Today we got an early start and headed to the local airport. Ravn Airline graciously donated two trips to fly 7 of us and all my sonar equipment to Kwethluk. This is the smallest plan I have been in yet. The bad part was that I was flying in the dark I could not see the beautiful landscape. We then went to the Kwethluk Safety Building and met with Max Olick. He is an unarmed police officer, fire chief and EMT for the village for 30 years. He has been ahead of the operation once we get to the search site. He and the rest of his villagers have been very good to me. We then loaded up our gear on snowmobiles, ATV’s and sleds for the 30 minute ride. I jumped on with Perry and soon found that our sled had no rods on the skies making it for an interesting ride because all the snow is gone and everything is glare ice. I have never been a good back seat driver but after the second time down the ditch and back over into the other side I started to gain some confidence in Perry’s driving. The ones behind us got a charge out of this.
Once on site they got started on expanding the search area down river. I have had my targets on my sonar each day and feel that they have been moved around by the dragging operation. We set up my office in the back of the Argo 8X8 machine which worked out really well. We soon found the first target but not the second. This is when we decided to do something that I believe has never been done for body recovery. I had called L-3 Klein, manufacture of my sonar and talked to the head engineer about my under the ice search. He had told me about the military flipping the sonar upside down to get images of the underside of ships. So before I left WI I ask Bob Carpenter who is one of Bruce’s Legacy’s volunteers to make me a bracket that would allow us to fly my 4′ long torpedo style sonar under the ice. This would allow us to view anything that was laying just under the ice shelf. After a few passes and some adjustments we got an amazing image. Now this was late into the day and the weather was changing fast. The snow started to fall and it was getting dark. The days here are way too sort here. It is not light until 10 am and is dark at 5 pm. We once again had to leave.
While packing upthere was some talk about not coming back out because of being New Years Day. I was pretty sick about this and asked if some of the locals were coming back. They said they would and would be will to help me. They offered a place for me to stay at the village. I did have a couple of the young guys from the Bethel SAR that have been my direct helpers that said that they would as well. I did decide to travel back to Bethel with the SAR team where we ate and had our debriefing. A lot of the team members that could not go for the day search would always come for the debriefing to find out about the days events. Once I showed them the sonar image from today and talked about some ideas that we could try I sparked a bunch of interest. I believe we will have a good crew for our New Years Day search.
These guys are into the 20th day of this search. They are plan wore out. There is so much work put into this kind of remote search. Their families haven’t seem much of them through this. With the important holidays I hear about them having kids home from far way schools and these guys have not been home much. This has been tough on them all.