ADELAI, Australia, Jan. 2 (UPI) — Pieces of the nearly century-old wreckage of the first airplane brought to Antarctica have been found, a search team said.
Rusted metal tubing from the single-propeller Vickers, which crashed during a demonstration flight in October 1911, was found during low tide Friday among rocks in Commonwealth Bay at Cape Denison where explorer Douglas Mawson abandoned it, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday.
Mawson had removed the wings and intended to try to use the aircraft as a Earth-bound tractor with skis but that effort also failed, the newspaper said.
Members of the Australian expedition led by Dr. Tony Stewart spent three summers looking for the remnants of the aircraft while also working on the conservation of huts used by Mawson’s team, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Mawson had brought the airplane to the Antarctic just eight years after Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first powered air flight. The wreckage had been buried in ice since about 1975, the ABC said.
Stewart said luck played a part in the searchers’ success.
“Magnetometer, ground-penetrating radar metal detectors and all sorts of things to try and look for it, but in the end it was just a combination of a very low tide, good weather and a thin ice melt,” he said. “Our carpenter was just taking a walk along the beach and just saw the metal in 10 centimeters (4 inches) of water, just right next to the ice.
“This is the first time those rocks have been exposed in that area for some time so we’ve been walking around that area above the air tractor not knowing it was there under our feet all this time.”
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