MSC delivers support to Operation Deep Freeze 2013 – part three

The following blog post was written by Sarah Burford, MSC Pacific public affairs, and is the third in a series highlighting MSC’s role in Operation Deep Freeze (ODF) 2013. The purpose of ODF is to provide logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program via Department of Defense assets. MSC has supported ODF since McMurdo Station was established in 1955, providing supplies and fuel to scientists operating from the remote base.

MSC-chartered container ship MV Ocean Giant continues cargo offload operations at McMurdo Station as part of MSC’s annual resupply mission during Operation Deep Freeze, the annual Joint Task Force Support for Antarctica mission to resupply the remote scientific outpost. 

OG Cargo OPS 1

Ocean Giant arrived at the remote Antarctica base Feb.15 and members of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One work around-the-clock to offload the ship’s containerized cargo of nearly 7 million pounds of supplies, such as frozen and dry food stores, building materials, vehicles, and electronic equipment and parts; 80 percent of the materials needed for the winter-over period.

OG Cargo OPS 2With bitter cold and sharp winds, Antarctica is no winter wonderland. Workers face long days, little to fill their down time with besides sleep. Summer means 24 hours of sunlight each day which can play havoc with sleep.  

“Antarctica is actually beautiful in its own weird way,” said Dave Coulter, a MSC marine transportation specialist from San Diego providing support to this year’s ODF mission. 

“It takes a while to get used to. It’s all rocks and ice, no trees, no grass, nothing but rocks and ice…of course there’s lots of sunshine, 24-hours a day in fact. You say to yourself, ‘I’m tired, but the sun is still out, so it can’t be time for bed,” he said.

Cargo operations in any environment are dangerous. Heavy containers swing from OG Cargo OPS 3cranes, pallets of materials are moved with forklifts…with 24-hour cargo operations you have the factor of darkness as well. In Antarctica’s challenging environment however, the 24-hours of daylight becomes an advantage.

“All the extra sunlight really makes the night shift for the cargo ops easier,” said Coulter. “When you’re dealing with the cold, the wind and the ice, it’s nice to have something that’s on your side.”

Ocean Giant’s cargo operations continue through Feb. 23.  Following its off load, the ship will be loaded with retrograde cargo for transportation off the continent, including ice core samples carried back to the United States in sub-zero freezer containers, as well as trash and recyclable materials for disposal and equipment no longer required on station. The ship is the second MSC chartered ship to offload supplies at McMurdo Station’s ice-pier. 

The tanker ship M/V Maersk Peary preceded Ocean Giant, offloading 100 percent of the  diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline needed for the sustainment of the station through the harsh winter period.  Maersk Peary also provided fuel for the United States National Science Foundation’s chartered scientific research vessel R/V Nathan B. Palmer and the ice-breaker I/B Vladimir Ignatyuk.

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