The U.S. Military Sealift Command-chartered containership Ocean Giant departed Port Hueneme, Calif., on Jan. 17 loaded with nearly 7 million pounds of supplies such as frozen and dry food stores, building supplies, vehicles and electronic equipment and parts.
A command-chartered tanker Maersk Peary departed Europe in December with over 6 million gallons of diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline.
Both ships are currently en route to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, marking the start of the Military Sealift Command’s resupply efforts in support of Operation Deep Freeze, the annual Joint Task Force Support for Antarctica mission to resupply the remote scientific outpost.
“During this single mission, MSC-chartered ships will deliver 100 percent of the fuel and about 80 percent of the supplies that researchers and support personnel in Antarctica need to survive and work over the course of a year,” the command said.
Maersk Peary will arrive in Antarctica first and discharge its fuel cargo, followed by Ocean Giant in mid-February. Ocean Giant is scheduled to off-load its cargo at a 500-foot ice pier that juts out from the Antarctic coast. Following the off-load, the ship will be loaded with 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.
In 2012, unfavorable weather conditions made the ice pier at McMurdo unusable for dry cargo operations. Members of the Army’s 331st Transportation Company constructed a floating dock to ensure cargo operations could be conducted.
“Even though we’ve been conducting ODF missions for many years, every year we have challenges to face,” said Tom Brown, the command’s Pacific sealift prepositioning and special mission team lead, in a statement.
Due to adverse winter conditions in Antarctica, the ODF mission must take place in the Antarctic summer months of January to March. This can mean tight schedules for everyone involved in the mission, from the ship’s crew, to the cargo handlers on the ice, to the mission schedulers in the United States.
A Military Sealift Command-chartered cargo ship and tanker have made the voyage to Antarctica, which includes passage through a 15-mile ice channel, in places more than 13 feet thick, every year since the station was established in 1955.
The command operates about 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, preposition combat cargo at sea worldwide, and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.