Phillip, Jon, Meghan, Will, Bill & Tim
Green Cube III differed from previous flight primarily in that it was a night flight. We on the recovery team recognized that this did not mean that we needed to tramp through the woods in the dark. We could wait for sunrise. But we are also aware that radios and batteries eventually fail. Therefore we would like to recover as soon as it is light enough to go into the woods. So while the launch team worked through the night at Mt. Washington Airport, we would stage ourselves near the forecasted landing site.
The predicted landing site was a few miles from Alfred, Maine, which is where the Dugovics live. George and Ann have been friends of my family since 1964. They spend the summers at their "camp", and so let us use their house. We meet in Hanover at 9:00 PM and headed to Maine, arriving in Alfred at about midnight.
Jon and Phillip set up radios and computer on the kitchen table, while the rest of us sacked out for a few hours. I'll defer to the log of the launch team for the timeline of the flight. All I know is that I was very comfortable on a thick carpet in the dining room when I heard, "It's coming down - It's time to go - It's north of here."
The game is afoot. Within five minutes we had packed up (several of us had sleeping bags), found our shoes and we were out the door. It was 3:30 AM and Alfred is very quite.
Meghan, John and Phillip where in the lead car with radios and computers, Bill, Will and I followed. North through the night, past Waterboro and Limerick. Originally we were headed towards Cornish, but cut west to Porter instead, on the Ossipee River. We turned west here towards Freedom, NH, and just after crossing back into New Hampshire pulled over on the side of the road to consider our strategy.
At this time both balloons were down and we had no radio contact.
The two balloons are named "Fred" and "Henry". We had info on Fred down to about 7,000 ft. At that time it was dropping 70 ft. per second. So we extrapolated from the last two measurements and made our best guess for landing - about a mile south-east of the last know position. We lost contact with "Henry" at 20,000 ft. and so had less confidence in finding it.
North through the sleepy town on Eaton. As we passed by the shore of Long Pond we heard the ELT (Emergency Location Transmitter), but decided to still head towards the last GPS signal instead of circling at this time. As we drove to within a half mile of our best guess for Fred the radios were alive with both ELT and GPS! We sat on the side of the road for fifteen minutes, both listening and waiting for daylight. Will and Bill entered the coordinated for Fred's GPS into their handheld GPS. It was about a quarter of a mile away. We moved the cars around the corner, hoping to find a trail which was on the map, and by 5:15 we were shouldering our packs and heading into the woods with Will in the lead.
We followed an overgrown logging road for about 300 meters, and then came out on a new gravel road (not on our maps), which took us to within about 30 meters of the reported coordinates, and then back into the woods. Will was in the lead and the first to spot Fred, hanging from a branch about 6-8 meters up. It didn't look too healthy, with a battery pack hanging out of the side. But the LEDs were still flashing. We first saw the parachute, but thought that if we had been 15 minutes earlier, when it was darker, we would have seen the lights first.
We were able to toss a line of p-cord, weighted by Meghan's water bottle, through the webbing of the parachute and then tried to pull it down. But it was well tangled in the branches. So I took my saw and climbed up a tree and cut two limbs off of the trunk, and Fred came down.
The lower payload had its door missing and "guts" hanging out; the ELT and the batteries for the LEDs. In the last tug to get it out of the tree we broke a wire and the lights went out. We could see no camera, but also were not certain if there was one in this payload.
So we packed up, hiked out the gravel road and headed south past Crystal Lake to Long Pond, to listen for the ELT of Henry. We didn't know which one we had heard before. Also this signal seemed too far north when compared with our best guess. But maybe?
Henry's ELT was chirping away! We reasoned that it must be east of us, towards Brownfield, ME. But first we would stop at the general store in Eaton for coffee. It had been a long night.
As we headed down the Brownfield road we picked up the ELT and then the GPS! We pulled over on the side of the road to plot out where we were going. It was about 90 m off of Hatch Rd, a mile away. Within five minutes we were walking in the woods. This time I spotted it first. It was hanging in a maple tree about 12 meters up. There were no branches for the first 5-6 meters. We spend twenty minutes debating what to do. Could we climb it? We were not really ready for that. Could we cut the tree down?
In the end we reasoned that the tree was damaged, it was on the edge of a logging road and had a massive gash on its side. It also had a broken crown, and would be crowded by neighboring healthier trees in a few years. So we cut it down. Phillip and Bill rigged a guiding line, while Will chopped a deep vee on the northeast side. Then Jon sawed from the southwest and the maple came down.
Henry looked in tack. We packed up and were headed out. Across the road two guys were watching us come out of the woods. So I walked over to them and told them about the balloon retrieval. They found the event interesting and curious.
We decided to hunt again from Fred's camera, and so drove back then, this time using the gravel road. But after combing the area we gave up and left. We had been up all night and just wanted to get home. So we wound our way across New Hampshire, back to Hanover, arriving about noon.
Henry in the Tree
Jon, Phillip and Will with Henry