Global Exploration and Recovery: 2016 Greenland Mission

Feathered Friends is a proud partner of Global Exploration and Recovery LLC (GEaR), a team attempting to bring home three Americans who lost their lives in Greenland in a World War Two plane crash.

GEaR team puts Feathered Friends bags to use Feathered Friends bags get a little sunshine while at work in Greenland last year.

In the next few weeks, the Global Exploration and Recovery (GEaR) team will be on their way to Greenland. They will be opening the next chapter of an incredible mission to bring home the wreckage of a US Coast Guard plane that crashed in 1942 and became buried inside a glacier. The saga of the multiple downed planes and rescue attempts are documented in the gripping New York Times best seller, Frozen In Time by Mitchell Zuckoff.

GEaR’s part of the story began in 2012, when a team was assembled for the first reconnaissance mission to try to find the missing plane. Their efforts were soon dubbed the Duck Hunt, after the name given to the lost Coast Guard seaplane. Over the last four years new teams have gone back, and this year GEaR is equipped with state of the art technology and a talented team who want to find the rest of the plane and bring home the servicemen.

The modern-day rescue attempts are the continuation of a saga that began in 1942, when Greenland became an incredibly important strategic location during WWII. The United States had just entered the war, and was trying to rush equipment and supplies to allies in Europe. The problem was, however, that the aircraft did not have adequate range to fly all the way across the Atlantic, so were forced to make shorter jumps across the arctic. Greenland was one of the most important stops, but its inhospitable climate made it one of the most dangerous places to touch down. It was and still is a landscape of wind, extreme cold, and desolate expanses of nothing but ice and steep cliffs.

Jaana Gustafsson working on the ice in Greenland. Jaana Gustafsson working on the ice in Greenland.

In November, during an early winter storm, a B-17 bomber and its crew of nine went down on the greenland ice cap. The crew was utterly unprepared for survival in cold weather, lacking gear, rations, and functional communication. They survived for weeks, however, through ingenuity, careful rationing of their limited resources, and strong leadership.

Multiple rescue attempts were made, including flights to the wreckage by a small duck plane piloted by Lt. John Pritchard and radioman Benjamin Bottoms. They made one successful flight, rescuing two crewmen from the B-17 bomber. The next day they flew again, and picked up U.S. Army Air Corps Cpl. Loren Howarth. During this flight, however, a storm rolled in and the plane crashed somewhere along it’s 40 mile flight back to the ship.

The three Americans were thought lost in the ice, until international efforts in 2012 found a section of the plane, but not the main fuselage that held Pritchard, Bottoms, and Howarth.

This summer GEaR returns to Greenland in the hopes of finding the rest of the airplane to lay the foundation for a full-scale recovery mission, with the ultimate goal of repatriating the three men and returning them to their families back home. The team members are John Bradley, Francis Marley, Nick Bratton, and Jaana Gustafsson. Thier broad range of expertise, experience, and technical skills make them the ideal team.

Feathered Friends is proud to support their mission with the warmest sleeping bags and jackets that are built to withstand the extreme conditions of Greenland.

To learn more, take a look at GEaR's Website

Read Zuckhoff’s riveting book. For a shorter overview, check out this book review from the Boston Globe.

Or look at the Coast Guard blog.