The Digital Mapping System (DMS) instrument attached to NASA’s P-3 Orion airplane for the Operation IceBridge campaign has captured an interesting image during its latest annual Operation IceBridge campaign to the Arctic and Antarctic to monitor glaciers, ice sheets, and sea ice.

The 2014 northern spring campaign ended on May 23 after eleven weeks of flights, but not before taking photos of the Kee Bird, a wrecked B-29 Superfortress that made an emergency landing on a northwest Greenland ice sheet in 1947. 

The Kee Bird was a U.S. Air Force plane that made a crash landing after running into foul weather and other issues during a reconnaissance flight to the North Pole. The entire crew survived the crash, but then had to wait for more than three days to be found and rescued. In the 1990s, a private group of airplane and history aficionados attempted to restore and fly the plane, only to have it catch fire in the process. The wreck still lays on the ice sheet and is slowly being covered by wind-blown snow.

“The plane wreck lies right in between two of major science targets—Humboldt and Petermann Glaciers—and because of that we fly almost directly over it nearly every year,” said John Sonntag, a researcher from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility who has collected Kee Bird photos since the early 1990s. “When you spend eight hours a day, five days a week staring at a blinding white ice sheet, something interesting to look at comes as a rather welcome sight.”

This photo was shot in the spring of 2013 by Michael Studinger, the NASA scientist who leads IceBridge. In the oblique view, you can see the shadow of the P-3 research plane. Faint thin lines across the ice are likely polar bear tracks.

Courtesy Michael Studinger, NASA GSFC