The mountains towering above the morning fog were jagged and huge and tipped with snow, like the
gateway to some J.R.R. Tolkien mythical kingdom. Sheer granite walls oozing greenish-brown ice rose 1,500 feet [458 meters]
on either side of the fjord as Gary Larkins, standing on the upswept bow of a 175-foot-long [53-meter-long] tugboat, lifted
a black-and-white photo to the horizon. "It's taken me ten years to get here, boys!" shouted Larkins, his dark eyes darting
from the photo to the mountain range off the bow. "She should be right up ahead!"
Larkins was in pursuit of a most improbable treasure: a World War II B-17 bomber. Putting himself in the old photo was
the first step to finding it. He'd studied the picture for hours with a magnifying glass, compared it to nautical charts,
even managed to get top-secret U.S. military information on the area it depicted. Now he directed the tugboat, the
Ocean Wrestler, farther into the middle of the fjord, closer to the coordinates listed on the plane's crash report.
He held the photo up at arm's length again. The peak like a witch's hat, the shark's-tooth ridge, the glacial ice
tumbling about, the sweeping fjord in the foreground: It ought to fit as perfectly as some heirloom key in a long-lost
attic chest, except this chest was one of the remotest spots on Earth, a fjord 300 miles [483 kilometers] up the east
coast of Greenland, and Larkins's key was this photograph taken on a cold, clear spring day in 1943. Somewhere in the
unmeasured depths below was a 33,000-pound [15,000-kilogram] piece of aviation history, "as shiny as a new nickel,"
Larkins chanted, and about 40 million times more valuable. Of 13,000 B-17s made during the war, 42 remain, and only 10
are still flying. And not one of them is like this airplane ought to be: an intact, war-ready bomber as rare in its own
way as a lost van Gogh.
An hour later, the Ocean Wrestler drifted over the exact latitude and longitude cited in the report, supposedly
the very spot from which the photo had been snapped. But something was wrong. The mountains at the end of the fjord didn't
quite match the picture. "I don't know," said Larkins, sucking hard on a Swisher Sweet cigar and shaking his head slowly. He
studied the photo, studied the mountains. "Nothing looks quite right. We've got some pieces to the puzzle, but it's like the
puzzle has changed."
By this time Larkins had been wandering the seas around Greenland for nearly three weeks. The captain and crew of the ship
were restless. Water and food were low. Winter was coming. The man who was paying Larkins to find the plane was back in Ohio,
hemorrhaging [U.S.] $10,000 a day, waiting desperately for word of success. But, it was suddenly and awfully clear, the "treasure map"
was wrong. Was it the photograph? The coordinates?
"I don't like it," said Larkins, staring at the mountains. "I don't like it at all."
Follow Larkins's quest in the full articleonly in the March/April 2000 issue of ADVENTURE.