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Aviation in Antarctica is the most challenging and dangerous flying short of combat. This is the story of Americans who dared to do it.
Aviation in Antarctica is the most challenging and dangerous flying short of combat. This is the story of Americans who dared to do it.
112 backers pledged $15,284 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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“Ice Eagles” is a documentary film covering the history of U.S. aviation in Antarctica including Admiral Byrd’s first three expeditions (1928-30, 1933-35, 1939-41), Operation Highjump (1946-47), the Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition (1946-48), Operation Windmill (1947-48), Operation Deep Freeze (1955-99) and the present day operations of the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard.

Aviation in Antarctica is the most challenging and dangerous flying outside of combat. This is the remarkable story of those that accepted the challenge, what they endured and accomplished, what they suffered and lost. Much of what has been learned about Antarctica would not have been possible without the efforts of these pilots, aircrews, maintenance and support personnel and the dedicated people who built and maintain the air facilities there. These stories deserve to be told.

This film is focused on people. This will be, as much as possible, a first-hand account by the men and women who lived the history.Through their individual experiences, the larger view of how aviation has advanced in the most unforgiving environment on earth will emerge.

Unloading aircraft, Byrd Antarctic Expedition, 1928 (Ohio State University Byrd Polar Research Center)
Unloading aircraft, Byrd Antarctic Expedition, 1928 (Ohio State University Byrd Polar Research Center)
Curtiss-Wright Condor, United States Antarctic Service Expedition, 1940 (National Archives)
Curtiss-Wright Condor, United States Antarctic Service Expedition, 1940 (National Archives)
Crash boat crew, Seaplane Tender USS Pine Island, Operation Highjump, 1947 (U.S. Navy)
Crash boat crew, Seaplane Tender USS Pine Island, Operation Highjump, 1947 (U.S. Navy)
Uncrating U.S. Navy VX-6 helicopter at McMurdo Station, Operation Deep Freeze, 1966 (Bill Fazio)
Uncrating U.S. Navy VX-6 helicopter at McMurdo Station, Operation Deep Freeze, 1966 (Bill Fazio)
U.S. Navy VXE-6 LC-130 firing Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) on the Orville Coast, Operation Deep Freeze, 1977 (Mike Boyles)
U.S. Navy VXE-6 LC-130 firing Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) on the Orville Coast, Operation Deep Freeze, 1977 (Mike Boyles)
NY Air National Guard LC-130 at South Pole Station, 2012 (USAF Photo by SrA Ben German/Released)
NY Air National Guard LC-130 at South Pole Station, 2012 (USAF Photo by SrA Ben German/Released)
Pilot LCDR Conrad Shinn USN (Ret.) with R4D Que Sera Sera at 50th Anniversary of South Pole Landing Ceremony, 2006 (Les Liptak)
Pilot LCDR Conrad Shinn USN (Ret.) with R4D Que Sera Sera at 50th Anniversary of South Pole Landing Ceremony, 2006 (Les Liptak)

VXE-6 Squadron LC-130 pilot Mark Hinebaugh summed up Antarctica in his book "Flying Upside Down" this way: "I went without expectations and came away with a profound sense of how raw and surly unconquerable Mother Nature can be. She makes it perfectly clear in Antarctica: if you are not prepared, she will kill you."

Progress to Date

I have conducted a great deal of background research over the past year.  In the process, I have acquired an enormous amount of photos, film clips, documents, maps and other material.

I started interviewing in November, 2014 with a trip to Norfolk, VA and conducted more interviews in Pensacola, FL in early January, 2015. The Pensacola News Journal wrote an article on my project in an issue of their Sunday paper which can be viewed online at http://www.pnj.com/story/news/military/2015/01/10/antarctic-aviation/21568179/. To date, I have conducted 31 interviews with people whose experiences date from as far back as the 1939-41 United States Antarctic Service Expedition. I have been very gratified by the cooperation and support that I have received from the Antarctic aviation community.

The Team

Tom Henderson – Director, Cinematographer

Tom founded Graceful Willow Productions (www.gwillow.com) in 2011 to film biographies and documentaries. To date, he has made four documentary films, all with Antarctic themes. Tom is an Antarctic veteran himself, serving with the U.S. Geological Survey as a cartographer on The Ice in 1979-80 and 1981-82. He wintered over at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in 1982. He returned to Antarctica in 1997-98 as a marine technician aboard the research icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer.

Corey Doughty – Cinematographer, After Effects Specialist

Corey Doughty is a freelance filmmaker based out of East Greenbush NY who specializes in cinematography and post production. With 5 years of experience, Corey works to push others to the limits of their talent while also bringing a unique style to his own productions. You can find more of his work and contact information at www.locustmedia.co

Ron with Prototype of Que Sera Sera Print
Ron with Prototype of Que Sera Sera Print

Ronald Stephano – Artist

As soon as he could hold a pencil, Ron has been drawing almost every technical subject - onto every available surface. He graduated in 1980 as a mechanical engineer and today he works for the American automotive supplier industry out of his country of Luxembourg in Europe. His passion, however, has always been drawing. Ron almost exclusively draws with pencil, china ink and colored pencils. Adjusting to the modern world of multimedia, he refines his drawings by enhancing them on his personal computer. Ron specializes in caricatures and technical drawings of Antarctic subjects. He may be reached at ronalds@pt.lu.

Matt Edwards - Composer

Matt Edwards is a native of Louisiana where he studied at Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts and Southern University. While a student at Southern, he was a prize winner in the Debose National Piano Competition. Matt is a noted band leader who led the group Buck2Fifty for over ten years. His latest group is The Woodcock Johnson Blues Band that performs throughout the area. Matt is also an avid composer, his latest project was the score for the documentary film, "The Last Man". Besides teaching piano at Bennington College, Matt heads the choral program at Mount Anthony Union Middle School in Bennington, is the music director at First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, NY and maintains a private teaching studio in Greenwich, NY. Matt has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe as a solo performer, sideman, band leader, and choral conductor.

Timeline

The remainder of 2015 will be devoted to collecting more interviews, photos, film clips, documents, maps and other material as well as cataloging all of the above.

Rewards that are possible to be distributed before the film is finished will be sent to appropriate contributors by the end of June, 2015

Editing will begin in earnest in early 2016.

It is expected that the final film will be distributed by June, 2016.

Budget

I have set $9,600 as the budget for the remainder of the film. This is a bare-bones minimum to cover my planned trips ($5,000), contracting of music and narration ($2,000),  licensing and reproduction ($800),  Kickstarter fees and rewards purchases ($1,200) and supplies and mailing ($600).

I can, of course, put any additional monies pledged beyond the goal to very good use. There are trips that I would like to add to the itinerary to interview more people and additional copyrighted material that I would like to license. There are many ways that I can make this an even better film.

UPDATE: WMHT, the local PBS affiliate in Albany, NY has expressed interest in broadcasting a version of "Ice Eagles"! They have quality and technical standards that must be met for broadcast which means I must have the best material that I can acquire. Any extra funding for the project will be applied with this in mind. 

Risks and challenges

The primary risk is not recording the stories of those whose experiences are important to the overall history. A number of persons who have yet to be interviewed are in their 80’s and 90’s. The urgency is apparent.

A major challenge is obviously to sort through and select from the many resources that I will have and tell an accurate and complete story in only 2-3 hours. That is the dilemma that every documentarian faces, and it is a good one to have. This wealth of material includes images and film clips never before seen publicly, and interviews with people who have not told their story publicly before.

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    Contributors will receive an sincere “thank you” from me by email.

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    Contributors will receive a signed “thank you” card from me with an excerpt photo from the film.

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    Contributors will receive access to a streaming download of the final version of the film for one year starting on the date of release.

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    Contributors will receive the previous reward plus a DVD copy of the finished film. The final version will require 2 or possibly 3 DVD disks. This is the expected cost of the DVD version once the film is released.

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    Contributors will receive the previous reward except the film will be delivered in Blu-ray rather than DVD format. This is the expected cost of the Blu-ray version of the film once it is released.

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    Contributors will receive the previous reward plus an 8.5” x 11” glossy captioned photo of one of the historic aircraft used in Antarctica.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Contributors will receive the previous rewards plus a beautiful limited edition graphic of the first plane to land at the geographic South Pole, the R4D-5L "Que Sera Sera". Every detail has been verified as historically accurate. The print also contains a great deal of textual information about this historic plane. These 12” by 17” prints will be signed by the artist and numbered. Also, the DVD or Blu-ray copy of the film will be signed by the Director.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Contributors will receive the previous rewards plus a beautiful limited edition graphic of the first plane to land at the geographic South Pole, the R4D-5L "Que Sera Sera". Every detail has been verified as historically accurate. The print also contains a great deal of textual information about this historic plane. These 12” by 17” prints will be signed by the artist and numbered. Also, the DVD or Blu-ray copy of the film will be signed by the Director. Also, the artist, Ron Stephano, will include a history of the R4D "Gooney Birds" that were used in Antarctica which will be emailed to contributors.

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    Contributors will receive the above rewards except the print of the "Que Sera Sera" will be signed by the pilot who landed that first plane at the South Pole on October 31, 1956. LCDR Conrad Shinn U.S. Navy (Ret.) has graciously agreed to sign a limited number of these prints. Contributors at this level will also receive individual credit in the film under “Production Support By.” This is a very special reward!

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    Contributors will receive the previous rewards plus a separate credit in the film as Associate Producer. In addition, Blu-ray copies of the film will be sent to the libraries at McMurdo Station, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and Palmer Station in Antarctica with your name listed in a special film introduction as “This Film was Donated by …...”

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    Contributors will receive the previous rewards and a separate credit as Executive Producer or Corporate Sponsor.

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Funding period

- (45 days)