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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 9:28 pm

Plane carrying 3 Canadians missing in Antarctica

By NICK PERRYAssociated Press

A small plane carrying three Canadians disappeared while flying over an Antarctic mountain range, and bad weather Thursday was hampering a search.

The flight was going from a U.S. station near the South Pole to an Italian research base in Terra Nova Bay. Its emergency locator started transmitting about 10 p.m. Wednesday in a mountainous area about 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of the pole.

New Zealand, U.S. and Italian authorities are working together to find the de Havilland Twin Otter plane, which they presume has crashed. It was carrying survival equipment including tents and food, according to New Zealand Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator John Ashby.

New Zealand authorities said a Hercules C130 aircraft flew to the Queen Alexandra mountain range early Thursday but was unable to see the aircraft.

Ashby said in a statement Thursday afternoon that a DC3 aircraft flew over the area where the beacon was transmitting but heavy cloud prevented the rescuers from seeing the ground or any sign of the plane.

"Weather conditions are extremely challenging," Ashby said.

He said that winds had reached 90 knots (104 miles) per hour and heavy snow was predicted. Several planes and helicopters were standing by in Antarctica, waiting until conditions improved so they could travel to the site.

The plane is owned and operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd., a Canadian firm based in Calgary that charters aircraft to the U.S. Antarctic program. In a release, the National Science Foundation said the plane was flying in support of the Italian Antarctic Program.

More information was not immediately available about the three Canadian men on the flight.

Antarctica has no permanent residents, but several thousand people live there in the Southern Hemisphere summer as a number of countries send scientists and other staff to research stations. The U.S. runs the largest program, with about 850 staff at its McMurdo Station and another 200 at its Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where the Canadians' flight originated.