Global Exploration and Recovery LLC (GEaR) is a nonprofit based in Alaska dedicated to the location and recovery of service members who lost their lives in the world’s harshest environments. Comprised of an international group of scientists and wilderness professionals, the team braves some of the toughest conditions in their missions, so they rely on equipment – like Iridium® products – for their safety and survival. Read below about GEaRs work and how Iridium helped keep them connected!
Guest Blogger: Francis Marley, Vice President of Global Exploration and Recovery
Our yellow tent shuddered under the strain of fending off 70 mph gusts as the relentless piteraq winds of Greenland surged down the icecap towards the sea. The temperature dropped below freezing and continued to drop, but inside the battered tent my colleagues and I were relaxed. We knew what was coming and we knew we had it easy. Not everyone out here had been so lucky.
In 1942 a U.S. Coast Guard amphibious biplane crashed into a glacier during an early winter storm not far from our tent. The pilot was attempting a bold rescue of the crew of a B-17 bomber that had crashed a few days earlier on the ice. The biplane, affectionately known as a Duck, vanished in the shifting snows of the arctic along with the three men on board: Lieutenant John Pritchard and radioman Benjamin Bottoms, both of the U.S. Coast Guard, and Corporal Loren Howarth of the U.S. Army Air Corps – the radio operator of the B-17. The crew that remained with the downed B-17 survived a brutal Greenland winter camped under the plane’s wing in an astonishing tale of human fortitude described in Mitchell Zuckoff’s NY Times bestseller, Frozen in Time.
The purpose of our frigid expedition to Greenland was to find the missing Duck and help bring home the bodies of the aviators to their families. My partners and I operate Global Exploration and Recovery LLC (GEaR), a nonprofit dedicated to the location and recovery of service members who lost their lives in the world’s harshest environments. Comprised of an international group of scientists and wilderness professionals, our team is prepared for the conditions and appreciates the magnitude of the task ahead of us. There is no margin for error in this unforgiving environment and we rely on our equipment for our safety and survival.
Over the last several years our team has been working to solve the mystery of the missing Duck. In this barren corner of eastern Greenland travel is hazardous and we are totally isolated on the icecap. GEaR is proud to partner with Iridium to meet our communications needs in these demanding conditions. In 2018 we brought an Iridium GO!® device to handle our critical communications. This lightweight, powerful tool kept us connected and allowed us to receive regular weather forecasts and gave us the ability to text and talk using our smartphones. Having these capabilities was essential to our safety and to share updates from our expedition with our followers around the world. Iridium technology will be going back out with us later this year as we return to the ice to investigate our findings and move closer to discovering the missing men.