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American Forces Press Service

Supply Ships Support ‘Deep Freeze’ Antarctica Operation

Military Sealift Command

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2013 – Two supply-laden Military Sealift Command-chartered vessels are en route to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, marking the start of resupply efforts in support of Operation Deep Freeze, according to a MSC news release issued today.

The container ship MV Ocean Giant departed Port Hueneme, Calif., Jan. 17, loaded with nearly seven million pounds of food, building supplies, vehicles, and electronic equipment and parts, the release said.

The tanker ship MT Maersk Peary departed the European area of operations in December, carrying more than six million gallons of diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline, according to the release. Both ships are participating in the annual Joint Task Force Support mission to resupply the remote scientific outpost.

The MSC-chartered ships will deliver 100 percent of the fuel and about 80 percent of the supplies that researchers and support personnel in Antarctica will need to survive and work over the course of a year, according to the release.

Maersk Peary will arrive in Antarctica first and discharge its fuel cargo, followed by Ocean Giant in mid-February, the release said. Ocean Giant is scheduled to off-load its cargo at a 500-foot ice pier that juts out from the Antarctic coast. The cargo will be off-loaded by members of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One working around-the-clock for eight days.

Following the off-load, the release said, the Ocean Giant will be loaded with retrograde cargo for transportation off the continent, including 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, the release said. 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," Tom Brown, MSC Pacific Sealift Prepositioning and Special Mission Team Lead, said in the release. "We try to address as much as possible in the planning phase, but because we are working with Mother Nature, we can't always know what will happen.

“Because of this,” Brown continued, “we really have to function as a team, not just within the Navy, but with all the other organizations who participate in this mission to ensure that we get the critical cargo onto the ice and on time to support the people who live and work there.”

Due to adverse winter conditions in Antarctica, the ODF mission must take place during a small window of opportunity 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.

"Operation Deep Freeze is a very critical mission for the people who live and work in Antarctica," Navy Capt. Sylvester Moore, commander of MSC Pacific, said in the release. "Without this resupply mission, all operations in Antarctica would end, and the scientific community would lose the opportunity to conduct research and study not only the continent of Antarctica, but its impact on our global climate."

An MSC-chartered cargo ship and tanker have made the challenging 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.

MSC operates approximately 110 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners, the release said.

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