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Australian Adventurer Gets Icy Antarctic Reception

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian adventurer Jon Johanson has become the first person to fly solo over the South Pole in a fixed wing aircraft but has received an icy reception after an emergency landing in the Antarctic. Johanson had planned to fly from New Zealand, over the South Pole, and on to Argentina, but dangerous headwinds after he flew over the pole on Monday forced him to turn back and make an emergency landing at the U.S. McMurdo Antarctic base.

Now he doesn't have enough fuel to fly back to New Zealand and officials at the U.S. base and nearby New Zealand Scott base are refusing to give or sell him the fuel to fly out.

"All he wants is some fuel to fly back to New Zealand," said Australian adventurer Dick Smith, who in 1989 became the first person to fly a helicopter solo from the North Pole to the South Pole, on Wednesday. Johanson needs about 88 gallons of aviation fuel, which costs about 74 cents a liter in Australia.

"The Americans have said we don't want you here," Smith said, adding they had offered to fly Johanson out but not his plane.

Johanson is reluctant to leave his homemade RV-4 aircraft on the frozen continent because he has flown it around the world, including over the North Pole, three times.

New Zealand officials have been slightly more sympathetic, offering Johanson a military flight out. They have also offered to ship his aircraft to New Zealand in January at his expense, said Johanson's support staff in Australia.

They said the adventurer was being allowed to sleep in the McMurdo refueling shed and had been given some food by the Americans.

Smith said adventurers were not welcome in the Antarctic, remembering when he landed at McMurdo on Thanksgiving Day 1989.

"The Americans only offered me a cup of coffee. I ended up getting fuel from the Russians," he said.

Smith has contacted Australia's foreign minister to seek assistance for Johanson.


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