Bosun Richard Hamilton did his homework before sailing to Antarctica for the first time, but reading about Operation Deep Freeze (ODF) definitely isn’t the same as helping run it.
“I knew what to expect but, being from Florida, I didn’t know much about winter clothing,” Hamilton said. “The only ice I know about goes in a glass.”
Nevertheless, he and his shipmates aboard the Waterman-operated Ocean Giant earlier this year successfully wrapped up the latest iteration of ODF, the annual resupply mission to McMurdo Station, which is overseen by the U.S. National Science Foundation. The mission began in late December on the West Coast; the Ocean Giant returned to Port Hueneme, California, in late March. (Earlier, the SIU-crewed Maersk Peary delivered fuel to McMurdo during the first segment of ODF.)
“We had to keep moving to stay warm,” Hamilton recalled. “The crew did very well. Everybody did their job. Overall, it was a good discharge, especially considering the conditions we were working in.”
According to the U.S. Military Sealift Command (MSC), the Ocean Giant arrived at McMurdo Station’s ice pier in mid-February, after a stop at partner facility in New Zealand. The cargo offload was conducted by Seabees from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion ONE. During a 14-day period, 503 pieces of cargo that include containers filled with mechanical parts, vehicles, construction materials, office supplies and electronics equipment, and also a modular building were transferred from the ship, MSC reported. In total, the SIU-crewed vessel “delivered 80 percent of the supplies needed (for) the year’s survival at McMurdo Station,” according to the agency.
“This year’s ODF mission was a great success for MSC,” said Leonard Bell, deputy commander, Military Sealift Command Pacific. “The mission presented unique challenges that the crews of our ships and our team on the ground handled flawlessly. The mission is an example of the true professionalism and dedication to duty that our entire team exemplifies over and over again. We are truly proud to have supported ODF 2022, and we look forward to our continued support to the National Science Foundation in the years ahead.”
Hamilton said the crew made the best of it despite not being able to leave the ship due to COVID-19 protocols, and despite worsening weather.
“The first day, the weather was beautiful – cold, but not bad,” he said. “It turned a lot worse from that point on. Minus-15 degrees was the coldest, and the warmest was 3. I had never experienced cold weather like that before, but everything went well between the crew, the McMurdo personnel, Navy personnel and others who were involved.”
He added that he would make the voyage again: “It’s definitely something to see.” SIU crews have supported Operation Deep Freeze for decades; the first mission took place in 1955.