Flying at the poles

My memories of flying in twin otters are a mixed bag of emotions. At times I’ve never been happier to see a plane land. The pilots, my knights rescuing me from 11 weeks on a deserted Arctic Island. The dreams of plumbing and cookies in Resolute soon to be a reality. But how elation would quickly turn to madness when those wily planes didn’t land by our carefully and precariously stacked cache. The pilots not trusting the stability of our boggy riparian zone, and instead opting for a boulder field or the next valley. But they never complained (to our faces), and instead spent hours moving boulders, as we spent hours shuffling gear.

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I remember air drops and fly-bys; short lived reminders of humanity beyond our tiny camp. I also remember foggy flights huddled behind our tonne of cargo, always trusting that the pilots could navigate their way through the labyrinth of the Arctic archipelago. And they always did.

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The landings could be rough. Sastugi hammering the skis, large rocks punishing the tundra tires. But the planes and pilots were built for this job. Delivering incredible scientists to crazy places. Or is that crazy scientists to incredible places? There is inherent risk in flying at the poles, and it is only because of the talented men and women who willingly fly in these extremes that science is possible.

The pilots are our mailmen, our rescuers, and if we’ve showered, our friends. Thank you to all the pilots who really do put themselves at risk to help us do our jobs.

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4 responses to “Flying at the poles”

  1. MaryBee says :

    Hilary, that is a truly beautiful and eloquent tribute. Today many Canadians are feeling for the grieving families, friends and colleagues of the Canadian Twin Otter pilots and mechanic who died when their plane crashed into the side of a mountain in Antarctica this week. We have been folllowing this story for several days now until today – not wanting to give up hope for a miraculous rescue.

  2. Dad says :

    Very eloquent.

  3. Denise says :

    Beautiful..

  4. Dan Jorgensen says :

    Love the photo of the one wheel touch down. They are rugged airplanes.

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