Otter 297 was acquired to support Belgian research in the Antarctic, and was delivered to the Centre National Belge de Recherches Polaires on 9th September 1959, registered OO-SUD.
The first Belgian Antarctic expedition of modern times took place between November 1957 and April 1959, to coincide with the 1958 International Geophysical Year. On 12th November 1957 the icebreaker 'Polarhav' and the vessel 'Polarsirkel' left the port of Antwerp, Belgium carrying the expedition and its equipment, including Auster AOP 6 serial A-2 on loan from the Belgian Army and a Bell 47 helicopter, OO-SHW, on loan from Sabena. They arrived in Queen Maud Land late in December 1957 and established the King Baudoin Station as their base. The Auster was destroyed in a landing on rough ice near Mount Belgica on 5th December 1958, its crew and the ground party they were supporting being rescued by a C-47 from the Russian station. The expedition returned to Ostend on 2nd April 1959.
The Centre National Belge de Recherches Polaires was founded to operate the second Belgian expedition. Otter OO-SUD was purchased as a support aircraft, as was Cessna 180 OO-EXP. Following its delivery at Downsview on 9th September 1959, the Otter was packed into a crate and shipped to the Antarctic, where it was re-assembled. It flew during the southern summer of 1959/60, based at the King Baudoin Base, and again the following year, 1960/61, during the third expedition. The Otter was named “Jean Loodts”. However, the Belgian government refused to provide any further financial support, so the King Baudoin station was closed down at the end of the 1961 summer season, on 31st January 1961, and the Otter returned to Belgium by ship, where it was put into storage. At that stage, its owner, the Centre National Belge de Recherches Polaires, was defunct and Otter OO-SUD was to remain in storage in poor conditions somewhere in Belgium for the next nine years.
After pressure was applied by the scientific community, government funding was restored after a time, and the next expedition took place during the southern summer of 1963/64, carried out by the Comite Antarctique Belgo Neerlandais, a joint Belgian/Dutch expedition, which in November 1965 received Otter 144669 (148) from the United States Navy, which was later registered OO-HAD. When this Otter crashed in the Antarctic in February 1970, with the loss of its expensive equipment, it marked the end of Belgian scientific endeavours in the region for the foreseeable future, as the government was unwilling to put up any more money.
At that stage, appreciating that Belgian Antarctic exploration was over, at least for the time being, Otter OO-SUD was donated to the Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire, located in the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels in July 1970. Such parts as had been salvaged from the crashed OO- HAD were brought back to Belgium and used in the restoration of OO-SUD to display status. The registration OO-SUD was officially cancelled on 16th March 1972 and the Otter went on public display in the Museum, where it remains to this day.
Full history up to 2005 courtesy of Karl E Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter - A History (CD-ROM 2005)