Legendary Alaskan Adventurer Walt Parker still on the go

Posted: Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Walter Parker's grandfather came to Alaska in the 1890's and helped to build Nome. According Parker's daughter Lisa, her Dad started his adventuring when he lied about his age to join the armed forces in World War Two. After surviving the war he had a choice of going to China or Alaska, and chose the Great Land of his grandfather.

In 1946 Parker went to work for the CAA and the FAA in Fairbanks where he and Alaskan adventures became in-seperatable. In 1971 Parker left the FAA to serve with Governor Jay Hammond as Commissioner of Highways.

A couple of years ago Parker at age 73, joined a friend who had purchased a new AN II Russian BI-plane for a flight to the North Pole. On May 12th, 2000, after being weathered in at Barrow, the team completed the 1,300-mile journey and landed on the North Pole without incident.

"After all these years of flying over the North Pole at 30,000 feet or so, it was a pretty exciting thing to set foot on the Pole. The strange thing about the Pole when you're there in mid-summer like we were, the sun never changes it's angle, it just circles around you, so you have no idea where you are without looking at your GPS because the sun never changes, and of course everything is south. It's kind of an eerie sensation," said Parker.

On the return journey the team again decided to set down on the Pole. However, this time Parker's buddy in the AN-II not knowing the ice conditions put his wheels through the soft ice and nosed the aircraft over on to it's prop. The plane came to rest on it's lower wing, so Parker and his friend were able to get free from the craft and step out on the ice.

They unloaded the survival gear and Parker and his other friend got in the accompanying Cessna 185 and flew 13 hours down to Deadhorse, to arrange the rescue. Working with Ham radio operators in Anchorage and Fairbanks a successful rescue was launched. The aircraft however, was never retrieved and remains a fixture of the North Pole.

Now at age 75, Parker is planning a trip to the South Pole, on the subject of retirement Parker says, "There is too much going on in the world to retire. I'm on my way to Scandinavia and Russia, and I have a couple of clients in Africa. We're working on a trip to the South Pole, but we'll need a plane with more range than the AN-II, so we're kinda looking at a turbo prop DC-3." Parker is also the grandfather of five and is expecting his first great grandchild this fall.

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