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Easbey recalls ‘wintered-over’ months in Antarctica

By Staff | Aug 17, 2009

Tying strings to balloons can be a challenge, but imagine what it would be like to tie the tiny cords together in minus 60-degree temperatures without gloves.

This was one of the tasks Charles ‘Chuck’ Easbey, former Blue Earth Flying Service owner (1974-1991), performed regularly when he ‘wintered-in’ as a Navy aerographer second class at the bottom of the world. He tied cords on weather balloons to be launched into Antarctica’s atmosphere.

For 13 months, he maintained weather watches amounting to 70 hours a week in Antarctica. He recorded data every three hours about the clouds, visibility, wind, temperature, humidity and dew point as part of the studies during ‘Operation Deep Freeze.’ This was the United States’ contribution to the peaceful study of Antarctica during the International Geophysical Year (1957-1958). Easbey and his fellow forecasters transmitted their daily data findings to the Williams Air Operating Facility some 600 miles away on the ice in McMurdo Sound.

After graduating from St. Paul’s Harding High School, Easbey worked briefly at Brown and Bigelow and Minnesota Mining before entering the Navy in December 1952. He attended weather school (aerology) not meteorology, at Lakehurst, N.J. where he says the wreckage of the dirigible or blimp, the Hindenburg, could still be seen on the grounds.

“The weather business started for the Navy because of the blimps,” says Easbey. “They needed accurate information for their operation, so this is why the weather school was started there.”

He says he remembers seeing the blimps come in from the Atlantic and literally bounce in their attempts to land because they couldn’t penetrate the denser air on the ground.

In 1953, while still stationed at Lakehurst, Easbey says the Navy presented a 1947 film about an expedition to Antarctica that showed what the continent looked like after World War II.

To read more of this story, see this week’s Register.