The good doctor, “Curly” Olds (CDR, USN (Ret.), who was also a Navy P4Y-2, P-2V, and WV-2 aviator; and former ASA XO during DF'63-66), has recalled a memory of the Ice worth sharing – “Wayward Nuts.” 

Marty Diller, Sec/Treas, OAEA-NE



Christmas in Antarctica is much like Christmas everywhere. People are excited about the gifts they expect to garner over the holidays. Since most of the residents there have little opportunity to go shopping they often content themselves with relatively expensive “gifts” to themselves such as movie projectors or classy tape recorders (in the early 1960s). The problem is that many such items must be ordered from America with considerable lead time devoted to shipping them 10,000 miles over a network of aircraft which are primarily dedicated to logistic support of the personnel and scientific projects of the brief summer season. (October-April).

An error in planning construction, such as obtaining relative permits could occupy up to two years lead time, although usually much less. The period of time for this story covers a period when construction at McMurdo included replacing some of the Quonset huts used for storage with more suitable “Butler” huts which, unfortunately, required specialized nuts and bolts. For some reason all the available nuts and bolts in New Zealand and Australia having been consumed the only remaining supply was a long way off in the U.S. and they were scheduled to be delivered to McMurdo via the venerable (even then) USAF C-130 aircraft along with many of the Christmas gifts. But this is Antarctica, remember, where “Nothing Works.”

The day was bright and clear with normal winds until the aircraft was well past the point of no return. Suddenly the wind picked up and the visibility was reduced to near- zero. In Antarctica, unlike Camden, this was referred to simply as low blowing snow. One could look straight up and see blue sky above the snow but see nothing horizontally. This is the sort of thing which must have pinned down Scott in his tent. There were no alternate airfields in Antarctica. The aircraft must land at McMurdo before fuel is exhausted.

The New Zealanders on the other side of McMurdo were alerted, and without further ado, they hooked up their dogs and sledges preparing for possible disaster and rescue. The aircraft was vectored to a visibly clear area over the ice away from the congestion near the runway, and there, in the clear; nuts, bolts, movie projectors and other gifts went over the side.

In the few minutes it took for the aircraft to return less than ten miles to the vicinity of the airfield, the sun broke out in the clearest, calm day one could imagine, and the aircraft made a successful last GCA approach and sustained only minimal damage to a “fender” which scraped the snow berm outlining the runway. No personnel casualties.

There was nothing left to do but to go over the ice to rake up the valuable nuts and bolts. Where can they be? The bright sun, shining on the dark metal pieces caused them to melt their way an inch or two into the ice and were not clearly visible on the surface – let alone being amenable to being raked up.

Oh well! This is Antarctica where nothing works!