It has been very busy at McMurdo for the past few weeks. Every year the research station is resupplied by sea. This time, known as “vessel,” is one of the operational high points of the summer season. Hundreds of additional cargo handlers are flown in for the job, making the station feel quite crowded.
This year four ships came into McMurdo Sound and docked at the ice pier, a man made iceberg which is thick enough to facilitate cargo on load and offload. The ships which visited were:
- The Polar Star, a US Coast Guard ice breaker
- The Nathaniel B. Palmer, a NSF research vessel
- The Ocean Giant, an ice hardened container ship
- The Maersk Peary, an ice hardened fuel tanker
The Polar Star is the first to arrive, this year cutting through 60 miles of 8ft thick ice to reach the port. This ship clears the way for the other vessels.
The Nathaniel B. Palmer is a NSF research vessel which docked at McMurdo to refuel and change crews.
The Ocean Giant supplied the station with a years worth of supplies, everything from science equipment, construction materials, and food is brought in on the ship. The ship returns to the US with all of the trash and waste produced by the station over a year.
The Maersk Peary supplied the station with fuel which is used for power generation, vehicles, heating, and refueling ships.
I was able to participate in line handling this year, which is the process of mooring the ships to the land by attaching strong ropes to bollards on shore.
Each of the ships gave tours, where the crew were nice enough to show us around their ship. It was very fun and interesting to learn a bit about naval architecture.
As vessel winds up, the station population is beginning its decline as we close out the summer season. In a few weeks only the winter personnel will remain, cutting the population from nearly 1000 to about 150. And I will be one of the few staying!