Life Within Their Reach

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When you work at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, you know there will be no physical link to the outside world for you between February and October.  You are 840 miles from the nearest populated site and you're facing average winter temperatures of eighty below zero.  Now, imagine being one of the women stationed there and discovering a lump that indicates you have breast cancer.  Distant medical authorities determined that this lady must receive some emergency medical supplies.  (And it really happened.)  Getting those supplies, though, is easier said than done.

A U.S. Air Force plane took on the mission, flying in driving snow and limited visibility, with just enough fuel to get back, searching in that dark polar winter for a C-shaped chain of burning barrels somewhere down there in the snow.  Those barrels marked the drop point.  Once the life-giving supplies were dropped, the ground people had just seven minutes to collect those bundles before the cold weather damaged or destroyed their contents.  It was an incredible true adventure, and it worked.  The pilot for this amazing mercy mission said it was his most difficult mission.  I guess!  He said, "The whole thing is a loss if we don't put it where they can get it."

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