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Twin Otter Down In The Antarctic

Hurricane-Force Conditions Hampering Rescue Efforts

A Twin Otter operated by Kenn Borek Air went down Wednesday on a supply run between the U.S. research station near the South Pole and an Italian station near Terra Nova Bay. There were three people reportedly on board the airplane.

Authorities think the airplane went down in the Queen Alexandra mountain range. The airplane's ELT immediately activated, according to a report appearing in The Australian. But high winds in excess of 90 knots and heavy snow have hampered rescue efforts. The weather was not expected to improve until Saturday.

Since the initial transmission, the ELT has stopped working. Rescuers have been unable to contact the plan by radio.

The mountain range where the plane went down has peaks over 12,000 feet high. Authorities say they plan to set up a base on Beardmore Glacier, which is about 30 miles from the presumed accident site. There is a crude runway and fuel supply at the glacier.

The plane had survival gear and food aboard. According to a release from the National Science Foundation, the aircraft is owned and operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd., a Canadian firm headquartered in Calgary that charters aircraft to the U.S. program.

Communications between U.S. officials at McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center confirmed that an emergency locator beacon had been activated. Officials are monitoring conditions at the site, where the weather is currently very poor, to decide when to launch a search of the area and what kind of aircraft to use.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) manages the U.S. Antarctic Program through which it coordinates all U.S. scientific research on the southernmost continent and in the surrounding Southern Ocean as well as providing the necessary logistical support for the science.

(Image by: Spencer Klein, NSF)

FMI: www.nsf.gov

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