It won't take the reader of this book long to realize that Antarctica is not the place for the faint of heart. A single mistake can kill you, and pilots in particular are vulnerable. Author Mark Hinebaugh should know. As an LC-130 pilot with the U.S. Navy's VXE-6 squadron, he put his life on the line countless times to carry scientists and their supplies in and out of this enigmatic continent. And in this engaging memoir he puts the reader in the seat next to him to experience the adventure of flying over the coldest, driest, highest, windiest, and most godforsaken place on earth.
Cloudless, sunny days mutate into maelstroms of snow in a matter of minutes. A whiteout landing where crews land without ever seeing the ground is unforgettably described in a chapter called "Flying in a Milk Bottle." Hinebaugh also makes it perfectly clear that when the weather breaks, the views are awe-inspiring. He brilliantly conveys the exhilaration of flying down low through rugged glacial valleys and the thrill of seeing the sites where such giants of Antarctic exploration as Amundsen, Byrd, Scott, and Shackleton began their journeys. The author's formula for survival is steely nerves and a healthy dose of optimism, along with an ability to adapt to constantly changing situations and an uncompromising adherence to a personal code of safety. He warns that this is a place where skill, teamwork, flexibility, and a keen sense of humor are paramount. Hinebaugh's rich, vivid voice is so descriptive that opening the pages of his book are almost as exciting as taking the trip yourself—and a lot more comfortable.