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U.S. resupplies Antarctica station for 2011

U.S. resupplies Antarctica station for 2011

   The U.S. Military Sealift Command-chartered containership BBC Ems departed McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Feb. 13 after delivering more than 84,000 square feet of vital supplies in support of Operation Deep Freeze (ODF).

   ODF is an annual Air Force-led mission to resupply the remote scientific outpost.

   BBC Ems followed Military Sealift Command tanker USNS Richard G. Matthiesen, which delivered more than 5.5 million gallons of diesel, gasoline and jet fuel to McMurdo Station Jan. 29 to Feb. 5.

   Military Sealift Command ships deliver all of the fuel and about 80 percent of the annual supplies that the researchers and support personnel who live and work in the Antarctica — up to 1,100 in the summer months.

   “If we didn’t provide the fuel and supplies, they would have to shut the station down,' said John Joerger, the Military Sealift Command's tanker project officer. 'They need it for heat, they need it for their vehicles, helicopters and all the things they do. If they don’t have fuel, they can’t survive in the Antarctic.”

   A Military Sealift Command dry cargo ship and tanker have made the dangerous voyage to Antarctica annually since the station was established in 1955.

The BBC Ems delivered vital supplies to McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

   BBC Ems arrived at McMurdo Station’s ice pier Feb. 5 carrying cargo that was loaded in Port Hueneme, Calif. Supplies aboard the 469-foot ship included food, household goods and research equipment.

   It took 59 U.S. sailors from the Williamsburg, Va.-based Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One and 65 members of the New Zealand Defence Force working around-the-clock three days to offload BBC Ems’ cargo, the Military Sealift Command said. They then loaded the empty ship with cargo to be transported off the continent, including ice core samples carried back to the United States in three 40-foot refrigerated containers. The ship also took on trash and recyclable materials for disposal.

   The Military Sealift Command noted that this year marks the final Antarctic voyage for its T-5 tanker class, of which Matthiesen is a part. Five tankers were built in the mid-1980s and chartered by the agency until 2003, when the command purchased four of the five.

   The T-5s have been replaced for most Defense Department fuel transport operations by two newly built tankers that came under charter to the command in late 2010 and early 2011 — Evergreen State and Empire State. Because these ships are not ice-strengthened, the command will charter tankers on the commercial market to fill future ice missions.

   The Military Sealift Command operates about 110 noncombatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces.

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