Inside the Hunt for U.F.O.s at the End of the World

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Inside the Hunt for U.F.O.s at the End of the World

DEADHORSE, Alaska — Really? That’s it?

The United States military is capable of many things, but finding the remnants of an unidentified flying object scattered across a blinding expanse of Arctic ice in minus-30-degree weather using six available hours of daylight is not one of them.

The search for a downed U.F.O. began and ended near this oil-camp town at the frozen edge of the world, where Navy pilots flying P-8 Poseidons finally gave up on Friday, ending their mission with no answers.

Hours later and some 500 miles away, Canadian forces searching for the shreds of a second object in the Yukon Territory retreated empty-handed. The same thing happened on Lake Huron, where Coast Guard captains docked their boats without finding whatever it was that F-22 fighter pilots shot out of the sky with a $400,000 Sidewinder missile. (The pilots actually shot two missiles; the first one missed.)

The three objects were intercepted in quick succession on Feb. 10, 11 and 12, just days after the United States shot down a giant Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4. But as quickly as the national craziness over aerial phenomena began, the military packed up and went home, leaving the answers encased in Arctic ice and under the whitecaps of Lake Huron.

In Deadhorse — permanent population: 25 — life had already moved on by Saturday morning. Oil workers left for their shifts while it was still dark, and they would be back in the evening for early dinners and early bedtimes. Nancy Bremer, a receptionist at the Aurora Hotel — home to the only restaurant in town, a buffet-style assembly line that serves ahi tuna steaks and cheeseburgers — said people here were focused on work, and not concerned with any looming threat of an object shot down over ice.

“If we find it,” she asked, “should I call you?”