Antarctica is home to some of the most unforgiving weather conditions on the planet. It’s a place a lot of travelers imagine they’d like to see once, but not necessarily a place they would choose to go to work at for any amount of time,
James Moore has done just that — twice — with a lot at stake on each occasion.
Moore, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and retired Lockheed employee, spoke to the local chapter of the Marine Corps League Saturday about his two trips to Antarctica to repair C-130 aircraft that had been grounded in the snow and ice of the Antarctic region 11 years apart.
“It’s horrible, terrible, windy, cold,” Moore said. “Where we were working we’d have good weather one day then we might be snowed out for three days.”
His first mission, the repair crew put a huge parachute over the aircraft and had warm air blown up underneath the chute. To work on the nose gear, Moore and the crew had to crawl down through ice and snow to gain access to the area where they had to work.
“Yeah, it was pretty brutal. We got the right amount clothing and protection and it’s good but you can’t hardly maneuver very well,” Moore said.
To do some of the intricate work, he had to take gloves off and have another worker stand by blowing heat onto his hands in order to manipulate the wiring and tools.
His first mission lasted six or seven weeks and his second trip lasted more than two months. Weather delayed shipments of parts, in fact one of the supply planes bringing in parts crashed on the second trip which caused even further delays.
“They have a lot of mishaps there,” Moore said.
One one occasion, Moore said that one of the four engines on an aircraft was not functioning and all four engines were necessary to get the plane off the icy runways. They brought another plane and wheeled it right up to mirror the disabled plane. The revving of all four engines on the good plane was enough to create a windmill effect which ultimately got the one engine that had malfunctioned working again.
“You’ve just got to get in there and do your work and get out of town as fast as you can,” Moore said. On the other hand, he told his fellow Marine retirees Saturday it was the most fascinating place he had ever been.