There is nothing tougher than living in a community of strangers, in freezing temperatures, around the clock and with no escape. Well, actually there is. The one thing worse than this is living in the same environment with the same strangers, but this time you're stuck inside a tent, around the clock, with no running water and no toilet. Oh, and someone forgot to pack the toothpaste!
Two scientists and two pilots were on their way to the Amery Ice Shelf. Our pre-flight checks of the plane, expeditioners and likely landing area were all clear so I sent the plane off with the confidence of a seasoned air-traffic controller. I noted the time in my log and wrote up the time for the check-in from the pilot once they had safely landed.
I didn't get that check-in. What I got was:
‘VLZ Davis, VLZ Davis, VLZ Davis. This is Victor Hotel Bravo, Do you read? Over.’
‘Victor Hotel Bravo, this is Davis. We are reading you loud and clear. Over.’
‘Davis, we have an incident here. Over.’
‘Repeat please, Victor Hotel Bravo.’
‘Davis, we hit something and our landing gear is damaged. Over.’
‘Please advise condition of passengers and crew. Over.’
‘No injuries. Over.’
What a relief, but I knew that the safety of the expeditioners was still at risk.
‘Victor Hotel Bravo. Can you please switch over to the satellite phone ...