South Pole rescue all in a day's work for Kenn Borek Air crew
Published Tuesday, July 5, 2016 2:32PM EDT
For the first time since completing a risky South Pole rescue mission last month, a Calgary-based air crew shared details of their incredible journey.
The crew from Kenn Borek Air described the tough conditions they faced in late June, when they successfully reached the remote Amundsen-Scott research station, located in the South Pole.
The team embarked on the multi-leg mission to fly two sick researchers from the South Pole station to Chile, so they could receive the medical treatment they required.
To reach the workers, the team had to fly to Chile, before flying to the Rothera research station, located on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. From Rothera the team flew to the Amundsen-Scott station, located roughly 2,400 kilometres away.
Throughout the multi-stage flight, the crew faced challenging conditions, including lack of light, extreme cold temperatures of about -60 C, and lengthy flying times, with the journey from Rothera to Amundsen-Scott lasting about 10-hours alone.
But on Tuesday, the crew was all smiles as they recounted their experiences.
When asked how many of them would participate in a similar mission again, all of them raised their hand without any hesitation.
Flight Captain Wallace Dopchuk said, looking back at the journey and all the variables the crew had to consider, "it all came into place."
"We went to the South Pole and landed there," he told reporters. "Once we landed, everything went as planned."
And while there was some concern about ice on the planes’ wings and engine, Dopchuk said the two Twin Otter aircraft used in the mission are equipped to handle inclement weather.
The team also shared some of the minor details of the journey, including how they passed the time during the lengthy 10-hour flight to the Amundsen-Scott station.
Dobchuk said they sang songs with the "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," in heavy rotation.
"For some reason we all had 'In the Jungle' (in our heads)," he said, laughing. "We only know two verses… but we sang it for about three or four hours trying to kill the nine-and-a-half hour flight."
The crew also worried that a spicy Thai soup they snacked on would run out during the mission, Dobchuk said.
And while the team captured much international media attention, the crew was mostly unaware that the world was anxiously following each leg of their journey, he said.
"I wouldn't say we were fully aware," he said, adding that during these missions he usually only has enough time to make a quick phone call home, eat, and sleep.
"I wouldn't say I was connected through most of the trip."