An intrepid adventure to view an unfortunate landmark

Russian aircraft visit

This week we ventured out to visit the remains of a Russian aircraft on the plateau. The plane is (was?) a Lisunov Li-2T, the Russian built DC-3, and a close cousin of the Basler aircraft which still service the Antarctic programs of many countries today. In 1968 this aircraft and crew dropped in to visit Mawson for Christmas, no doubt with a bottle of their finest de-icing fluid to share. A strong wind gust during take-off caused damage to a wing and propeller, stranding the hapless crew. A Mawson blizzard further damaged the plane, flipping it upside down and sealing its fate. In the following 52 years it has slowly been carried by the plateau towards the coast, about 30 metres each year. Reaching it now requires travelling through crevassed terrain, and the use of glacier travel technique, the party roped together for safety. Two groups made the trip this week, each being trained in glacier travel equipment and rescue skills before they departed.

The plane lies twisted and buried by the snow and slow creeping ice. One landing ski protrudes into the air, the empty cockpit dials poke above the snow surface, a hinged door reveals a fuselage full of snow. The horizontal stabilizer now points skywards making a great backdrop for a photo.

Mark Savage (FTO)