Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More transportation

An FWD ice cargo carrier
Side view of the FWD.
A Tucker Sno-Cat
Another Tucker Sno-Cat
An M29 Weasel
A "Polecat"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

You can't have too many penguin photos

© David Eldred
Emperor Penguins on the ice, near McMurdo Station

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

McMurdo Nuclear Power Plant

© David Eldred
Part of the nuclear power plant is lifted off the USS Arneb onto the ice.
Marked on the side of the steel container: "Martin PM-A3 Nuclear Power Plant" (click photo to enlarge)
In August 1960, Congress authorized the construction of a nuclear power station for McMurdo Station. Martin Coroporation was awarded the $4 million contract for the plant. It was assembled and tested in Baltimore in fall 1961.
© David Eldred


More components of the nuclear power station wait to be unloaded from the USS Arneb.

In early November, 1961, the plant modules were loaded onto the USS Arneb in Rhode Island. On December 13, 1961, the ship arrived at McMurdo sound and began uloading on the ice.

© David Eldred


More nuclear components

All of the components of the nuclear plant were unloaded by December 29, 1961. The components were hauled over the ice on cargo sleds to the reactor site at McMurdo Station. Between January 1, and March 1, 1962 the plant was assembled and tested. On March 4, 1961 the plant was operational. Incredibly, the entire project had gone from Congressional approval to operation in 18 month - by today's standards, an amazing feat.

© David Eldred


Cargo sleds

Unfortunately, the nuclear power plant was not the answer to the station's needs that its proponents had hoped. The plant suffered several accidents and problems, from a fire in the containment tanks in fall 1962, to the coolant leak that sealed its fate in 1972. The plant was removed during the late 1970s.

Icy Dock

© David Eldred
The USS Arneb (AKA-56) moored to the ice at McMurdo.
An aircraft propeller can be seen lurking in the large crate on the ice next to the ship. (Click to enlarge.)

Ships are moored to the ice by means of a deadman, a post about 4' long. A hole is chipped into the ice, narrow at the top, and wider at the bottom. The deadman, with a rope looped around its middle, is wedged sideways into the hole in the ice. When the hole is filled up with water, snow, and ice the deadman becomes a solid part of the ice sheet.


One of the crew's many jokes.

"Here lies the body of an Eastwind deadman, placed here to commemorate the last Operation Deep Freeze by veteran Arctic Antarctic explorer the Duke of Eastwind BM1"

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Cargo off-loading at McMurdo

© David Eldred
A D-7 Caterpillar Bulldozer tows a train of cargo sleds across the ice.

The main mission of Operation Deep Freeze was to deliver goods, supplies, and scientific equipment. Food, drink, building materials, power equipment, fuel - almost everything the station needed was delivered by ship. During the 1961-62 operation, the USS Arneb (AKA-56) carried what was supposed to be the answer to all of McMurdo's electrical power needs - a nuclear power plant.

Ships tied up and unloaded on the ice. Dozens of vehicles, from buldozers to Snow Weasels, some towing cargo sleds, made their way out onto the ice to bring the cargo back to the base. Over the course of several weeks, the contents of each ship was disgorged onto the ice, loaded on cargo carriers, and hauled to McMurdo.

A D-8 Caterpillar Bulldozer hauls cargo sleds. Several D-8 Bulldozers were delivered to Antarcica for the IGY in 1956. Nearly 50 years later, the last of the D-8s were being retired.
Antarctic D-8s turn 50

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hallett Station

© David Eldred

View of Hallett Station

Hallett station was a joint American/New Zealand facility built during the first International Geophysical Year, 1957-58. The station was the first, and with the exception of a more recently established joint French-Italian facility, only international effort in Antarctica. Although it was built by the United States, the station was manned by both countries, and headed up by scientists from New Zealand for the first several years. It was a year round station until 1964, when a fire destroyed the main scientific laboratory. From that time, until it was abandoned in 1973, the station was manned during the austral summer.
The purpose of the station was to provide weather data for the U.S. aircraft flying between Christchurch and McMurdo. Scientists also researched meteorology, geomagnetism, aurora, iconosphere, and seismology at the station.

© David Eldred


Foreground: Fuel trailer. Background: Hallett Station's geomagnetic dome, now on display at Canterbury Museum in New Zealand, along with several of the station's buildings. The building in the foreground is a portable Jamesway Hut, a temporary, insulated, canvas-covered shelter.

© David Eldred


Adelie Rookery at Hallett Station

Seabee Hook, the station's location on Cape Hallet, has been the location of a large Adelie penguin rookery for perhaps as long as 2000 years. In typical military fashion, the penguins were simply pushed aside to make room for the station and its airstrip. Study of the rookery, as well as related biological features, became the main focus of scientific research at the station after the end of the IGY.

© David Eldred


Filling rubberized fuel bladders at Hallet Station

Hallett Station was initially dismantled, and largely removed, in the 1980s. In the mid 1990s, a more extensive environmental cleanup was carried out. In 2001, it was discovered that fuel storage tanks left at the station were leaking and young penquins from the rookery were found with oil soaked feathers. Consequently, further cleanup has been necessary to more thoroughly decontaminate the site.

© David Eldred


A USARP scientist with a Skua, an aggressive scavenger and predator. Skuas kill young adelies by isolating them from the rest of the rookery and repeatedly attacking them.

© David Eldred


Equipment at Hallett Station


A group of adult and juvenile Adelie penguins investigate this C-47 (DC-3) at Hallett Station.
The airplane, as indicated by the bent propeller and missing windshield panels, is a derelect left in the station's equipment dump. It may have had a history of problems. The plane, Number 7 "Takahe," is shown buried in the snow in a number of photos taken in 1957 at Little America V, a temporary research station built during the first Operation Deep Freeze.
The photo captures a panoply of irony. Not only is the flightless aircraft the center of attention for a group of the worlds most celebrated flightless birds, the plane's name, "Takahe," refers to a flightless bird native to New Zealand. Whether the name was added to the fuselage in jest after the plane's final mission, or if it the original moniker was a portent of the plane's future, we may never know. Perhaps the plane's fate was sealed the day the name was painted on its nose.
The rare Takahe, of which less than 300 are now known to exist, was once thought extinct. Originally known from fossil remains, it was "rediscovered" in 1948 living in a remote region.
An eagle-eyed reader pointed me to: http://www.vaq34.com/vxe6/17163.htm. According to the site:
"R4D-5L (that's #7, Takahe) crashed Sept 15, 1959, while making a landing at Hallet Station. After the touchdown on the ice at Cape Hallet the starboard main landing gear collapsed. The plane was declared a strike because it was not economical to repair due to its age" (Air Development Squadron Six, Deep Freeze 60)
It appears name "Takahe" was the plane's original VX-6 (Air Development Squadron Six) name. -ed.

Modern McMurdo

This video by Nicholas Johnson, of www.bigdeadplace.com shows the McMurdo of today, surprisingly similar to the McMurdo of of 1962.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Remnant of Byrd's Camp?

© David Eldred

The faceted, angular sides on this "tabular," or flat-topped iceberg were formed when it calved from the ice sheet. Ice sheets are made of layer upon layer of compressed snow that become more dense the older and further down in the 'berg they are. Like the rings of a tree, the horizontal striations in this iceberg are evidence of seasons past.

© David Eldred

Little America III?

Antarctic ice shelves have a life cycle of their own, constantly growing and shrinking as sections break off, some forming huge icebergs - gigantic ice islands that have been known to float around the Antarctic waters for years. In 1962, a section of the Ross Ice Shelf broke up, splitting a portion of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's "Little America III" away from the shelf. What appears to be a structure and several objects on this iceberg may be the remains of that early exploratory outpost. It has been noted that a small iceberg with a portion of Little America III was sighted on the western edge of the Ross Sea in 1962. If so, this would be an important and historic photo.

Of course, this photo may simply show the remains of a contemporary, and temporary, scientific outpost.

Byrd's third Antarctic expedition (1939-1941) is notable, among other reasons, because of the unusual "Snow Cruiser" vehicle that accompanied the expedition. The Snow Cruiser was a low, wide, balloon-tired vehicle that was designed to drive on the Antarctic snow. Along with a crew and supplies it also carried an airplane, perched on top of the vehicle.
It was designed by a member of one of Byrd's earlier expeditions, and built by Pullman company. It was paraded through hundreds of towns on its way from the factory to the port from which it was to depart with Byrd.

Once in Antarctica, however the vehicle proved all but useless. Although it could attain forward motion on ice, the tires couldn't gain enough traction to control the speed and direction of the vehicle. In the snow, the heavy snow cruiser sank, and the tires spun helplessly. Although useless as transportation, the Snow Cruiser did serve as a first class crew headquarters. With a machine shop, galley, sleeping and working spaces that were comfortable, heated and well insulated, the cruiser may have been the first, and only, Antarctic mobile home.
When the camp was abandoned in 1941, the Snow Cruiser was left behind, stored in a special garage cut into the ice by the crew. The camp was found again in 1958 and the Snow Cruiser was reported to be safely ensconced in its ice cavern. Subsequent attempts to locate the Snow Cruiser have been unsuccessful. Some have speculated that the Russians removed the cruiser for their own investigations. More plausible theories are that it still remains in the ice, at a depths the preclude rediscovery, or that it was lost when Little America III broke up in early 1962.
But the Snow Cruiser may be awaiting rediscovery. According to an article in Polar Geography, by Ted Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data Center,
"Analysis of a series of maps, sightings, satellite images, and aerial photos indicates that a 5 km2 section of the eastern side of the Bay of Whales containing the buried remains of several bases from the 'heroic era' of Antarctic exploration calved in early 1962. A small iceberg from this event (or closely-spaced events), with the remains of Little America III exposed in the ice face, was sighted in February 1963 near the western end of the Ross Ice Shelf front. More recent calving events, monitored by satellite images, confirm that most small icebergs generated in the eastern Ross drift westward and repeatedly impact the ice front, fragmenting as they move. This implies that a number of artifacts from the bases, such at the 1939-1940 Byrd Snow Cruiser, are likely strewn along the seabed near the 1962 ice front position. Major Ross Ice Shelf calving events of 2000 and 2002 have made much of the 1962 front area accessible to ships. Thus a search for the artifacts is technically more feasible for the next few years until shelf ice flow re-covers the area."


29 January, 2007, addendum:

I emailed a link to this post to several people knowledgeable in Antarctic history and geography. They took a look and replied with their thoughts on the identity of the remains on the iceberg. The executive summary? It isn't a piece of Byrd's camp.

Here's what they said:

Hi Mike,
While is possible that this is part of Little America III, I think it unlikely.
Most moving ice-located stations are subject to build-up over the years, and from 1941 to 1962, the Little America station would likely have been substantially buried, so when it fell off the edge of the ice-shelf, was more likely to have been part-way through the ice-berg rather than still riding on top of it.
I found this picture on the web: www.history.navy.mil/ac/exploration/deepfreeze/deepfreeze3.html a painting made in 1956 called the "ghost of little America III." This is very similar to other pictures I have seen of stations falling off the end of ice-shelves, old, abandoned and buried British Hally Bay
stations (they were replaced when too buried) and (I think) the German Filchner station. I am more familiar with conditions in the Peninsula and Weddell Sea region of Antarctica than the Ross Sea area.
I may be wrong, of course, and it is obviously an abandonded encampment of some sort, though my guess from the snow accumulation is that it is not old enough to be Little America III if it was taken in 1962.
Paul Ward



I can absolutely answer your question. That photo was taken in McMurdo Sound. The hills behind the iceberg are part of Hut Point Peninsula. The high area to the right is Arrival Heights. To the far right, at the very tip, you can see Scott's 1901 hut. That's Hut Point.
The material on the iceberg is one of three things:
1) Possibly buildings and material left on the Erebus Glacier Tongue,
and part of the tongue has broken off.
2) Possibly buildings and material from Williams Field, the packed
snow skiway on the McMurdo Ice Shelf.
3) Most likely metal trash that was hauled out to the edge of the ice
shelf and left there, to wait for it to break off and float away.
(That's how garbage was disposed of in those days...)
The material is definitely NOT from Little America, as the site of that camp is thousands of miles away from where this photo was taken.
Hope this helps.
Jim Mastro



Thanks to all who replied,


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Glacier! USS Glacier, that is.

© David Eldred
The USS Glacier plows though the ice next to the Eastwind

The USS Glacier (AGB-4) was no stranger to Antarctic waters. The Glacier participated in the first fifteen Operation Deep Freeze missions, and 1962 marked the Glacier's seventh Operation Deep Freeze. In 1966, the Glacier was turned over to the Coast Guard, becoming the USCGC Glacier. In all, the Glacier particpated in 29 Antarctic and 10 Arctic operations. It was commissioned in 1955, and decommissioned in 1987. It is currently the subject of a restoration effort by The Glacier Society www.glaciersociety.org

Monday, January 22, 2007

Landing craft

© David Eldred
The Eastwind's LCVP negotiates the icy waters off Hallet Station.
LCVP means, in typical military jargon, "Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel." The LCVP was the military's ubiquitous landing vessel. From Normandy to, well, Antarctica, the amazing all-purpose vessel carried personnel, supplies, and even vehicles to and from the shore. Mostly constructed of wood, the "Higgins Boat," as it was also known, could carry up to 8,100 pounds of cargo, was propelled by a 225-hp diesel motor, and remained safe and manuverable even in moderately rough seas. By 2000, the Navy had discontinued use of all but a few LCVPs.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

AWOL in Wellington

© David Eldred
View of Wellington hillside.
Wellington was one of several ports of call on the Eastwind's journey to Antarctica. New Zealand is a prominent player in Antarctica, and a key partner in Operation Deep Freeze. Other NZ ports frequented by the Eastwind included Aukland and Port Lyttleton.

Wellington is also the setting of an Eastwind tale that is still told by former crewmembers:

The two United States seamen, Ivy Lee Boswell (second from right) and Daniel B. Merrow (right), who broke from custody aboard the icebreaker Eastwind at Wellington early on Sunday Morning, are about to be put into a car after being found in Wellington this morning. At left is Inspector A. Childs, and next to him is a constable who took part in the arrest.

Tuesday, October 31, 1961
New Zealand Press Association
WELLINGTON- The two seamen who escaped from custody aboard the United States Navy icebreaker Eastwind at Wellington early on Sunday morning are now in cells at the Central Police Station waiting to be handed over to the American authorities.
The 18-year-old seamen, Ivy Lee Boswell and Daniel B. Merrow, described by the United States Navy officials as "desperate and dangerous," made no effort to escape when a lone constable apprehended them.

Sitting on Bank
They were captured walking up Ngauranga Gorge at 11:30 a.m. to-day after an Evening Post photographer and a reporter found them a few minutes earlier sitting on a broom-covered bank overlooking the Gorge highway opposite Wright Stephenson’s wool store.
One of the seamen was carrying a knife, but police said early this afternoon that they did not consider them dangerous.
They were arrested by Inspector A. Child and taken to the central station in a police van carrying dogs from Trentham which were to have been used in the search for the men. The newspapermen, J. J. Short and N. J. Harfield, were travelling up Ngauranga Gorge about 11:10 a.m. to-day to report a police search for the men in the Newlands area. Mr. Short noticed someone squatting in the bush as the car passed Wright Stephenson’s store. When they returned, they noticed the same person sitting there.
The two men walked through thick broom to a clearing on the hillside and saw two young men sitting there. They had a canvas duffle bag beside them.
The newspapermen greeted the two young men and Mr. Short said: "Wonderful day, great day for a living."
"Yeah," replied the man with the blonde hair (Merrow) in a definite American accent.
Mr. Harfield called the police and kept watch until they arrived.
The two seamen apparently intended to sail more than a hundred miles in an open rubber raft in their attempt to abandon the ship near Pitcairn Island.
Trouble for the young sailors began when the ship was sailing 100 miles south of Pitcairn Island, the captain of the Eastwind Commander Naab, said in Christchurch to-day.
Boswell and Merrow had thrown one of the ship’s rubber lifeboats overboard, intending to leap after the raft, and escape from the ship.
Second Thoughts
The water was choppy at the time and, as the lifeboat drifted quickly away from the ship, they evidently thought better of it and decided to stay aboard the Eastwind, Commander Naab said.
When the attempt to abandoned the ship had become known, Commander Naab said, inquiries revealed that the pair had told several people they intended to leave the ship near Pitcairn Island.
"I guess they intended to live on a desert island for a time," he said.
In Brig
When Eastwind reached Wellington, Boswell had spent five or six days in the ship’s brig awaiting court martial and Merrow had been heavily fined and was confined to ship.
The Wellington escape was made at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, while the Eastwind was tied up at Clyde Quay.
Commander Naab presumed that Merrow released Boswell from the locked brig. No guard was posted on the brig at the time.
The two men were recognised at the gates of Clyde Quay by a ship’s officer and told to return to ship. Instead, one of the escapers pulled a knife and threatened the officer before making off.

(Editor’s note: The Eastwind was a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, not a Navy icebreaker. The New Zealander term "broom" is synonymous with American English "brush," meaning bushes. The "Evening Post" was a Wellington daily newspaper, now defunct. The captain of the Eastwind was Commander J.W. Naab -ME)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Antarctica's largest settlement

© David Eldred
View across the sound, from McMurdo Base.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


© David Eldred
Seals peek through a hole in the ice near McMurdo.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ice on deck

© David Eldred
Ice sheaths the Eastwind.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fire in the Sky

© David Eldred
Somewhere between New Zealand and Antarctica.

Cruising the Sound

© David Eldred
David Eldred, the photographer, on the Eastwind, McMurdo Sound

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Beer on Ice

© David Eldred
Like old-time sailors' daily ration of rum, beer is an essential part of crew morale.

© David Eldred


A case of Waldorf Red Band Beer, brewed at Forest City Brewery in Cleveland, OH. "Beer at its best."

The Art of Ice

© David Eldred
Icebergs come in a fascinating variety of shapes and sizes, depending on their age and origin. The hollow arches in this iceberg were sculpted by the relentless action of the sea pounding against the 'berg. Areas of lesser density are more easily washed away, leaving holes and hollows.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


© David Eldred
Nodwell Track Truck At Mc Murdo
Vehicles in Antarctica generally rely on large balloon tires or a continuous-belt track for traction. Generally speaking, tracked vehicles can tackle a greater variety of terrain conditions. Vehicles with balloon tires provide more comfort for passengers.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sunset on the rocks

© David Eldred
The sun sets over the ice on McMurdo Sound.
The austral spring begins in September, when autumn begins in the northern hemisphere. As the austral summer nears, the south polar days get appreciably longer and nights get shorter. In late December, around Christmas, there are several days without a sunset.
Operation Deep Freeze, which runs from September to May, is timed to take advantage of the milder antarctic "summer."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Flight Operations

© David Eldred
Landing on the deck of the Eastwind.
As the photo in the previous post clearly shows, the Eastwind carried two helicopters, which performed ice surveys and other functions.
This craft appears to be a Bell 47 variant.
© David Eldred


A Sikorsky HO4

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


© David Eldred
Another view of the Eastwind

Emperor Penguins

© David Eldred
Emperor Penguins are the largest of penguin species. They have an average lifespan of about 20 years. A recent documentary, The March of the Penguins, highlighted about the birds' breeding cycle, which includes a inland march of up to 70 miles to reach their rookeries.

Monday, January 8, 2007

More McMurdo

© David Eldred
McMurdo Base. Built in 1956, McMurdo was, and still is, the chief U.S. Antarctic research station. It is Antarctica's largest community.

McMurdo Base

© David Eldred
The Chapel of the Snows was built in 1956 by volunteers using scrap bits and pieces from other buildings. It burned in 1978 and was replaced by a larger structure: http://www.southpolestation.com/trivia/history/chapel.html

Ice in the Channel

© David Eldred
Cutting ice in the channel. Photo taken from the bridge of the Eastwind. US Navy cargo ship PVT Joseph Merrell (AK 275) on the right.

Mount Erebus

© David Eldred
Mount Erebus reflected in the calm waters of McMurdo Sound.

© 2006 David Eldred


Background: A plume of smoke above Mount Erebus offers a hint of the mountain's volcanic nature. Mount Erebus is the world's southernmost volcano. Foreground: David Eldred takes a break on the Eastwind.


Sunday, January 7, 2007

On the Ice

© David Eldred
QM2 David Eldred
The USCGC Eastwind (W-279) was one of seven "wind class" ice breakers. The Eastwind was commissioned in 1944 and, in WWII, had the distinction of capturing the German ship Exernsteine, the only enemy ship to be captured intact during the war. After 1945, the Eastwind saw ice-breaking duty at both poles. In 1960, it became the first ice-breaker to circumnavigate the globe. The Eastwind was scrapped in 1968.