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Glacier Girl: The Back Story
Air & Space Magazine ^ | July 01, 2007 (reprint-1993) | Karen Jensen

Posted on 02/27/2010 1:52:27 PM PST by caveat emptor

The journey on which the world’s most famous fighter airplane [was recovered from beneath 268 feet of ice on Greenland's ice cap]. Great Britain was holding off Nazi Germany and the United States was rushing warplanes to British airfields. In 1942, Glacier Girl was a brand new Lockheed P-38F, one of hundreds of airplanes sent as part of U.S. Army Air Force had its pilots base-hop across the North Atlantic from Maine to Scotland. Not all squadrons made it across, and this particular one was forced down by weather to an emergency landing on an ice cap in Greenland. For Glacier Girl, that was leg one.


TOPICS: History; Military/Veterans; Science
KEYWORDS: aviation; godsgravesglyphs; p38; rescue; restoration
The following story, originally published in the January 1993 issue of Air & Space/ Smithsonian, recounts adventures during the second leg of the journey, a 22-year slog through recovery and restoration that couldn’t have been completed without the ingenuity, stamina, and fortune of a Roy Shoffner, a Kentucky businessman, named the P-38 “Glacier Girl” and began to plan the completion of its mission.

.....How They Did It

Using a steam probe, an eight-foot-long steel rod trailing 300 feet of steel-reinforced rubber hose, the team located the airplane. They ran 264 feet of one-inch steel pipe down the hole made by the probe and erected an I-beam truss on the surface above. From the truss, a cone-shaped heater with a hole in the center—the Super Gopher—was lowered by an electric winch at he rate of two to four feet per hour. Guided by the pipe, it melted a shaft four feet in diameter. A bilge pump removed the meltwater.

Using a hot-water cannon, the crew carved out a 50-food-wide cavern around the P-38, which they took apart and sent piece by piece to the surface. They had to sink five shafts to excavate a hole wide enough to lift the last piece of the airplane, the 17-foot-long, three-ton center section. It came up on August 1, 1992, three months after the expedition had begun.

For the story of Glacier Girl’s restoration and first flight, see Air & Space/Smithsonian, March 2004......

1 posted on 02/27/2010 1:52:27 PM PST by caveat emptor
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To: caveat emptor


A long read, but a good story.
2 posted on 02/27/2010 1:55:17 PM PST by caveat emptor
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To: caveat emptor

The glaciers have all been melting away this century. How did it get covered with 268 feet of ice? /s


3 posted on 02/27/2010 2:05:47 PM PST by TigersEye (It's the Marxism, stupid! ... And they call themselves Progressives.)
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To: TigersEye

Thats what we said back when we dug it out in 92.


4 posted on 02/27/2010 2:10:54 PM PST by HANG THE EXPENSE (Life is tough.It's tougher when you're stupid.)
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To: TigersEye

I work across from the hanger where she was restored. Each day when the hanger doors were open you could look across the runway and see the progress they were making on the old girl.

Got to watch her take off on her maiden flight, that was sweet!!! Saw her fly in and out a few times. It was a sad day when I watched her fly out for the final time.


5 posted on 02/27/2010 2:12:14 PM PST by sarge83
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To: imahawk

You people are just hallucinating that ice. Everyone knows that Greenland is close to spontaneously combusting. lol


6 posted on 02/27/2010 2:22:25 PM PST by TigersEye (It's the Marxism, stupid! ... And they call themselves Progressives.)
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To: sarge83

It sounds like a great project. It must have been neat to watch it come together.


7 posted on 02/27/2010 2:23:22 PM PST by TigersEye (It's the Marxism, stupid! ... And they call themselves Progressives.)
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To: TigersEye
Note that the excavation occurred in 1992. During the previous 11 years Republican administrations had been in power and their attitude towards people of color, gays, the poor, helpless, disadvantaged and those who were not Republican party donors was so cold that the weather was affected. This resulted in ice accumulating at a rate of about 20 feet a year or more in Greenland.

Which neatly explains the deep ice.

8 posted on 02/27/2010 2:53:34 PM PST by 17th Miss Regt
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To: 17th Miss Regt

Ah, yes, I forgot all about that. And they persisted in their evil in the ‘90s and made ketchup a main dish in school lunches. Somehow Jean sKerry must have had a hand in that too.


9 posted on 02/27/2010 2:58:40 PM PST by TigersEye (It's the Marxism, stupid! ... And they call themselves Progressives.)
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To: caveat emptor; metmom

The AAF logo they found on the wings likely stood for “Amelekite Air Force”. According to standard theories, it would take about 3500 years for that much ice and snow to get put down over the plane, i.e. the thing has to date from the time of Moses, and the only nation organized enough to build such a thing at that time would have been the Amalekites...


10 posted on 02/27/2010 3:25:34 PM PST by wendy1946
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To: wendy1946

Yeah, their dating for the age of the earth is just as accurate.


11 posted on 02/27/2010 3:42:34 PM PST by metmom (Welfare was never meant to be a career choice.)
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To: TigersEye

Hence the name greenland.


12 posted on 02/27/2010 3:56:14 PM PST by HANG THE EXPENSE (Life is tough.It's tougher when you're stupid.)
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To: caveat emptor; SkyDancer; Victoria Delsoul

I’ve watched it fly at the EAA Airventure in Oskosh. It’s a thrill to see such wonderful aircraft take to the skies.


13 posted on 02/27/2010 5:39:03 PM PST by Northern Yankee (Where Liberty dwells, there is my Country. - Benjamin Franklin)
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To: Northern Yankee

I read the story about it. Also watched a video of reclaiming a B29 from Greenland ice.


14 posted on 02/27/2010 5:47:12 PM PST by SkyDancer (If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed)
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To: SkyDancer
Also watched a video of reclaiming a B29 from Greenland ice.

You only saw the first half, and missed the part where they suspended a 5-gallon can of gasoline ABOVE an operating APU in the rear fuselage. Then did some high-speed taxi runs on the ice.

Result: priceless warbird, extra crispy.
15 posted on 02/27/2010 5:50:04 PM PST by tanknetter
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To: tanknetter

Saw that part too ... they sat in lawn chairs and watched it burn.


16 posted on 02/27/2010 5:52:53 PM PST by SkyDancer (If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed)
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To: SkyDancer
Saw that part too ... they sat in lawn chairs and watched it burn.

Shoulda gone the viking funeral route and thrown Darryl Greenamyer's a** onto Kee Bird as she burned.
17 posted on 02/27/2010 6:14:09 PM PST by tanknetter
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To: SkyDancer

It was in Alaska. Greenland was a stop for aircraft going to the European Theatre. Alaska was a stopover for aircraft going to the Pacific Theatre.

B-29s only fought in the Pacific (with the exception of two B29s that flew through Europe, on their way to India, to scare Hitler.)


18 posted on 02/27/2010 6:37:01 PM PST by Bartholomew Roberts
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To: Bartholomew Roberts

Ok, I knew that B29’s were used exclusively in the Pacific but the way it looked from the video I could have sworn that they mentioned Greenland - which to me was an oddity - however, didn’t some B29’s go to England after WWII at the start of the Cold War????


19 posted on 02/27/2010 6:47:09 PM PST by SkyDancer (If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed)
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To: tanknetter

It was a stupid thing to do - and after all that work and that guy dying ....


20 posted on 02/27/2010 6:49:29 PM PST by SkyDancer (If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed)
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To: SkyDancer

You were right and I was wrong. It was in Greenland. That’ll teach me to run my fingers before checking.

This is from Wikipedia:

The Kee Bird was an American B-29-95-BW Superfortress, 45-21768, of the 46th/72d Reconnaissance Squadrons, that became marooned after making an emergency landing in northwest Greenland during a secret Cold War spying mission on 21 February 1947.

Although the entire crew was safely evacuated, after spending three days in the isolated Arctic tundra, the aircraft itself was left at the landing site. It lay there undisturbed until 1994, when a privately-funded mission was launched to repair and return it.

After months of painstaking work on the aircraft and setbacks such as the death of the mission’s chief engineer, the repairs were completed and the aircraft prepared to take off from a frozen lake nearby on 21 May 1995. As it was taxiing to its takeoff position, however, a fire broke out inside the rear fuselage, from an auxiliary power unit mounted there, and quickly engulfed the whole fuselage.

The entire crew on board escaped unharmed, but the Kee Bird’s fuselage and tail surfaces were completely destroyed. When the lake thawed in the spring, the wreckage (with nearly intact wing panels and engines) sank to the bottom, where it now lies.

The attempted repair and return of the Kee Bird was documented in the 1996 NOVA television episode “B-29 Frozen in Time”.

This is from Wiki about B-29s in Europe:

Although considered for other theaters, and briefly evaluated in England, the B-29 was predominantly used in World War II in the Pacific Theatre.

The use of YB-29-BW 41-36393, the so-named Hobo Queen, one of the service test aircraft flown around several British airfields in early 1944, was thought to be as a “disinformation” program intended to deceive the Germans into believing that the B-29 would be deployed to Europe.[citation needed]

The Hobo Queen even seems to have been featured in a photo in the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter-the German newspaper’s headline showing the photo of the Hobo Queen soon appeared in Boeing factory posters of the era.


21 posted on 02/27/2010 7:04:51 PM PST by Bartholomew Roberts
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To: Northern Yankee

Great story. Thanks for the ping.


22 posted on 02/27/2010 8:27:04 PM PST by Victoria Delsoul
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To: Bartholomew Roberts

It was a great vid - sorry to see the plane burn at the end. All that work .... sad.


23 posted on 02/27/2010 8:50:21 PM PST by SkyDancer (If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed)
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24 posted on 03/02/2010 4:21:35 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Freedom is Priceless.)
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To: TigersEye
It was, they brought her to the hanger in pieces and did the work right in the hanger. Around the plane and restoration project was a mini museum with WWII Army Air Corp memorabilia. Each day I could see the progress, but ever so often I would take my kids and we would go through the museum/hanger to get an up close view. When they were working the project supervisor and one of the eventual pilots would answer questions and talk about the plane.

I bought my little girl a Glacier Girl tee-shirt from the museum gift shop and whenever we would travel around the country if she had it on inevitably we would have one or more people come up and ask about the shirt and the plane.

The family that owned GG sold her and I think it is doing airshows in Europe and around the country now. I miss her she was a sight to see!

25 posted on 03/04/2010 8:55:08 AM PST by sarge83
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To: sarge83

Thank you for sharing your experiences. Maybe it will come to an air show around here.


26 posted on 03/04/2010 12:59:09 PM PST by TigersEye (It's the Marxism, stupid! ... And they call themselves Progressives.)
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