Ever since the adventures of Pat Epps, Richard Taylor and the Greenland Expeditionary Society in recovering Lockheed P-38F Lightning 41-7630 from under 260 feet of ice in Greenland during the 1980s and early 90s, there has been a perpetual buzz about whether the other five P-38s and two B-17s abandoned at the same location – the legendary Lost Squadron – will ever be recovered. A number of follow-on teams have mooted going back to do the deed, but most of those efforts amounted to little more than talk. However, this may be about to change. Here is the latest installment of Arctic Hot Point Solutions efforts to locate – and hopefully recover – one of the remaining Lightnings on… or rather ‘in’ Greenland….
Our team recently returned from Greenland and an expedition out on the icecap with the goal of locating P-38 “Echo” with ground penetrating radar, and a further objective of “touching” it with a steam probe.
Our radar “find” from 2011 was projected for direction and distance, with a resulting target point established for this summer’s search.
The search grid was established with the target point as the center, and within one day, both of our radar teams located a substantial object approximately 70 yards from our target point.
The radar data does not indicate what the target is, only that a substantial object reflected the radar signal back to the surface. The reflection could be caused by a large rock, or a woolly mammoth, however, lowering a steam probe to the target resulted in a coating of red hydraulic oil, likely 5606, on the hose and pipe! Since rocks and woolly mammoths do not produce hydraulic fluid, we are quite sure this target is the P-38!
The photo above is of Robert Wilson, the pilot of the P-38 “Echo”. This particular P-38 is well clear of the crevasse field, making it a suitable target. Our team members are looking forward to the next phase for the recovery of this aircraft and others in the future. We recently reached out to his son, Bryan Wilson, letting him know that we had identified the location of his father’s plane. Here is his response:
The 5606 Team Digs In For A Greenland Blizzard
Despite enduring days of blizzard conditions on the ice cap, our Hot Point Solutions team stuck with it, and boy, did it pay off. On July 4, 2018, we got a positive reading on our GPR system, followed by the hydraulic oil on the steam probe, with the conclusion that we had located the Lost Squadron P-38 “Echo”. We congratulate our stalwart team who braved the blizzards and numerous other obstacles to pinpoint the position of the Lost Squadron P-38.
This year we were able to pull together a group of our guys with “The Right Stuff.” Each team member pitched in and performed duties and tasks as needed – even if outside their area of expertise. The cooperation and support by all was exceptional and without a doubt was the primary reason for the success of the operation.
With dozens of potential team members added in the last year, we are pleased to have so many interested and qualified people willing to join on board for the seasons to come. Flexibility, cooperation, attitude, and just hard work are common words used to describe what is needed for the future of our endeavors. Hot Point Solutions and the Fallen American Missing In Action Repatriation Foundation still need help for the seasons to come. There is buzz in the air and we stand poised with equipment, resources, experience, expertise.
It’s your move…join us!
Planning for the Impossible
When we send out a team update like this, we enjoy sharing with you the ups and downs of our latest projects, and highlighting our latest successes while acknowledging our setbacks.
We seldom take the time to recognize what an enormous undertaking it is to pull off something like an expedition to Greenland. While we are sure you can imagine some of the hurdles we need to clear, there are dozens of details as well that need to be dealt with to execute a successful expedition. Here are just a few items to consider:
Proactive shipping of equipment and provisions, crates and containers full, almost a year in advance of actual dates needed!
Obtaining permits for the expedition each year and for much-needed firearms
Making travel plans for all participants
Developing relationships with media outlets both in the U.S. and Greenland
Forging relationships with tour guides, hunters, and local villagers for future support
Further developments working with Greenlandic and Danish Supporters in Greenland
Assuring communications systems such as satellite phones, radios, and internet services are prepared and operational
Holding annual mountaineering, cold weather, and water rescue clinics
Staying current with piloting skills and glacier landing training/techniques
These are just a few of the issues our team deals with prior to each expedition, and we take great pride in knowing that thorough preparation and attention to all the little details, enable safe and successful expeditions.
We actually had two radar teams on the icecap this year. Mario Carnevale and Myles Danforth from Hager Geoscience are truly experts in their field and operated the GSSI MLF antenna system used successfully in the past. They performed extensive analysis on the data to pinpoint the location of the “anomaly” which we determined with a high degree of confidence, is the Lost Squadron P-38 we set out to find.
An additional radar team from east Europe, consisting of Alexy Dobrovolskiy and Janis Kuze came prepared with the Arctic Hot Point Solutions (AHPS) Heavy Lift Drone coupled with the AHPS High Power GPR Antenna system. The very unique aspect of this set-up was the fact they mounted it below a drone and flew pre-programmed grids with a GPS guidance system and specialized UgCS programming features.
The performance of this rig was truly amazing, and no doubt will become a very viable solution for many GPR applications that require large area surveys or difficult terrain that would make a conventional surface towed system impractical.
Once the radar work was completed, both radar teams went right to work on the steam probing operation. All of these gentlemen did an outstanding job in some miserable blizzard conditions, with no complaints. These are the kind of guys that make the nearly impossible undertaking possible.
After years of development in radio technologies, digital signal processing (DSP) as well as breakthroughs in the software field, GPR has become a highly valuable tool for many varied applications. Currently, they are widely used in geophysical surveys, underground infrastructure mapping, UXO (unexploded ordnance) and mine detection, searching of buried objects, archeology, and many other fields of study.
A limiting factor with conventional GPR systems is that the antenna is typically towed over the surface manually or by some sort of vehicle, which is time consuming and in some cases not possible due to difficult terrain.
The airborne radar system suspended under the heavy lift drone, a configuration developed by Jim Salazar at Arctic Hot Point Solutions, flown in pre-programmed grids can greatly reduce the time required to survey an area and in some cases can cover areas that would be very challenging or dangerous for a more common towed antenna system, such as crevasse areas.
Jim Salazar of Hot Point Solutions has traveled to Sweden, Latvia, Belgium, and various other destinations to help develop this new technology, and the results have been impressive to say the least. He also worked with SPH Engineering who developed the computer programming environment that allowed flexible deployment of the drone over a wide area, bringing these technologies into a new evolutionary stage.
Anomaly Detected 5 Meters Per Second, 5 Meters Aerial Spacing
Once on the ice cap, we deployed our GPR/Drone system, and miraculously, on the first quarter of our grid, we had a positive reading. Above is an image of the data our GPR detected (We have circled them so you know what to look at!). A very distinct and clear anomaly, the targets are very clean and are within the approximate 300 foot range that was anticipated.
Alexey Dobrovolskiy and Janis Kuze represent UgCS, and they are among the industry leaders when it comes to drones, programming, and software development in their field.
A further goal for these gentlemen and the airborne radar system, is to locate the other lost squadron wrecks, and ultimately, the Coast Guard J2F “Duck” at Koge Bay. With such a large search area on that project, it is likely several drones will be deployed at the same time to maximize the area covered in the time available.
Hot Point Solutions & UgCS/SPH Engineering
Hot Point Solutions teaming up with SPH Engineering offers unmanned systems integration services: building, acquiring and consulting on the selection of airframes, autopilots, payloads for a particular application and performing proof of concept projects and software development. UgCS is unified mission planner ground control software for all popular UAV platforms to control and monitor one or multiple drones on a single mission, in multi operator mode or multi-platform environment.
Believe it or not, producing water on the ice cap can be a challenging proposition. Even though there is an unlimited amount of “water” there, melting enough snow to feed our steam probe for an excursion of more than 350′ down in the ice, uses a lot of water. Our M-67 barrel heater along with the output of the steam generator ultimately produced the amount of water needed but it is a very slow process.
Our hats are off to our team who worked several days punching multiple holes, often skipping meals, and working in miserable weather to get the job done.
This is team member Alexey taking his shift on probing down during the storm. The steam probing operation required the full crew to melt snow, keep the filters clean, feed the generator and high pressure pump motor with fuel, in addition to keeping the boiler running. All of our team pitched in on the effort and did a great job.
Both radar teams placed markers based on the data they acquired and processed, and these markers ended up only 10′ or so apart. This is amazing considering our target is 300′ or more down. The next step was the steam probing operation attempting to hit the plane and stop the probe.
On the third hole, the probe seemed to stop for a bit, but then continued on. Likely this was a “glancing blow” off a curved surface of the aircraft such as a tail boom or forward gondola. The hose and probe were retrieved, and the real surprise was finding the end of the probe coated in a red colored “oil.” We determined this to be 5606 hydraulic fluid that would have been on the surface of the water we created around some portion of the aircraft – probably a split open hydraulic line or perhaps out of the reservoir. Either way, this was convincing evidence that we found what we were looking for. Here, Ken McBride is holding the probe with 5606 hydraulic fluid all over the probe pipe, hands, and pressure hose.
Note all of the spotted red fluid on the ground/ice.
Charting our Course
Here is a general overview of projects in the area for future missions. 70 to 90 miles south of Kulusuk, Greenland.
Our Evangel Utility Aircraft
With the help of well-known Arctic flying expert Ron Sheardown flying the aircraft down from Anchorage, Alaska, and with additional assistance from Noam Eisen. We managed to fly this machine down to the bay area. The aircraft is undergoing additional inspection work and we are planning for ski installation to prepare for the 2019 season. We hope this aircraft will assist with our logistics and our utility needs to get personnel and supplies onto the ice cap. We thank both of you for taking on and succeeding in this project.
Martin Norregaard of Air Greenland
A special hats-off to Air Greenland and their Pilot Martin Norregaard for his exceptional piloting skills and willingness to hand load hundreds of pounds of gear at the coastline up and over a small hill to ensure we received all the much needed equipment. All of our crew, including members who are pilots were wowed with his expertise and professionalism as he navigated the Bell 212 Turbine Helicopter to our site in what were certainly “challenging” conditions.
Here is a video to give you an idea of his talents.
Greenland Recoveries by Arctic Hot Point Solutions
U.S. Coast Guard
The Search for the Grumman J2F Duck
We have been honored by the support shown by the United States Coast Guard over the last few years. They have provided us with invaluable information, resource support and logistic assistance for our Memorial Event in Kulusuk, and have already submitted a request for funding for our 2019 season.
In the event they are able to secure funding, it is likely the GPR/Drone systems will be deployed to search for the long lost J2F “Duck”.
This project is especially important to the Coast Guard and to the Gold Star Families who contact us often encouraging the continued search. Their warm appreciation fuels our desire to succeed in this endeavor.
Behind the Scenes:
AHPS/FAMIARF Office Expedition
A shout-out to Richard Martinez, Joey Gargano, Mark Sonnenburg, Melissa Altamirano, and Aaron Cabral, who volunteered time well beyond their daily schedules to help market our endeavor and provide our supporters with current information. They are the ones who put this informative Team Update together so that everyone has a sense of our progress. It takes a considerable amount of time to gather all of the data and produce these informative flyers. We thank them for their hard work and energy.
As you all know, success in a project like this is the result of many people each providing their own energy and expertise. We would like to take this opportunity to thank these folks who have contributed in their own way to our ongoing Greenland mission.
Finn Siegstad of Air Greenland
Jacob of the Kulusuk Hotel
Rasmus Chr. Rasmussen of Tasiilaq Tours
Jan Andreassen in Tasiilaq
Tim Nicolaisen of Greenland Copter
Mike Bradford of American Aircraft Delivery
Torben Larsen of Kulusuk Airport
Per Wikström of RadarTeam
We won’t be heading back to the target site until next year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be busy! Here are some of the “What’s Next” for us:
Seeking financial support, hoping to get additional sponsorship. Please spread the word!
Staying connected with Coast Guard contacts.
Expanding our social media presence and marketing to attract more supporters.
Gearing up on additional needed equipment and technology for upcoming US. Coast Guard J2F Duck search along with our Lost Squadron project.
Establishing our crew for a P38 recovery attempt next year
Continuing work on the Evangel including extensive flight test operations and ski installation/testing to ensure all is well before heading north.
Douglas DC-3 MIA/POW continued media marketing.
That’s it for now. As usual, we extend our sincere gratitude to all of you who support the projects and spread the word to other interested folks who may be able to assist in these endeavors.