Sondrestrom Musk Oxen

A prehistoric animal from the last glacial age that was particularly plentiful around Sondrestrom AB in the 1960's was the musk ox. These ornery little critters would wander down out of the rolling hills and ridges, which surround the base, and take up residence on its perimeter. On occasion, a single animal would move onto the air base and claim it as his territory. These shaggy creatures stand from three to five feet at the shoulders and can weigh from 500 to 900 pounds. The odoriferous musk ox gets his name from the strong odor that emanates from glands on his face. According to some, this odor can be smelled ninety miles away. Contrary to what one would believe, a musk ox has excellent sight and hearing, and when necessary, can run rapidly. (Musk ox photos courtesy of John Root, Firebird Pilot)

Willie the Musk Ox

A particularly cantankerous musk ox that inhabited the base during the early Firebird era was nicknamed "Willie" by the squadron. Everyone on the base would agitate Willie whenever the opportunity arose. Consequently, hardly a vehicle on base escaped this musk ox's wrath. Numerous vehicles had dents in their door panels made by Willie's horns. One day, he discovered an airman working at the top of a telephone pole on the edge of the base and wouldn't let him down for most of the afternoon. In fact, the base sent a vehicle out to look for him. Later, he chased several base personnel up onto a flatbed truck and kept them there for hours. Little "Willie" became so revered by the Firebirds that he was considered to be somewhat of a squadron mascot. The little "sucker" simply did not take "prisoners" or tolerate aggravation from anyone without a fight. He could have been an honorary Firebird. Long live Willie! (Nolan Bailey, Firebird Pilot)

Willie Strikes Again!

One day Willie wandered into one of the Sondy hangers. Sitting in that hanger was a small Bell bubble nosed helicopter that belonged to some outfit that had come to Greenland to do some exploration for oil.

Willie decided that he did not like that strange looking contraption and proceeded to pretty well destroy the plexiglass bubble and everything inside it. It took a number of AP trucks and crash vehicles looking like the Keystone Cops to finally get Willie out and off the field. Viva Willie! (Alan Anderson, Firebird Navigator)

Portrait of Willie the Musk Ox

(Nolan Bailey, Firebird Pilot, circa 1966)