A flying explorer’s two weeks afoot on the arctic ice
Forced down in a blizzard while soaring over the least-known part of the Arctic Ocean in search of undiscovered land, Capt George Hubert Wilkins and his pilot, Carl Ben Eielson, learned what it was to be marooned on a drifting floe, and later to stumble and crawl for twelve days over the broken ice to the Alaska mainland.
In the course of that ordeal, the pilot was afflicted with a severely frozen hand, and Captain Wilkins was treated to an involuntary sea bath, which he describes as an alarming as well as a decidedly uncomfortable experience.
The captain, who commands the Arctic expedition organized by the Detroit News and himself, took flight form his headquarters at Point Barrow early in the morning of March 29, and soon disappeared over the polar horizon.
“He had planned a fourteen-hour flight which would carry him around the rim of a triangle enclosing an unexplored Arctic Ocean area of nearly 46,000 square miles, and this schedule called for his return at sunset, about 8 pm.” As explained by Mr AM Smith, staff correspondent of the Detroit News, in a radio dispatch from Point Barrow, this was the first of the captain’s proposed series of airplane flights “to unlock the last remaining secrets of the polar regions.”
The weather was ideal at the start, but it changed during the day, and by nightfall the expedition’s base was being lashed by a blizzard. The explorer’s plane carried a radio-transmitting apparatus, but no message had arrived since the early morning hours. From that time, Wilkins and Eielson were lost to the world for a fortnight…