(My idea for deep snow nuclear hovercraft was turned down as being "both infeasible and terrifyingly dangerous, get away from me, you madman".)
posted by nfalkner at 8:23 PM on June 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I dream of a modern airframe constructed from advanced materials and modeled on a supercomputer and able to glide smoothly through the most challenging conditions with the aid of computers and fly by wire tech.

The HALT/HASS testing of the parts, regulatory approval, flight testing, and so on means that if we get started now, we might be able to get something out in, oh, ten years?
posted by Existential Dread at 8:44 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


> hitting the commit point on carrying on to the final destination, with just enough fuel to get there and back

I think the plane can carry only enough fuel to get there, and has to refuel for the flight back. That is, the commit is irreversible.
posted by anadem at 9:08 PM on June 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


So one of the rescue workers on this mission is a friend of a friend, and every time I see our mutual friend comment on dude's Facebook posts about prepping for this I get a little frisson of adventure. Eyes are currently peeled for updates, all crossable appendages are crossed for luck.
posted by palomar at 9:47 PM on June 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


I know what it is, it's that little penguin who wandered off in Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World. For nine long years, he's been out there biding his time, playing the long game... until now. He's back, he's pissed, and he's hungry.
posted by blueberry at 10:09 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm recovering from pancreatitis/gall stone obstruction, and ouch. I can't imagine going 48 hours without treatment.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:24 PM on June 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


So apparently "the right stuff" goes to scientists working in the Antarctic.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:24 AM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


In 1999, a doctor... treated herself... for almost six months until the weather thawed enough for a rescue plane to arrive.

I'm not sure 'thawed' is the right word here; it was -58°C. at the time. I've hung out a few times (most recently at USPACOM in the hills above Pearl Harbor) with the co-pilot of that mission, who is a fantastic guy. And who ended up having a peak in Antarctica named in his honor.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:08 AM on June 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


One of the highlights of 2015 for me was when I got to visit Jan Mayen for a few hours. I flew in by C-130 and I got to visit a buddy stationed there while the plane was unloaded. I did have it in the back of my head that one single problem with the aircraft would mean at least a couple of days unscheduled stay on the island...
posted by Harald74 at 4:57 AM on June 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


The thing that chilled my blood was that the fuel turned to jelly.

Which is something that not only Antarctic pilots need to deal with! If you fly from America to east Asia, you're frequently not traveling westward, but northward over the pole. Jet fuel can contain small amounts of dissolved water in it, and when temperatures drop enough the water precipitates out and freezes, clogging up fuel lines. Jet fuel is frequently treated with an additive called Prist to lower the freezing point of the dissolved water.

Of course, below -40 degrees or so the fuel is going to start freezing anyway and then you have a different problem on your hands.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:10 AM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Of course, below -40 degrees or so the fuel is going to start freezing anyway...

Celsius or Farenheit?

(For some reason that's one of my favorite bits of trivia)

Sounds incredibly risky, but at least it's been done before. I can only imagine the first team to do a midwinter rescue down there. Hope it goes well.
posted by TedW at 7:19 AM on June 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


But the old stuff? No, that's sturdy as hell because nobody really knew where the limits were. That's why a Twin Otter can fly to the South Pole in winter and no other aircraft can. It wasn't designed to do that, but it was designed to do whatever, where that was a great big question mark. Modern engineers have a list of specifications where that question mark was in 1950, and they design to them. The guys who designed the Twin Otter didn't know if it might be flying on Saturn or something, so they made it tough.

So anybody know where I can get a dishwasher built to this spec?


For comparison, the primary four-engine turboprop transport used by all branches of the US military (and in many other capacities) is 60 years old. The main strategic bomber used by the US Air Force is also 60 years old. Some things just work.

Okay, does anyone know where I can get a 60-year-old dishwasher?
posted by Naberius at 10:02 AM on June 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


Reminds me of the soviet team doctor Leonid Rogozov who in April 1961 found out he had apendicitis. So he operated on himself.
posted by jouke at 2:31 PM on June 20, 2016 [2 favorites]




It is possible that the evacuation flight will bring a second patient out of Antarctica.

Huh!
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:55 PM on June 20, 2016


I've been wondering about that possible second patient, and what could have resulted in two medical emergencies.

One possibility is two people who just couldn't get along in that kind of enclosed little community, and the result was violence and injuries. I feel this is the least likely option though, simply because they screen the dickens out of everyone sent down there --- and since there are so many people who want to go, it's no trouble to downcheck folks for even minor reasons. There are lots more scientific fish in the sea, so to speak; there's no need to risk personality problems when you can pick and choose your staff like that.

Another possibility is some sort of accident: for example a chemical spill or equipment failure that results in injuries (with the person closest to such an accident getting hurt worse).

Or maybe it's just a coincidence. Say if one person broke their leg but has been continuing to work, then a second person has a massive heart attack or something; since they're trying to evacuate the more-serious patient, they might decide that since they've got an evacuation flight coming anyway why not just add in the less-serious one.
posted by easily confused at 4:42 AM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Could also be something contagious. Possibly someone turned out to have an infectious disease and one other person volunteered to care for them. I wouldn't want to have, say, a really bad case of bronchitis at the South Pole.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:05 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Idlewords (by MetaFilter's own Maciej Cegłowski) currently has a nice piece on his visit to Antarctica.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:39 AM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


My friend Dr. Christine Corbett Moran is currently at the South Pole, tending to the South Pole Telescope (or as they call it there, the Telescope). She tweeted a few days ago that she wasn't being evacuated but of course couldn't say more for reasons of privacy for those involved.

She's been regularly posting ridiculously beautiful photos of the Telescope, the polar night and Aurora Borealis on Twitter and has a newsletter that I can heartily recommend!
posted by LanTao at 10:46 AM on June 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


Or maybe it's just a coincidence. Say if one person broke their leg but has been continuing to work, then a second person has a massive heart attack or something; since they're trying to evacuate the more-serious patient, they might decide that since they've got an evacuation flight coming anyway why not just add in the less-serious one.

This was my first thought. A less-serious, non-evacuation-worthy injury, but sure, while we're down there might as well grab them also.
posted by bologna on wry at 12:36 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Live camera feed from the South Pole station shows burning oil barrels lighting up the makeshift runway. twitter screenshot
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:32 PM on June 21, 2016


Oops - here's the live South Pole station webcam.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:33 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


The plane has landed - from twitter
posted by kms at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Huh, I thought they basically had to land, keep the engines running, and take off immediately as soon as the patients were loaded. At least, that was what happened in the evacuation I heard the most detail about. Does the new base have a place where they can put the plane where everything doesn't freeze?
posted by tavella at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


The landing: gif here
posted by Vibrissa at 2:57 PM on June 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


From the Nature article mentioned in the tweet that Lobster Mitten linked:
There is a possibility that a second person will be flown out at the same time. That person has a different medical condition that was being managed at the station and would normally have continued to be treated there, Falkner says. But given that the first person will be evacuated, the second might leave at the same time.
That sounds like two unrelated medical issues, I would think? Anyway, I have been completely fascinated by this for the past couple days. Fingers crossed for the return flight.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:01 PM on June 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe they've developed a better way to keep the fuel and grease on the plane from freezing? 'Cause that seemed to be the biggest problem with extending their time on the ground; I too thought they'd just unload the replacement people, load up the evacuees and get the heck out of there.

Then again, that's got to be some physically stressful flying for the pilots, as well as mentally stressful: fighting the cold and the winds, trying to find the Pole station in the dark, knowing that once you passed that halfway point of fuel usage you no longer had any other options.

Good to hear that at least they've landed safely. Hope their luck (and skill!) hold out.
posted by easily confused at 3:05 PM on June 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


NSF's facebook page says the plane crew will rest 10 hours at Amundsen-Scott before flying back out.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:05 PM on June 21, 2016 [3 favorites]




Looks like the exit flight took off about 6 hrs ago.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:52 AM on June 22, 2016


It's such a cute little plane! Somebody needs to write it a children's book called "The Brave Little Plane" or something about its daring rescue attempt. Complete with educational South Pole information about the sun never rising and the moon providing enough light to see.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:00 AM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]




Okay so I've been mentally writing this children's book all afternoon, in which Olivia Otter* feels sad because at her airport in Calgary she isn't the biggest plane like Bobby Boeing or the fastest plane like Lila Lockheed or the lightest plane like Ursula Ultralight or the farthest-flying plane like Aaron Airbus or the newest plane like Eddie Experimental. "It's okay, Olivia," her pilot reminds her. "You're the sturdiest plane of all." "But I can't go really far or fast or high. All my friends are the best at something, except for me." Then a call comes into Calgary -- there is a dangerous rescue mission for a man who's very, very sick and they need the best, bravest plane for it!

"It can't be me," says Bobby. "I'm too heavy and can't fly in such thin air." "It can't be me," says Ursula, "All my controls freeze if I get too cold." "Olivia," says her pilot, "It has to be you. No other plane is sturdy enough to fly to the South Pole."

So they fly from the top to the bottom of the globe to a very cold British air station (and see lots of charmingly illustrated terrain from the air on the way) where a crew prepared Olivia to fly to the coldest, remotest place a plane has ever flown. "The sun never rises during the winter here, Olivia," they tell her. "So you'll have to fly at night. But you can fly with the full moon and the stars to help you steer." They watch on her radar and in the flight base's radar until it's clear of storms and then Olivia and her pilot and crew take off to fly to the South Pole. It's the coldest Olivia has ever been, but she knows she's the only plane who can even fly in such cold, thin air without her oil freezing. Everything looks the same and it's dark and lonely, but she can see the moon and the stars to help her steer. At last they see the burning barrels that mark the runway and she's made it! She touches down in the frigid snow.

All the humans scuttle inside but Olivia has to wait outside in the cold for ten hours, waiting for her pilot to sleep and getting refueled. Every half an hour new humans come out from the base to help her keep warm and to thank her for flying so far, from the top of the world to the very very bottom, but it is cold and lonely and to keep from getting scared she gazes at the stars and dreams of flying farther than any plane has flown before, into the constellations. (The South Pole Station does a lot of astronomy.) Everybody's scared when it's time to take off again, because Olivia has been cold and still for ten hours and her gears might not work, but Olivia knows she can do it. They load the sick human up and she taxis to the makeshift snow runway, where she precariously manages to take off into the frigid, thin air and flies into the night again over the silent and still landscape.

Nine hours later, just when Olivia is afraid she may have gotten lost, she sees a gleam of pink on the horizon, and slowly she flies into the dawn and out of the eternal night, into a world with sunshine and runways and nice warm hangars for brave little airplanes. They land at Rothera to big cheers from the parka-clad ground crew, who hustle her into the hangar and give her a steaming mug of hot cocoa/oil.

"I may not be the fastest, or the biggest, or the lightest, but out of all the airplanes, I am the sturdiest, and I am the bravest," Olivia tells her pilot. "And I am the only one who could fly to the South Pole."

*Olivia because she's a de Havilland, geddit?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:43 PM on June 22, 2016 [58 favorites]


Goddamit, Eyebrows, you just made me cry.
posted by msali at 6:02 PM on June 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sounds good except cold air is thicker than warm air. They are having some concerns with the high temperatures in Arizona not providing enough lift.
posted by Mitheral at 6:02 PM on June 22, 2016


Cold air is thicker than warm air, but the air at the South Pole is very thin because it's also at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:03 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah some of the details are between fudged and invented (I assume I could research and actually find out what happens to the plane during the 10-hour stopover, I doubt it's "people running out to check on it every 30 minutes," and also clearly they navigate with electronics and not stars but stellar navigation is more interesting in a children's book), but my mea culpa for my bad science will be this set of nine photos of Olivia Otter landing at the South Pole. And here's the plane coming in for her landing at Rothera at the close of the successful mission.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:34 PM on June 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


My friend is wintering at the station working on a telescope. Apparently the rescue pilots brought apples and oranges for everyone, and Rothera station sent cake and cookies. <3
posted by Vibrissa at 7:37 PM on June 22, 2016 [20 favorites]


And they're out! Just landed in Chile.
posted by zadcat at 8:09 PM on June 22, 2016


Are you taking pre-orders, Eyebrows McGee? I would like this children's book. (For reals; that's an awesome story!)
posted by eviemath at 8:55 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Okay, where's the Kickstarter for the Olivia Otter illustrated children's book?
Please memail me a link kthxbai.

Seriously, I subscribed to the Kickstarter for the Hello, Ruby book, and I would join one for Olivia Otter as fast as I could type in my credit card info. Please, please do this! It will be *so* awesome.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:52 AM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh man, Eyebrows- count me in for the pre-order. I totally choked back a little tear at the last bit:

"I may not be the fastest, or the biggest, or the lightest, but out of all the airplanes, I am the sturdiest, and I am the bravest," Olivia tells her pilot. "And I am the only one who could fly to the South Pole."
''

I would 100% buy multiple copies of this book! And I am a single, childless 35 year old man!
posted by Philby at 7:37 AM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


So it never leaked what was so life-threatening they were willing to risk this hairy mission?
posted by ctmf at 11:02 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


HIPPA, dude. Whoever it was obviously didn't want it talked about, and that's perfectly fair.
posted by tavella at 11:05 AM on July 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


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