The Crash of Bluebird

On the 9th of November 1961 the Neptune P2V (BRUNO 140439) named "Bluebird" crashed on the plateau near Wilkes station. Accounts of the accident have been compiled, and as much information as possible added, by Billy-Ace Baker. Bluebird had just flown a geomagnetic survey mission out to Mirny Station and was en route back to McMurdo Station. After spending the night at Wilkes the plane was taking off for the return to McMurdo. Tragically on take off a fire ignited in the rear of the aircraft resulting in it crashing near the makeshift Wilkes air strip. Of the 9 crew only 4 survived.

Bill Burch, one of Wilkes 1961 crew, witnessed the crash and after hearing the story repeated, having gone through the "chinese whisper circuit" and becoming quite inaccurate, wrote about it in a story he titled "The All American Boy" as a record of the visit of the aircraft, it's crew, and the crash.

In 1996/1997 some friends and I went up onto the plateau to visit the crash site. The snow accumulation is considerable on the edge of Law Dome where the crash site is. Only the very tip of the planes tail was visible with a bit of digging. It is probably buried now.

There are no memorials at Casey (the replacement of Wilkes) to remind us of the men who perished in this terrible accident.

Souls who perished

Dr. Edward Thiel, geo-physicists from the University of Wisconsin
LCDR William D. Counts, copilot
LTJG Romauld P. Compton navigator
AMH1 William W. Chastain, metalsmith

ADR2 James L. Gray
, flight engineer


LT E. J. Stetz
LTJG E. L. Hand
AE1 J. C. Shaffer
AT1 C. C. Allen

Photo of James Gray provided by his sister Connie Gray Siemen.

The crash site in 1996/1997

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