Have you driven a fjord lately? An expedition of CEOs search for a squadron of fighter planes, 48 years lost, 100 feet below the Greenland Icecap.
April 1 1990 by Chief Executive
As 80-mile-per-hour winds pounded his survival tent on the edge of the Greenland Icecap, Burt Avedon could hear the explosions caused by giant icebergs cracking off the distant glacier and collapsing into the
“It’s times like that when you find out what you’re really made of,” recalls Avedon, president of New York-based sportswear manufacturer Willis and Geiger, and no stranger to adventure, having flown the China run for Clare Chennault’s Flying Tigers, and commanded the air group aboard the USS Kennedy.
Avedon camped out on a 700,000square-mile frozen desert of ice and snow measuring 10,000 feet at its deepest point. “When you first see the icecap, you can’t believe it’s real,” he recalls. Complete with wave patterns and islands, it overwhelms the horizon, covering 85 percent of
Somewhere nearby, six rare P-38 fighters and two B-17 Flying Fortresses lay entombed under 100 feet of ice, abandoned en route to
Avedon narrowed the search area by plotting glacial drift from a spotter plane and by lowering himself into 100-foot crevasses. “You can calculate the glacier’s age like an ice tree. The seasons and years are mirrored on the ice walls.” But this time something was wrong. All day their instruments picked up no trace of the aircraft. Avedon kept rechecking his calculations. At he realized “you dumb S.O.B., you’ve plotted the ice drift 180 degrees in the wrong direction!”
After breaking camp and marching for hours across the plateau, magnetometers indicated they were standing directly over the planes. The lost squadron had been found. Avedon is one of a tiny but zealous band of CEO Greenland buffs who have explored the northernmost land and largest island on earth and found, in Avedon’s words, “a totally exhilarating country, a frontier where you experience a primal sense of adventure.”
You don’t have to pitch a tent on the icecap, though, to enjoy the bizarre beauty of
With parts of Greenland as far west as Boston and as far east as Dakar, Senegal, the island is a superpower in size, but Lilliputian in population-just 40,000 Greenlanders (as the Eskimo, or Inuit people are called) and 10,000 Danish nationals eke out a rugged existence on a colonial outpost at the fringe of civilization, where winter brings months of total darkness and temperatures below minus 30 degrees.
For years, IBM Chairman Emeritus Thomas Watson, Jr. had been “fascinated with the Arctic and with the legends of the Greenland Vikings,” so he built a 68-foot schooner (see photo) specially equipped for polar travel, gathered a crew of 12 and several fellow CEOs and family members and set sail for Greenland. “It’s an absolutely unbelievable country, where every day brings new surprises,” Watson discovered. “In high summer, there are 23 to 24 hours of sunlight. We saw all kinds of animal life-
whose murderous rampages offended even his rambunctious fellow Norsemen, who expelled him from
flee, Erik stumbled upon
which he christened “
The sudden disappearance of the Greenland Vikings in the late 1400s has sparked lively debate among historians. The most logical theory seems to be that the colonists, living only a marginal peasant existence at the very edge of the sea link with
As Watson sailed past the green
Downtown Nuuk is also home to a surprising number of nightclubs, many connected by underground passageways, so residents can avoid being battered by the gale force winds and savage cold of winter. A “grand tour” will take you from the Disco 2000 Palace, where a young Eskimo rock-and-roll band rushes through a spirited rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” to the Tudor Pub, an accurate replica of a raucous English pub in the middle of Greenland, to a country-and-western bar populated by dangerous-looking characters in motorcycle jackets.
Halfway up the island and 300 miles above the
Jinko Gotoh, president of Entertainment Alia, Inc., a Los Angeles-based film production company, has visited
For more information, call Greenland-air (direct dial from the
THE LOST SQUADRON
Today, 48 years after 25 young U.S. airmen successfully executed the largest forced landing in aviation history on the Greenland Icecap (they kept their wheels up and made a belly landing), and four years after Burt Avedon’s expedition established the aircraft’s location, efforts are under way to physically recover the Lost Squadron.
Although the mission’s pilots were rescued unharmed by dogsled after spending 17 days on the ice, nobody knows if the eight planes left behind are in mint condition or were torn apart by glacial stresses.
Optimists include the Atlanta-based Greenland Expedition Society, a group of executives and aviation buffs that includes Pat Epps, CEO of Epps Air Service, Bobbie Bailey, president of compressor manufacturer Our Way, and architect Richard Taylor. The group made its first physical contact with the planes in the summer of 1989, using steam and coring drills to bore down 250 feet and pull up what’s believed to be a piece of a B-17′s wing.
Beginning in summer 1990, the Society hopes to mount a multimillion-dollar herculean effort to sink shafts around the crash site large enough to pull up and reassemble the planes in sections.
The first plane will be donated to a Danish museum, and salvage rights for the others will help defray costs of the expedition.
For information about the expedition, contact: The Greenland Expedition Society, Inc.,