Posts Tagged ‘icebreaker Oden’

Vessel 2: The Evolution

February 12, 2011

The fuel tanker was pretty much done with its duties here as of a few days ago, but it ran into some minor issues when it tried to actually leave. Last year’s ice pier had broken free of its moorings and drifted out in front of the ship. They had to send some people out to attach cables and retrieve it:

People in survival suits ('Mustang suits' designed to allow a human to survive even in frigid Antarctic waters) attaching cables to the old pier.

The icebreaker Oden escorted the tanker out the next day.

The Oden escorts the tanker out.

Shortly afterward, the resupply vessel–which had been waiting a few miles out, past the edge of the sea ice–came in.

The BBC EMS. Apparently it is quite hard, these days, to find container ships small enough to fit McMurdo's harbor.

The people on station who deal with Stuff have been working around the clock for the last week to get everything off the vessel and reload it with the things that go back to the States. First the folks in supply jobs offloaded what was on the boat–food, parts for vehicles, new equipment, things to sell in the store, more food, and so on. Large areas of the station were roped off as staging areas for all this stuff while people got it where it needed to go.

A central staging area, right outside the Galley.


A thousand people eat a lot of food in one year.


A chart of the off-limits areas, modified slightly by dorm residents.

Then other groups of people swung into gear to get things back onto the vessel–science samples going back to the States (including some of ours!) and all the waste generated by the station in the past year, which will be recycled or incinerated as appropriate. Supposedly they’re done, or close to done, and the vessel will leave this evening, and everything can go back to normal (or as normal as it gets around here.) We’ll see.

My friend Jessie has a great post about the vessel with photos from alternate perspectives and some time-lapse videos of the whole process. Check it out!

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Waiting For My Ship to Come In

February 3, 2011

The vessel is coming.

Every year, McMurdo—enormous Antarctic city that it is—uses far more supplies than it would be economical to bring down by plane. So once a year, at the end of the season when the sea ice is a bit more navigable, ships come in bearing fuel and other necessities. Food, materials, parts, T-shirts for the store, you name it. An icebreaker (the Oden, this year) makes a path for the resupply ships through the remaining sea ice near shore.

This is an enormous undertaking. The fuel tanker arrived a few days ago, shortly after we got back from the field, and the fuelies (e.g. the people tasked with moving fuel around and getting it where it’s needed) have been working long hours all week to get it offloaded.



The enormous fuel tanker looks into the midnight sun. Scott's hut is visible behind it, a little ways to the right of the No Smoking sign.

Tomorrow, or so I am given to understand, The Vessel is due to come in. I don’t know much about The Vessel (as it is universally known) except that it will be taking many of our ice cores back to the States, but I do know what effects it’s having on the town. Dozens (hundreds?) of temporary helpers from the U.S. Navy have arrived to help offload it. The town’s supply staff will be working practically nonstop. Some of the inessential functions of the station are essentially shut down for the week to ensure that everyone concentrates on the enormous task at hand. Big areas of the station are restricted or entirely off limits.

In the meantime, we’re still busy processing all our samples to get them onto the vessel (we cut up the ice cores in record time, actually) and making pictures of bubbles–which I ought to post about soon.

Bubbles!

Oh, by the way, the resupply ships dock at a pier that is made largely of ice—it’s just seawater pumped into the shape of a pier during the colder parts of the season, with a little bit of a framework (I think) to help it keep its shape. It’s several meters thick. Here they are blasting the edge off of it to get it ready for the tanker, which is visible in the background.

BOOM