With the Aug. 9 return of Military Sealift Command-chartered dry cargo ship MV American Tern to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., the resupply mission to remote Thule Air Force Base, Greenland, successfully concluded.
This year, two vessels - American Tern and tanker USNS Samuel E. Cobb - delivered fuel, heavy vehicles and containerized cargo to Thule as part of Operation Pacer Goose, the annual resupply of the base. Civilian contract mariners aboard ships like these have provided key support in supplying this remote location since 1952.
Operation Pacer Goose is one of the Arctic outpost's few sources of food, spare parts and other manufactured goods needed each year. The ships taking part in the mission also remove all of the base's solid waste and non-repairable equipment for return to the United States. Both ships are operated by Military Sealift Command, the ocean transportation provider for the Department of Defense.
Cobb loaded in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and discharged nearly 8.5 million gallons of fuel at the base July 15-21. After loading dry cargo in Norfolk, American Tern sailed for Greenland and off-loaded July 20-28 in Thule. The ship delivered four snow-removal tractors weighing about 29 tons each and approximately 120 40-ft containers.
The back-load returning to the United States on American Tern included 83 containers and cargo flat-racks and almost 50 pieces of large break-bulk cargo for a total of nearly 6,900 measurement tons. This retrograde cargo included two 20-ft tall diesel power plant engines and two quarry dump trucks each weighing more than 35 tons.
While en route to Norfolk, Va., American Tern answered a distress call August 4 from Blair Venture, a fishing vessel. American Tern's crew determined that the vessel required a tow into port, and remained in the vicinity until informed that the Canadian Coast Guard had arranged the tow.
American Tern is an MSC-chartered 521-ft, ice-strengthened container ship with its hull and machinery specially designed to withstand the harsh environment. American Tern's mission also extends beyond Pacer Goose. The ship's strengthened hull makes it MSC's ideal choice to participate in Operation Deep Freeze, the annual resupply of McMurdo Station, Antarctica.
Thule, Greenland, is located between the North Pole and the Arctic Circle and is accessible by sea only from mid-June to mid-September due to thick ice that covers its coastal waters. Created in secret as a refueling base for strategic bombers during the Cold War, the base of more than 1,100 U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard and multinational personnel now serves as a detection and tracking station for objects traveling over the Arctic Circle.
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.