What does it take to find a plane in the ice? One key piece of GEaR’s strategy to find the missing Duck is ground-penetrating radar (GPR). Our GPR gives us a rough picture of what lies beneath the ice. Signals from the GPR reflect off surfaces within the glacier and different objects have individual signatures. Bedrock, crevasses, air pockets, liquid water, and higher-density ice all look a little different to the radar. So does a plane. Interpreting the radar data requires skill, experience, and a deep understanding of glacier dynamics. Fortunately we have the best person for the job.
Dr. Jaana Gustafsson is GEaR’s geophysicist. Based out of Stockholm, Sweden, she brings a wealth of experience to the project. It may be fair to say that Jaana is the most important member of the team. During the 2012 search Jaana identified a radar anomaly as a storm approached Koge Bay, leading to the discovery of what is likely wreckage from the missing plane. This pivotal finding was enough evidence for the Defense Department to continue supporting the mission. The moment of discovery is described by Mitch Zuckoff in his best seller, Frozen in Time.
Who is this woman that made such an important contribution to the Duck Hunt? Jaana is originally from Finland and is a full-time geophysicist specializing in arctic and glacial research. Her work has taken her to the northern tip of Sweden, far above the Arctic Circle and to the high altitude glaciers of the Himalaya in Nepal. Jaana recently presented findings from her latest research on the thermal structure of Himalayan glaciers at the 2016 annual conference of the European Geophysicists Union in Vienna. We are excited to have such an internationally recognized expert in the field leading our radar survey.
When she isn’t tirelessly towing her radar across icy arctic expanses Jaana leads a quiet life in Sweden with her family. Her husband is a snow scientist specializing in avalanche dynamics (of course) and she has two daughters. Jaana loves to retire to a comfortable corner with a book and glass of wine and spends long summer days in Gotland with the family on their sailboat. She balances her precise scientific interests with a different kind of artistic precision: Jaana is a silversmith, crafting beautiful jewelry in her home studio.
Just as important as her scientific expertise is Jaana’s valuable friendship. The four of us at GEaR are friends before all else. The bonds we share with Jaana are forged from laughter during 70-mph windstorms, stories about her family, her dry Finnish wit, and her quick smile that lights up the mess tent.
How did a Finn from Sweden become such an instrumental part of this mission? The story of Pritchard, Bottoms, and Howarth’s heroism transcends all nations and language. When she met Nancy Pritchard Jaana immediately understood the importance of what we are doing. Now we plan to return to continue the search. Thankfully we have the right team for the mission. As Jaana would say, “Yes. I know.”