Ice Stories
Exploratorium Home

Transportation in Support of Science: The LC-130 Hercules

SUMMIT CAMP, GREENLAND– (By Lisa Strong-Aufhauser) We, but even more so, I, spent a lot of time in LC-130 Hercules transport planes operated by the U.S. Air National Guard out of Stratton Air Force Base in New York. Mary and I flew up to Greenland from New York aboard one. Then I flew several more times on various length trips in my attempts to get to Summit Camp. (The 4th try was a charm.) The LC-130 Hercules, or Hercs as they are often called, transport scientists (and journalists) up and back to Greenland along with all their gear. They also supply the remote camps with food, fuel, and equipment. Our flight in to Summit Camp carried, along with us, the fresh food the chef and Summiteers were eagerly awaiting. The Hercs from Stratton have skis to land on snow. I thought the landing was amazingly smooth on snow. Our take off seemed to take forever to get to speed, but just as the nose was beginning to lift, the pilots hit the JATOs – Jet Assisted Take Off – leaving those who were not hanging on already, clawing for a handhold! That shot us into the sky!

A Herc on snow.

But back at Summit Camp; I wanted to videotape a take off, but low on sleep, at 11,000’ in elevation, and with a resting heart rate of 97, I decided I would not try to drag myself outside. Instead, I shot through the window of The Big House, the central hub of activity at Summit Camp. Next day, though, I felt much better and asked to shoot our plane landing on skis. Chris Greenfield, the Summit Camp medic, was much obliged. He packed me and my camera and tripod on the back of a snowmobile and roared out to what we hoped would be close to where the Herc would set down.

Lisa and Chris on a snowmobile.

I had never been on a snow machine before. It was exhilarating to fly across the snow like that. We stopped. I jumped off, set up my tripod and camera, then the Herc landed much further away than we had hoped. Not much of a shot. But then Chris asked if I wanted to ride along side the Herc as it skied in. Sure! I piled back on. It was almost impossible at 45 mph to shoot straight. I was barely hanging on. At one point, my headphones and sunglasses started slipping down my head. One hand on the camera, one hand on the grip handle at my hip, I had to ease them back on with a shrug and a little help from Chris’s back. Again, it wasn’t such a great shot, but the experience was unforgettable. Still, you’ll find a bit of it in this video of the Herc in the snow at Summit Camp.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Tags: , , ,

2 Responses »

  1. Well done Lisa! That snowmobile-LC 130 Hercules chase gave me an adrenaline rush! Surprisingly steady camera work once you got moving. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree with Alex…quite an adrenaline rush! Ohmygosh, that was too darn fast for my taste! Good job and glad you’re talking about it instead of being dug out of the snow!