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Retrieving human remains buried beneath 40 feet of ice in arctic Greenland

A Grumman Duck aircraft

The U.S. Coast Guard wants to hear from companies that could mount an expedition to a frigid part of arctic Greenland, excavate a downed J2F-4 Grumman Duck aircraft which crashed at the site during World War II and is now buried beneath 40 feet of ice, and recover the human remains of the Duck’s crew, along with their personal effects.

“The USCG has a requirement to contract out the planning, documentation, set-up, and action required for the establishment and maintenance of a temporary arctic staging camp along with the excavation and retrieval of the deceased airmen and their personal effects,” says a “sources sought” document issued by the Coast Guard on May 16.

Due to severe arctic conditions, the Coast Guard says the mission must be performed between July 1 and August 12.

The Duck reportedly crashed on November 29, 1942 while attempting to rescue crew members from a U.S. Army Air Force B-17, which had crashed about three weeks earlier, also in Greenland. Some of the B-17 crew members were picked up alive during the WW II rescue effort, but no crew member was thought to have survived the subsequent crash of the Coast Guard’s Duck aircraft.

The remains of the Duck’s crew, if they can be recovered, will be transported back to the United States, says the Coast Guard’s document.

The Defense Department announced last January that an expedition team consisting of Coast Guard personnel and commercial scientists and explorers used historical data, ground penetrating radar and metal detection equipment to locate the down aircraft.

“After zeroing in on the likely location of the resting place of the ‘Duck’ beneath the ice near Koge Bay, Greenland, the team of searchers melted five 6 inch holes in the ice and lowered specially designed camera scopes into the holes,” reported the online publication, Alaska Native News. “About thirty-eight feet below the surface of the ice in the second hole, the team observed black cables that are consistent with the wiring used on the J2F-4 Grumman Duck. After looking further, the team also found aircraft components similar to the ones used on that aircraft.”

Commercial companies with the capability to mount such a human remains recovery effort are asked to submit a capabilities statement to the U.S. Coast Guard by May 23. Further information is available from James Robinson at 202-475-3091 or