Search for Survivors

(New York Times)

            For rescue work in the vicinity of the spot where the sealer Viking was wrecked by an explosion on Sunday, an airplane seems to be required.  Lookout on ships, prevented by heavy ice from reaching Horse Island on the bleak northern coast of Newfoundland, can have but a limited range of vision.  An airplane flying low could scrutinize every floe on which there might be survivors.  About eighteen persons on the Viking are said to be missing.  Horse Island is open to gales from the northeast, which accounts for the ice jam.  As 118 men fund their way from the wreck over the ice floes, some of the injured being carried by others, it was practicable to convey food and medical supplies to them from the ships offshore.  But the search for the unaccounted for should not be relaxed.  The conditions at the scene of the Newfoundland disaster are almost arctic at this time of the year.  Fortunately there was a wireless station on Horse Island which could tell the story and summon relief.

            To lead in a search by planes for those still living, there could be no better selection than that of Bernt Balchen and Major Merian C. Cooper.  Both are adventurous, intrepid, robust and cool-headed.  Balchen’s experience as a pilot includes his bringing down Commander Byrd’s plane through storm and darkness into the sea at Ver-sur-Mer after the Atlantic flight, and the ever-memorable ex-pilot in attaining the South Pole.  These feats called for high intelligence, rare skill and an indomitable will.  Major Cooper was a member of the Lafayette Escadrille in France during the war and later flew with the Kosciusko Squadron on the Polish front in 1920.  He was shot down from a Bolshevist plane and taken prisoner, but made his escape to Riga after ten months detention.   One of his later adventures was with the nomad Baktiari tribe on a migration from south Persia in Winter to new grazing grounds.  Balchen has had a thorough training in the use of skids in landing planes both in Canada and in the Antarctic.  It may be necessary to employ them on the coast of Newfoundland.  The hazards of the search to be undertaken – storm, fog, gales, and the inescapable difficulties of bringing a plane down safely, may call for the staidness that has always distinguished the career of the Norwegian as a pilot.  

The Evening Telegram, March 26, 1931

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