EDIT Hey guys, thanks so much, we will continue to answer questions sporadically, but this has been great! PLEASE sign the petition that Vaulter1 started, it's already picking up steam! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov//petition/request-bolivian-government-allow-ntsb-analyse-crash-recorders-eastern-airlines-flight-980

EDIT 2 LINK TO A PODCAST WITH MORE INFORMATION ON THE CRASH http://cdn.outside.prx.org/wp-content/uploads/Cliffhanger-part-1.mp3

Hey Reddit, thanks for the huge outpouring of support last June! We are those two guys with desk jobs who decided to go recover the flight recorder from the Eastern 980 crash in the Bolivian Andes...something 2 governments and multiple earlier expeditions had failed at. And we somehow pulled it off! High altitude is a bitch but we a) didn't die and b) managed to find what we were after. We documented and buried human remains and brought home the cockpit voice recorder and a roll of magnetic tape.

The parts of the black box that we recovered are still sitting in my apartment, as the NTSB and FAA wont analyze the voice recorder until the State Department says it's ok. Help us get their attention so they will do the right thing?


Original Post https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/4miqv4/two_guys_from_boston_set_off_on_an_expedition_to/

Full story now on Outside Magazine https://www.outsideonline.com/2126426/what-happened-eastern-airlines-flight-980

Proof! Boston dudes plus journalist buddy Pete http://imgur.com/a/yGHrZ Isaac Stoner https://imgur.com/gallery/W1U9u Dan Futrell http://imgur.com/a/W48A3 Peter FrickWright (journalist)

Comments: 995 • Responses: 68  • Date: 

Vaulter11643 karma

Amazing story guys. Do you think there's any chance of getting the required 100,000 signatures for this White House petition to convince the Bolivian Government to grant the NTSB permission to analyze the recorder?

isaacbstoner778 karma

WOW! Great idea and I can't believe you already pulled this together. How do we blow this up? I'm definitely going to sign... :)

thetrumansho453 karma

Wassup dudes. IF you guys were stranded in the Andes after a plane crash, who would be eaten first?

isaacbstoner988 karma

HAHHA we totally planned for this. We were going to start eating Pete the journalist before our supplies even ran out....

danfutrell287 karma

Pete's taller and heavier than both me and Isaac. We decided he'd sustain us longer than we'd sustain him, so it made sense he'd have to go first. We told him that by text before we met him, you know, to make a good impression.

isaacbstoner95 karma

so fucking tall!

shreddor346 karma

Hey guys! Thanks for doing this. How have they not responded?! Isn't there some protocol for this?

isaacbstoner504 karma

Great question! The NTSB was in touch with us...but pretty much told us there was nothing they could do due to the chain of command. They report to the State Dept, and relations are a little strained with Bolivia. They pretty much said "nice work guys, we would like to analyze it but cant". We're stuck!

isaacbstoner342 karma

The NTSB are good folks, but they get marching orders from higher up the food chain. Help us get the attention of people higher up the food chain!

stimilon247 karma

So... Those flight recorders still just sitting there. Have you thought about hiring an independent lab to determine what's on them? Is there any way we (as a reddit community) can help convince Bolivia to ask for the NTSB's help?

isaacbstoner385 karma

EXACTLY. We need the State Dept to give the go-ahead to the NTSB. Independent labs either 1) wont touch it due to the murky legal situation or 2) are hackers that I wouldn't trust to analyze my lunchbox

isaacbstoner254 karma

The NTSB also told us to contact the Bolivian government. Emails, phonecalls, certified letters....the Bolivian's have ignored every attempt.

Danomatic85186 karma

Can you explain how finding and burying the remains made you feel emotionally? How many were there? If there were several did it get any easier?

isaacbstoner278 karma

Oh man... Well we had discussed what it might be like beforehand, and spoken with victim's families, but it was still really heavy. The search would go from adrenaline charged scavenger hunt to a somber burial in seconds

tri_wine135 karma

Hey guys! Just wondering, are you yourselves in legal hot water for taking the tape home? Or potential hot water, if things ever move on the political front?

Also, hi Peter! (I know that guy, how cool am I?!)

isaacbstoner249 karma

Hey tri, for now we're in the clear. Ignorance is no excuse, but we had no idea that we might be interferring with a 30 year old "open investigation". Didn't see any other investigators up there....

_DeadManTrips_109 karma

When you guys found the human remains, in what state were they? Had the icey glacier preserved any soft human tissue or were you just finding bones? And emotionally, what was it like finding these lost souls?

isaacbstoner171 karma

Eeesh. The glacier had only recently melted enough to reveal some of these body parts, mainly it was bones but there was also connective tissue. Pretty grisly, and not the most fun part of the trip. Emotionally, these finds made the search a real rollercoaster. We were careful to document each find with GPS and to mark each burial with a pile of rocks

isaacbstoner170 karma

If victims' loved ones want to retrace our route, we wanted to make it as easy as possible

beer_bukkake107 karma

How come two governments and multiple expeditions were incapable of doing what two guys from Boston did in just two short weeks? What did you guys do differently? And how did you know the exact location of the black box? Thanks!

isaacbstoner157 karma

Hey beer, we were asking ourselves the same thing! And that's why there are so many conspiracy theories surrounding the flight. The easier answer is: climate change. The glacier has melted about a quarter mile due to the warmest back to back years on record!

stimilon101 karma

How'd you stay hydrated before and during the hike? Do they have Gatorade there? Were you pounding pedialyte? Thoguhts on those elctrolyte tablets? Any crazy products (hydration or otherwise) that you felt were a godsend on the endeavor? On other side of coin any products you brought thinking they'd be helpful, but eventually realized were near useless for this trip?

isaacbstoner172 karma

Awesome question! Dan brought a MASSIVE metal detector up the mountain that he didn't turn on once... With all the glacial melt, the plane parts were just sitting there on the mountainside!

isaacbstoner104 karma

I swear by those NUUN electrolyte tabs, they have saved my life more than once

soccerplaya7175 karma

How many days of searching did it take? And how long was your whole expedition once you got there? (Hiking in, camping, acclimatizing, etc.)

isaacbstoner134 karma

Haha, well...since we have grownup jobs, we had to do everything on an abbreviated timeline. Especially the acclimitizing. We had 2 weeks for the whole trip: 3 days in La Paz, 4 nights at the lower debris field, 2 more nights in La Paz, ,and then 2 nights at the "Condor's Nest" in an attempt to get over the summit to the upper crash site.

isaacbstoner167 karma

Sleeping above 18,000 feet is the WORST THING EVER.

OrangeAndBlack73 karma

Why? Lack of oxygen and cold? I'm genuinely interested.

isaacbstoner109 karma

Ya you're breathing hard the whole time, don't digest right, are tired and lightheaded...

OrangeAndBlack58 karma

Don't digest right? I never knew that aspect of altitude sickness. Is it like stomach cramps or indigestion?

isaacbstoner114 karma

TOTAL indegestion. Didnt shit right for a week :)

frickwright52 karma


isaacbstoner45 karma

Petee! You're here!

mamoo24 karma

What is it like?

isaacbstoner6 karma

Ugh you just feel tired and sick and lightheaded and you're breathing too hard and can't really catch your breath... We also only acclimitized for a few days :)

voidbender56 karma

I read the Outside article last night. You guys are awesome! How surreal was it to realize you had found the black box?

isaacbstoner96 karma

OH MAN! So surreal. Espcially since we had totally given up and were about to head back to camp! The part labeled Cockpit Voice Recorder was the very last piece we found on the last day!

isaacbstoner69 karma

I know it probably sounds like we made it up!

PhilmZ41 karma

2 guys from Boston? Have you guys talked to Matt Damon & Ben Affleck about selling the film rights? I can tell you right now they're interested

isaacbstoner36 karma

Hahaha PhilmZ, I'll give em a call :) I want Wahlberg to play me tho

_DeadManTrips_40 karma

Since you guys were successful, are you considering going out and searching for more plane wreckages? I'm sure that there are many unsolved crashes out there, with those left behind still wondering what happened.

isaacbstoner63 karma

Great question DeadMan! We have a whole spreadsheet going of future adventures now, from the jungle of Papua New Guinea all the way to Antarctica. We're not telling what the next one is yet... Maybe it will involve some deepwater diving (cause me and Dan have never done THAT before either!)

ThatIsMrDickHead2You40 karma

Did you ever feel that removing the black box from Bolivia was the wrong thing to do given that technically it belongs to the government there?

isaacbstoner70 karma

The gov of Bolivia seems to be incapcable of getting anything done, from improving infrastructure and quality of life for its poeple to investigating a plane crash properly. We had initially thought we might work with them, but they have not responded to ANY of our attempted communications

_Boz_37 karma

Thank you for accomplishing this! I can't imagine the sense of relief for the families once this is all sorted out.

Do you have constant communications with the families of the deceased plane passengers? Have they been communicating with their government as well to try to speed along the process?

Oh yeah; GO BRUINS!

isaacbstoner57 karma

Great question. Some of the victins friends and families have been in touch, including those in Paraguay and Bolivia. Many called and emailed just to say thank you, but some are helping us with outreach to the right governmental agencies. We need reddit's help here too!

isaacbstoner60 karma

The crash is more than 30 years old now, and many families feel that this incident has been forgotten about. It's not right.

_Buff_Drinklots_34 karma

Is there a next adventure to solve a mystery in your plans? Any future expeditions that you are considering?

Thank you for rhe AMA and best of luck in everything.

isaacbstoner60 karma

Buff. Definitely! We have a whole spreadsheet of future plans, one in Papua New Guinea, one in Antarctica...and many more. We're definitely focused on these overlooked tragedies

ToSeeYouNice30 karma

Why don't you guys claim ownership of the black box and certify it with the Bolivian government? If they want to disprove it, they have to lay a counter claim, in which case, presumably they're liable for the thing? IANAL of course, just an idea.

isaacbstoner18 karma

Will definitely followup on this idea. PM me

Almacdaddy22 karma

Fellow Bostonian here. What was your mountaineering experience prior to this expedition? Big skier / hiker, I plan on stepping it up in the near future.

isaacbstoner34 karma

hahahah almost none! White Mountains, some national parks, but no big summits at all. We got a crash course in ice climbing once we landed in Bolivia from our guide. Definitely were out of our league but we made it work and didn't die :)

isaacbstoner23 karma

I say go for it!

pogiface22 karma

What if you ignore the gov and just recover the data anyway?

isaacbstoner43 karma

pogiface we had the same thought! The problem is, nobody will touch the black box until the legal situation is cleared up and we dont want amateurs to damage the magnetic tape!

FoldedJokers21 karma

First off.. You guys rock!

How many times did you start to dig thinking you had something? Or did you just come up on the crash site and knew you had it?

isaacbstoner38 karma

It was actually pretty wild, the glacier spread the plane parts out over more than a square mile and they were EVERYWHERE! It was a HUGE amount of area to cover... With all the boulders/ice formations we were mainly worried that we would just never find it

FoldedJokers11 karma

That's awesome.. I bet coming up on that debris was so exciting but at the same time you knew you had work ahead of you.

isaacbstoner29 karma

SO much work. It was an emotional rollercoaster, especially when we started coming across human remains in the debris field.

ThatM3kid17 karma

do you remember the feeling you had when you first laid eyes on the crash site?

isaacbstoner23 karma

Man...the first couple of plane parts we saw were like miraculous. After all that planning and wondering what we would see. After that we realized just how HUGE the debris field was and we got to work.

LuneMoth17 karma

Hi! Really cool story. What inspired you to go looking for the debris and the black box? Also, what was the most surprising or unexpected part of the expedition?

isaacbstoner29 karma

Honestly, it was getting lost down an internet rabbit hole. Check out this list of unrecovered black boxes on Wikipedia! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unrecovered_flight_recorders

isaacbstoner24 karma

The most surprising part was how exposed all the debris was! We didn't have to do any digging at all!

Lauren3617 karma

All I can think is wow. It's amazing that you even set out to do this - planning it, taking your vacations to travel across the globe, dealing with the altitude, and actually accomplishing what no one had before. It's so frustrating that a bureaucratic nightmare is what is keeping this from moving forward.

How do you think having a journalist with you changed how the climb went? To what extent did journalist Pete participate - was he simply observing hands-off or did he search the wreckage too?

isaacbstoner7 karma

Hey Lauren, hopefully the story isnt over! Oh ya, Pete was totally part of the team. He DID have this annoying mic he would turn on now and then which made us both act TOTALLY differently, but Pete was a huge help in the search

Dreadzombie816 karma

What's the second weirdest/coolest thing you guys have found while hiking?

isaacbstoner24 karma

hahaha Nothing I have ever found while hiking compares to finding all these plane parts sitting on a mountaintop.... I would say we found everything but the kitchen sink, but I actually FOUND the kitchen sink! https://operationthonapa.com/the-debris-of-flight-980-69948fc91872#.21revxw5s

jacksonium14 karma

What type of prep did you guys do for this leading up? Any special training?

isaacbstoner16 karma

The biggest thing that kept us from dying was acclimatizing in an altitude tent leading up to the trip. And we ran stairs at the Harvard stadium with heavy packs (not reccomended)

Wet_Walrus14 karma

Kind of morbid but do you have any pictures of the remains of the bodies? What condition were they in?

isaacbstoner47 karma

We do, but we're not going to go posting these around the internet, sorry! We have to respect the families...

Perunamies13 karma

So why wont the state department say its ok?

isaacbstoner22 karma

It seems like relations are strained with Bolivia, and they dont want to strain them further by taking over a crash investigation that is technically owned by the Bolivians

isaacbstoner34 karma

Even though it was an American airliner, and the victims were mainly Americans...

isaacbstoner11 karma

Gotta sign off guys! I was just on Fox News putting pressure on "the right government agencies" and saying climate change over and over again. Thanks for all the great questions!

ravostic9 karma

So it's just speculation at this point, but I was wondering what wine pairs well with Petey?

isaacbstoner19 karma

A nice chianti...

Lurking-My-Life-Away7 karma

What's your favorite breakfast cereal?

isaacbstoner16 karma

Cinnamon Toast Crunch... Easy question :)

oberbernou7 karma

Are you worried that you are now on some hit list for recovering something that may have purposely been ditched?

isaacbstoner9 karma

It's easy to get paranoid. We honestly don't think it's a conspiracy, we think it's more incompetence and lack of interest!

drwuzer6 karma

Is there not some third party, non-governmental, agency that can analyze the recording? How about the airline itself?

isaacbstoner8 karma

We have been asking the same thing! Eastern went out of business not long after the crash, partly due to the large amount of cocaine being transported on its flights. All the third parties are either concerned about the legal situation or are a little too sketchy for us to be comfortable with them....

Essie_Ecks4 karma

Have you heard the new Veruca Salt album, "Ghost Notes"? It's quite good.

isaacbstoner3 karma

Not yet but thanks for the recc

quickhakker3 karma

what made you want to do this adventure and would you ever do something like this again??

isaacbstoner3 karma

Hey hakker, Just a genuine curiosity about EVERYTHING and a desire to live adventurous lives!

UsernameNotForPorn2 karma

Is ther me anything you're doing to ensure the tape doesn't degrade further? I don't know how good a mountain top is for preserving tape so maybe anything is better.

isaacbstoner2 karma

we're keeping it out of the light, any other suggestions?

Essie_Ecks-18 karma

I had a dream last night in which I was sitting in the living room of the house I lived in when I was 16. I was on the couch reading a comic book, and there was a knock at the door. I opened the door, and there were three sharks standing there wearing mafia pinstripe suits and fedoras, standing on their tails like they were legs, and holding tommy guns. They were looking at me like they were really angry. So I started running around the entire downstairs of the house trying to escape from these sharks, but they were keeping up pretty well running on their tails. I ran out the back door of the house into the backyard, which is weird because that house didn't have a door into the backyard. So then I was running around the backyard trying to escape the mafia sharks, but they were keeping up. So I dove into the pool, which is weird because that house didn't have a pool, and because jumping into water to escape from sharks is stupid. So of course they're gaining on me, and just as the sharks were about to chomp down on me and gnaw on me like a piece of beef jerky, I woke up. The point of this is that I that dream. Understand? I had a dream.

So what makes Martin Luther King so fucking special?

isaacbstoner3 karma

this guy is on fire...