In 1942, a squadron of American fighter jets (six P-38s and two B-17s) took off from a secret base in Greenland. They were headed to England to join the fight against Hitler, but on the way over the polar ice cap, they ran into a blizzard. The whole squadron was forced to turn back.
By the time they reached Greenland again, the planes were low on fuel and had to make desperate crash landings on the icy east coast. All of the pilots survived and were rescued by dog sled nine days later. The planes, however, were abandoned for more than 45 years.
In 1988, U.S. airplane dealer Patrick Epps convinced his friend, architect Richard Taylor, to join an expedition to retrieve the planes. Epps thought they’d have to brush off a bit of snow and the aircrafts would be like new.
How wrong he was.
After several failed attempts at locating the aircrafts, Epps and Taylor hired a geophysicist to search beneath the ice. The radar indicated massive shapes more than 250 feet down.
Using a heated coil mechanism to melt the ice, they discovered all the missing planes. The fighters were found in the same orientation as when they crashed, but three miles from their original location (due to glacial flow).
Epps and Taylor had it in their mind that glacial ice builds up slowly because that’s what a gradual, slow-process view of the earth would expect. That was certainly not the case here. In 45 years, a mere blip of geologic time, 250 feet of ice had accumulated.
Without the WWII airplanes stuck in it, scientists would have claimed that same ice took thousands of years to form. Who says your world view doesn’t make a difference in your work as a scientist?
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/natematias/200496951/”>natematias</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>