AFTER about ninety minutes of flying through dense cloud cover, the coastal mountains appeared through an opening. But where on the west coast were they … they were back on the east coast of Greenland… fuel would only last another twenty minutes. They landed on top of a remote ice cap in Greenland: Eight planes including two B-17 bombers.
That was on July 15, 1942.
Fifty years later a small group of aviation enthusiasts decided to locate the squadron and recover one of the planes. According to Svend Hendriksen, a resident of Greenland, what they found can help explain why Greenland’s glaciers have been melting so rapidly. He wrote:
BACK in the late 1990s and beginning of the 2000s the newspapers and scientific magazines started writing about the speeding glacier in Greenland, probably caused by global warming.
I was wondering because the weight of the Icecap (the gravity) is the power behind the speed of a glacier, that’s a well known fact in Arctic climate science.
The West coast glacier in Jacobshavn (Ilulissat), with the world record of about 20 meters a day, is well-known it started galloping back in 1738.
But the two East Greenlandic slow glaciers had now speeded up too. So what was going on in the Eastern part of Greenland?
I started searching for some practical evidence and I found something interesting going back to the middle of WWII. A squadron of military airplanes was forced to make a emergency landing on the Icecap in Eastern part of Greenland, due a ‘white out’, lack of fuel and bad radio communication conditions on a an route flight from the US to Iceland in 1942. All crewmembers were rescued but the airplanes were left behind on the Icecap.
Many years later a group of WWII veterans and enthusiastic military aircraft guys decided to find the lost squadron on the Greenlandic Icecap. It was easy to find the area by using the coordinates from the rescue mission, but it wasn’t easy to find the airplanes, expected to be around or about 15-20 meters under the surface according to the precipitation data for the last 50 years (1942-92).
But there must be something wrong with the precipitation data because the squadron was found at a depth of 268 feet (about 90 meters) under the surface of the Icecap.
The recovery of the airplane from the Icecap perhaps gives us a clue to the speeding up of the two Eastern glaciers: a huge amount of precipitation accumulating 90 meters of ice!
Glacier Girl, B-38 National Museum website, http://p38assn.org/glacier-girl.htm
The picture is of the Russell glacier, Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, via Mr Hendriksen.