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Ancient Airplane Reappears in Antarctica

Vickers
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Archival shot of the Vickers REP monoplane discovered on New Year’s Day in Antarctica.
Photo by:© Australian Antarctic Division 2008
Kingston Tasmania 7050

January 7, 2010Word spread quickly this past week when it was reported that a team of Australian conservationists had found the remains of the first aircraft ever taken to Antarctica. Tony Stewart of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation revealed in a January 2 blog posting that the 1911Vickers REP aircraft brought to the frozen continent by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson was rediscovered. “Friday (January 1) was possibly the only day in several years when the rocks were sufficiently exposed and the tide was low enough and we were here to see it,” he wrote. They had been searching for the aircraft for three summers.

Within days the story had gone viral, prompting millions of visits to the foundation’s website, the blog reported. The 1911 Vickers was the first airplane brought to Antarctica, but it never flew there. The wings were badly damaged during a demonstration flight in Australia prior to the expedition and only the fuselage was shipped over. Mawson had planned to use it as a tractor but its engine seized when it was unable to withstand the bitter cold, so they removed the engine and simply left the fuselage on the ice.

The first actual flight in Antarctica went to another Australian explorer, Sir Hubert Wilkins, in a Lockheed Vega on November 16, 1928.

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