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In 1927, Eielson and George Wilkins crash-landed on the ice about 65 miles northwest of Barrow while trying to be the first to navigate across the Arctic.
It was eighteen days before they hiked into the fur station at Beechey Point; the little finger on Eielson’s right hand had to be amputated due to frostbite.
But when Russ Merrill’s plane went down between Anchorage and Sleetmute, it ignited a 10,000-mile search and changed the burgeoning world of aviation forever.
News articles announcing pilot departures and arrivals made the front page back then, as did those reporting pilots were okay: “There is no truth to the report that Pilot Young is missing,” reads a headline from The Anchorage Daily Times.
Overdue aircraft were common, as were the stories of pilots emerging unscathed after all manner of delays, breakdowns and mishaps.
Along with fellow pilot Roy Davis and mechanic Cyril Krugner, Merrill arrived in Alaska in 1925, flying into Ketchikan with big plans to establish a flying business.
He loved the area so much that he sent for his wife and children only a week later.