Wreckage of 1912 plane in Antarctica is discovered

Sunday 03 January 2010 01:00

Remains of the first plane taken to Antarctica, in 1912, have been found by Australian researchers. The Mawson's Huts Foundation had been searching for the plane, last seen in the mid-1970s, for three summers before stumbling on pieces of it on New Year's Day.

"The biggest news of the day is that we've found the air tractor, or at least parts of it," Dr Tony Stewart wrote on the team's blog from Cape Denison.

Australian polar explorer and geologist Douglas Mawson led two expeditions to Antarctica in the early 1900s, on the first one bringing a single-propeller Vickers plane.

Mawson's dream of staging the first human flight over the Antarctic ice cap, less than a decade after the Wright brothers made the first powered flight, was shattered even before his expedition sailed. The plane crashed in a demonstration flight in October 1911. No one was hurt, but the wings were damaged. With no time for repairs, Mawson removed the wings and took the rest of the plane to use as a flightless "air tractor".

Dr Stewart said the 1911-14 Australian Antarctic Expedition used the plane to tow gear on to the ice in preparation for sledging journeys. But the plane's engine could not withstand the extreme cold and it was eventually abandoned.

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