Richard T. Williams

Seabees Can Do

Seabee Construction Driver third class, USN, died on 6 January 1956 when the D-8 bulldozer he was driving broke through the ice and sank. He was hauling cargo along a track from the ice edge east toward Cape Evans; plans called for a land airstrip to be built between Cape Evans and Cape Royds to support future exploration and the construction of South Pole Station. Heavy ice prevented the convoy from getting close to Ross Island, prompting the need for a long and hazardous traverse. (Shortly after the accident, this project was abandoned, and aircraft facilities were developed on the ice at what would become the Williams Air Operating Facility.)

His body was never recovered. Above is his photo and entry from the USS Wyandot (AKA-92) DF-I (1955-56) cruisebook, with thanks to OAE Don Leger.

rocks and rollsing along

The following year the "Our Lady of the Snows" monument (left, 1957 photo from Bill Staskel) was erected on Hut Point in memory of Williams. At right is a photograph of the original dedication; chaplain Father Condit is playing the organ. During the ceremony, David Grisez, a friend of Williams, played "Taps."


The monument has been repaired and restored more than once...most recently in 1995-96 when the statue was refurbished and repainted by Carmelite nuns in Christchurch. For many years the statue had faced McMurdo Station (below left, 1959 photo from Bill Staskel), but after the rededication she was turned around to face north out over McMurdo Sound toward where Williams was lost (below right, 2003 photo by Seth White). Perhaps this was the original orientation of the statue. During the 6 January 1996 rededication, David Grisez, then working for ASA, played "Taps."

facing the galley?
from the past

Below left is another view of the statue by Seth White...the memorial has picked up the nickname "Roll Cage Mary" based on its current appearance. And below right is a view of the accompanying plaque, photo by Chuck Kimball in 2000.

in front of the pass
Remembering Richard


prop wash


And a postscript: at right is a memorial sign that was at Williams Field in the 1960's...it has since disappeared, it was not in evidence during my first visit in 1972.