Sunday, November 04, 2007

DC-3 Aircraft Que Sera Sera at the South Pole

DC-3 Aircraft Que Sera Sera at the South Pole, Credit: National Science Foundation, United States Antarctic ProgramQue Sera Sera piloted by Conrad C. "Gus" Shinn.was the first plane to land at the South Pole on Oct. 31, 1956. Credit: National Science Foundation/United States Antarctic Program
Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation.

On the International Polar Year, NSF Commemorates the 50th Anniversary of First Flight To Land at the South Pole.

From the United States' Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, astronomers use sophisticated telescopes to peer into the depths of space and create images of the universe in its infancy. Scientists use of one of the world's most sensitive seismic stations to record rumbles through the Earth's crust produced by earthquakes. And they can use samples of the Earth's purest air as a baseline to study atmospheric chemistry.

Fifty one years ago, on Oct. 31, 1956, a tiny U.S. plane made that science possible when it landed on the ice sheet at the southern end of the world, 9,300 feet above sea level.

At 8:34 p.m. local time, the first aircraft ever to touch down at the South Pole skied to a halt atop the Antarctic ice sheet at 90 degrees South latitude. The U.S. Navy R4D, piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Conrad C. "Gus" Shinn, had been christened Que Sera Sera, the title of a popular tune that won that year's Academy Award for Best Song.

The lyrics, in retrospect, were curiously appropriate to all that followed at the South Pole, both later that day and in the half-century since:

Que Sera Sera

Whatever will be, will be

The future's not ours to see.

Immediately after the plane halted--with engines running to avoid a freeze-up (a practice still followed to this day)--U.S. Navy Adm. George J. Dufek., commander of Operation Deep Freeze, stepped out onto the ice, along with pilot Douglas Cordiner, to plant the stars and stripes at the Pole. They were the first to stand there since Briton Robert Falcon Scott did more than 40 years before. Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten Scott in his race to the Pole. Amundsen's party survived the 800-mile return trip, Scott's did not. US National Science Foundation (NSF)

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