Frozen in Time: Recovery Mission


by Adrienne Lavidor-Berman on Jul 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Author Mitchell Zuckoff, a professor of journalism at Boston University, is heading to Greenland this summer to help recover three World War II heroes entombed inside a glacier since November 1942. Two of the men were Lieutenant John Pritchard and Radioman Benjamin Bottoms, crewmen of a Coast Guard amphibious biplane who were trying to rescue survivors from a B-17 bomber that crashed during a search mission. The third man was the radio operator of the B-17, Corporal Loren Howarth. Zuckoff described the historic events and the search for the lost plane in his most recent book, "Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II." In this blog, he'll be documenting the public-private partnership to carve through thousands of tons of ice to fulfill the U.S. military's promise to "leave no man behind."

Follow the stream below for updates on Zuckoff's travels. You can also follow him on Twitter @MitchellZuckoff.


  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/10/2013 11:57:52 PM

    Icebound


    A deep-ice crevasse in 1943 in Greenland near a remote fjord called Koge Bay, the scene of the historic story recounted in "Frozen in Time" and also the location of the expedition being documented in this blog.
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:46 PM

    Icebound.


    That's the word that sums up this blog. To begin with, I'm icebound. That is, I'm bound for the Ice Cap of Greenland as a member of an expedition to recover the remains of three heroic American airmen whose plane disappeared in a blizzard during World War II. Icebound also describes those men. During the seven decades since their tragic flight, roughly 40 feet of ice has accumulated atop their plane, leaving them entombed inside a glacier.

    I'll be using this blog to post updates, photos and videos before, during and after the expedition, to give readers an inside look at a extraordinary public-private partnership driven by the United States military's promise to "leave no man behind." Our scheduled departure is July 28, so check back for updates.

    First, let me use this inaugural post to provide some background and a spoiler alert.

    I'm a professor of journalism at Boston University, the author of six nonfiction books, and a former special projects reporter for the Globe. In April, HarperCollins published my latest book, "Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II." This blog is an extension of that book, which tells the story of three American military crews whose planes crashed in Greenland in November 1942. The book also describes a modern-day search for one of the planes and (here comes the spoiler) our against-all-odds discovery of its resting place last summer. Here’s the Boston Globe review, and here’s the website about the book, with a brief video “book trailer.”

    A thumbnail version of the historical story goes like this: In 1942, under a plan called Operation Bolero, the U.S. military sent hundreds of warplanes to Europe over what it called “The Snowball Route.” Delivery crews hopscotched bombers, fighters, cargo planes and other aircraft from American airbases to landing fields in Canada, Greenland, and Iceland, and finally to Allied bases in England. It was faster and, for the most part, safer than putting the planes on ships, where they’d be prey for German U-boats prowling the Atlantic.

    One problem was that flying over Greenland sometimes meant flying into Greenland. Numerous “Snowball Route” pilots described the terrifying experience of encountering blinding storms in the skies over the Ice Cap that covers most of the world’s largest island. The horizon disappeared, ground and sky blended together, and windblown snow reduced visibility to zero. Airmen called it “flying in milk.

    On November 5, 1942, a U.S. cargo plane called a C-53 Skytrooper was returning to a base in Greenland from a trip to Iceland. The military weather forecast included three ominous words: fog, snow and overcast. The C-53 went down somewhere near the east coast of the big island. All five crew members survived the crash, and soon they began sending plaintive radio messages seeking rescue.

    No one believed the crew could survive long in the Arctic cold and storms, so time was of the essence. More than a dozen aircraft were detoured from their destinies as warplanes and redeployed as search planes. One was a fearsome B-17 bomber, a “Flying Fortress” with a crew of six plus three soldiers who’d volunteered to serve as searchers for the lost C-53.

    The B-17 was called the PN9E, after its radio call sign. While scouring an area on the east coast of Greenland known as Koge Bay, the PN9E flew into milk. Heavy cream was more like it. Pilot Armand Monteverde tried to escape the storm, but when he dipped the left wing to turn it slapped against a glacier. The big bomber belly-flopped onto the ice and raced along the cold face of Greenland like a giant bobsled. It broke in half from the impact and careered across a field of crevasses, deep gashes that extended hundreds of feet down into the glacier. When the PN9E came to rest, several crewmen were injured but all nine were alive. They huddled together in the plane’s tail section, which hung precariously over an open crevasse.

    Searches continued for the C-53 cargo plane, but it remained lost. Meanwhile, two weeks after the PN9E crashed, a pilot spotted the wrecked bomber and dropped supplies to the starving, half-frozen survivors. After several failed rescue efforts, the crash site was deemed impossible to reach on the ground because of the crevasses. But a brave Coast Guard rescue pilot thought he had a better idea.

    Lieutenant John Pritchard Jr. proposed landing on a stretch of solid ice not far from the bomber. With no other options, and fearing that the PN9E crew might die in frozen agony, Pritchard’s superiors reluctantly approved. On November 28, 1942, Pritchard and his rescue teammate, Radioman Benjamin Bottoms, climbed into an odd little amphibious biplane known as a Grumman Duck. The plane was lowered from the Coast Guard cutter Northland into the frigid waters of Koge Bay, and Pritchard and Bottoms taxied off into history. (Pritchard was from California, but Bottoms had a strong Massachusetts connection: he was based at the Coast Guard’s Salem Air Station, and his wife Olga was the daughter of a Gloucester fisherman).

    By day’s end, Pritchard and Bottoms had made the first planned landing and takeoff from a Greenland glacier and succeeded in rescuing two members of the bomber crew. The following morning, they returned to the glacier and picked up another PN9E survivor, Corporal Loren “Lolly” Howarth, who had endured frozen fingers to rebuild the bomber’s damaged radio. A storm blew in while Pritchard, Bottoms and Howarth were flying back to the Northland. After a frantic call to the ship, the rescue plane’s radio went dead. The Duck and the three men aboard had disappeared.


    The Grumman Duck rescue plane at the center of this expedition, photographed on November 28, 1942, one day before the plane disappeared. In this image, Lieutenant John Pritchard, the pilot, and Radioman Benjamin Bottoms, are taxiing away from the Coast Guard cutter Northland en route to the Koge Bay glacier to retrieve two of the nine crewmen from the B-17 crash. (U.S. Coast Guard photo, courtesy of Charles Dorian.)
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 10, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    My book “Frozen in Time” follows the remaining PN9E crewmen over the excruciating winter of 1942-43. It features selfless acts of heroism, dramatic supply flights, and a white-knuckle rescue attempt using a larger seaplane as well as dogs, motorsleds, and men who refused to quit until the last survivor was home. It also describes how the crews of the C-53 and the Duck were given up for lost.

    Over the decades that followed, Pritchard and Bottoms became Coast Guard legends for their attempt to save Howarth and the other PN9E crewmen. Eventually, an unlikely collection of retired Coast Guard officers and private explorers began plotting to find the Duck and the remains of Pritchard, Bottoms and Howarth. Through a convoluted, contentious and sometimes comic process described in depth in the book, an expedition to Greenland took shape that we called “Duck Hunt 2012.” I participated in the expedition as a crew member, chronicler and partial funder, using my publisher’s advance and my American Express card. 

    Here (spoiler alert redux) is the official Coast Guard press release about last summer’s expedition and here is the Globe story about the discovery.

    This summer, having succeeded in our mission to locate the missing plane, we’re determined to finish the job by excavating thousands of tons of ice (more on that in a later post) to reach the men’s remains and bring them home. It promises to be a monumental effort, featuring remarkable men and women whom I’ll introduce in later posts; an astonishing setting atop a remote glacier; high-tech devices such as ice-penetrating radar and deep-ice video cameras; low-tech standbys such as shovels, extra socks and blankets; and a collective sense of purpose to honor three fallen heroes.

    Wish us luck, and stay tuned for updates here in the days and weeks ahead.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/14/2013 10:23:52 PM
    DESTINATION: KOGE BAY

    This screen shot from Google Earth shows a yellow push pin at our destination: a glacier on the edge of a fjord known as Koge Bay (officially Koge Bugt). It's also labeled "BW-1" because that's what we called the particular spot on the glacier where we made our discovery in August 2012.
     
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 14, 2013 at 10:20 PM



  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/28/2013 2:49:49 PM


    RECOVERY MISSION DAY 1 -- OUR TARGETS


         TRENTON, N.J. – We’re at Trenton-Mercer Airport, waiting for the Coast Guard C-130 cargo plane to take our recovery team and more than twelve tons of equipment and supplies to Greenland. This seems like a good time to introduce the three World War II heroes whose remains we hope to carve from a glacier and bring home.

    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 28, 2013 at 2:45 PM



    JOHN PRITCHARD Jr.

             Pritchard was 28 and single, a native of South Dakota who moved to Los Angeles with his family as a boy. He had clear blue eyes, brown hair slicked back from his high forehead, and a strong jawline that anchored a thoughtful expression. He stood a trim five feet, ten inches tall.

            The eldest of five children, he graduated from Beverly Hills High school with a dream of becoming a naval officer. Pritchard spent more than two years in the U.S Navy before being accepted to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Class of 1938. His roommate there, a future vice admiral, remembered Pritchard breaking into song every morning upon waking. “At first, starting the day like this was a little wearing,” recalled Thomas Sargent, “but his enthusiasm for life was so infectious I actually looked forward to reveille.” He called Pritchard “the happiest man I have ever known.

            After the academy and several postings aboard ships, Pritchard was accepted for flight training and became Coast Guard Aviator No. 82. Promoted to lieutenant, he was named the pilot of the Grumman Duck amphibious biplane aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Northland. The ship was part of the Greenland Patrol, cruising the waters around the ice-covered island during World War II, and Pritchard flew countless miles over and around Greenland on reconnaissance and rescue missions.

            For leading the rescue of three Canadian fliers whose bomber went down on the Greenland Ice Cap, Pritchard received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the second-highest noncombat award for bravery. The citation hailed his “intelligent planning, fearless leadership and great personal valor.

            The day before Pritchard disappeared, he made the world’s first successful landing and takeoff from a Greenland glacier to rescue two members of a B-17 crew that had crashed on the ice. A residence hall at the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama, is named in his honor.



    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 28, 2013 at 2:46 PM


    BENJAMIN BOTTOMS

            Bottoms was 29, a farm boy who enlisted in the Coast Guard after high school. The bearded, blue-eyed Bottoms was an easygoing radioman first class who impressed his shipmates with a relentless work ethic. At five-foot-ten and 145 pounds, Bottoms could have shared a wardrobe with Pritchard. He had a deep Southern accent that earned him the nickname “Georgia Cracker.

            While stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Salem, Massachusetts, Bottoms married Olga Rogers, the daughter of a Gloucester fisherman. He grew close to her young son, Edward “Bud” Richardson, who idolized his stepfather.

            “The biggest thing I remember about him is that he taught me not to be prejudiced,” Richardson said. “Sometimes he’d show up with two or three soldiers or sailors, whoever was at the bus stop that night, looking to go into town to have a few drinks or whatever. He’d bring them home for dinner instead.

            “I recall him bringing home a black man, and I had never seen anybody other than people who were white. I must’ve looked surprised, and he told me, ‘There are different people in this world, different colors, different eye shapes, but they’re all people. That’s just how God made them.’” As a boy, Richardson dreamed of going to Greenland to bring his stepfather home. 

            Bottoms joined the Northland in 1941 and paired up with Pritchard the following year. When he disappeared, he was awaiting a promotion to chief petty officer. His name, too, adorns a residence hall at the Coast Guard facility in Mobile, Alabama.



    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 28, 2013 at 2:48 PM

      
    LOREN “LOLLY” HOWARTH

            Howarth was 23, a boyishly handsome Army Air Forces corporal from Wausaukee, Wisconsin. Quiet and thoughtful, five-foot-seven and 130 pounds soaking wet, Howarth had soulful dark eyes and a serious set to his mouth.

            Born in a log cabin built by his logger father, Howarth was the second of four brothers who grew up hunting deer and living off the land. In winter, their cabin was cut off by heavy snow, and he and his brothers had to ski several miles each way to school.

            Howarth enlisted in early 1942 after working his way through La Crosse (Wisc.) Teachers College by washing dishes in local restaurants. After the war, he hoped to be a drama teacher or possibly an actor. Several months after joining the military, Howarth married his former landlady.

            Howarth was a radioman in the Air Transport Command, a unit whose job was to ferry planes to and from bases in the United States and overseas. He was on his first overseas trip in November 1942 when a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber his crew was delivering to England was diverted to search for a downed cargo plane on the East Coast of Greenland.

            When the B-17 crashed, too, Howarth earned his crewmates’ undying respect by suffering through frozen fingers to rebuild their broken radio and call for help.  When a motorsled driver trying to rescue the crew fell into a crevasse, Howarth rushed to meet Pritchard and Bottoms in the Grumman Duck to ask them to quickly return to the Northland for help.

            The obituary in his local newspaper declared: “The sadness and sacrifice of war has fallen on a mother who now must carry Wausaukee’s first gold star. … Taps for Corporal Loren Howarth, a fine boy and a hero.” In 1951, a VFW post in Illinois was named for him.

    _______________

            All three of these men sacrificed their lives trying to save others. Our task on this mission is to recover their remains and let them rest in their home soil.


  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/28/2013 8:53:47 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION DAY 1 -- AIRBORNE

    The Duck Hunt 2013 expedition is officially under way! We took off at 12:35 EST from Trenton Mercer Airport bound for a refueling stop in Goose Bay, Labrador, en route to Keflavik, Iceland. From there, we'll be flying to Kulusuk, a remote fishing village on the east coast of Greenland. And then we'll be taking helicopters to the Koge Bay glacier to get to work.
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 28, 2013 at 8:32 PM



    Inside the C-130 with Lou Sapienza, president of North South Polar, the expedition company working with the Coast Guard and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command on the recovery effort. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 28, 2013 at 8:48 PM

  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/29/2013 4:07:22 AM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- EARLY DAY 2

    SOMEWHERE OVER THE NORTH ATLANTIC -- If you've never flown aboard a military cargo plane, consider yourself lucky. 

    I'll admit that I was excited when I first set foot on a Coast Guard C-130 in the summer of 2012 for the discovery effort that paved the way for this recovery mission. It's a rugged airplane, with a gaping cargo bay, exposed wiring, and a members-only cachet. It feels like every cool commando movie you've ever seen. You can't buy a ticket onto one; if you're on board, someone in a chain of command has decided that you belong there.

    In my case, Coast Guard Commander Jim Blow believed that I would contribute to the glacier-exploration effort we called Duck Hunt 2012. He also sensed that I would honestly tell the historical story while documenting the military's commitment to leave no man, or woman, behind. His superiors trusted his judgment, so that was my ticket.

    I'm deeply grateful to Jim, but after a number of C-130 flights, the glamour has worn off. Now, in my ninth hour in the belly of the beast, I can't stop wondering if he was having some fun with a soft civilian. 

    For much of this trip, I've sat hunched on a red nylon jump seat, with lumpy bags of emergency immersion suits as my backrest. For a while I stretched out on some cargo duffels, but then expedition team leader Lou Sapienza stole my spot when I wasn't looking. I'm shooting him dirty looks as I write this, but Lou's asleep so he doesn't notice.
    Inside our fully loaded C-130. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 29, 2013 at 3:53 AM
    The only consolation is knowing that the cargo bags feel as though they're filled with rocks. The engine noise is overpowering even with earplugs, the only food is whatever's in my bag, the temperature control is my sweatshirt, and the toilet is little more than a hole in the side of the plane. Last year there was a shower curtain for privacy; apparently that was too luxurious so this year it's al fresco.


    A few days ago, I flew round-trip between Boston and Washington, D.C., aboard JetBlue. Cushy, reclining seats; TVs in every headrest; hot coffee; chocolate chip cookies; blue corn chips! Ah, commercial.

    And yet, as I sit here with my feet resting on the tank-like rubber treads of a Terex PT-30 compact track loader that we'll be using to carve through millions of pounds of glacial ice, I'm reminded that for certain missions, this is the only way to fly.




  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/29/2013 12:31:08 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- DAY 2

    KEFLAVIK, Iceland -- We arrived early today in this port town on the southwest coast of Iceland, where we're gathering last-minute supplies and confronting last-minute crises. We'll be here until tomorrow, when we'll make the short hop  to Kulusuk, Greenland.

    The drama of whether we'll be able to complete the mission has already begun, but before I get into that, it's worth taking a minute to reflect on how we're getting to Greenland.

    Our flight plan is following much of the same route used during a World War II effort called Operation Bolero. During the first years of the war, hundreds of warplanes rolled off American factory lines then flew a hopscotch, northerly route from the United States to Europe, stopping along the way in Greenland and Iceland.


    This map shows the route used by American warplanes flying to Britain for Operation Bolero. Our destination is near the spot on the Greenland map labeled "Lost Squadron."  
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 29, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    The B-17 crew whose story is told in "Frozen in Time" was flying that very route when they were diverted to search for a lost cargo plane on the east coast of Greenland. 

    Our itinerary was designed for safety and efficiency, but it's nice to imagine it as an unintended tribute to the story whose last chapter we hope to write.

    Meanwhile, later today we'll be moving much of the heaviest equipment and machinery off the C-130 cargo plane and onto a Danish ship that will take it to the Koge Bay fjord in Greenland. One problem, among many, is that it's not clear whether a heavy-lift helicopter will be available to carry the big machines from the ship to the glacier where we'll be setting up camp. Suddenly we're discussing whether the machines will have to be broken into pieces for the journey, a less-than-ideal option that raises the possibility the machines won't be available. We don't even want to think about trying to dig through the ice without them.

    While the helicopter question gets sorted out, groups of expedition team members have been scouring Keflavik for supplies. Safety team leaders Frank Marley and John Bradley ran wild through a local supermarket. Expedition chief Lou Sapienza and associate project manager Joe Tuttle worked the phones. I joined our mechanical operations wizard, Robert "WeeGee" Smith, and geophysicist Jaana Gustafsson on a shopping spree at a local hardware store to buy a load of lumber, giant garbage bags, dust pans (why we need these on the ice is a mystery to us all), various other items, and huge rolls of that all-purpose, can't-beat-it, fix-anything wonder: duct tape.

    Right now, it feels as though we should buy a few more rolls.



  • Jim Longley 7/29/2013 1:26:06 PM
    Looking forward to hearing of your progress. My father was US Army Signal Corps/Air Force during WWII and as a radar expert traveled back and forth to Europe "regularly" enough so that he had his uniforms tailored to conceal his .357 in its shoulder holster. While I am sure he never was involved in any rescue or recovery efforts in Greenland, I do know he crossed it a bunch of times and he spoke often of the bleakness of the landscape and his surprise, the first time he actually set foot there, that people actually lived there.
  • gregg reynolds 7/29/2013 1:26:06 PM
    Good Luck on the Great Frozen Duck Hunt!
  • Jan J 7/29/2013 1:26:06 PM
    Trade you places:)
  • Jan J 7/29/2013 1:26:06 PM
    Safe journey and success on the ice.
  • John Burke 7/29/2013 1:26:06 PM
    The book was terrific, looking forward to this final chapter and wishing the team good weather and success in this extremely complicated endeavor.
  • David G 7/29/2013 7:30:24 PM
    Mr. Zuckoff, I feel like I'm still reading the book only the pages are coming a lot slower and the anticipation is grueling. Best of luck to you, Lou, Jim, Weegee, Jaana and the rest. Bring 'em home and God speed.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/29/2013 9:38:55 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- DAY 2

    KEFLAVIK, Iceland -- During last year's expedition, we adopted a mantra of sorts whenever something went awry, "What Would WeeGee Do?" The question evolved as we realized that no matter the problem, Robert "WeeGee" Smith would find a way to fix it.

    Now, facing a major hurdle to getting our most crucial digging equipment to the glacier, we revived the WWWD question, and of course he answered.

    By way of background, WeeGee is a prodigiously gifted mechanic who builds and repairs rally cars in Colchester, Vermont. He's also our most experienced Greenland hand, having participated in multiple months-long expeditions to dig through glaciers in search -- usually successfully -- of World War II planes.

    WeeGee also happens to be the most youthful sixty-year-old I've ever known, fit and spry and possessed with a seemingly limitless supply of infectious energy. He's outspoken, funny, charming and one of the most decent men I've ever met.

    As hours passed, we seemed no closer to securing a heavy-lift helicopter that could fly our two compact track loaders, each weighing 3,600 pounds, to the glacier at Koge Bay. So WeeGee borrowed tools at the Kefkavik Airport and began taking apart a machine he'd never worked on before.

    Robert "WeeGee" Smith in the midst of disassembling a compact track loader at the Keflavik Airport so it can be hoisted to the Koge Bay glacier. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 29, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    By the end of the day, pieces of machinery were scattered around an airport garage, and the heaviest remaining section weighed about twelve hundred pounds. Or, light enough to be flown to the glacier with an available helicopter.

    While WeeGee was saving the day (again), the rest of us worked in a huge hangar organizing our supplies and equipment for the mission, dividing the cargo between crates that would travel by ship and those that would be put back on the Coast Guard C-130 for tomorrow's flight.

    Safety team leader John Bradley organizes waterproof boots while geophysicist Jaana Gustafsson (left, in orange shirt) and Coast Guard contracting officer Pesebra Cartwright stand by. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 29, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    Also today, we met up with team members from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the government agency funding and overseeing this mission. We had already linked up with several favorite Coast Guard crew members from Duck Hunt 2012 who are back for another adventure on ice: Captain Kenneth "Doc" Harman, our chief medical officer; Lieutenant Commander Rob Tucker; and Petty Officer Second Class Jetta Disco. Meeting us on the ice will be Commander Jim Blow. When he's on hand, it will feel like we've put the band back together.

    Finally, the best and worst news of the day arrived in a single truck: the food.

    From left, expedition chief Lou Sapienza, his deputy Joe Tuttle, and safety team leader Frank Marley inspect the shipment of Mountain House food. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 29, 2013 at 9:24 PM

    The good news is that we won't starve on the ice. The less-good is that our entire diet for the weeks ahead consists of Mountain House meals with appetizing names including "Freeze Dried Minced Beef," "Freeze Dried Chicken and Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce with Noodles," and "Freeze Dried Pasta with Lasagne Sauce." You get the idea.

    The worst news of all came when we looked closely at the labels. A new question emerged: If food is "Best Before February 2038" and it's only 2013, can it still be considered food? We'll find out.

    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 29, 2013 at 9:31 PM



     


      

  • Bud Richardson 7/30/2013 12:23:15 AM
    I can't believe it's happening. Maybe that's why I'm still here. Godspeed.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/30/2013 12:25:13 AM
    Thank you, Bud! It means the world to all of us to know that you're with us in spirit.
    (As mentioned in the Day 1 post called "Our Targets," Bud is the stepson of Benjamin Bottoms.)
  • Jan j 7/30/2013 7:35:43 AM
    Mitch, great job of keeping us up to date. Thanks.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/30/2013 7:42:59 AM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- DAY 3 -- A Solemn Reminder

    KEFLAVIK, Iceland -- As we made final preparations to leave Iceland today for Greenland, we received a solemn reminder of our purpose:

    Coast Guard contracting officer Pesebra Cartwright and JPAC Staff Sergeant Brian Kimball load three empty transport caskets for the remains we intend to recover at Koge Bay. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 30, 2013 at 7:37 AM




  • Leama 7/30/2013 7:58:09 PM
    I picked up your book a few days ago at random from my library and it was the last of three books I've read since. I finished reading it 15 minutes ago, Washington, D.C. time. I needed to find out what was happening and, holy moly, here you are. I will be keeping up with this extraordinary adventure and keeping you, Lou, WeeGee and the whole team, not to mention all the heroes, past and present, in my thoughts.
  • Bil 7/30/2013 7:58:17 PM
    Good reporting Mitch. Give the team my best regards and good luck. Though not on the ice with you this time, my thoughts and prayers are with you all for a successful recovery. And WeeGee? See you state side after this is over!
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/30/2013 8:05:25 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION – Day 3

    ABOARD THE C-130 -- Greenland is hard to fathom.

    It’s the world’s largest island, larger than Alaska and California combined, yet almost completely empty. Fewer than 60,000 people live there, a majority of them Inuit, clustered in small settlements battened to the rocks along the coast. More than 80 percent of the land is covered with ice as much as two miles deep. Glacial winds race across the ice, and temperatures of 40 degrees below zero are met with shrugs by the locals. Almost nothing is green.

    The facts and details are impressive, but they don’t do Greenland ustice. The best way to understand it is to visit; the next best way is to see it. I’ll be posting as many photos and videos as possible in the weeks ahead, technology and weather permitting.

    UPDATE: We landed in Kulusuk, Greenland, at about 1 p.m. local
    time.
    We’re rushing now to get our gear onto helicopters to fly to the glacier
    while the weather holds. It might take me a day or more to re-establish the ability to post new items, photos, etc., but keep checking in.

    Special thanks to the crew of the Elizabeth City, North Carolina-based
    Coast Guard C-130 who got us here safely, with some of the softest landings
    imaginable:

    -- Lieutenant Commander Peyton Russell, aircraft commander.

    -- Lieutenant Brian Boland, pilot.

    -- Lieutenant Jeremy Strickland, pilot.

    -- AMT 3 David Schmelter, C-130 mechanic.

    -- AMT1 Jason Kowalski, C-130 mechanic.

    -- AET Matthew Garner, avionics electronics technician.







  • Rockport Lib 7/30/2013 8:11:31 PM
    Mitch, all your friends, readers, and fans here in Rockport are following your accounts with bated breath and heartfelt best wishes for a successful journey and safe return for one and all. We feel like we're there with you.
  • Aunt Doreen 7/30/2013 11:45:52 PM
    Wishing you the best of luck on your journey. I'm enjoying reading your blog. I've only just started the book a couple of days ago - I'm sure you understand why I've been busy :) and I'm really getting into it now. Stay safe.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/31/2013 12:29:25 AM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- LATE DAY 3

    KULUSUK, Greenland -- The first rule of a Greenland glacier expedition is that no matter how well you plan, plans always change.

    A six-member advance team took the first helicopter and a load of camping gear to the glacier, expecting most of the remaining eleven members of our group to follow closely behind. But a combination of weather and complicated loading requirements slowed our progress, so we're spending the night at a little hotel near the airstrip.

    The delay gave us time to walk a mile of winding dirt road, past two cemeteries filled with simple white wooden crosses, into the weatherbeaten Inuit fishing village of Kulusuk, home to about three hundred people and twice as many sled dogs. 

    As we entered the village, we looked down to the iceberg-filled harbor and noticed a handful of young people gathered at the little cement dock. We wandered down to find Muku Utuaq, a 23-year-old fisherman and airport security guard whom we'd befriended last year. In addition to helping us find supplies, Muku had provided us with unusual souvenirs: four-inch-long teeth from a killer whale he had hunted to feed his community.

    Knife in hand, Muku was hard at work on the rocks below the dock, butchering a seal to feed the twenty-two sled dogs he cares for on a rocky outcropping next to his red wooden house. Thirteen of the huskies are his own, eight belong to his older brother, and one seems to be unclaimed. He feeds them only once every other day in the summer, and the dogs were howling, jumping and straining at the ends of their chains.

    Muku Utuaq butchers a seal for meat to feed his sled dogs. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 30, 2013 at 11:50 PM

    As he dropped piles of bloody seal meat and bones before each dog, the howling subsided and the only sound was the tearing of flesh.

    We walked around the village awhile, watching small children jumping from rock to rock in the harbor and bouncing on a trampoline in a field of boulders next to a cemetery. We looked at each other with a shared thought: we're a long way from home.

    Children play on the rocks in Kulusuk's harbor. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 31, 2013 at 12:20 AM


    That thought was reinforced over dinner at the Hotel Kulusuk, literally the only place to stay if you're passing through these parts. The hotel is comfortable and extremely well run, and the communal meals are first rate.

    I sat with Finn Siegstad, a Greenland native who is an account manager for Air Greenland. As we ate he taught me some words in Inuit, which locals call Greenlandic, that reveal a lot about this place.

    "We never have any war, so the word doesn't exist," Finn said. The closest approximation is "sorsunnersuaq," or "the big fighting," a reference to World War II. 

    Finn also said that living in a place so hostile to human habitation shaped the language of greetings and sendoffs. Specifically, he said there's no real translation for "hello" or "goodbye."  

    "When we greet someone, we say 'Inuungujoq!' which means 'Ah, you're alive!' -- it's a surprise to see someone again once they've left. When someone leaves, we might not see them again, so we say 'Inuulluarit,' which means 'Have a good life.'"

    When the meal ended, I wished Finn "Inuulluarit," but I hope I get a chance to say "Inuungujoq!" to him in the future. 

    Our latest plan calls for me to leave on the first helicopter early tomorrow, so I might not be posting again until we get satellite communications in place on the glacier late tomorrow or the next day. That is, unless plans change.

  • Traci Tucker 7/31/2013 9:45:04 AM
    Thank you, Mitchell! This blog will help me and my parents follow Rob's (Lieutenant Commander Tucker) adventure. He was so excited to be returning to Greenland. Good luck to everyone!
  • Jan J 7/31/2013 9:45:09 AM
    Mitch, you make it so real. I must confess I get overwhelmed just reading about the expedition. What you, Lou, Jim and the rest of the team must be feeling!
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/31/2013 9:45:46 AM

    RECOVERY MISSION – DAY FOUR

    POLAR BEAR SIGHTING

    KULUSUK, Greenland – My new friend Finn Siegstad came to
    breakfast today bearing news (forgive the pun): a polar bear was seen yesterday
    in the general vicinity of Koge Bay.

    Finn, an account manager for Air Greenland, heard about the
    bear from a pilot, who said it was near the water about halfway between Kulusuk
    and Koge Bay, or about 50 miles from our dig site.

    Predictably, this set off a round of polar bear humor at
    breakfast.
    Someone suggested the sighting was actually expedition chief Lou
    Sapienza in a white blanket; someone else offered that the bear would be
    tracking our helicopter flights, counting the number of people on board each,
    then alerting his friends, “Party at Koge Bay.
    ” Several of us decided that our
    best course of action would be to share a tent with safety leader Frank Marley
    and the rifle and shotgun he keeps by his side.

    One hopefully final note on this polar bear that we might never see: on
    my way to New Jersey from Boston to meet the Coast Guard plane, Lou and his
    chief operating officer, Aaron Bennet, asked me to stop at a Cabela’s outdoor
    store for a few last-minute items.
    They included 22 cans of bear repellent and
    ammunition for the guns.
    Glad I made the stop.


  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/31/2013 9:44:55 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- DAY FOUR

    ON THE ICE

    KOGE BAY GLACIER, GREENLAND – We’re here.

    After several more changes of plans, I grabbed a seat aboard
    one of two helicopters that made the morning run to Koge Bay.

    Our Air Greenland pilot, Tom Andreassen, flew l and fast along
    the coast, making us feel as though we were inside a rock skimming from one huge
    iceberg to the next. Just as with clouds, if you look creatively at icebergs
    you can see anything from a stadium-sized slice of lemon merengue pie, to the
    Sydney Opera House, to a medieval castle.

    About halfway through the hour-long flight, Tom dipped low
    over the frozen terrain where a polar bear was spotted hunting yesterday. I
    scoured the icy ground with Tom and my fellow passengers, geophysicist Jaana
    Gustafsson and project manager Joe Tuttle. (Joe has a special connection to
    this story, specifically to John Pritchard, that I’ll describe in a future
    post.) We saw bear tracks but not the beast that made them. Let’s hope it stays
    that way.



















    (PHOTO OR PHOTOS ON HELO)

    The first order of business upon arrival was a well-received
    tutorial by Major Jeremiah Ellis, commander of the expedition for JPAC, the
    Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which oversees recoveries of lost military
    personnel and is the primary source of funding for this mission.

    After some preliminaries about camp protocol, Ellis moved to
    the main attraction: a fully clothed demonstration of the proper use of the
    camp toilet, involving bags and flags and our phone booth-sized latrine tent.
    He offered a firsthand account of his own intestinal maladies on past
    expeditions – you had to be there to fully appreciate it – to remind us that we
    won’t be much use if we’re not healthy from one end of the alimentary canal to
    the other. He held his audience rapt, and Coast Guard Captain Ken “Doc” Harman,
    our chief medical officer, pronounced Ellis’s recommendations medically sound
    and hygienically wise.

    The meeting broke up and it was time to find our individual
    homesteads for the weeks ahead. The half-dozen team members who arrived
    yesterday had already laid out the campsite on a rock outcropping called a nunatak, roughly 600 meters across an ice field from our planned excavation
    site. We nine newcomers scrambled on the rocks like scorpions, looking for
    flat-enough spots for our sleeping tents. Locations quickly earned nicknames
    based on proximity to the large dome command tent.

    I chose an alcove created by boulders in an area we dubbed
    “the countryside,” on high ground with a spectacular view of BW-1, the location
    where we believe the Grumman Duck with John Pritchard, Benjamin Bottoms and
    Loren Howarth are encased in ice some forty feet deep in the glacier. My tent
    has yet to arrive, so for the moment I control a priceless piece of real estate
    with nothing on it.


    (VIEW FROM MY
    TENT SITE)







    We finally got around to eating lunch after 3 p.m. local
    time – we’re two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. – which meant
    I got my first taste of Mountain House food. Safety leader Frank Marley whipped
    up large pots of freeze-dried spaghetti bolognaise and corn kernels. The
    restaurants of Boston’s North End have nothing to worry about, but it wasn’t terrible.
    I passed on seconds, but with an appetite born of lugging heavy equipment and
    climbing rocks, I did empty my bowl.

    This evening, a survey team is trekking to BW-1 for an
    initial site review, led by Major Ellis, surveyor Ben Fuchs of the National
    Geospacial Agency, and Jaana, whose relentless work last year with the
    ground-penetrating radar paved the way for our discovery. Frank and fellow safety team leader
    John Bradley are out front, testing for crevasses hidden under a top layer of
    deep snow.

    The day has been clear and bright, with temperatures pushing
    into the 40s. It’s cooling now and the wind has picked up, but this is as good
    as it gets in glacier country. We have a tremendous amount of work ahead, but spirits
    are high as we start this great adventure in earnest.



    ---------
    Before I sign off, here’s a special shout-out to Coast Guard Petty Officer Jetta Disco, who set up the satellite communications system that’s making it possible for me to keep in touch from one of the most remote places on earth. Jetta, a key player during our 2012 Duck Hunt, also happens to be one of the best teammates an expedition could ask for.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 7/31/2013 9:49:56 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- DAY FOUR 

    ON THE ICE

    KOGE BAY GLACIER, GREENLAND – We’re here.

    After several more changes of plans, I grabbed a seat aboard
    one of two helicopters that made the morning run to Koge Bay.

    Our Air Greenland pilot, Tom Andreassen, flew l and fast along
    the coast, making us feel as though we were inside a rock skimming from one huge
    iceberg to the next.
     Just as with clouds, if you look creatively at icebergs
    you can see anything from a stadium-sized slice of lemon merengue pie, to the
    Sydney Opera House, to a medieval castle.

    About halfway through the hour-long flight, Tom dipped low
    over the frozen terrain where a polar bear was spotted hunting yesterday.
     I
    scoured the icy ground with Tom and my fellow passengers, geophysicist Jaana


    Gustafsson and project manager Joe Tuttle.
     (Joe has a special connection to
    this story, specifically to John Pritchard, that I’ll describe in a future
    post.
    ) We saw bear tracks but not the beast that made them. Let’s hope it stays
    that way.



    An iceberg viewed from our helicopter en route to Koge Bay. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 31, 2013 at 9:37 PM


    The first order of business upon arrival was a well-received
    tutorial by Major Jeremiah Ellis, commander of the expedition for JPAC, the
    Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which oversees recoveries of lost military
    personnel and is the primary source of funding for this mission.

    After some preliminaries about camp protocol, Ellis moved to
    the main attraction: a fully clothed demonstration of the proper use of the
    camp toilet, involving bags and flags and our phone booth-sized latrine tent.

    He offered a firsthand account of his own intestinal maladies on past
    expeditions – you had to be there to fully appreciate it – to remind us that we
    won’t be much use if we’re not healthy from one end of the alimentary canal to
    the other.
     He held his audience rapt, and Coast Guard Captain Ken “Doc” Harman,
    our chief medical officer, pronounced Ellis’s recommendations medically sound
    and hygienically wise.

    The meeting broke up and it was time to find our individual
    homesteads for the weeks ahead. The half-dozen team members who arrived
    yesterday had already laid out the campsite on a rock outcropping called a 
    nunatak, roughly 600 meters across an ice field from our planned excavation
    site.
     We nine newcomers scrambled on the rocks like scorpions, looking for
    flat-enough spots for our sleeping tents.
     Locations quickly earned nicknames
    based on proximity to the large dome command tent.

    I chose an alcove created by boulders in an area we dubbed
    “the countryside,” on high ground with a spectacular view of BW-1, the location
    where we believe the Grumman Duck with John Pritchard, Benjamin Bottoms and
    Loren Howarth are encased in ice some forty feet deep in the glacier.
     My tent
    has yet to arrive, so for the moment I control a priceless piece of real estate
    with nothing on it.

    We finally got around to eating lunch after 3 p.m. local
    time – we’re two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.
    S. – which meant
    I got my first taste of Mountain House food.
     Safety leader Frank Marley whipped
    up large pots of freeze-dried spaghetti bolognaise and corn kernels.
     The
    restaurants of Boston’s North End have nothing to worry about, but it wasn’t terrible.

    I passed on seconds, but with an appetite born of lugging heavy equipment and
    climbing rocks, I did empty my bowl.

    This evening, a survey team is trekking to BW-1 for an
    initial site review, led by Major Ellis, surveyor Ben Fuchs of the National
    Geospacial Agency, and Jaana, whose relentless work last year with the
    ground-penetrating radar paved the way for our discovery.
      Frank and fellow safety team leader
    John Bradley are out front, testing for crevasses hidden under a top layer of
    deep snow.

    The view from my campsite. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Jul 31, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    The day has been clear and bright, with temperatures pushing
    into the 40s.
     It’s cooling now and the wind has picked up, but this is as good
    as it gets in glacier country.
     We have a tremendous amount of work ahead, but spirits
    are high as we start this great adventure in earnest.

    ---------
    Before I sign off, here’s a special shout-out to Coast Guard Petty Officer Jetta Disco, who set up the satellite communications system that’s making it possible for me to keep in touch from one of the most remote places on earth. Jetta, a key player during our 2012 Duck Hunt, also happens to be one of the best teammates an expedition could ask for.



  • Nick Bratton 8/1/2013 6:30:46 PM
    Mitch, I landed in Keflavik at 2330 local with all 13,000 pounds of gear that was left in the hangar at Ronson- drill included. All is well, I got to sit on the flight deck with the crew and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over Greenland as I am sure you did, too. I am meeting the Coast Guard crew at 1300 August 1st to unload the C-130 and will go with Birgir to load our gear on the cargo ship. Still unclear if I will sail to Koge Bay with the gear or will fly to Kulusuk. Aaron should be calling Lou to discuss, it may depend on how soon you guys need me out there. The sea voyage will take 30 hours, that is time I could be on the ice but there may be value to having someone from NSP with the gear for sling loading when the helicopter arrives. Please let Lou know that if I sail I will need my red North Face duffel brought to me on the ship by the helicopter that flies out to ferry gear. If I fly into Kulusuk, it can stay in the hangar at the airfield. Looking forward to catching up with you. Please give my best wishes to everyone- Nick
  • Betsey Whitney 8/1/2013 6:30:54 PM
    Hi Mitch!! My step-daughter has shown me how to do this and I am following you all, all the way along. I love it! Pictures and posts are fabulous; having read "Frozen", it's like hearing about old friends and places I've been, already. My hopes and wishes are so strong, that you will come home with a Duck and three heroes of WW II.
  • Raymond Klesc 8/1/2013 6:31:18 PM
    When you passed, did you wave and say by-polar bear... sorry could not resist. My hat's off to you and your intrepid crew for what you are doing and will continue my daily log-in to check your progress. I pray all goes well. BTW... when you wrote that you emptied your bowel... er... bowl, I still had your earlier report of 'hygiene in the field' in mind. Good luck and God bless.
  • Sally V. 8/1/2013 6:31:22 PM
    Mitchell, love your blog! Thanks for the opportunity to follow this amazing adventure.
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 8/1/2013 6:50:34 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- DAY FIVE

    BURIED

    KOGE BAY, Greenland – Complaining about snow in Greenland is
    like whining about sand at the beach.
    But here goes anyway.

    The survey team sent to BW-1 last night determined that five
    to seven feet of snow has accumulated atop our excavation site since last
    year.
      One result is that the satellite-tracking
    device we placed over the spot where we found the best evidence of the Duck crash
    is now buried.
    We’ll have to dig it out once we figure out where exactly to
    dig, but that’s not the biggest problem.

    More snow means more work, and we already had our hands full
    with our belief that the Duck and the three men it carried were roughly 38 feet
    below the glacier surface.
    Every added foot means many more tons of snow that
    must be moved to reach our quarry.
    Before this added burden, rough estimates
    called for us to remove as much as 70 million pounds of ice, or 35,000 tons, or
    the equivalent of 14 million of those five-pound bags of ice you buy at the
    convenience store for a picnic.
    This is no picnic.


    Safety leaders Frank Marley and John Bradley search for the satellite tracker at BW-1. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Aug 1, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    In the meantime, geophysicist Jaana Gustafsson, surveyor Ben
    Fuchs, and JPAC anthropologist Mindy Simonson spent this morning laying out a 50-square-meter
    grid at BW-1 to begin deciding exactly where we’ll focus our excavation
    efforts.


    With Ben marking off one-meter gaps, Jaana used a wheeled 
    radar device to walk back and forth to create a computerized view inside the glacier. But with each pass, Jaana grew more uncomfortable; she didn’t recognize what she was seeing from her memory of what the radar showed last year. Her instincts were correct.

    Unfortunately, after several of hours of work and about
    two-and-a-half kilometers of walking, Jaana learned that she had been given the
    wrong coordinates for the center point of the grid.
    She was given the
    latitude-longitude point for the historic location from 1942 that we initially
    called BW-1 (the designation BW-1 is for Bluie West One, the American airbase
    on the west coast of Greenland where the crash report was written).
    Based on
    our findings last year, we revised the BW-1 point to the spot where Jaana’s
    ground-penetrating radar identified a large object under the ice, and where
    WeeGee Smith and I dropped a video camera down a bore hole and found pieces of
    wiring from a Duck.
    Our spot was about 50 meters from the original BW-1.

    That means this morning’s work was time and energy wasted,
    and Jaana, Ben and Mindy will have to go out again to design a new grid, with
    the 2012 BW-1 location at its center.

    On a personal note, my tent arrived this morning by
    helicopter, so I’ve improved my slice of Greenland real estate by erecting a
    home to call my own.
    The weather remains clear and mild, giving us time and encouragement to keep working.


    Geophysicist Jaana Gustafsson pulls a radar unit to map the glacier at BW-1. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Aug 1, 2013 at 6:29 PM


    My improved campsite, zoned residential. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Aug 1, 2013 at 6:50 PM


  • david&jonna 8/2/2013 8:35:34 PM
    Hi Mitch! Greetings from your swedish fanclub. Great blog to follow the mission. We are far from snow digging here on sunny Gotland,
  • Rob Lipman 8/2/2013 8:35:43 PM
    Hi Mitch. Very interesting blog. I really enjoy following your progress. Fingers are crossed for a successful end to this mission - recovery of the Duck and its occupants. Good luck and stay safe!
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 8/2/2013 8:50:38 PM

    Surveyor Ben Fuchs designs the best possible approach to excavation at the BW-1 discovery site.  
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Aug 2, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    RECOVERY MISSION – DAY SIX

    STEPS FORWARD AND STEPS BACK

    KOGE BAY, Greenland – The radio in base camp crackled this
    morning with good news from safety leader Frank Marley at the excavation site
    600 meters down the glacier: “We have located a satellite tracker.”

    Earlier, while laying out a new 50-meter-square excavation
    grid, geophysicist Jaana Gustafsson had alerted Frank and his safety partner
    John Bradley that she had passed over something metallic buried several feet
    deep in the snow.
    Frank and John grabbed shovels and found a weather satellite
    tracking device we’d left behind last summer.

    The discovery confirmed that we’re working in generally the
    right location as we continue surveying the site and preparing to dig for the
    Grumman Duck to fulfill our mission of recovering John Pritchard, Benjamin
    Bottoms and Loren Howarth.

    “We haven’t found it yet,” John said, “but we’ve come a step
    closer.”


    Frozen in Time author/blogger Mitchell Zuckoff after helping to dig out the weather satellite tracker, at right. (John Bradley photo)
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Aug 2, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    Yet even as we’ve taken one step forward, it feels as though
    we’ve taken one step back.
    Jaana’s ground-penetrating radar has not yet shown
    signs of the Duck itself.
    “The radar data was better, but I don’t think it
    shows the plane,” she said after lunch.

    Nor has Jaana’s radar revealed a second, more important
    satellite tracking device.
    That tracker was placed directly above a crucial
    hole where we peered down with a remote video camera and saw wiring and other
    World War II airplane parts that provided evidence that a crashed Duck was
    embedded in the glacier.

    As night approaches, efforts are continuing to find that key
    starting point for the excavation.
    Jaana says she’ll study her radar data for
    more subtle signs of metal inside the glacier.
    Acting on a suggestion from surveyor
    Ben Fuchs of the National Geospacial Intelligence Agency, a team began using long
    metal rods to poke holes around the last reported position of the second
    satellite tracker to see if we can find it manually.

    As that work continues, a consensus is emerging that
    regardless of whether we find the second satellite tracking device, our next
    major step will be to melt more deep bore holes in the ice at the tracker’s
    last reported position.
    That way, we’d be able to set aside our complete
    dependence on radar and see with our own eyes – through the lens of a video
    camera we’ll drop in the holes – what lies within the ice.
    That will ideally
    begin tomorrow.

    All of these discussions are happening under the direction
    of the JPAC team, led by Major Jeremiah Ellis, whose decisions are guided by
    two of the most important players out here, forensic anthropologists Mindy
    Simonson and Laurel Freas.
    Everything we do is driven first and foremost by
    concerns about the remains we’re here to bring home, so when Mindy and Laurel
    talk, everyone listens.

    In the meantime, the weather is holding strong and Ben is
    continuing his topographic survey work on the sloping glacier.
    His plan is to
    design the best possible approach to excavation, one that will allow melted
    glacier water to flow away from the site and not create the world’s coldest
    swimming pool.

    ***

    As much as we all feel connected to the men whose remains we
    intend to recover, the most personal link belongs to Joe Tuttle, a retired Army
    Reserve lieutenant colonel who’s serving multiple roles as an expedition
    project manager.

    Joe’s father, Raymond Tuttle, was a member of the Coast
    Guard Academy Class of 1938, where he became close friends with his classmate
    John Pritchard.
    Both cadets were from the West Coast, so in 1936 they cemented
    their friendship on a cross-country car trip from New London, Conn.
    , to
    Pritchard’s home in Burbank, Calif.

    “I talked to Pritchard’s sister Nancy about it and she
    remembered the whole thing,” Joe said today.
    “She was probably about 13, and
    when we got there she put on a pretty dress and we went to a movie.

    Later Pritchard stood as best man at the 1939 wedding of
    Joe’s parents, who remained married until his mother’s death in 1980.
    His
    father died a decade later.
    Joe recalls hearing stories from his father about
    Pritchard’s heroic death during a rescue attempt in Greenland.

    He long assumed that Pritchard’s Duck went down in the
    ocean.
    Then, earlier this year, Joe received an email from the Historic Flight
    Foundation of Painefield, Washington, where he is a member.
    The email announced
    a presentation by North South Polar expedition leader Lou Sapienza about efforts
    to recover the Duck from a glacier at Koge Bay, Greenland.

    At the same time, Lou was talking with the foundation about
    supporting the expedition financially in exchange for taking possession and
    restoring the Duck when it’s recovered; Coast Guard approval of that idea is
    still pending.
    When Joe realized that Lou was focused on bringing home his
    father’s best man, “I told Lou that I would do whatever I can to help him.

    “What it really means is I can help close a point in time
    before Pritchard was lost and bringing him back,” Joe said, pausing to compose
    himself as his voice caught in his throat.
    “It’s a connection I’m sure my
    father would appreciate.

    Now 70, with a wife, Xenia, a grown daughter, Magda, and two
    young granddaughters, Joe is the oldest member of our expedition but also among
    the most energetic.

    “I like an adventure,” Joe said. “It doesn’t scare me to
    come to a place like this.


    Project manager Joe Tuttle works with Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Rob Tucker on the main camp generator. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Aug 2, 2013 at 8:49 PM

  • CDR Ken Hines 8/3/2013 2:26:18 PM
    Mitch and team, a lot of Coasties wishing you safe days and Gods speed in bringing the lost shipmates home. Semper Paratus
  • Bill Preston 8/3/2013 2:26:23 PM
    Thank you Mitchell Zuckoff for your amazing updates......To my friend and neighbor, Joe Tuttle, I know how much time and effort you have put into this mission as well as so many others.....I wish you all success in finding and taking home those three brave men.
  • Matt 8/3/2013 2:26:29 PM
    I've been saving your book to read it on vacation, Mitch. Just finished it. I love me some Bernt Balchen. So then I come on-line to see what happened this summer only to find that it's happening right now. Kind of surreal, because I've never read a book and then followed the same subject in real-time. Cool idea. Best wishes to the you and the Team.
  • Robert best 8/3/2013 2:26:35 PM
    Mitch, our entire family is daily reading your very interesting blog. Best of luck each and every day...Robert best
  • Traci Tucker 8/3/2013 2:26:55 PM
    Mitchell - I am glad to see that Red Sox Nation has traveled to Greenland...I can only hope that Rob is not wearing a Yankees hat! Here's to even more progress tomorrow!
  • Mitchell Zuckoff 8/3/2013 2:34:14 PM
    RECOVERY MISSION -- DAY SEVEN

    DISAPPOINTING NEWS

    KOGE BAY, Greenland – As preparations continue for the start
    of excavation, we got the deeply disappointing news today that we won’t be
    joined on the ice by a crucial player in the Duck Hunt saga, Coast Guard
    Commander Jim Blow.

    A tireless advocate and gifted leader of the mission, Jim is
    in the process of retiring from the Coast Guard after 20 years of service.
    “He
    put in a request to stay on and serve the country more by coming here,” Major
    Jeremiah Ellis told us at a meeting on the rocks after breakfast.
    Jim’s request
    to extend his service to see this mission through to completion was denied by
    his Coast Guard superiors, presumably for budgetary reasons.

    “I’d venture to say that we probably wouldn’t be here
    without him,” said Jeremiah, the JPAC expedition commander.

    I’d go even further: remove the word “probably.” I’m certain
    that we never would have found evidence of a Duck crash site last summer
    without Jim.
    Our current effort to bring home John Pritchard, Benjamin Bottoms
    and Loren Howarth some 71 years after they died serving their country is a
    direct result of Jim’s work and vision, an enormous amount of it on his own
    time and facing headwinds of resistance.

    I haven’t yet been able to reach Jim, whom I consider a true
    friend, but I can imagine how he’s feeling right now.
    I hope he knows that many
    of us here share his pain.


    Coast Guard Commander Jim Blow (left) in August 2012, immediately after viewing the photographic evidence that we had located pieces of a World War II Grumman Duck at Koge Bay. At right is Frozen in Time author/blogger Mitchell Zuckoff. 
    by Mitchell Zuckoff on Aug 3, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Meanwhile, the focus here is fixed firmly on tomorrow, when
    a Norwegian ship with a Russian crew is expected to arrive in Koge Bay with
    more than 15,000 pounds of our equipment, including our most crucial heavy
    excavation machinery.

    The plan calls for Air Greenland helicopters to either land
    on the ship’s deck or hover low over the ship and unspool cargo nets to carry
    off our equipment in what are called slingloads.
    If all goes as planned – a phase
    that I realize is doubtful even as I type it -- we’ll be waiting at the dig
    site to guide the cargo drops and then unload the nets.

    One immediate concern, beyond the logistical challenges of
    slingloading unwieldy, potentially unbalanced cargo, is a thick layer of fog shrouding
    Koge Bay during the past two days.
    The skies above camp are clear and bright,
    and we’re hoping the sun burns off the fog to allow the cargo drops to proceed.

    Once the equipment is on hand, our first order of business
    will be to remove the roughly six feet of snow that has accumulated over the
    site since last year.
    When that’s gone, we think we’ll be ready to dig in.

    Until then, surveyor Ben Fuchs is continuing drawing his
    topographic map; JPAC anthropologists Mindy Simonson and Laurel Freas are
    moving ahead with dig planning, and the rest of us are working on tasks that
    range from kitchen duty to slingload preparedness to communications setup to
    trash hauling for our small, temporary city on the rocks.
    And, when time
    permits, blogging.


  • Betsy Best Willis 8/3/2013 9:21:32 PM
    Mitch & crew: all of our children & families as well as our mom are captivated by each day's stories. We are praying for you all and for success for your efforts. God bless you all.
  • Wendy Fuchs 8/3/2013 9:21:45 PM
    The Fuchs Family loves following "Daddy" through your commentary and pics. Thanks for doing this blog! We'll continue to check in. Tell Ben his fan club says hello and hurry home!
  • Aaron Anderson 8/3/2013 9:21:58 PM
    Mitch-Best of luck to you and prayers for success. Just read the book this week-captivating! I am married to Clint Best's granddaughter Gail. Robert Best turned us on to the blog and my family is soaking it up! Thanks for allowing us to share in the story.
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