Bad weather has forced rescue crews in Antarctica to delay until Friday an attempt to reach a small plane that was carrying three Canadians when it disappeared over a mountain range.
The plane was flying from a US station near the South Pole to an Italian research base in Terra Nova Bay. Its emergency locator started transmitting about 10 p.m. Wednesday in the Queen Alexandra mountain range about 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of the pole, halfway to its intended destination. Authorities presume it crashed.
The locator continued to transmit Thursday and rescue crews spent some five hours circling above the site in a DC3 plane. However, heavy cloud and hurricane-force winds prevented rescuers from seeing the plane or attempting a helicopter landing.
Authorities from New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and Italy will try again Friday to find the propeller-driven de Havilland Twin Otter plane. It was carrying survival equipment including tents and food, according to New Zealand Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator John Ashby.
"Weather conditions are extremely challenging," Ashby said in a statement Thursday.
He said winds had reached 90 knots (104 miles per hour) and heavy snow was predicted. Several planes and helicopters were standing by in Antarctica, waiting until conditions improved so they could travel to the site.
Ashby said similarly bad weather is predicted for the next 12 hours but that rescue teams will be ready to leave at short notice if there is any break in the conditions. He said the DC3 has returned for the night.
The missing plane is owned and operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd., a Canadian firm based in Calgary that charters aircraft to the U.S. Antarctic program. In a release, the National Science Foundation said the plane was flying in support of the Italian Antarctic program.
More information was not immediately available about the three Canadian men on the flight.
Antarctica has no permanent residents, but several thousand people live there in the Southern Hemisphere summer as a number of countries send scientists and other staff to research stations. The U.S. runs the largest program, with about 850 staff at its McMurdo Station and another 200 at its Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where the Canadians' flight originated.
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