Part One -Page One

The shrill ring echoed through the darkness, tearing Gareth from his deepest sleep. His mind still numb he tore back the covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He tried to focus on the bright red numerals on the clock face as he turned in the darkness towards the bedroom door. Hands outstretched he stumbled through into the hallway; kicking something, and still barely awake reached for the handset; only to let it slip from his grasp onto the timber flooring. He could hear a distant voice, as he fed the cable between his fingers, pulling the sound to his ear. “Gareth.” He said automatically, and without enthusiasm.

The reply was hesitant. “Hi Gareth, its Clive.”

Clive?” Gareth tried to remember the briefly glanced red numbers displayed on the alarm, while wondering why a workmate; even one he considered a friend, would call him so early on a Saturday morning. “Is everything okay?”

Kind of.”

Now Gareth could sense hesitation. “Is there a problem at the plant?” He said unease replacing sleep.

The plant: no; why?” Clive's voice took on a friendly almost humorous tone. “Sorry; it is a bit early isn’t it?”

Gareth couldn’t hide his irritation. “Is it? Actually I don’t know what time it is, other than it is pitch black, and I was, fast asleep.”

Sorry.” Clive said meekly. “I know, but I couldn’t leave it until later.”

You couldn’t?” Gareth was unintentionally sharp; he wanted to climb back into bed, but his curiosity was awake even if he wasn’t.

Actually I’ve got a very good excuse for calling at this time.”

You always have if I recall.” Gareth softened his tone as he smiled: Clive’s life was far too full to call anyone, almost anytime. “And generally there’s a woman involved somewhere.”

No; not this time.” Clive paused for a moment, and his voice lost part of its frivolity. “This time it’s a real excuse. I’ve broken my leg.”

Gareth’s smile made it easy to laugh.

There was little humor in the reply. “It’s not funny “

The smile disappeared, but faint amusement lingered. “You’re serious?”

Yes. It’s not a joke. I have broken my leg.”

You’re leg?”

Yes; my right leg, and I can assure you it’s not funny.”

No.” Embarrassment overwhelmed Gareth’s amusement. “No of course it’s not.”

The reply was a little sulky. “You sounded like you were laughing?”

Gareth tried to sound serious. “At this time in the morning why would I find anything funny?”

No; well, anyway, I’m at the hospital; with a plaster cast almost from my toe to my armpit. Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it feels like it.”

Gareth tried to sound concerned, but the image entering his mind revived the smile. “I’m really sorry; was it an accident?”

You think I’d break my leg on purpose?”

No; I meant what happened?”

I got hit by a car.”

Now concern brought him wide-awake. “You are all right?”

Yes. It was more of a shove than a hit. Long story; but you were kind of right, there was a girl; we were coming out of club twenty-three. There were a couple of other guys; you know how it goes, mind elsewhere, stepped too far onto the road; bounced off the side of a passing car and fell badly. I can fill in all the details next time, but as I said, I’m at the hospital. I’m here for twenty-four hours, maybe more; and that’s the problem.”

It’s okay; we’ll cover for you at work. You just get yourself sorted.”

What’s with you and work? It’s nothing to do with work. It’s about my trip.”

Your trip?” Gareth didn’t have to think too hard; it was all Clive had talked about for the last week. “The Antarctica flight?”

I have to be at the airport in a couple of hours. I can’t: obviously.”

That’s a shame. You’ve been looking forward to it for ages.”

I know,” sighed Clive.

What are you going to do?”

Do; nothing, I can’t go.”

I mean have you rang them. Swap flights for one next month?”

I have and I can’t. It’s almost the end of the season, there's only one more and that's already full.”


Me too, anyway that’s why I’m calling. Do you want to go?”

Me?” The offer surprised him, and he was not sure how to respond.

You were a bit down last week with it being your daughters first birthday since the divorce; and all the other guys have families; anyway you said you wanted to go?”

Gareth vaguely remembered he had; but mostly it had been to pamper to Clive’s excitement. “You can’t get your money back?”

It’s too late to get a refund, and I never got around to taking out insurance. I never thought I wouldn’t go.”

That’s a shame.”

Yea well; do you want to?”

It’s a bit sudden. I don’t even know if I can get a cab this time of the morning.”

I’ve already booked. I can call and tell them to come to your place instead of mine.”

You’ve got it all organized.”

And I’ve even paid in advance for the cab.”

The thought of money suddenly sprung into Gareth’s mind. “I’m not all that flush with cash right now,” he said trying to think of an excuse that didn’t sound like one. “The truth is I really don’t have the cash to pay you back.” As he spoke Gareth suddenly felt regret.

No; still I really didn’t expect you to have it in your wallet.” There was a momentary silence. “Look I’m going to lose my money anyway, so just say you’ll jump in the cab and go”.

I feel bad about taking the ticket, especially in the circumstances; without paying you back.”

I understand, but it’s not about the money. Like I said it’s gone, and I’d rather you go than waste what I’ve: sorry I didn’t mean it to sound like. You don’t have to pay me anything back, but if it makes you feel better you owe me a favor sometime.”

It’ll have to be a big one.”

Don’t worry I’ll make sure it is. So; do you want to go?”

As Gareth replaced the receiver he was unaware that kilometers away a totally different timing would be on the minds of the small group of airline staff. They sat, comfortable and relaxed in a small room listening intently to the forecasted weather patterns. Thoroughly briefed and totally understanding the implications explained to him, senior pilot Alexander Hill got up from his seat, satisfied; as were the rest of the crew, that there would be little cause for concern during their working day.

Flight A108 would leave Mascot Airport on schedule for Antarctica: taking with it a full load of armchair adventurers. They would leave the warm morning; head up into the clear blue Australian sky that hung over Sydney, to follow in the footsteps: without replicating the frostbitten footprints, of Casey and many others who had suffered the ice without benefit of Champagne and in-flight movies.

There are few environments on planet Earth that are more unpredictable, or more unforgiving than ice fields, especially those of the southern icecap. Without warning a fine, clear day can transform into frozen hell, as violent blizzards blow up from nowhere; scouring the icy wilderness with merciless fury.

In the few human outposts that maintain the tenuous hold on life in these conditions, dedicated men and women are well aware of the always-present danger, but to others danger has become to be a measurable commodity. To those families and individuals waiting in the boarding lounge these considerations would have been far from their minds. Gareth joined them, slightly out of breath, and not entirely convinced he had made the right decision. In fact he felt a little guilty looking around. Everybody seemed excited, breaking away from the boredom of daily life. Others seemed to treat the adventure as another place to add to their been-there, done-that list. To parents it was expanding their childrens minds, and to some: like Gareth, the luck; or bad luck of life’s lottery draw.

He found a seat and sat looking out of the glass wall at the aircraft. Seeing it so close reminded him he had never been totally comfortable with flying, and the great shape parked outside the lounge did look slightly intimidating, but it carried a familiar and trusted logo. Seeing that was all he and everyone around him needed to know. The emblem was without peer when it came to the safety of its aircraft, staff and passengers, so if there was any slight trepidation in the room, it was more to tingle with thrill, than to permeate with danger. It seemed he had just sat down as the gates opened.

The first passengers were on the aerobridge as a fresh weather report came in. Ground conditions below the flight path had deteriorated. It was not welcome news, but the aircraft would be flying far enough above the surface for conditions on the ground to be of no real concern to the flight crew, other than the icecap would be partially obscured. The fact was high on Captain Hill's mind when a few minutes later he regretfully announced this during his welcome aboard address. To mollify his passengers he added that any final decisions would be made closer to Antarctica.

Gareth was only slightly disappointed, and in truth there was little he or anyone could do in any case. He found his seat; made himself comfortable, and gazed out of the window at the ground staff as they wandered about the apron. He had a strange feeling seeing them go about their work; he put it down to guilt. After all he was benefiting from Clive’s misfortune.

Do you need help fastening your seat belt sir?”

The polite but firm voice brought him back to reality. “No. I’m fine,” he mumbled, quickly snapping the catch shut.

Purser Cathy Howard smiled; as only hostesses can smile, and went on to her station to report to the captain that there had been a some grumbles of dissatisfaction and comments that the several hundred dollars paid per person would buy no more than frozen mountains jutting from what would probably look like a cloud bank. But as she had pointed out to them, it would be a genuine Antarctic cloud bank. That aside the cabin was ready for takeoff

In reality it made no difference whether the passengers complained or not, it was Captain Hills call. Faced with a minor public relations backlash on one side, and conditions that the company saw as well within the airlines safety perimeters on the other, the aircraft lumbered down the runway and slowly lifted into the air.

Probably the greatest part of Gareth’s discomfort in flying was during takeoff. He had read somewhere that this time: and during landings, were the most dangerous parts of a flight. It wasn’t helped as the plane vibrated and lurched as meter-by-meter the two worlds separated. He listened uncomfortably to the bangs of retracting wheels and the whines of flaps adjusting as the heavy aircraft slowly clawed its way into the sky.

The feeling eased as below them a vista of ocean, patterned as far as could be seen with tiny ripples coincided with the first refreshments being served. Soon excitement overcame any other emotion as the crew and passenger settled down to work, or to enjoy the adventure of a lifetime.

As the plane rose into the sky, purified and scented air, recycled through the cabin. No one gave a thought to the fact that second by second the sunny thirty-degree plus temperature of the Sydney tarmac was left behind. Outside the aircraft the temperature plunged below freezing: a point from where it would never return.

Several thousand kilometers ahead, and eleven thousand meters below their flight path, winds were swirling at seventy kilometers per hour, and the chill factor had dropped to minus sixty degrees

Captain Hill had kept them well informed on his decent towards Antarctica, and by the time the aircraft was approaching the edge of the floating ice, the cabin was abuzz with excitement and anticipation. Gareth was not above this; they had been seeing icebergs for some time and with the announcement from the cockpit that the ice floes were up ahead he was swept up in the general exhilaration. Minutes later they passed over the edge of the expanding ice sheet. Soon after they could see what appeared to be low cloud.

Looking down even the previously most vocal were not as harsh in their criticism, and even they agreed that the storm added a spectacular dimension. True there were little surface: at least low-level surface, features that could be made out. Yet even in its most hostile mood, the raw beauty of the ice continent was awesome to behold.

They were still well above the effect of the ground weather: well inside Captain Hill’s safety zone, so what actually happened was impossible to know in the minutes that followed the first ‘bump’. Captain Hill’s reaction was immediate as the warning sirens started to scream through the flight deck. Adding an audible dimension to what seemed: in his surprised mind that the entire control panel illuminated in warning lights. He glanced over his shoulder with an inquiring look.

A man met his gaze: his words tinged with concern, but not fear. “Engine two; turbine fragmentation.”

Gareth had only noticed a very slight, though definite shudder, followed by an almost imperceptible second. It felt like the undercarriage had gone down, and at first he dismissed it as turbulence, but seconds later he was convinced there was a discernible difference in engine noise from either side of the aircraft.

The first shudder had brought an immediate quieting to the hubbub in the cabin, and in the comparative silence everybody became aware that the engine tone had changed. Captain hills voice broke the silence. “Cabin crew return to stations!” Anxious eyes were still watching where they had disappeared behind the thick curtains when he spoke again. “This is the captain. Can I have you attention please?” Immediately he had it. “We have a minor problem with one of the engines.” The words seemed not to fit the situation for those looking out from the forward part of the cabin, where they could see a gaping hole in the engine cowling. The view to passengers’ further back was hardly less comforting as they could see a fine spray was trailing behind the pods. As realization came over the stunned watchers, others, less able to observe could hear that both engines on the port side had stopped working. It only took the shrieked words of one man. “The engines on fire,” to bring chaos to the cabin. In seconds the euphoria of minutes ago had turned to incomprehension, and then passed quickly through to full blown panic.

Gareth on the opposite side of the aircraft had seen nothing outside before, but now he could see flames had ignited the fuel spewing from the wing tank, and the flickering blaze streamed past the rear windows; and on out of sight.

As Gareth watched in fear, Captain Hill and his crew, from co-pilot to purser had already swung into his or her own emergency procedure, and what appeared to the passengers to be a whitish smoke began to stream with the flame, as slowly smothering the fire, the extinguishers saturated the pods

The remaining engines became louder as now the voice of the co-pilot came over the public address system trying to calm the passengers; telling them that everything was under control and they were returning to cruising height.

Captain Hill was desperately examining his options. His first was to return across several thousand kilometers of the Southern Ocean to the nearest airport. Considering he only had two functioning engines; and he would have to fight the whole way against the turning motion that the plane was now locked into, that was quickly dismissed; but the other choices open to him were just as impossible. He knew that with the doubtful exception of the American base there was nowhere to land an aircraft the size of his at any station airstrip. That wasn’t even considering if they could get that far, and that depended on how much fuel they were losing.

He checked that the wing fuel tank had been isolated. Considering he had ruled out a return to New Zealand or Australia, the remaining fuel was not the most immediate problem. What was; was the loss of balance. One side of the aircraft had two functioning engines and fuel, the other non-functioning engines and a rapidly emptying tank. He began to pump fuel into the central tank, and set the engineer to calculate distance against thrust for the two remaining engines. Whatever happened, he was now faced with the most difficult flight he had ever commanded, and that was ignoring the possibility of any other damage that was yet to make itself apparent.

As the aircraft came fully around he could see open water in the distance. The seaways that circumnavigate the Antarctic continent are the loneliest on the planet, and the frigid waters the most merciless. If he had to ditch it would have to be close to land, but the scientific communities were not equipped for a full-scale sea rescue, in fact he wasn't even sure they had a single boat. He tried to recall the ocean surface when they had passed over, but was aware the even most benign weather could create a swell that could reach higher than the superstructure of a ship. To attempt a ditching in anything but absolute calm would be disastrous. Even if he did ditch safely, the aircraft’s life rafts were not for sailing; and once on the water they would be at the mercy of the strong ocean currents that rolled unrestricted around the latitudes circling the pole. It was highly likely that they could be dispersed over hundreds of kilometers before a rescue vessel of any size located them. If in that time one overturned, or someone found themselves in the water; the exposed human body would have only minutes in the bitter cold before hypothermia would wrench life from it. Going down onto the water close to shore would minimize exposure, but vastly increase contact with submerged rocks. Reluctantly he decided that ditching; like returning was out of the question, He pushed the thoughts from his mind as he realized the plane was feeling sluggish.

We’re starting to collect ice,” said Simon, the co-pilot.

Alexander nodded to him. “Have the Americans responded?”

They have a team out checking now, but.”

But what?”

They had a blizzard there last night. There’s a probability the strip is obstructed with fresh snowdrifts. It could take several hours to clean it.”

Hill said nothing but knew that if they were to land on an unprepared strip they could just as well land on the ice below. As bad options went it was not the worst. The Australian base of Davis wasn’t too far away, and in the circumstances they could mount as good a rescue as anyone could expect. But even if everything went off perfectly, it would be in conditions that would test survival and rescue beyond imagination. The grim truth was that it would be impossible to bring the aircraft down anywhere without some loss of life.

Hill looked down out of the window. Somewhere below the swirling ice and snow was their nearest salvation, and he was thankful that basically everything bar the engines still worked. As long as he could put down safely on the ground they could support life inside the cabin for many hours, and if necessary, at a bare minimum that could stretch to days. He had life support, and he had potential rescue within that margin, all he had to do was land on the ice.

The decision was made during a flurry of communications back to Australia, when it was confirmed that the Americans would need more time than was available to clear the strip. The other bad news was that no ships were close, and a full rescue would have to be launched from thousands of kilometers away. Acknowledging that help was now measured in days rather than hours he was authorized to land as close to any research station as he could.

The authorities of Australia and New Zealand had already put their air forces on standby and he was told that at least four heavy-lift planes would soon be in the air. They would go with supplies to the nearest station, and if possible attempt to land wherever flight 108 finally came to rest. The three closest stations were already being contacted to mount or assist in whatever rescue they could. Captain Hill looked down at the desolate wastes. It was all very reassuring that a full-scale emergency rescue had been initiated, but they couldn’t just circle around until everything was in place. Long before then he would have to put the huge aircraft into the swirling storm far below them.

At Davis the weather had turned bad. Although he was reluctant to endorse setting the aircraft down on the ice, the senior officer at Davis station reported that scientific ground parties had over the last few months surveyed several emergency airstrips. But none had been considered for such a large and heavy aircraft, and only begrudgingly did the officer agree that as a final; desperate; last resort, one of these could suffice for a landing. All of them would be on the ice that had recently reformed with winters approach: they were relatively smooth expanses of ice, though not exceptionally thick. That would come later as winter fully took its grip, but by then the surface would have become heaved and cracked.

Captain Hill discussed each location through an improvised link with the stations field staff. Like those on the ground his concern centered on the planes undercarriage. Though his more on the wheel structure, and how it was not designed for the pounding a rough surface would subject it to. The stations staff we’re apprehensive about the effect of the initial localized impact on an uncertain thickness of ice. Either way there were no guarantees, other than there seemed little chance that once down, the plane would never take off again.

It was the station engineer who proposed that the aircraft land with the undercarriage up. Providing that they could minimize the impact, and maintain a forward direction, they would hopefully slide across the un-fractured ice, where the weight distributed over the entire fuselage should prove not too heavy for the thickness. It was the best option but Captain Hill rejected the idea outright, and after all he had to land the plane, but by the time they were in sight of Davis; or would have been, he had reluctantly agreed

Captain Hill pondered all that had been discussed over the radio. The aircraft’s manufacturer was involved now, producing more detailed information on speed, technique and procedures than they would be able to absorb in the time they had left. In a training room environment everything seemed entirely plausible. The final details we’re being worked out, but he still had to land softly; while blind; and keep the aircraft on course against its urge to turn in the middle of a gale. He was also doubtful about the area they had finally chosen. It was not necessarily the best, and was certainly not the closest to Davis, but it was the one they had the most recent information on. Three days previously, a party of biologists had spent four full days investigating a large penguin colony in the area. At that time they reported a smooth ice field trapped between the continent and a large, grounded iceberg. As long as Captain Hill ‘touched’ down on his calculated co-ordinate, he could slide for several kilometers without fear of any major obstruction emerging from the ice.

He had already brought the aircraft down to less than four thousand meters when he spoke to a fear-silenced cabin and told them what he was about to attempt. His voice was calm and his intentions clear, and full of what was heard as confidence. He almost succeeded in creating a feeling that this was a bonus to the flight as he continued to explain that as weather patterns in the southern half of Australia were determined by events in Antarctica and the southern Ocean, Australia maintained a major meteorological presence at Davis; he went on to say that he had been assured by the senior meteorologist that they had no reason to believe the storm would last more than another twenty-four hours, and by then all rescue operations would be all in place. Though he omitted to say that, that was a comparative word, as ‘all’ to Davis's resources were far short of rescuing close on two hundred, untrained civilians.

With consummate skill Captain Hill maneuvered the aircraft down towards the co-ordinates. He could see the top of the iceberg on his left and further to the right, the higher sheer rock of the island continent. Both jutted out of what from a height appeared no more than a mist.

As he dropped lower, the apparent mist resolved into a swirling, convoluted mass, its beauty masking the raging blizzard that he knew awaited them.

Having only half the power the aircraft had, had when it took off from Sydney, Hill had become possessive of what remained at his fingertips. He judged that rather than let the two working engines be responsible for all the required maneuvering, he would drop the undercarriage; using the drag of the extended wheels to help slow their airspeed. At the same time he intended letting the turning motion he had fought against bring the plane around, hopefully so that the slide would be in the direction of the hidden land. It was comforting both to him, and he assumed the passengers as the clunk of the wheels locking down resulted in a slowing of the aircraft. He applied only enough power to avoid stalling, and let the plane drop towards the ice.

Although not a devoutly religious man he still whispered a prayer, as they brushed the top of the blizzard and the ground proximity warning buzzers began screaming. It was almost a suicidal impulse he felt as he eased down even further, and then almost instantly flight 108 was engulfed in the mist and visibility was reduced to zero. He could see absolutely nothing through the windshield, and the lower he went the more the driven snow and ice overcame any ability to clear it. An unearthly darkness engulfed them.

Hill was living the nightmare of all pilots. Landing on unknown ground, in a crippled aircraft, on the darkest night. He pushed the thoughts from his mind and concentrated on the instruments as they skimmed blindly, meters above the unseen ice.

Considering everything, Captain Hill felt the landing was going as well as could be expected: that was until he tried to raise the undercarriage. Nothing happened; and it took only seconds for him to realize that the wheels were frozen down. There was a moment of panic, but in a way he was almost relieved, he had never been totally happy at the thought of a belly landing, no matter how soft, and after all up to now it was almost textbook. They would land with the wheels down.

Skill and judgment were Hill’s most reliable instruments as the last meters closed and the wheels touched the surface, but in the chilling wind the rubber of the exposed wheels had frozen solid. As the weight of the aircraft crushed them down onto the ice one by one they began exploding. In seconds half of the rear and almost all of the front tyres had shattered into a million pieces of rubber. There was a sickening lurch as rims and struts bit down into the ice sheet carving deep channels; only being prevented from punching right through by their twisting and buckling.

On an un-giving surface they may have failed completely, and the plane may have cart wheeled into a tangled crash, but the ice below what remained of rubber and metal, eased the impact. The undercarriage dug deep into the glassy surface turning it into a storm of ice shards, as the engineer desperately began to pump fuel back out of the mid tank. The aircraft now raced towards the nearest to land that they would reach.

The station commanders fear that the impact would break through the ice filled Hills mind, and he applied a fraction more thrust to maintain forward motion, while slightly lifting the plane; just high enough for the wheels to climb out of any holes that they may have dug. Maybe he could smash them enough that they could belly land after all. It was a rough and bumpy ride, but within a few seconds he was confident enough to ease off the power. There was a shuddering crash, immediately replaced by loud, grinding sounds, as the fuselage impacted on the ice. He tried to ignore the screams and shrieks from the cabin as he began to apply a small amount of reverse thrust to slow the aircraft out its wild slide. It seemed endless but eventually the crescendo from below eased to an almost soothing shudder. At the very least they were down, and miraculously intact.

Long before they had come to a complete halt, confusion had erupted in the cabin, as people began struggling to stand ready to evacuate the aircraft, but the airliners crew blocked all the doors. “Please remain seated.” Bellowed Hill over the intercom. “No one will be allowed to leave the aircraft.” His reassuring voice demanded attention. “We are safely down on the ice field. There is no danger of fire. We have more to fear from the conditions outside than we have by remaining calm and staying inside.” He repeated his warning several times before the panic eased even a little. “The authorities know where we are, and have already begun a rescue. I repeat, assistance is on its way, so stay calm, remain in your seats. We can only survive until the rescue party arrives by keeping calm and staying in the aircraft.”

His words: as well as the fact that it had already become apparent that the plane was not about to explode, slowly sank in to the minds of all who heard him. Reluctantly the passengers settled down to an uneasy waiting, unaware that the ice field they had come to rest on was not part of the Antarctic continent but part of an ice floe over deep water. It now became a waiting game and Hill settled down to conserving their resources, and preserving life. He avoided telling his passenger’s rescue from Australia, New Zealand or even South America was days, or at worst weeks away; as he also omitted making it general knowledge that bearable conditions in the aircraft would be measured in hours. Their only hope was now in the hands of the isolated scientific station.

At Davis news of the safe landing was greeted with a mixture of relief and anxiety. They were as ready as they could be, but visibility outside the huddled group of buildings was less than three meters. There could be no attempt until the blizzard eased.

Outside in the darkness; minute-by-minute snow and ice continued to cover the huts; and many kilometers away, the fuselage of the airplane. Loading it with tones more weight than any engineer had ever considered. Fuel was still leaking; creating a pool close to the remnants of the undercarriage; where it began to eat into the surface ice.

For the first few hours radio communications were constant. At the beginning there were the necessary directions and confirmations. Then in small groups the passengers were allowed to call loved ones and reassure them.

They had only been on the ice a very short time when the bar stocks were opened. While not encouraging anybody to become drunk, the crew had certainly not limited anyone who needed the stupor that alcohol brought. Gareth didn’t bother, he had been down that path when his marriage had failed; well maybe crumbled was a better word. He tucked the blankets closer to his body, and would have liked more but the flight attendants had handed out all that were available soon after they were down.

As time went on the captain’s words of immediate salvation seemed a little hollow and Gareth became more realistic. He was not afraid to die; in fact emotionally he already had, some time back: it was just that this way seemed such a waste.

To avoid increasing concern Captain Hill had not applied any restrictions at the beginning of their ordeal, but as the hours passed they were slowly imposed, not least to conserve their dwindling power. Lights were dimmed down to emergency. Heating was adjusted down so that the use of blankets became even more necessary. Air purification became minimal air circulation.

Hours passed and everybody sat quietly, listening to the creaking of the fuselage as more and more ice formed just above their heads. Or to the worried murmurs, or sobbing that resulted from the occasional more violent buffeting.

Bit by bit life support systems were reduced until the carbon dioxide level in the air reached its critical limit. People huddled drowsily together for warmth and comfort

Gareth cursed his luck, or lack of it. His life seemed full of complications: so maybe he had muttered once or twice that he would be better off dead, but they were words spoken in frustration, rather than hope. He didn’t want to die; not like this. It was always going to be in a spectacular car wreck. A swift enough end that left only enough time to hear wailing ambulance sirens against a background of flashing police beacons. It wasn’t his time: it should have been Clive huddled in the dark: freezing to death. Clive had forced him to take his place. Maybe Clive had, had a premonition, or his horoscope had, but through the anger he knew he had responded to Clive's offer with more than it being just a pleasant surprise. It was even harder to accept that following the phone call he had come to see the journey on flight 108 as a breaking of the mould; a rekindling of excitement that would somehow bring meaning back to the loneliness he felt. Instead it had isolated him even more as in the last hours he watched parents clutch at their children, and lovers each other. The fact that he had made an absolute mess of his life was brutally stark, and it was far too late to change it now. He turned away from the dim cabin and lifted the window blind. It was pitch black outside; all he could see was light reflecting off the ice that was working its way towards the center of the glass. Whatever the pilot had said, rescue was not imminent; that was obvious. Their survival now depended on the heat generated from the remaining engines, and they could fail or run out of fuel at any minute. He turned back as he sensed someone close. A young stewardess was leaning over towards him.

Are you alright sir?” she said sweetly.

For a moment Gareth couldn’t help smiling as his mind took in the weird assortment of clothing she wore. She smiled back and he wondered how she could act so normally when she must know more than he was just guessing at. “I'm fine.” He answered.

Would you like something to read?”

He noticed that a bundle of magazines and books were held to her body by an unseen hand. It was too dark to see the words on a page, but it seemed ungrateful to point it out. He nodded and she dropped a book on the seat beside him without even looking which it was. “We will be serving a meal shortly,” she said softly. “I can’t say what it will be,” she tried to smile as if making a joke. “Other than warm, but if you have any preference, I'll try and see what I can do.”

No. Really I'm fine, whatever comes.” He glanced across at a mother and two small children. “Look I understand what’s happened.” His words faded as he realized that maybe he didn’t. “I’m kind of prepared; don’t worry about me. Look after your own needs.” He tried his best to sound nonchalant.

She smiled back again as if she understood. “We’ll get out of this.”

Sure we will,” he said knowing neither of them believed they would.

As the woman pulled a blue cardigan she was using as a scarf back up over her lower face, he regretted not bringing any thicker clothes with him, but at the time he packed the cabin bag, there seemed little point on board a flight that was never intended to touch down. It puzzled him that others had, had more foresight, but he was thankful at least for the stewardess that every bag anyone had brought, had been ransacked. Gareth reached out for the paperback, it was a Star Wars novel. It had been years since he had read one and with as little of his fingers as possible holding it, he lay back in the seat and opened to the title page. In the dim light he had to concentrate on each word, but he began reading.

Hours passed, and as the time slipped by the mood in the cabin sunk deeper into hopelessness. The cabin crew had done what they could, and now even they had retreated to their own little group.

Gareth was seated in a double seat well to the rear of the cabin; no one was standing, and to all intents and purpose he could have been alone on the plane. Alone, the thought struck him again. Unseen people would die in each others arms; he would die alone. But maybe being alone wasn’t the worst thing, men would see their women die; mothers would see their children pass away. A significant buffeting shook him out of his morose feeling. His body tensed until the gusts died away, but he was left with a feeling that the lean of his seat was slightly more than it had been.

Like all the other passengers he had no way of knowing that the violent vibration, combined with the weight of plane and ice, concentrated onto an almost rubber less strut had finally broken through the floe. As the cluster of broken wheels sank, the warm outer engine cowling touched the ice. Yet more time was to pass as it settled through the slush and water ran over the lip and through into the turbines. One of their two remaining engines spluttered to a stop.

Gareth preferred to dismiss the tilt as being due to the howling blizzard outside, but the change of tone had brought him out of his thoughts. Listening intently, his ears picked out a sound he had not been listening for.

There was a faint sobbing that seemed closer than the other miserable sounds. He had thought he was alone in this part of the plane but it was coming from the seat behind. Trying to stay in his cocoon he twisted around until he could glance back between the headrests. It still looked empty but the soft whimper bored into his mind. He tried to ignore the sound. He was comfortable, at least as much as he ever would be. He was barely warm; to move and take a proper look would disturb what had taken hours to achieve. He fought against the curiosity for a long time before reluctantly he twisted around to look over the seats.

The aisle seat was empty but propped against the cabin wall was a pile of blankets. At first he thought they had been missed when the flight attendants had come around, and a feeling of pleasure swept through him as he contemplated using them himself. Then he realized they were not unused, and that the whimper was coming from something small inside them. The sound was too pathetic to listen to, and for reasons he couldn’t explain he struggled up from his wrappings and slid over to stand in the isle.

The cabin was now almost in darkness and appeared deserted if he looked forward. On the roof he could see a faint glistening where breath; turned to condensation, had begun to freeze. He glanced back and down. It seemed impossible that anything could be in the blankets, but that was where the sound was coming from. He leaned over and gently touched the folds. “Are you okay?” he said immediately realizing the stupidity of the words.

The whimper stopped.

The sight of the dismal bundle reminded him that he wouldn’t be the only person who was feeling alone. Suddenly he had an overwhelming urge to talk to someone, but the words sounded stupid almost as he spoke them. “Is anyone sitting here?”

A pathetic child’s voice came back. “I'm scared.”

The words tore his heart out. “Don't be scared,” he heard himself say as confidently as he could.

The whimper had turned to a soft sobbing. “I don't want to die.”

From the voice he guessed it was a girl, or a very young boy, he didn’t know. “No,” he said. “And I'm not going to; and neither are you. In a couple of days we will both have our picture in the newspapers and be telling everybody about what an adventure it all was.”

A tiny piece of face appeared from deep within the blanket. “I've never been so frightened.” The emotional voice screamed into his mind for attention. Gareth felt totally inadequate, and wondered why he had said anything. He looked back up the aisle help, or to see if anyone was moving; and searched his memory for a man or woman passing him, but there had been no one. “Where’s your mum; or your dad?”

At; at home.” The voice broke into weeping.

You’re alone?” he said in surprise, as without thinking he sat beside the bundle. “It’s okay,” he said, wanting to put his arm around the child as he had done to comfort his own daughter when she was distressed, but he stopped and pulled his arm back. “It is scary, I'm a bit frightened too, but things will work out. Any minute now a rescue party will be knocking to come in.” He could see definitely now that it was a girl.

You really think they will?”

I know they will. I owe a fortune on my credit cards, so if nobody else does, my bank manager will come looking for me.”

He saw what could have been a smile. “Is that meant to be a joke? It’s a very bad joke,” she said wearily

Sorry.” He gave a weak smile back

I'm Carrie,” she said softly.

Hi Carrie, I’m Gareth.” He reached over the seat and grabbed his blankets. “Can I sit next to you?”

You already are.”

Yes; I know; is it okay?”

I don't want to die alone,” She said pitifully.

We are not going to die Carrie,” he said it with such assurance that he surprised even himself. “I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told to anyone before.” He sat close and covered them both with his blankets. “In fact all my friends would have laughed at me if I had, but a long time ago I had my fortune told. You know what I’m going to live to be over a hundred years old.”

He could see her eyes deep in the blankets. “You believe that?”

Of course I do. I knew the guy who baked the fortune cookies, and he promised me they never lie.”

He could see her shaking her head, and felt sure he could see her eyes smile.

My mum said I should never talk to strangers. I didn’t know she meant it because they had such a terrible sense of humor.”

For a while they talked, learning about each others lives; only stopping as the plane lurched again.

Outside the heat molding the inner cowl into the ice allowed water to flood into the invert of the pod.

Whether Captain Hill noticed or not would never be known for though the radio still worked he made no further attempt to contact their rescuers. Of course there was nothing those trying to make contact: thousands of kilometers away, could have done to stop the hot engine parts hissing as they went below the surface slush.

What's happening?” said Carrie anxiously

It's okay Carrie; it’s just the storm.”

Less than a minute later the last engine died, leaving the cabin in silence. Gareth didn't know if she realized; with the blankets covering her head and most of her face, but he knew that unless they were rescued very, very soon, it really was the end. Everything now depended on keeping warm until help came.

Gareth felt her shaking; he knew it could have been fear, but he took the trembling to mean that she: like him was feeling the rapid drop in temperature. He had never considered himself self-sacrificing; in fact the opposite was truer. Neither was it a conscious decision, it was more of a response to feeling the girl shudder that just seemed the natural thing do. Gareth pulled the blankets from around his body and wrapped them around the child. Strangely he didn’t feel as cold as he had been before, and as the lights began to fail Gareth partly curled on the seat against her, holding himself as close to the bundle as he could, and drifted off to sleep.

After the last engine failed the temperature in the cabin plummeted. Core body heat dropped from the life sustaining thirty degrees plus to zero in so short a time that every living thing inside the fuselage was virtually snap frozen

They were beyond hope; and unheard by human ear the cracks of fracturing ice reached under the fuselage, and the plane slowly settled through to wallow in slush and broken ice. Time had already lost its importance as water flooded into the wheel bays and seeped into part of the cargo hold. The fuselage continued to slowly settle into the water, and as the heavy ice coating detached, the plane started to gradually sink to the seabed.

Forty-seven meters below the sea ice, flight A108 settled deep into the sub-zero seabed in a cloud of disturbed silts, looking much as if it were parked on the apron, ready for takeoff.

Above the blizzard continued for three more days, and when at last the wind stopped, and the sun returned to Antarctica, it bathed a refrozen and pristine landscape with no trace of the tragedy that had played out on its surface

Initially there had been an urgent flurry of rescue attempts, but with the slower than expected abating of the weather; and the chances of finding any person alive diminishing, no actual attempt was ever made.

Immediately the weather cleared Australasian air force planes began a search. The news to distraught relatives was that flight 108 had disappeared without trace, and that the ice had reformed. A ground party confirmed that the faint marks in the ice observed from the air could have been made during 108’s crash landing, but there was nothing to indicate exactly where it had come to rest. Of that location nothing could be found. One thing was obvious though, and that was the ice was continuing to thicken. As winter drew its veil over the continent it became impossible to recover the bodies: that would have to wait until next spring. The several ships already sailing for the area were turned around.

Sometime after, an American spy satellite equipped with cloud and ice piercing radar was diverted to locate the wreckage, but it was not until several weeks after that, that the US navy nuclear submarine Washington, diving beneath the ice found the still intact fuselage.

Two divers slipped out of the Washington's escape tubes and through the silent, eerie murk set eyes upon the tomb of a hundred and eighty-three souls. With the depth and the cold they were limited to eight minutes inspection; consequently almost all the video tape they recorded was of the failed engines, the great bulk in the background was now not as important as ensuring that whatever had happened did not occur again. Yet it was impossible to not see and wonder what poignant sight lay behind the row of dark windows that disappeared in either direction, into the murky silence. The film was carefully edited and was never publicly released in its entirety.

Over the subsequent months several salvage attempts were proposed, but the combination of distance, hostile location, and short window of opportunity in the unpredictable Antarctic Summer led each one to be postponed.

The greatest concern of the aviation officials was to determine the reason for the downing. So after examining the detailed reports of Captain Hill’s transmissions from the ice, and combining this with the evidence from the Washington's videotape; it was determined that an external object: or several, had entered and disabled both engines on the one side. With the reason for the disaster sufficiently known the overriding drive now became humanitarian. The motivation was originally there, but as time passed the political will to ease the grief of the relatives by being able to finally put their loved ones to rest, faded. New disasters occurred, elections were to be fought.

After almost eighteen months a suggestion was made to proclaim the area a grave site. It was slightly satisfying that these people would after dying together, spend eternity together.

A little over three years later attended by a select group of representatives, a commemorative plaque was placed on the closest land and everyone said his or her last good-byes.

Gareth, Carrie, Captain Hill, the stewardess’s, the men, women, and children were now only memories to each individual’s loved ones. To everyone else they were just more victims of another disaster: committed to remain forever at the place where they died.

So the seasons changed. The waters froze; and the ice thawed. Year passed to year, and the twenty-second century dawned. Again politics took a hand. It was an election year, and President Mary Meadows of the Federation of Pacifica agreed to attend a centenary service to mark the crash of flight A108.

As political arrangements go it was one she made clear, she preferred not to attend. Antarctica was a long way away, and of the things climate change had changed, the Southern Ocean was still the Southern Ocean. But choice was something politicians sometimes had little of, and after the results of an Internet poll had shown that a majority of the populace considered it fitting that the tail section of the actual aircraft be cut off and erected as a permanent memorial she had to attend. The idea seemed pointless, and she still couldn’t understand why a trivial little accident in the distant past had even been remembered: though as she thought on it, a lifetime after the Titanic sank it had still captivated the imagination.

The blades of single massive propeller slowed to almost stopping, as its helmsman balanced current and momentum. It was not an ideal place for a submarine, even one as big and sophisticated as the E.U. Mikhail Androv, so the remote camera was dispatched as soon as the suspended silts were carried away in the current.

Guided by sonar, the tiny craft cut through the water: trailing its umbilical cord until it was within a hundred meters of its target. At that point four powerful floodlights switched on creating a small patch of light filled with curious fish, and hemmed in by crushing, utter darkness. After almost a hundred years human eyes once again saw the silt-coated aircraft, and peered through the windows.


Yes Catherine,” Mary Meadows looked up momentarily at her personal secretary.

Philip Downs would like to see you.”

Philip?” Mary looked at her watch. “At this hour?”

Apparently he has a report from the Mikhail Androv.”

Who’s Mikhail Androv?” Mary pressed a button at the side of her electronic diary with a slightly puzzled look.

It’s not a he, it’s a submarine. One of the salvage vessels sent to plan the recovery of flight One-oh-Eights tail.”

Oh yes.” Mary’s finger came off the button. “Sorry Catherine, this new directive I have to implement,” she opened her hands at the data displayed around her in a hopeless gesture. “Is driving me to distraction.”

I was going to leave it until tomorrow, but I thought you would be interested to hear what he has to say.”

You thought I would be interested in something Philip has to say?” Mary said in curiosity

There was a knowing smile. “He is very keen to see you.”

I see.” Mary was intrigued at what could have made her usually overly formal and correct assistant, so obviously eager. “And what is so important that it can’t wait until the morning?”

He has an analysis on the conditions existing inside the cabin.” Catherine seemed hesitant to say more.



Mary’s nose betrayed a slight reluctance to hear whatever it was. She sighed. “Then you had better send him in.”

Moments later Downes stood beside the two women. He mused like many before him that they looked to the world like mother and daughter; or at least a thirty-year older version of the other; if it had not been for the younger having hair the color of obsidian and Mary still a pure blonde.

Catherine tells me that you have been examining the interior?”

Downes glanced at the younger. “Not directly Ms. President.”

Good. I don’t recall any permission being given to disturb the grave site.”

No Ms. President: there was none attempted.”

I'm not sure the public or I, are in the mood for a morbid examination of the site Philip.”

Preliminary investigation of the site was purely to assess the feasibly of the project, and was never intended for public consumption.”

This is a sensitive issue Philip. There are people still alive who could be considered close relatives of; those aboard.”

I understand that madam.”

There must be no suggestion that the grave site has been disturbed.”

We are all alert to that madam, but we also have a responsibility to ensure that the waters of Antarctica remain pristine. Surveys have to be carried out as part of the pollution assessment before we cut off the tail.”

So Philip, tell me what's so important that you come here at,” she glanced pointedly at her mantle clock. “Ten forty at night; that will not wait until the morning?”

Firstly Madam, the tail section is undamaged and would serve the suggested purpose. There are unlikely to be any problems with removing the section other than it has been recommended prior to that work that we drain any remaining fuel, or fluids so as to avoid any likelihood of contamination, but all that has been discussed before.”

It has, and I accept it has to be done, but I can’t say I consider it good news,” Mary huffily. “I’ll be honest with you I would have preferred a negative response. In fact I consider the whole thing crass. I don’t know how this poll ever got momentum. Sticking a bit of old aircraft in the pristine,” she stopped as she saw they were looking at her; she sighed and looked slightly crossly at Catherine. “So is that it?”

Philip looked nervously at Catherine as if he was unsure how to proceed.

Philip just tell the president what was inside.” Catherine prompted.

Inside?” Mary’s head spun to look at her. “I thought we just agreed.” Her voice had a distinct trace of distaste in it.

From the outside ma’am,” Catherine, added quickly in defense. “They only observed through the windows.”

Philip began again. “Initial examination of the Androv’s video show’s that as far as could be gathered all of the passenger’s remains were huddled together in groups, and.”

Passengers?” Mary interrupted in shock.

Yes madam; passengers; that’s what they were.”

I understand that,” she said huffily, “But you could see them?”

Kind of Madam. Reflections from the windows made it difficult to discern actual details of them but.”

Again Mary interrupted “You mean these people are still; there”

Yes,” he said unsurely,

I mean they haven’t deteriorated; away?”

Oh no madam, from what little was seen they look okay: if that’s not a contradiction. In fact we can make a confident assumption that it’s highly likely they died of hypothermia.”

They froze to death. That is not surprising, or at this point in time hardly important,” said Mary disdainfully.

No, but this report adds a slightly new perspective.”

In what way?”

Well actually two fairly significant ways. You are aware that under certain conditions water can drop below freezing point and not freeze”

I am not a physicist Philip.”

Philip nodded. “Apparently water can plummet well below in the right situation; while remaining liquid.” He gave a strange smile. “It seems as it warms it then freezes; quite ridiculous really.”

There is much we still have to learn about our world,” said Mary, in a tone that indicated she was far less impressed than Philip.

The temperature of any liquid,” he continued. “Including super-cool water, affects anything immersed in it, consequently the temperature inside the fuselage is, and it seems has been constant at about minus thirty degrees centigrade, for some time.”

I said I’m not a physicist and it’s some time since I was at college,” Mary interrupted. “All I vaguely remember is some law relating to heat, pressure and volume…”

Boyle,” he began, but she stopped him.

And from my memory of those lectures, that sounds a considerably lower temperature than I would have thought reasonable, even at that depth, or location.”

It is most unusual, but there are special contributing factors.”

And it’s too late to explain them; so just give me the facts.”

Madam. The aircraft is at the very edge of the continental shelf. The depth plunges quite steeply close by. This is one of the reasons why the ice forms thick and early in the sound.”

You’re suggesting the movement of a great deal of cold water may somehow have caused a kind of chill factor?”

It was explained that the down; or upwelling envelops the location, in a kind of layer”

Thermohaline Circulation. It’s an effect of super-saline seawater,” volunteered Catherine.

Philip glanced at her momentarily. “Some words like that were mentioned in the briefing,” he said before turning to Mary again. “Basically the passing mass creates a response similar to a household refrigerator. Warmth is absorbed and transported away.”

I still fail to see how that results in a minus thirty degree temperature; but please don’t feel you have to enlighten me “

Philip seemed slightly exasperated. “It wouldn’t madam, as I said there were other contributing factors; and I am trying to explain in as simple terms as possible.”

Mary’s expression did not change as she nodded for him to continue.

Suffice to say that there have been no investigations into a combination of such phenomena before, so it’s all fairly theoretical.”

As I said there are still a great many things we have to discover about our own planet. Though other factors now seem a greater priority,” she glanced at her display.

Whether it was for him or not, Philip took it as a hint. “Yes: well if we can ignore all the physics, we have come across something that appears impossible.”

Suddenly he had all of Mary's attention. “Impossible?”

All the reports at the time record that the plane landed safely: miraculously if one believes the newspaper headlines of the days following the downing.”

Go on.”

The plane is sitting on the bottom; it is upright and almost buried in mud and silt to the window line; but the point is that the fuselage is totally intact.”

And has been since the day it went down. Yes, I am aware of most of this.”

But you would probably not know that the cabin is dry.”

Dry?” she looked at Catherine, and noted that the other woman appeared to be waiting for more.

Philip went on. “In the past hundred years, none; or at least an insignificant amount of water has entered the main cabin.”

Some must have?”

Apparently not. The fuselage was pressurized to fly at high altitude so to all intents it is both airtight and watertight.”

Yes, but from ground right up into space is, if I remember only a single atmosphere. At forty meters that’s… four or six or something. The structure wouldn't withstand that extreme. Would it?”

If air from all the lower pressurized compartments was driven up by water penetrating through from the wheels, a significant air pocket at equilibrium with the ambient pressure could have been created.”

Even now, after all this time?”

It could compress to a point of in-compression.”

We’ve already concluded I'm not a physicist, or a mathematician Philip.”

Catherine interrupted again. “What Philip is trying to say is that as the cabin is substantially dry, the bodies have not been immersed.”

To a point that is correct,” said Philip defensively.

Bodies?” said Mary curiously. “We’re talking about human remains aren’t we?” She looked cautiously at the other two. “The word bodies’ comes to my mind; as implying that they have been preserved in some way?”

Philip nodded. “Basically they are blocks of ice.”

Blocks of ice: as in frozen?”

Yes.” He waited a second as if enjoying having the woman’s curiosity. “And there is an excellent chance we can recover them.” He declared with pride.

I see,” said Mary dubiously. “I suppose that could change the situation.” She looked at them both as if she was trying to see what courses of action were now open. “Didn’t one of the options we looked at propose re-internment?”

Yes,” said Catherine. “It was rejected.”

Mary nodded as if remembering, “I’ll be quite honest and say that at this moment I fail to understand how this significantly changes things. The site is a declared grave site, and while there could be some political benefits recovering the bodies for a normal burial, it was never the projects intention.”

No, madam, but you fail to understand what I am saying,” said Philip impatiently. “It’s not about politics at all?”

Philip it’s late. I’m tired, I have work to do that I don’t want to do and you have told me nothing that could not have waited until tomorrow, so unless you are about to, can we leave this until the morning?”

Madam I am not trying to be confusing. I have only just come from being told myself, and I find the whole as troublesome and difficult to comprehensively explain to myself.”

I don’t mean to be unsympathetic to these people, even at eleven pm, but up to now you have presented me nothing that I would call new, never mind noteworthy, beyond a few technical trivialities

Her apparent dismissive attitude seemed to give him purpose. “Neither would anybody else madam without the flight recorder. It was recovered during the feasibility exploration. Once examined it was found that the tape had stopped working for likely the same reason all the passengers died. It froze solid, but in the thirty minutes that it recorded before it froze, it recorded a drop in temperature of fifty degrees Celsius.”

Mary looked at him doubtfully. “Fifty degrees: in thirty minutes?”

Actually it was fifty-two degrees in just over fourteen minutes; they were to all intents and purpose, snap frozen.” He waited for his information to register. “If I can state the obvious, in the right circumstances freezing an organ at such a rate could result in almost perfect preservation“

Mary’s jaw dropped. “Wait a minute,” she interrupted him disbelievingly. “Are you telling me that these people are in cryogenic state?”

We can’t know that at this stage; but we have reason to believe that they are,” he smiled savoring what he was about to say. “More than that, if it is the case then we can recover them and.”

Whoa,” Mary said standing and opening her palms towards him. She looked at Catherine and then at him. “Are you going to suggest what I think you are?”

I think he is,” said Catherine nervously.

No; no, it’s not possible: is it?” She looked directly at Philip.

My information is that it is.”

But there will be tissue damage; the brain; neuron damage. They will be vegetated?” She insisted.

Left where they are,” began Philip. “And disturb the balance in any way; that includes removing the tail section, and there will be irreversible damage. The bodies will begin to decompose. Remove them to a controlled area and almost anything is possible.”

Mary audibly gasped. “Do you realize what ethical, legal, moral, oh heavens I can’t even think of what minefields are possible.”

I realize that madam, but we are talking about a hundred and eighty-three lives.”

Mary looked at him. “Are we Philip? Are these people alive; or are they dead like the rest of the World thinks they have been for the last hundred years?”

Before he could answer Catherine spoke. “Madam maybe I can remind you that the Eurasian court in its clone ruling of two thousand and fifty-seven decreed that a potential for life carried the same rights as a functioning life.”

Mary looked at her. “And you just happened to remember that?”

Catherine bit her bottom lip in unease, but said nothing.

Philip looked at Catherine. “We thought a disaster recovery crew. High on technical: and low on scientific expertise?”

Mary was dubious. “Can a disaster team be trusted to remain silent?”

Probably not, but with the right selection and a briefing emphasizing the almost certainty of cell damage, it could be run like a normal recovery, reburial operation.”

What has been assumed may be no more than an assumption,” added Catherine. “And once the experts have done their examinations it may turn out to actually be a case of reburial madam.” Mary seemed less eager to protest so Catherine carried on. “We can issue an amendment to one of the news briefs that while our intention is that nothing be disturbed, if some accident occurs we will; for purely moral reasons, recover for re- internment. Once the ceremony is over and the recovery is complete the specialists can undertake detailed examinations in total secret. If there is any suggestion of testing it can be claimed it’s to establish DNA identification; to contact any descendants?”

Now Philip spoke. “The Antarctic has been warming for the last century. The currents have, and continue to change. We cannot guarantee that the conditions in that fuselage will last another day. Water could fill the cabin at any time. Raising the temperature even a fraction would start to defrost them; and start the deterioration. But right now, with our technology they could be alive, and waiting for us to resurrect them.” He looked at Catherine, then at Mary. “And if I can be as bold as to point out madam, by touching the aircraft we technically could be accused of killing those people.”

Mary put her face into her hands. For some time there was silence until she looked up at them. “The question is. Would they want us to bring them back to this?”

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