A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on Saturday rescued two pilots who were stranded four days on a remote Canadian glacier after making an emergency landing in their vintage World War II-era airplane.
One of the pilots said they were tired but in good condition after living on snacks, water and beer in the snowbound plane for four days. The vintage Grumman Widgeon amphibious plane had been equipped with survival gear."We both lost a little weight, but that's about it," said Michael Mills of Gustavus.
Whiteout conditions had prevented rescuers from getting to the pilots during daily attempts begun Tuesday.
Mills, 38, said in a telephone interview from his home that he landed the plane after the engines failed. He and fellow pilot Charles "Buddy" Ferguson, 31, were confident they would be rescued, he said.
"We pretty much knew we were OK. We probably could have stayed there another week without being in too bad a shape," Mills said.
The two men had reported by radio earlier that they were unhurt and comfortable, the Coast Guard said.
The H-3 helicopter hoisted the men from the glacier about 10:20 a.m. AST and they were flown to their hometown of Gustavus, about 60 miles south, Chief Petty Officer Jim Van Atta said.
The face of the glacier, at Tarr Inlet, is in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and is about 60 miles north of Gustavus, a small southeast Alaska port town. The huge river of ice stretches far into British Columbia.
Nightly temperatures on the glacier were estimated at 20 to 25 degrees, said Robert Jacobson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Juneau.
The pilots were several miles inside Canada. Coast Guard officials said they had received permission from the Canadian government to conduct the rescue.
Mills said he and Ferguson lived on cheese, salami, a bag of corn chips and two cans of oysters. They rationed the food and had still some left when they were rescued.
"We just nibbled. We drank plenty of water. We had a case of beer and we drank that," he said. "We really weren't that hungry because we were so inactive."
"We did well together. We had three magazines that we both read about three different times, backwards and forwards," Mills said.
Mills said the plane, which is being restored, was undamaged and would be flown off the glacier later this week if the weather permits.
"We're going to have to go up and get it," he said. "It'll fly right out of there. It's a great airplane."
Mills and Ferguson operate Alaska Seair Adventures, a Gustavus-based company that transports anglers, hunters, photographers and tourists to remote spots in southeast Alaska.
Snowfall and poor visibility prevented the helicopter from reaching the plane until the first break in the weather came Saturday morning.