Military Sealift Command-chartered container ship MV Green Wave departed McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Feb. 25, after delivering more than 6.8 million pounds of vital supplies in support of Operation Deep Freeze. ODF is the annual Joint Task Force Support For Antarctica mission to resupply the remote scientific outpost.
Green Wave followed MSC-chartered tanker MT Maersk Peary, which brought more than 6.3 million gallons of crucial diesel, gasoline and jet fuel to McMurdo Station Jan. 28-31. During this single mission, MSC ships deliver 100 percent of the fuel and about 80 percent of the supplies that researchers and support personnel who live and work across Antarctica need to survive and work over the course of a year. "MSC's Operation Deep Freeze support is truly a 'no failure accepted' mission," said Tim McCully, MSC Pacific deputy commander. "Without the fuel, food, and other support materials delivered by our chartered ships, researchers could not continue their operations through the brutal Antarctic winter."
An MSC-chartered dry cargo ship and tanker have made the challenging voyage to Antarctica every year since the station was established in 1955. Although Maersk Peary and Green Wave have hulls designed to withstand the pressure of ice, both ships were escorted through a 15-mile ice channel - in places more than 13 feet thick - by an icebreaker that carved a safe path to the station. Green Wave arrived at McMurdo Station Feb. 13 with cargo loaded on board in Port Hueneme, California in early January, to include supplies like food and research equipment.
Typically, the MSC cargo ship off-loads its valuable cargo at a 500-foot ice pier that juts out from the Antarctic coast. This year's mission was one of the more challenging in the last two decades due to unfavorable weather conditions that made the ice pier at McMurdo unusable for dry cargo operations. In lieu of the ice pier, Green Wave carried a disassembled modular causeway system from the U.S. Army's 331st Transportation Company (Causeway). Once safely anchored at McMurdo Station, 41 Army personnel spent three days assembling the interlocking pieces of the causeway and powered modular warping tugs, which were craned off the ship individually and built into a floating dock capable of handling the ship's load.
"The members of the 331st Transportation Company really stepped up to this challenge," said Timothy Pickering, cargo project officer at MSC headquarters. "The talented men and women in the unit deployed this very unique capability, allowing our ship to accomplish its vital mission." After the causeway was ready, approximately 60 Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One personnel worked around-the-clock for eight days to off-load Green Wave's cargo, then load the ship with 391 pieces of cargo for transportation off the continent, including ice core samples carried back to the United States in sub-zero freezer containers. The ship also took on trash and recyclable materials for disposal. Cargo operations ended Feb. 24, and Green Wave is slated to arrive back at Port Hueneme March 26.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, 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.