2013-14 Photos - The storm that blew the cargo ship away...

Let's start with this amazing video, taken on 8 February 2014, which shows some of what the storm was doing...although the cargo ship had departed at this point. The video is by Deven Stross and used here by permission. Deven also told me that the music is from the album "Light on the Mountain" by Scott Moulton.

So what happened? To set the stage, the cargo vessel Maersk Illinois had arrived around 1800 on 31 January, and the offload proceeded normally. As did most of the backload, including two of those "stretch" LGP D8's. But a major storm came up on Thursday 6 February. As the storm approached, additional lines were made to the vessel that afternoon. By 1830 the 40+ knot winds, with gusts above 50 knots had hit, and the captain decided to leave early. The Polar Star attempted four times to approach the Maersk Illinois and get a towline over, but this was not possible due to the wind. Each time the icebreaker was set towards the shoals on Hut Point. Meanwhile, the ice pier was starting to break up. It was actually not a "Condition One" storm, as the weather was quite warm (in the mid 20's (F) but there was lots of open water and a strong wind from just the right direction.

The Maersk Illinois and the deteriorating ice pier
Thursday evening (6 February), the Maersk Illinois and the deteriorating pier (RG).
the ship and the pier
At one point the vessel attempted to use the pier as a fulcrum to swing around...unsuccessfully (MF).
waves crashing against Hut Point
The waves crashing against Hut Point (RG)...
waves crashing against Hut Point
...and its onshore structures (MF).
the huts being battered
Another view of the huts being battered...(TS)
a view of what used to be the pier
I think there used to be an ice pier her somewhere (TS).
The icebreaker attempting to approach the cargo ship
The Polar Star waiting to assist the Maersk Illinois (MF).
the cargo ship and the icebreaker
As seen from the webcam.

At 0330 there were calls sent out for line handlers...the cargo ship again attempted to leave, but it was also set hard toward Hut Point. So it was tied up again. At one point a 3" mooring line parted. Eventually the ship was safely tied up to both the ice pier side and the dorm side of Winter Quarters Bay.

the Maersk Illinois tied up to the east side of WQB
another view from the dorm side
Above, two photos from the east side of Winter Quarters Bay showing the additional lines (TS).

Friday evening the winds abated, and at 1920 the cargo ship cast off and departed without assistance from the icebreaker. The pier eventually was broken into six pieces, bollards were ripped out, and the seawater intake and sewer outfall were also damaged.

The deteriorated pier as seen from the cargo ship
The deteriorated pier as seen from the Maersk Illinois during its departure (Maersk)...
the pier just after the cargo ship departed
...and another view just after the departure (common drive photo).
webcam view of the cargo ship departure
A webcam view of the cargo ship departure.

At the same time, the wind had been whipping up the ice in front of Scott Base. Below are two 7 February photos from one of the Scott Base webcams which show some of what the wind was doing...note that these two images are only 15 minutes apart. (I've lightened them a bit to improve the detail.)

Scott Base webcam view
Scott Base webcam view

Not to be missed, this 21 February 2014 Antarctic Sun article about the storm. Yes, it is still a harsh continent.

Also not to be missed, the delayed aftereffects of the storm. In early March the end of Hut Point broke off (!).

Credits: Deven Stross, as indicated for the video; RG: Roxanne Gissler; MF: Mark Furnish; TS: Tim Schunck; and Maersk: this blog post from the Maersk Illinois.

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