Finding Outpost #31
After we reached the top of the
Salmon Glacier, we could just feel the excitement building. Six months
earlier we had talked with Murray Lundberg, a professional Yukon guide
who knows the area well. (Check out Murray's website at
www.explorenorth.com.) Murray knew where Outpost 31 was built, and he
marked on our map exactly where to look.
We also knew from the DVD's behind-the-scenes pics and interviews that
the filmmakers had selected a rocky knoll. They trucked in dozens of truck
loads of dirt and gravel in order to make a flat surface on top of the
rocks, complete with dirt ramps.
From what Murray and several of the locals told us, we knew that the buildings
were long gone. But would the topsoil still be there after all these years
of snow and melted runoff? If not, would we be forced to guess from a
bunch of rocks where the site used to be? Would we even be so lucky as
to find bits and pieces of the camp after 22 years? The answer was soon
coming -- and it totally blew away even our wildest expectations!
After passing the huge fork in Salmon Glacier, we rounded the corner that
Murray had pointed out to us. "This should be it!" we told each
other. "It should be right down there somewhere!" We couldn't
see down far enough because we kept our SUV as far from the road's edge
as possible. So we stopped, got out, and walked towards the edge to get
a better look.
AND THERE IT WAS!!! We immediately recognized the place where Outpost
31 formerly stood! There was no mistaking the rocky knoll, and the topsoil
was still sitting there just like it was two decades earlier! WE HAD FOUND
US OUTPOST #31!!
Several photos of the site as it looks now, August 2003.
The road that leads down to the
site is so steep that we didn't trust our SUV to get back up. So we walked
down, taking our cameras and the notebook SPC brought filled with the
DVD's construction shots of the camp. Todd and SPC were walking so fast
that Moon had trouble keeping up.
When we stood on top of the site, SPC whipped open the notebook to compare
the location to the shots taken 22 years ago. Both SPC and Todd were able
to confirm without a doubt that this was indeed the very spot on which
Outpost #31 stood! They took before and after pictures to prove it.
Construction picture taken from behind the Outpost
The same spot as it looks today, with Moon providing scale in the middle
Front shot of the Outpost, taken from atop Mac's Shack
The same area today, seen from rocks in front of
The only shot of Salmon Glacier as seen in the movie ...
... and how the same area looks today
Mac and Copper return from the Norwegian camp (note the twin peaks behind)
SPC and Todd standing on the Outpost site in front of the same twin peaks
After we were convinced that this
was indeed the very spot of Outpost #31, Todd immediately started searching
for debris. SPC was still looking at the notebook pictures when Todd called
out, "I found a piece of burned wood!!" SPC couldn't believe
it and immediately ran over to see the find. It was indeed a piece of
charred wood, but could it possibly have come from the Outpost itself?
Todd and SPC fanned out and hurriedly began looking for other pieces.
It wasn't but a few seconds before they started finding charred wood by
the handful. It got to the point where every second Todd or SPC were calling
out to each, "I found another one!" We were finding charred
remains all over the place!!!
But then Todd upped the ante even further. "I found gray-painted
wood!!" he shouted. SPC ran over again and looked at the piece. We
couldn't believe it!! It was indeed wood that had been painted over with
a gray paint, just like is seen in the Outpost construction pictures.
But the best was still to come.
While Todd and SPC were so pumped finding charred remains and gray-painted
wood, Moon had quietly walked over to the other side of the knoll. Like
boys opening Christmas presents, Todd and SPC were too excited at first
to pay attention to what Moon was trying to point out. But she finally
got their attention, and when the two "boys" took notice they
both instantly recognized the object and went berserk.
IT WAS A FREAKIN' HELICOPTER ROTOR!!! A chopper's rotor blade sitting in
the precise spot where the Norwegian helicopter blew up in the film!!!
Not only that but the rotor blade clearly displayed scorch marks!!!
Todd with the helicopter rotor blade and debris, Aug. 6th, 2003
Finding remains of the Norwegian chopper!!
We were just absolutely stunned.
We could not believe that after two decades we had found a screen-used
prop still sitting at the site. We had originally thought that getting
dirt from the Outpost was the best we would ever do, but this ... we had
struck Thing gold! There was no way we were going to leave without bringing
this baby back with us.
It was Todd's idea that, since it was getting late (and the bugs were
eating us alive), we should head back and come up to the site again the
next day. Only this time, we would bring with us a hacksaw to cut off
the 15-foot long rotor blade so that we could haul it back to town. We marveled
at our stroke of luck, for if we had waited to come to the site
until the next day like we planned, we would not have been able to bring
back the rotor blade (because of our flight back to Vancouver). But, now,
we had a whole 'nother day to salvage the chopper parts and find a way
to get them back home. Amazing!
That night we returned to Hyder
and booked ourselves into the Sealaska Inn. We were still flying high from
our discovery and we ordered food and of course, the famous Hyder drink.
Todd was still wearing his THE THING t-shirt with the poster art and the
waitress immediately asked where he got it. eBay!! Todd also then asked the
waitress if she had a VCR hooked up to the bar's TV, and the waitress
readily agreed to put on The Thing!! So, with the movie playing, the
excitement of finding props, visiting the site, and drinking in the same bar
the cast and crew did 22 years ago, Todd, Moon, and SPC downed a shot of
Everclear, pure grain alcohol, getting officially Hyderized!! (All three of
us managed to get it down, although it hit poor SPC the hardest as he does
not drink that often.) Our waitress lit the empty shot glasses and the
remaining drops of alcohol burned bright blue. It was pure THING perfection
for fans of this movie!! We were on Cloud 9! The waitress brought our
"Hyderized" wallet cards and signed them for us. Moon and SPC shot
some pool, Todd drank a few drinks, and then complete exhaustion set in and
we retired to our rooms to crash.
Todd and SPC at the Sealaska Inn in Hyder, Alaska,
just seconds before getting "Hyderized".
SPC gets Hyderized!! Note the movie playing in the
background, top right...
We've got The Thing playing in the bar!
Todd's "Hyderization" wallet card.
We returned early the next morning
after an "Alaskan" sized breakfast and stopping in at the local
hardware store for a hacksaw. We drove back up the winding mountain road and
once back at the site set quickly to work sawing the rotor free from the
main engine assembly. SPC and Todd carried the 15' section up out of the
clearing to the SUV and it went from the from windshield and stuck out the
back. We found a guy in Hyder who for $20 cut the rotor section into three
pieces for us. This would enable us to ship it back home. Then it was back
across the border into Canada with a 15' long helicopter rotor blade
sticking out the back of our vehicle. The lady at Customs didn't bat an eye!
We hurried into the Canada Post Office and with boxes salvaged from the
grocery store, wrapped the rotor sections and shipped them off.
A couple shots of the rotor blade in our SUV
A 6' section of the rotor packed up and a few thousand miles back home
We had dinner and stopped for ice
cream and then set out on the 4 hour drive back to Terrace. It was dark by
the time we got into the town and we found and checked into a hotel and
crashed hard after another long day.
We're going back!!!
group of fans are planning to head back for another trip! For info on this upcoming adventure check out the
RETURN TO STEWART section!!