Nature is a formidable force, and despite the groans about the world becoming smaller and smaller, it's actually still a rather large place. It's still very much filled with mystery and things waiting to be discovered. That was the case when a research team leading a science expedition came across the frozen wreckage of a plane and decided to explore the long-lost crash site even further. What they found had remained locked in the icy graveyard for decades, seemingly - at first - untouched by humans.
Catching A Glimpse Of Something In The Ice
When the team first stumbled across the shattered wreckage of the flight, it took a moment to register. Dr. Landon, the expedition lead, initially thought it was just the wintery landscape playing a trick on his eyes, much in the same way someone might think they spotted an oasis rippling in the desert heat. However, it quickly became evident that this was no mirage. Instead, it was a downed plane far from civilization.
Then came the questions: When had it crashed? Were there any survivors? And had the plane previously been found? Dr. Landon now had a choice to make: explore the plane with his crew or ignore it and continue on with their original work.
Something Catches The Crew's Eyes
The choice was an obvious one. They would venture out from the boat and explore the wreckage of the downed plane. However, as a precaution, Dr. Landon decided to split the crew into two. He would take one group out onto the ice and search the wreckage while the other group would stay behind on the boat. However, after Dr. Landon and his group left the boat and set off, something unsettling happened.
As the group that was left behind watched from the safety of the boat, they thought that they spotted something else amidst the landscape, something farther afield than Dr. Landon and the others.
Reaching The Wreckage
Unfortunately, Dr. Landon and his team were too far away now to communicate with, and the crew on the boat were still discussing whether they'd all just witnessed something in the ice or if the white landscape was playing tricks on their eyes. So, Dr. Landon and his team continued on towards the crashed plane, unaware of what was happening back on the boat but still excited to see what was to come.
When they did finally reach the plane, they were in for a surprise. Seeing the thing up close was entirely different from viewing it from the safety of the boat.
An Expedition Into A Frozen Expanse
The Arctic is a foreboding place. Even if you're going there to do scientific research, as Dr. Landon and his team were, you have to make meticulous preparations to make sure you don't end up like so many explorers before you. Much of the continent is still unexplored, so when the weather became relatively calm, and the preparations were made, the team was excited to finally get the go-ahead.
Initially, they weren't even sure the weather would clear enough to give them the window they needed, which, because of the need for sunlight and the area's lack of just that, was rather short.
Happening Upon The Plane
The team had heard of other grizzly discoveries being made around the world as the ice retreated and global warming intensified: an American WWII bomber in Greenland and the remains of a 1968 crash in the Swiss Alps to name a few. However, happening upon a random crash wasn't on anyone's mind when they set off. So, staring up toward the icy cliff and spotting what looked like the wings of a plane as they passed by on the boat shocked the crew.
After some minutes, they noticed that part of the cliff had fallen into the ocean, likely allowing them to spot the plane and meaning that it was unlikely anyone else had discovered it before.
Photographing The Discovery
Nearly as soon as the plane came into view, Dr. Landon shouted to the wheelhouse to shut off the engine. The engines, which had been the only sound echoing off the cliff and out into the ocean, suddenly stopped. Naturally curious, the rest of the crew gathered on the deck and started taking photos of the discovery. For a moment, there wasn't any chatter as everyone took a second to process what they were seeing.
The team pulled out their cameras and their phones and started to take pictures as the gravity of the moment began to set in and it began to become obvious they'd need to go up and search the wreckage.
Talk Of A Search Ensues
A few more moments passed as the crewmembers took their photos, but soon, they started to talk amongst themselves and hypothesize about what could've brought the plane down. Muffled talk about everything from the area's severe weather to the plane simply losing power and malfunctioning filled the deck. They began to theorize about when it crashed and how long it'd remained hidden behind the glacier and if anyone else had stumbled upon it before (unlikely).
However, their theories would turn out to be less important than something else that was also happening in that moment. One of the crew members had snapped a photo and captured within the image, not only the downed plane, but something more peculiar.
Preparing To Take A Look
By the time Dr. Landon announced they would form into teams and go up to take a look at the wreckage, the news seemed like a foregone conclusion. Maybe it was in their nature as scientists to want to explore the unknown, but whatever the reason, everyone onboard was eager to hike up to the plane. So, after a quick assessment of the ice, they began to load up and prepare to make their way to the plane.
During preparations, the crewmember who had shot the peculiar photo moments earlier began to quickly glance over her pictures, and one stuck out to her enough to alert Dr. Landon.
One Photo Stands Out From The Rest
A photo of a downed plane in an arctic tundra would be weird enough, but as the crewmember began to scour her images, she noticed that one photo stood out from the rest. She stood there, ready to make her way to the plane with the rest of the crew, and couldn't take her eyes off the picture. So, she decided to consult Dr. Landon and ask him to make sure they were both seeing the same thing.
She went and showed the doctor, and his reaction was nearly identical to hers. He stood there studying the photo for a moment, seemingly running through all the different possibilities in his head.
Something Else In The Wreckage
Dr. Landon mulled the photo over for a moment, pouring over all kinds of different explanations for what he was seeing. However, it was clear as day as he looked at the screen: there appeared to be something standing there in the wreckage. The plane's grey hull was silhouetted against the bright white landscape, but right there, in the middle of that silhouette, there appeared to be a white figure of some kind.
This was made even stranger by the fact that the figure only appeared in a single image and not in others of the wreckage taken using the same camera.
Artifact Or Something Else?
Despite Dr. Landon's own misgivings about what he saw on the camera screen, he told his crew that it was most likely just a visual artifact or something to do with the light. Still, he wondered to himself about what he'd just seen. Was it snow or a snowflake that just happened to cross in front of the lens at the right moment or some kind of trick of light?
Well, despite the freezing conditions, it wasn't snowing and it very well could've been due to some kind of light reflection. Either way, he knew that as the leader of the crew he needed to remain calm and logical, at least outwardly.
Testing The Cameras
By this time, everyone on board had had a chance to take a look at the peculiar photo. It made such an impression that some of the crew started pointing their own cameras at the wreckage, trying to recreate the photo. However, it didn't work, and all of the pictures they took turned out perfectly normal. Or, as normal as a photo of a downed plane in the Arctic can be.
Dr. Landon had his own misgivings about the whole situation. It didn't matter what or wasn't in the photos; he had a nagging feeling that he was leading his crew dangerously into the unknown.
Spotting Something On The Way To The Site
Dr. Landon and his team offloaded in the only suitable place and began to make their way towards the wreckage. The trek was longer than it appeared to be from the boat. Still, the team began to make their way up towards the boat, and Dr. Landon made it a point to take in his surroundings on the way. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until they arrived at the crest of a hill and looked back down on the ocean below.
Dr. Landon took a moment to take the scene in before shouting out "Stop!" The entire team froze. The doctor had seen something move. It was only a flash but he swore he saw it.
A Short, Tense Stop
The group was already on edge when the doctor gave the command to stop. Nobody else had seen the movement and Dr. Landon knew that he had to pick and choose his words carefully. He was a scientist, and scientists weren't supposed to lose their cool over a simple photo. So, he simply explained away what he thought he'd seen and summed it up to his eyes playing tricks on him.
He and the rest of the team resumed their hike towards the plane a moment later, where maybe they would be able to find some answers as to why the plane was there and when it crashed.
The Crash Markings
When the team arrived at the crash site, it was obvious that the landing had been abrupt. The hull had separated completely upon impact. There was the usual damage you'd associate with an airplane crash: heaps of metal strewn about, what appeared to be seats lying in the snow, a hull that had been violently torn apart. However, the more they inspected the plane, the more they realized there were other markings too.
There were gashes that didn't look like they originated from the crash. They were more uniform and less random than you'd expect to find in a chaotic crash site.
Piecing Together The Puzzle
That wasn't all. There were also tracks. The team was pretty familiar with most of the wildlife in the area, and while the tracks didn't look fresh, they also didn't look like any they recognized. The scratches on the hull of the plane raised even more questions. However, those would have to wait because it was starting to get dark, and they needed to set up camp before the sun withdrew completely.
The team got to work setting up camp, but they couldn't help theorizing about their findings. They tried to piece together the clues while putting up their tents and getting ready to delve into the plane's hull.
Exploring The Plane
The sound of snow and ice filled the air as the group stepped into the plane itself. There was debris lying everywhere. Cups, magazines, clothes, and bags were strewn about in a chaotic mess. Lights dangled from the cabin ceiling. The team, armed with flashlights, delved deeper into the wreckage, surveying the debris. Outside, the wind was picking up and but they all still heard the pattern. It was faint at first.
But it slowly grew into what sounded like a faint whisper. The team continued on until it was no longer impossible to ignore, at which point everyone paused and asked if others were hearing the same thing.
The Team Pauses Inside The Crash
Dr. Landon raised his hand, motioning for the rest of the group to quiet down. The noise sounded like it was coming from outside the plane, so he moved closer to the cabin wall and listened. Then, just like that, it began to dissipate in the same way it started. Everyone was on edge, so the explanation that it was most likely just the wind whistling against some piece of metal was quickly accepted as the likely culprit.
Still, some wondered that if that really was the case, why had it stopped even though they could still hear the wind beating on the hull of the plane outside?
The Team Reaches The Cockpit
Dr. Landon and his team slowly made their way towards the nose of the plane and the cockpit. When they arrived, they saw that everything was arranged just as it had been when the plane crashed. The already chaotic nature of a cockpit, combined with the fact that the plane's final moments were obviously harrowing, painted a dark picture. The levers were all locked in place, and dials were turned this way and that.
The instruments were all frozen to where they probably were at the time of the crash. Some of them were busted, and small shards of glass littered the inside of the cockpit.
A Message From The Past
Despite all the chaos unfolding in the cockpit, the team's gaze was immediately drawn to the plane's communication screen. The screen was frosted over, but its last message was still readable. Dr. Landon read the words aloud: "Descending into the unknown...." The message had obviously been written after the crash, perhaps by one of the pilots or maybe by a passenger or crew member. But everyone wondered the same thing: just what did it mean?
Unlike the last couple of times, there was no theorizing aloud as every member pondered the question in their head. Dr. Landon wondered too, but he also knew how to provide some answers.
Recovering The Black Box
Luckily, the reinforced compartment that contained the plane's black box was still intact. The box records everything from the plane's system diagnostics to cockpit audio, so if there was ever a way to figure out exactly what happened during the plane's final moments this was it. Dr. Landon reached in and grabbed the box, holding it for a second and thinking to himself that this was their ticket to solving what happened.
However, they would need to get back to the boat before they would be able to tell if the box was still functioning properly and, if so, to pour over all of the data.
Leaving The Wreckage
As the team slowly made their way out of the cabin, they took a couple of final glances at the wreckage. Many of the passengers' personal items were still there. Things like toys, glasses, and other intimate objects all served to remind them that this was where a plane full of people met their end. It was a somber walk, but it also gave them more resolution to find answers.
And now, many of them thought, they were close to finding those answers and perhaps putting to bed the mystery of this crash, which had remained untouched until they arrived.
A Shadowy Figure In The Snow
Darkness had fully descended by the time they left the inside of the crash and walked back to camp. Aside from the sound of the wind, everything else was calm. A while passed while the team discussed their findings and continued to speculate about what happened. Still, nearly every other team member made it a point to look up from the conversation and survey their surroundings every so often.
During the discussion, one of the team members shouted "There!," and raised his hand to point towards the wreckage. "A white figure," he added. The conversation stopped, and everyone turned to look towards the plane.
Surveying The Debris
However, by this point, it was too late. If there was really something there, it wasn't there now. The team had seen enough so far to keep their eyes glued to the wreckage. They stood there silently, watching the plane for any sign of movement, their eyes well-adjusted to the darkness by now. However, there was nothing, only the slight movement of snow as the wind beat against the ground.
They continued to watch the wreckage for what seemed like hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of anything that seemed out of the ordinary. The conversation restarted with everyone facing in the direction of the plane.
They Find Evidence In The Morning
There wasn't much sleep that night. When the sun finally did come up, those who'd managed to get a couple of hours quickly rose from the tents. Dr. Landon was one of the first to walk to the plane and survey the wreckage. There, he and a couple of others turned towards the snow. If there really was a figure in the shadows, last night, then surely there must be footprints.
It didn't take them long to wipe away some of the fresh snow and find imprints. "Someone, or something, has been here recently," he said, turning to the team.
Imprints On The Ice
The ice that covered much of the ground was cracked in different places. Could it have come from the team the previous night? This seemed unlikely as most of them had to jump up and down just to create small fractures in the ice. There were too many and they all seemingly led to the opening of the crash in a pattern you'd expect to find with tracks marks.
Everyone on the team thought it, but nobody dared say it: there was someone or something lurking around the crash site the night before, they just had to find out who or what.
Following The Tracks
The team took some time to survey the tracks around the plane, which had no obvious logic to them. However, they quickly came across one set of tracks that led away from the wreckage and off into the distance. Dr. Landon, along with the rest of the team, followed the tracks for a short while, which seemed to meander back and forth and not at all in a straight line.
After a short while, the imprints seemingly stopped. Either whatever had made them simply disappeared, or they'd been lost underneath the snow which had fallen all throughout the night.
The Team Stumbles Upon A Cave
The team surveyed the land for a moment, eyes scanning the snowy landscape for any sign of where the prints could've led. It wasn't long before one of them spotted something off in the distance. It was a cave. Dr. Landon and the rest of the team walked up to the opening and stood still for a couple of seconds before the doctor informed the rest of the group they were going to go in.
They'd already come this far and after the previous night, many of them felt they had a duty to continue following the tracks. After all, what if someone was still alive and stranded?
Delving Into The Cave
The group formed up and gave out what seemed like a collective exhale before Dr. Landon led the team into the cave. Their headlights revealed a world much different from the frozen tundra outside. The icy blue cave walls reflected light back in every direction, creating a shimmering spectacle that felt like it was inviting them further and further into the cave. The water vapor from their breath grew denser the deeper they went into the cave.
So far, the cave seemed beautiful but also desolate, but all of that was about to change. It wouldn't be long before they stumbled upon something that completely changed the story of the wreckage.
Evidence Of Human Habitation
After a short while, the cavern opened up into a room, and there on the ground lay something familiar. There were bowls and other evidence of human habitation. The team gathered around and surveyed the items, making sure not to move anything out of place. In the middle of the room, a small pit with blackened sticks marked the site of a likely cooking spot or where the previous inhabitants had huddled for warmth.
However, the items also raised more questions. Like, where are the owners if not here? And why had they left their belongings behind when an environment as harsh as this required you to make use of everything?
Exploring Deeper Into The Cave
After taking a moment to go over the scene, Dr. Landon led the team deeper into the cave. It wasn't long before they stumbled on a couple of other clues. An alcove branched off from the main path and in it, there was more evidence of human habitation. A journal and a couple of blankets were scattered across the ground. A makeshift sleeping area occupied one corner of the room.
However, there was still no sign of human life. The most likely scenario was that survivors from the crash had sheltered here for a time, but there was also the possibility that others had found the cave.
Searching For Life In The Cavern
The shimmering walls of the cave, once welcoming, had grown darker the deeper the team went. The light from their headlamps reflected off the walls and created shadows that fluttered around the cave with no obvious pattern. It wasn't long before some in the group started to think they spotted movement when they'd turn their heads towards dimly lit areas of the cavern. And it wasn't only the shadows.
As the path got narrower and narrower, the feeling that they were being watched took hold and grew stronger and stronger. The direction of the light from their headlamps began to move more erratically.
They Hear A Sound In The Cave
After walking for a short bit, Dr. Landon and the rest of the team began to notice that there was a sound coming from deeper within the cave. It was just a low rustling sound at first, but the further they walked along the path, the louder it grew. It was almost as if there was a wind blowing through the cave, but the air was still and damp.
It wasn't long before the sound was so strong that it started to echo off the walls. At times, it was intermittent, but then it would go on uninterrupted for half a minute or so.
Calling Back To The Boat
When he noticed that the sound didn't contain any sort of pattern you'd associate with running water or any other natural feature, Dr. Landon pulled out his radio and called back to the boat. "We've made unsettling discoveries deep within the cave. We may not be alone. Requesting immediate backup," he said. The radio's static bounced off the walls of the cave as soon as he released the button.
He tried to call back to the boat one more time, but there was no answer. They were too far down to get a proper signal now and he knew it.
Preparing For Anything
So, he had the team form up in a tightly packed formation as they continued along the path. Everyone had their eyes on a different angle. They made sure to coordinate so that their lights illuminated as much of the cave as possible, preparing for anything that they might find up ahead. Everyone was silent now, making sure to make as little noise as possible as they crept further and further into the cavern.
The sound continued to grow louder and louder and everyone on the team grew more tense as they neared its source, trying to prep themselves mentally for whatever they were about to find.
The Origin Of The Sound
Dr. Landon was the first to turn the corner, but the light didn't hit the bear until the rest of the team followed suit. They found themselves standing face to face with an adult polar bear, only meters away. There was dead silence. Nobody so much as twitched as the bear stared back at them from just outside the darkness. Both parties stood their motionless for a couple of seconds.
The team was well aware of what could happen if the bear decided to charge. A couple of seconds stretched into what seemed like an eternity as the team stood frozen.
The Cubs Appear
The adult bear was just within reach of the light, but behind her, there was something else. They could make out two smaller figures moving around in the darkness. The figures moved a bit closer and it became clear that they were cups and that the adult polar bear was a mother. The mother polar bear remained where she was. Her posture was aggressive, but she hadn't charged, at least not yet.
The appearance of the cubs only made the team more tense. You don't have to be a scientist to know that the one thing you don't want to do is come off as threatening when you stumble upon a bear and her cubs.
Dr. Landon Decides to Move
After what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Landon slowly motioned for the team to make a retreat. They began to slowly back away from the mother and her two cubs, falling back towards the entrance of the cave, knowing at any moment the bear could decide that she'd had enough and charge the group. Every step was intense and well-calculated as they shuffled back in unison with one another.
Dr. Landon and the rest of the team slowly retreated around the corner and began to make their way back towards the entrance, while keeping their eyes glued on the recess of the cave.
Taking Stock Of What Had Just Happened
When they reached the entrance, everyone seemingly let out a sigh of relief. They began to make their way back towards camp, quickly packing up and not wanting to test their luck any further. Dr. Landon led the team back to the boat, where they huddled together and discussed what had just happened. It wasn't long before a picture of what happened began to form as they laid out all the evidence.
The team that was left behind to stay on the boat listened intently as Dr. Landon and the others went over their stay at the wreckage and what they found in the cave.
The Strange Sightings
Suddenly, all of the strange occurrences leading up to the pivotal moment in the cave started to make sense. Even the peculiar photo now had an answer. The figure was the white silhouette of a polar bear. The polar bear must've been shadowing the team all along, staying just far enough out of reach to avoid detection but close enough so that some caught flashes and glimpses of her presence.
It seemed unlikely that the bear was actively hunting them, although that could've changed had they stuck around any longer. The likelier scenario is that it was either curious or shadowing them out of caution and protection for her cubs.
Listening To The Black Box
After pouring over the images they'd taken, Dr. Landon laid the black box on the table. The team gathered around as the recording was played in the wheelhouse. They could hear the voices of the pilots turn more frantic as it became clearer to them something was malfunctioning, and the plane began a steep descent. The pilots radioed for help in between trying to right the airplane and stave off disaster.
It was almost as if they were there, inside the cockpit, watching the whole chaotic scene play out as the pilots courageously worked through what they thought the issue could be.
The Harsh Reality Of The Arctic
It was an incredibly somber moment as the recording came to an end, and static filled the wheelhouse. Dr. Landon shut off the recording and the rest of the team looked up at one another, mulling over what had happened over the past day or so. They'd come across the wreckage of the plane and found out the tragic truth about what brought it down and what may have happened afterward.
They'd almost had their own tragic ending in the cave. Both situations laid bare just how uncompromising and delicate man's relationship with nature can be and how lucky they were to have returned unscathed.