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Cargo Ship M/V American Tern at the Ice Pier

The cargo ship M/V American Tern has been at McMurdo Station’s ice pier since Monday, Feb. 1, 2010. Hundreds of containers of cargo have been offloaded, and many containers of recyclables, waste and reusable materials and equipment will be loaded aboard for transport back to society. Depending on the type of waste, it may be a couple of years before it reaches the proper landfill.

M/V American Tern.

M/V American Tern.

Cargo containers with retrograde cargo (cargo that is going back) are positioned near the ice pier and along Hut Point Road, which is closed to pedestrians during vessel operations.

Waste, recyclable, or reusable cargo ready to be removed from McMurdo.

Waste, recyclable, or reusable cargo ready to be removed from McMurdo.

Containers waiting to be loaded on ship. Trucks waiting for cargo. Note fuel tender.

Containers waiting to be loaded on ship. Trucks waiting for cargo. Note fuel tender.

More containers awaiting departure along the Hut Point Road.

More containers awaiting departure along the Hut Point Road.

Cargo offloading and loading is handled by NAVCHAPs, Navy Cargo Handling and Port Group. I think there are around a hundred of them here and they are obviously involved in some serious business: the bars are closed during vessel operations. I’m not sure if this is strictly to avoid alcohol related incidents or if there is some motivation involved. “Finish with the cargo and you can drink again!” Yaaaay! Everybody wins!

Cargo container being offloaded.

Cargo container being offloaded.

During vessel operations, McMurdo Station is busy 24 hours a day until the job is done. The planning and logistics behind it all must be fairly complicated, but cargo, fleet ops (heavy equipment operators), NAVCHAPs, and everyone else involved in unloading, sorting and warehousing everything does a tremendous job.

View of McMurdo from Ob Hill. The darker roads are the most used cargo routes. They have been wet down to control dust.

View of McMurdo from Ob Hill. The darker roads are the most used cargo routes. They have been wet down to control dust.

While most of the cargo is sorted and stowed where it belongs before anyone sees it, I was able to get a couple of photos of the important stuff:

New ambulances for McMurdo Station.

New ambulances for McMurdo Station.

Potato chips and Milano cookies.

Potato chips and Milano cookies.

Working the night shift in Antarctica can at times be a lonely affair. Fortunately I had a friend to watch the offloading with me for a little while.

Skua.

Skua.

14 comments to Cargo Ship M/V American Tern at the Ice Pier

  • Chuck Pisano

    Wow! No ice in the channel now, new ambulances (what are they going to do with the old multi-colored ones? ;-) )

    Things seem to really be picking up steam around there, and then they are going to ship you home. Of course, I bet Sue is already planning some grand sumpteous feast for when you get home – that and disconnecting the phone & intenet, nailing the doors shut, turning off all the lights and hanging “Do Not Disturb” signs on all of the doors. :-D

    Enjoy your time left and we look forward to seeing you in person.

  • Kristen Kessel Ellison

    The view of McMurdo from Ob Hill has changed quite a bit from a few months ago. Doesn’t look so much like Antarctica right now. I love seeing the McMurdo view because I always look for the buildings in which you live and work.

    I think those Skua are going to miss you when you come home. Maybe you can bring one back to keep Dmitri, Pavel, and Tasha company.

  • Kristen Kessel Ellison

    And now I’m craving Milano cookies. Thanks… ;-)

  • Mom

    So this is what Antartica looks like in the summer??? With all that’s going on there, thankfully there are some signs of the earth to maneuver all that cargo on. No wonder they have maneuvers 24 hours a day. When does winter officially start; and end? AND YOU’LL BE HOME!!!

    It won’t be long now!!!

  • Smitty

    Not to sound like a whacker… but I’m hoping to see more pictures of the new ambulances.

  • Scott

    Yes, things are fairly busy here. Field camps have been closing for winter, bringing people and equipment back to town. South Pole station closes for winter around Feb. 15, so there are lots of flights to and from pole. There are several refrigerated cargo containers filled with ice cores near the firehouse. McMurdo Station pretty much closes for winter around Feb. 20, although the last flight out is around March 5. Winter officially starts here in the southern hemisphere on June 21 (the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere), but weather conditions here will be winter-like far earlier than that. It’s already getting colder and autumn doesn’t begin until March 21.

    The sea ice continues to break up with the help of the icebreaker. Some days there is a fair amount of loose ice around Hut Point and Winter Quarters Bay, other days less or none at all. It largely depends on the wind, but overall the amount of open water continues to increase. The open water of the Ross Sea to our north is also getting closer. You can see open water and icebergs clearly, especially from Ob Hill.

    With the open water, wildlife is a bit more prevalent. I see whales and seals pretty much every day I go for a hike. Penguins a little less often, but they are around.

    As for the ambulances, I don’t know where the old ones go. Where do old ambulances go to die in the States? These will probably go there. I’ll see about getting more photos of the new ones.

  • Sue K

    My cousin bought an old ambulance and converted it into a flatbed to transport his 4-wheeler, I think. They can also be converted into campers and trade vehicles. To say your vehicle came from Antarctica would be pretty cool!

  • Smitty

    Old ambulances usually go to less fortunate EMS providers, who can’t afford new trucks. Otherwise, they get sold to various types contractors. With all of the compartments, they really do make great work trucks.

  • Aunt Mary

    Happy Birthday Scottie!!!!

    P.S. Can you bring me home a ambulance as a souvenir? That would be MAJOR cool!!!!!!

  • Scott

    @ Aunt Mary: The cargo ship already left. Sorry. Thanks for the wishes.

  • Greg Broyles

    I was the Chief Steward on the Tern during this year’s Operation Deep Freeze. I just wanted to thank all the people at McMurdo who were so hospitable and welcoming. This was my second run to the ice. Thanks for making us feel a part of the family there.

  • i am a radio officer cum junior officer if u have any vac. for me then pls feel free to contact me. i am waiting for ur feply…..

  • ahmed elmasry

    im 2nd officer if you need contact me

  • OlvĂ­date de pasar horas en tu penitenciario haciendo Trading.
    Hazlo automático.

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