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John Carpenter's

 

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!!

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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 Mac's Shack


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!!!

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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. 

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Todd and SPC at the Sealaska Inn in Hyder, Alaska, just seconds before getting "Hyderized". 

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SPC gets Hyderized!! Note the movie playing in the background, top right...

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We've got The Thing playing in the bar! 

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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.

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A couple shots of the rotor blade in our SUV

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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!!!

     A group of fans are planning to head back for another trip! For info on this upcoming adventure check out the RETURN TO STEWART section!!

 



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"John Carpenter's The Thing", and all images, characters and situations from that movie are and 1982 Universal Studios.
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