Related Resource: Art work of Operation Deep Freeze I
PART A TO ANNEX I
COMMAND TASK FORCE 43
DEEP FREEZE I
Summary of Operations
In order that the reader may distinguish the planned operation from that accomplished in situ, the planned concept of operations (Appendix 1 to Annex BRAVO of Operation Plan No. 1-55, Commander U.S. Naval Support Force Antarctica) is appended hereto for ready reference.
APPENDIX I TO ANNEX B CONCEPT OF OPERATIONS
a. The purpose of this operation is to implement the planned program in the Antarctic by conducting operations during the period 1954-1959 and subsequent thereto as directed by competent authority. Such operations will include:
a. The general scope of this operation contemplates the execution of a plan outlining minimum floating forces to support the International Geophysical Year on the ANTARCTIC Continent and to gain further knowledge of the geography of Antarctica and hydrography of contiguous waters. The general plan calls for the establishment of the following bases and having them ready for occupancy by scientific, and supporting personnel required for Department of Defense projects, by about 1 January 1957:
b. In addition, and in order to support operations of heavy aircraft in Antarctica, an Air Operating Facility will be established in the vicinity of the ROSS ICE SHELF.
c. As soon as practicable after operations commence in the ANTARCTIC, 2
d. The LITTLE AMERICA STATION and AIROPFAC will be installed as practicable after navigation opens in 1955
e. At the LITTLE AMERICA STATION there will be constructed a fuel tank farm and an airstrip suitable for ski take off and landings. This station will construct and support BYRD STATION by tractor train operation.
f .The AIROPFAC will serve POLE STATION which must be constructed during the Antarctic spring, 1956 and supported by air-lift. (This lift calls for aircraft and approximately 80 personnel to be provided by USAF.) At MCMURDO SOUND wind-swept bay ice lends itself to aircraft operations. However, if possible, a snow-compacted runway will be constructed as an anchor to windward in event bay ice goes out. It will be tested during the presence of Task Force vessels in the ANTARCTIC.
g. In the event bay ice does not lend itself to use by heavy aircraft, flight of R5D's from New Zealand to the AIROPFAC will be deferred until after the snow-compacted runway is completed and tested on wheels by 2-P2V.P2V's and R5D's, UF's will remain(sheltered) at AIROPFAC.
h. In October 1956, 2-R5D's and Air Force cargo planes will fly to Antarctica. The former will map while the latter will provide airlift of materials to POLE STATION.
Movement and Vessel Operations.
a. Ships of the Task Force will depart CONUS as follows:
b. Preliminary Operation icebreakers will arrive PORT LYTTELTON about 1 December. After replenishing supplies they will proceed to the ROSS SEA area and there reconnoiter to locate a site on the ROSS ICE SHELF near LITTLE AMERICA and an AIROPFAC site. In this connection it is probable the BAY OF WHALES, if existent, will not be usable. The ATKA (1955) has reported the apparent feasibility and acceptability of KAINAN BAY as a port for LITTLE AMERICA. If it cannot be used, the ice shelf and contiguous shores will have to be investigated. We are assuming, however, that there will be some sort of haven from which to support BYRD STATION. If and when a suitable base site is located in the LITTLE AMERICA Area, a survey party, a reconnaissance group, with its equipment, (including UC-1, and new type USMC weasels) and supplies will be off loaded to locate trail. In the meantime, the ROSS SEA area will be reconnoitered for a suitable place to establish an airstrip and freeze in YOG-70 and YOG-34 to support it. Temporary bivouacking facilities will be provided for plane crews in advance of the arrival of AKA's. AGB's will then support by operations inside pack and at MCMURDO SOUND, the flight of aircraft from NEW ZEALAND on or about 17 December 1955. After completing preliminary missions, a CB reconnaissance party will be left for detailed investigation at proposed AIROPFAC site. About 25 December 1955, the icebreakers will rendezvous with the ships of the Task Force at SCOTT ISLAND. It is emphasized no firm plan involving the establishment of LITTLE AMERICA (and consequently BYRD STATION) can be formulated until after the reconnaissance by AGB's is completed. One AGB to return N.Z. for COMM LINK and return towing YOG-70.
c.Transport Operations. In the meantime, the AKA's, TAK, and AOG will depart PORT LYTTELTON as soon as fuel is replenished and take stations to support flight of aircraft of VX-6 to AIROPFAC via MCMURDO SOUND. These will be as follows:
|Lat 56º 45'S
|Long 170º 00'E
|Lat 65º 00'S
|Long 170º 00' E
|Lat 65º 00'S
|Long 170º E
All ships will then-rendezvous at SCOTT ISLAND about 25 December 1955. This will be the beginning of the optimum period for navigating the Antarctic pack along the 180th meridian.
d.The ships of the Task Force will then proceed with icebreaker escort to the ROSS SEA. Upon reaching open water, it is probable AKA-56 will proceed to AIROPFAC because of her amphibious capabilities. AOG-55 with AG3 towing YOG-34 will proceed to AIROPFAC area and, in a suitable, feasible and acceptable place:
e.When icebreakers are not required in the actual support of other units of the Task Force, they will (1) perform necessary maintenance and/or (2) establish such geodetic control points in ROSS SEA as directed by Task Commander.
f .When the LITTLE AMERICA STATION and AIROPFAC are self sustaining, vessels of the Task Force will depart for SCOTT ISLAND under icebreaker escort.
g.Upon arrival SCOTT ISLAND, icebreakers will return to the ROSS SEA, continue incomplete missions and support flight of aircraft returning NEW ZEALAND from MCMURDO SOUND. The remaining ships will deploy between NEW ZEALAND and 65º S, 170º E on stations previously assigned to support this flight. All vessels will carry out such meteorological and hydrographic tasks as may be required while so deployed.
h.One icebreaker will be sent to the Weddell Sea Area to carry out reconnaissance tasks as directed by the Task Force Commander.
i .Diplomatic arrangements will be made for occupation of Station Able by AOG-55 (and YOG-70 on southbound trip).
j .Upon conclusion of operations, vessels of the Task Force less AGB reconnoitering W Weddell Sea will return CONUS via Wellington, NEW ZEALAND.
|George Dufek Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret) Commander Task Force 43 and ComNavSuppFor Antarctica
|C. A. SNAY, CDR, USN
Several elements arose following the promulgation of the Operation Plan which required a modification of the Task Force schedule.
In the first place, the EASTWIND's late return from DEWLINE delayed her departure until 10 November. This required her transfer from the reconnaissance unit to the transport unit. However, it enabled her to tow YOG-34 from New Zealand to Antarctica.
Secondly, the EDISTO and GLACIER, towing YOG's 70 and 34 respectively battled headwinds and seas part of the way across the Pacific, setting the schedule back nearly a week.
Again, it became evident that some means must be provided for transporting late deliveries from New Zealand to Antarctica. It was decided to dispatch an icebreaker from Antarctica at an appropriate time. In addition to fetching tardy cargo she would bring in mail and tow YOG-70 to McMurdo Sound.
The reconnaissance unit was GLACIER and EDISTO with RADM R. E. Byrd, Officer-in-Charge Antarctic Programs and Captain G. L. Ketchum, CTU 43.1.1 (Recco Unit) in GLACIER.
The transport unit (ARNEB, WYANDOT, EASTWIND, NESPELEN and GREENVILLE VICTORY) arrived Lyttelton 12 December. The Air Group, Task Group 43.2 (VX-6) was by this time assembled at Wigram, N.Z. Air Force Base preparing for the long jump to Antarctica.
The first ice intelligence was received early on 16 December when CTU 43.1.1 reported his position south of Scott Island and no ice. It was apparent that even this early in the season the pack was not as severe as it had been during the most favorable condition of HIGHJUMP (1946-47). The Task Force Commander decided to sail the transport unit immediately. Liberty parties were quickly recalled and, at 1400, that afternoon the ships left their berths at Lyttelton. Notwithstanding our hastily unscheduled departure, the docks were so thronged with well-wishers that police were obliged to rope off the edge of the pier. The music of a hastily-gathered local band was heard above the hearty cheers of citizenry as the ships slid out of their berths and steamed toward assigned ocean stations.
The GLACIER arrived McMurdo Sound 18 December. The amount of bay ice was disappointing in that it extended 5 miles north of Cape Bird. An airstrip was laid out on firm ice about 30 miles south of open water. A tent city was hurriedly thrown up at Hut Point to accommodate plane crews. On 19 December the EDISTO arrived McMurdo Sound, and the GLACIER was ordered to her plane guard station near Cape Adare; before the day was out everything was ready at the McMurdo terminus for the fly-in of Task Group 43.2. Upon arrival of EDISTO at McMurdo CTU 43.1.1 shifted his broad command pennant to her.
On December 20th, with all vessels on station and weather favorable, the six aircraft of VX-6 took off at 0200. The two R4D's and UF's were drawing near the "point of no return" with gasoline dwindling at an alarming rate. It was obvious, though disappointing, that they would never make McMurdo Sound.
The pilots courageously proposed making an emergency landing short of the McMurdo Sound destination. While the Task Force Commander admired their determination the expeditionary time-table was too tight to lose precious days in calculated search and rescue operations. The smaller aircraft were ordered back to Wigram, N.Z.
The long-range aircraft: P2V 124466 (Hawkes & Torbert), P2V 142465 (Entrikin), R5D 56505 (Kolp), and R5D 56528 (Jorda) winged their way without difficulty and by 2200 (local) all had safely landed on sea-ice in McMurdo Sound. The transport unit got underway immediately for rendezvous at Scott Island. The EASTWIND was excepted from rendezvous since she was towing YOG-34 directly to McMurdo Sound. EDISTO departed from McMurdo Sound when planes had landed, for rendezvous at Scott Island.
Of primary importance to the Task Force Commander was the matter of getting in as many long-range exploratory flights as feasible and as soon as possible. There was no telling how long the ice in McMurdo Sound would support wheeled aircraft. Before any flights could take off the NESPELEN with her precious cargo of AvGas must be gotten to McMurdo Sound.
With all ships (less EASTWIND and YOG-34) at or proceeding to Scott Island a plea for immediate medical assistance was flashed from McMurdo Sound. The UC1 recco plane which had been delivered to McMurdo by GLACIER had crashed seriously injuring two persons and slightly injuring two others. CTU 43.1.1 ordered the EDISTO back and the GLACIER to provide escort of the transport unit without the assistance of the EDISTO.
On December 23rd Rear Admiral Dufek, taking with him Captain Thomas and Commander Frazier to act as fleet ice pilots, shifted his flag from ARNEB to GLACIER. When the pack was encountered at 68 OS, 1740 E, the column was closed to 500 yards and speed of advance of. 8 knots signalled. This disposition was maintained at all times in the pack, which was this year, relatively mild. It is believed, moreover, transit of the pack was facilitated by (1) close column and (2) 8 knots' speed. This afforded the ice little time to close in ahead of each escorted vessel.
The convoy reached open water of Ross Sea on Christmas Day and on December 26th made rendezvous with EDISTO at Franklin Inland Task Group 43.1 was reorganized as follows:Western Ross Sea Unit - 43.1.1 - Captain G. L. Ketchum
Henceforth Ross Sea Operations were segregated into two regions: (1) Eastern Ross Sea and (2) Western Ross Sea.
WESTERN ROSS SEA
The Commander Task Group 43.1.1 must carry out four fundamental tasks in order of the following priority. (1) Support long-range flights of VX-6 aircraft into unexplored regions of Antarctica. (2) Locate site for U.S. Naval Air Operating Facility. (3) Off-load vessels of Task Unit and (4) support CTG 43.3 during construction of AirOpFac.
On December 27th the EDISTO, NESPELEN, and WYANDOT arrived McMurdo Sound. It was not practicable to commence off-loading operations because of the distance over which material and supplies must be transported. The EDISTO was put to work breaking a channel toward Hut Point. On 30 December she was joined by the EASTWIND, which had arrived with YOG-34.
Of dominating importance was the task of fueling aircraft for long-range flight. The NESPELEN was brought 2 miles into the channel broken by EASTWIND and EDISTO on 2 January. The ice here was only about 4 feet thick - too thin, of course, for comfort, since the aircraft involved are heavy - but the risk had to be accepted, so an airstrip was laid out adjacent to NESPELEN. Local flights were made on 3 January during which aircraft fueled directly from the NESPELEN.
One important element, which entered into the selection of a permanent base site at this time, was the proximity of a potential air strip on land. The task of making a survey had been invested by ComCBlant in Detachment "G". Preliminary reconnaissance by this unit suggested a plateau area between Cape Royds and Cape Evans.
Considering the information supplied by Detachment G and the amount of ice to be removed between Cape Bird and Hut Point, Captain Ketchum recommended AirOpFac be constructed at Cape Evans. The Task Force Commander accordingly approved his recommendation.
The first exploratory flight took off on 4 January, 1956. This was made by R5D 6505 piloted by LCOL H.R. Kolp, USMC. The destination was Wilkes Land and the course due west but whiteout was encountered at 1350 -17'E. During these not uncommon conditions snow and sky combine to deny the traveler any sort of reference by which he may gage vertical components before him. In an unexplored region there is danger of crashing into a mountainside. Kolp prudently reversed course and returned to Longitude 1450 E. where visibility was normal. Not wishing to return empty handed, he flew down that meridian to the South Pole.
Over the pole the aircraft descended to 500 feet for a close look. The area was quite flat with gentle, elongated snowdrifts which had the appearance of a white, stationary sea. By dropping smoke bombs, crew members inferred the snow to be soft and powdery with a low order of density. On the return flight the polar plateau, south of 800 South longitude was found to be decidedly flat and featureless.
The second long-range flight was made on January 5, in R5D 56528 piloted by LCDR Henry Jorda, USNR. This time the plane flew into the unexplored heart of Wilkes Land to 80º South 90º East and returned along the 82nd parallel to Barne Inlet (a glaciated valley on the west side of the Ross Ice Shelf), thence to McMurdo Sound.
Two new mountain ranges were discovered on Jorda's flight. The first one stretched roughly along the 156th (East) meridian a distance of about 80 miles southward from Lat. 790 S. Its width was estimated to average thirty miles with numerous peaks towering between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. The second range sighted by Jorda extended 100 miles in a southeasterly direction from 79º -30'S, 151º-00'E and estimated to be 60 miles wide. Like the first range, it thrust jagged peaks aloft from 7,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level.
Aside from the aforesaid ranges the landscape lacked relief. Along the 90th (E) meridian, between 80ºS and 82ºS the elevation of the featureless polar cap averaged 13,000 feet.
A third flight by P2V 124466 with CDR W. M. Hawkes and LCDR J. H. Torbert left McMurdo later the same day (Jan. 5). This flight winged across the unknown to Vincennes Bay on the Knox Coast thence westward for 50 miles before turning back to McMurdo - a distance of 2,600 miles.
Save for mountains immediately west of McMurdo Sound the landscape was entirely featureless icecap. Along Vincennes Bay the icecap sloped gently to the sea but was scored with crevasses. It is interesting to note that upon approaching McMurdo Sound, Mt. Erebus with its plume of volcanic smoke was sighted at a distance of 200 miles. This 13,000-foot peak enhances the value of McMurdo Sound for operation of aircraft since it is an excellent landmark, and indicator of upper air-currents as well.
While the foregoing series of long range flights took place the EASTWIND and EDISTO broke a channel ten miles long, toward Cape Evans.
On January 5th the GLACIER (RADM R. E. Byrd embarked) arrived McMurdo Sound from Little America and off loaded a bridge by which to span a crack which was made off Cape Royds. During the evening the bridge was erected and the WYANDOT brought into the channel. In the morning (Jan. 6th) she began off-loading the mobile equipment to be used in transportation of materials to Cape Evans.
A D-2 tractor was sent across the bridge to test it prior to attempting to cross with the D-8 tractor. There was no sign of weakening so the D-8 tractor driven by Richard T. Williams, CD3, USN started across the bridge. When about half way over the construction party noticed the ice beginning to sag. They shouted and waved for Williams to go back: He evidently failed to see and hear them for he kept on coming. On the farside the ice gave way and swallowed tractor and driver.
Following the mishap which took one D-8 tractor and the life of Williams, off loading operations were discontinued and the three icebreakers lunged at the ice in an effort to break to Cape Evans.
A near tragedy occurred on January 6th. It happened on the 4th long range exploratory flight.
P2V 142465, LT J. W. Entrikin pilot, had flown to 72º -15'S, 96º - 30'E. The flight was controlled by WYANDOT. She received a routine position report at 2230. But at 2251 SOS signals began to pour into the ship's CIC room. The plane's starboard motor was failing, Entrikin reported. Her altitude was 13,000 feet but 1,000 miles of icecap lay between the plane and McMurdo Sound. Some of this trackless waste was known to be in excess of 12,000 feet elevation. About every three minutes the crippled engine backfired violently. Fuel consumption rocketed to 1400 pounds per hour. The plane crew jettisoned everything except 45 days' survival gear and a package of enlisted promotion examination questions. The heaters were turned off to save precious gasoline. The inside temperature plunged to -210 C.
When the distress alarm was flashed to McMurdo Sound an R5D and P2V were hastily flown to NESPELEN. They fueled and took off to escort the crippled plane to McMurdo. Ten minutes before landing Entrikin's starboard engine failed completely. He made a single-engine landing at the airstrip with only 150 gallons of gasoline left.
The entire stretch over which P2V 142465 flew was featureless.
On January 7th the fifth long-range flight was made by R5D 56505, LCOL Kolp pilot. The plane flew direct to Latitude 71º -00'S, Longitude 146º -00'E then to 69º S, 130º E. From this point Kolp headed north until he reached the coast and skirted the coast of Wilkes Land to 145ºE. It was then necessary to return to McMurdo. Only the coastal mountains broke the monotony of featureless icecap during Kolp's 2350-mile flight. This, plus a ship painted red which was observed to be standing westward along the barrier. Radio contact could not be established with this vessel which later proved to be the Danish KISTA DAN under charter to the Australian Expedition.
January 9th a sixth long-range flight was made by R5D 56258 piloted by CDR Gordon Ebbe, USN with RADM R. E. Byrd aboard. The itinerary took them over the geographical center of Antarctica and return via the South Pole and Beardmore Glacier. The icecap averaged 10 to 1 1 thousand feet elevation and was completely devoid of features. The South Polar surface appeared hard with low drifts.
On January 8th two events occurred which altered plans to establish the AirOpFac on Cape Evans. First, it had become apparent to Captain Ketchum that icebreaking capabilities of the GLACIER far exceeded those of the WIND Class. She had already broken to within 10 miles of Hut Point and there was a good chance she could break the entire distance. Second, information had been received that funds would not be made available for construction of an airstrip on land in DEEP FREEZE II. An AirOpFac on Hut Point would be far better situated to support wheeled aircraft on an ice runway than Cape Evans. Capt. Ketchum recommended the site be changed accordingly. Rear Admiral Dufek authorized him to do so.
The decision to use Hut Point as a site for AirOpFac posed another problem, however. The ice was already showing signs of deterioration. The GLACIER's track to Hut Point would slice through the airstrip. It was decided to break a channel no further than that which had already been carved until after wheeled aircraft could be evacuated. The GLACIER made a turning basin about 8 miles NW of Hut Point.
Since it was not possible to bring cargo ships into the channel broken by GLACIER, it was necessary to moor them near the north terminus and shuttle cargo from supply ship to off loading area at the turning basin. This of course meant double handling of everything which went into the construction of the Air Operating Facility. It was a tedious, backbreaking job for everyone. Yet, there was no alternative. All hands realized the work must be done and turned to with determination to see it through in spite of obstacles.
On January 11, Rear Admiral Dufek shifted his flag from ARNEB (at Little America) to GLACIER via P2V 124466. Rear Admiral R. E. Byrd shifted his flag as Officer-in-Charge, U.S. Antarctic Programs, to WYANDOT. This same day construction of AirOpFac was begun at Hut Point.
Because of the rapidly deteriorating condition of ice at McMurdo Sound the Task Force Commander decided to terminate long-range reconnaissance operations at an early date. He accordingly scheduled three exploratory flights as a finale to long-range air operations for the season. These flights would penetrate previously unexplored regions. They were carried out as follows:
R5D 56505, LCOL Kolp, made a 14.7 hour flight which took in the Pole of Inaccessibility and returned by the South Geographical Pole. This was the first time the former pole had been viewed by man. However, its fastness holds nothing exotic - only featureless plateau whose altitude is 11,500 feet. After leaving the South Pole, the plane encountered a complete whiteout which obliged Kolp to finish the flight on instruments.
R5D 56528 piloted by CDR Ebbe and LCDR Jorda made a 14-hour flight to the heart of Antarctica at 81º-00'S, 62º-00'E. Again, the region was found to be a featureless plateau. The maximum elevation was 13,800 feet at 800-00'S, 830-00'E. This, incidentally, was the highest altitude (of featureless plateau) noted so far in the entire continent.
P2V 124466, CDR Hawkes and LCDR Torbert flew to the Weddell Sea via the South Pole in a record-making 19 hour flight. The return flight was made over Leverett Glacier. Four new mountain ranges as well as several detached peaks were discovered and photographed. These stretched between 85º S and the Weddell Sea as far as 90º W.
The flights just mentioned more than achieved the exploration objectives for DEEP FREEZE I. The time had come when the ice could no longer be trusted. In anticipation of the fly-out to New Zealand the EASTWIND was sent out to take ocean station between New Zealand and Cape Adare. A flight plan for all long range aircraft from McMurdo to Wigram was established for January 17.
On January 15th the NESPELEN, while moored at the mouth of the channel, was stove in by a pivoting ice floe. Her shell plating in the way of an Avgas tank was ruptured and 125,000 gallons of fuel lost. While this was unfortunate, the structural integrity of the NESPELEN was apparently unimpaired.
The GREENVILLE VICTORY arrived McMurdo from Kainan Bay on 17 January. CTF-43 ADMIN was shifted to GLACIER. Aircraft were unable to take off for New Zealand because of weather. The next day (Jan. 18) with flying weather good, the two R5D's and two P2V's took off and made the flight to Wigram AF Base without incident. The EASTWIND left her ocean station and proceeded toward McMurdo Sound.
The GLACIER and EDISTO were shuttling cargo from GREENVILLE VICTORY to the south end of the channel which was choked with heavy debris. On one of her trips the EDISTO's port propeller came loose on the shaft. The wheel was secured in place by a 1 1/4 inch wire rope line but it was clear her services as an icebreaker for the remainder of the season were at an end.
With aircraft evacuated, concern for the integrity of the airstrip vanished. The GLACIER, now free to chop through it, continued pushing her channel southeastward. In this she was aided by nature who swept away all bay ice north of Tent Island. The GLACIER's new channel ended at a pressure ridge in the bay ice which had marked the approximate line of a tide crack. Once more she broke a turning basin and resumed shuttling cargo from GREENVILLE VICTORY. The distance over which tractors were required to haul cargo was now reduced to 4 miles. Still, the channel was choked with debris and navigating it was slow and difficult.
On January 23rd the EASTWIND returned and took over the task of sharing with GLACIER transport of cargo through 10 miles of channel from GREENVILLE VICTORY to off loading area. Rear Admiral Dufek passed tactical command of Task Force 43 to Captain Ketchum in GLACIER and as Commander U.S. Naval Support Force, Antarctica, broke his flag in EDISTO and sailed with NESPELEN for Kainan Bay.
The slow work of shuttling cargo continued and the Air Operating Facility began to take shape. A supply dump had been established on the slopes above Hut Point and buildings were now springing up between the supply area and Bay ice. On the neck of land below Arrival Heights, near Scott's Discovery Hut, a tank farm was already being built.
February 1st CTU 43.1.2 in EDISTO arrived McMurdo Sound from Kainan Bay with ARNEB (ComNavSupFor embarked) and NESPELEN. The ARNEB off-loaded supply of frozen meats and made preperations for departure from Antarctica. Personnel transfers were made and mail collected for delivery via ARNEB. NESPELEN was shifted from Task Unit 43.1.2 to 43.1.1.
February 3rd ComNavSupFor shifted his flag to EASTWIND and the Officer-in-Charge Antarctic Programs shifted his flag from WYANDOT to ARNEB. At 1300 ARNEB, escorted by EDISTO with CTU 43.1.2 sailed for Lyttleton, N.Z.
At the same time CTF-43 received the report from CTU 43.3.1 that Otter 260 was overdue. He directed AirOpFac McMurdo to send an Otter with helicopter crew to Little America for search and rescue. Unfortunately the weather was unfavorable on February 3rd, the wind blowing from SE with moderate gale force.
The wind showed no signs of abating on February 4th and it was clear to CTF-43 and ComNavSupFor unfavorable weather might prevail for some time. ComNavSupFor decided not to wait for weather and directed a helicopter and a Otter be loaded in EASTWIND and transported to Kainan Bay. As the EASTWIND sailed, Command of Task Force 43 passed to Rear Admiral Dufek in EASTWIND while Captain Ketchum in GLACIER retained command of Task Unit 43.1.1.
On February 5th CTU 43.1.2, on the basis of faunal evidence, concluded no ice lay to the north of 70ºS parallel along the ARNEB's proposed track. The EDISTO broke off escort of ARNEB and proceeded toward Cape Adare on the second phase of her mission which was: (a) Locate a site for an austere station for DEEP FREEZE II in East Victoria Land, (b) Locate a suitable airstrip (on land or on ice) with homing potential, if possible, (c) Consider combination of (a) and (b) as optimal.
On the basis of CTU 43.1.2 information that no ice would be encountered north of the entrance to McMurdo Sound, CTU 43.1.1 sailed the GREENVILLE VICTORY for Auckland without escort.
On February 8th the EASTWIND flying the flag of CTF-43 returned to McMurdo Sound after having off-loaded an Otter and Helicopter with search and rescue personnel. TaskUnit43.1.1 was dissolved, GLACIER was directed to take on board a second Otter from AirOpFac and land it at Kainan Bay to augment search and rescue facilities sorely needed there. After delivering this aircraft she would proceed Lyttelton for freight, supplies, mail and towage of YOG 70 to McMurdo Sound. Captain Ketchum sailed in GLACIER for duty in Washington in connection with planning DEEP FREEZE II.
The EDISTO with CTU 43.1.2 investigated the coast of Victoria Land from Smith Bay on the south coast to and including Lady Newnes Ice Shelf on the east coast, without finding a suitable airstrip for wheeled aircraft. Landings were made, under difficult conditions of wind and sea; on Cape Adare (Ridley Beach), Cape Hallett, and Sven Foyn Island (northernmost of the Possession group).
Of the areas investigated by CTU 43.1.2 Cape Hallett was recommended as a site for combined IGY and emergency landing facility. A frozen lagoon assured Otter landings at almost any time of the year. The bay ice would doubtlessly form earlier and last longer here than any other place in north Victoria Land. The beach beneath Cape Hallett was logistically less difficult than any other site in the area. Finally, the scenery is magnificent. The foregoing recommendation was concurred in by Mr. Morton Rubin, IGY representative.
A cache of 30 drums of Avgas with accessories and survival gear was made at Cape Hallett. EDISTO then sailed for Kainan Bay.
At McMurdo AirOpFac by February 11, the tank farm was completed and a pipe line laid to it across the bay ice. Escorted by EASTWIND the NESPELEN proceeded to the end of the ice channel and discharged the remainder of her cargo. At the same time off loading the WYANDOT was completed. A small amount of cargo was back loaded and the AKA sailed for Little America to report to CTU 43.1.2.
The NESPELEN sailed for New Zealand without escort on February 12th, after fueling the McMurdo tank farm.
A storm swept away the bay ice to seaward of the tide crack. Vessels could now approach to within 4 miles of Hut Point.
February 19th the EDISTO returned to McMurdo Sound and after preparations for departure to New Zealand, sailed in the evening. Task Unit 43.1.2 was dissolved, Captain Thomas rejoined the staff of CTF-43 in EASTWIND.
Following the sailing of EDISTO, the EASTWIND was the only TF 43 vessel in Antarctica. The most important task now facing the Task Force Commander was to insure the security of the YOG's. Without them, without their precious cargo of Avgas construction of the South Pole station would be impossible. Mooring them for the winter in a safe place presented a problem. However, several courses of action were offered:
Knowing that nature can quickly change the best laid plans of men in the Antarctic, we decided to adopt course (b). The EASTWIND began a task of cutting a "V" shaped channel 4 miles to Hut Point. For three days she charged at the ice and was making some progress when, on 24 February, her port shaft broke. She no longer could produce sufficient momentum to make much of a dent in the obdurate bay ice.
The Task Force Commander had now to await the GLACIER. The GLACIER had sailed from Lyttelton with YOG 70 on 20 February. Per request of the U. S. Ambassador to New Zealand, she was making a stop at Campbell Island with supplies and mail. Moreover, adverse weather was slowing her materially. Whilst awaiting the GLACIER, the EASTWIND supported YOG 34 and AirOpFac. Scientific projects, geology, seismology, hydrography and biology were carried out during this period of awaiting for the GLACIER.
The GLACIER with her tow arrived McMurdo Sound on 2 March and, after making personnel transfers, set about immediately to break the "V" to Hut Point. The superior icebreaking qualities of AGB-4 over the "Wind" Class became once again apparent.
By March 6th the GLACIER had broken into Winter Quarter Bay.
Admiral Dufek together with Captain Thomas and CDR Frazier made a careful study to determine the best moorage of the YOG's. The bay was poorly charted. Submarine cinder cones of Pleistocene origin were known to exist in the area. Unless all ice could be removed, the YOG's would be in constant jeopardy of being fouled by drifting ice.
Arrival Heights (on Hut Point) separates Winter Quarters Bay from Arrival Bay. The latter is exposed to northerly weather but well sheltered from the prevailing southeasterly winds. The Task Force Commander made the decision. The YOG's were moored bow and stern alongside a fast ice boot in Arrival Bay. Two 2,000 lb. anchors with 1 1/4 inch chain were used on each vessel. These were augmented by 4 spring and breast lines per vessel secured to deadmen.
Working parties, with CDR Frazier in charge of the mooring and winterization activity, toiled round the clock in a ground blizzard with sub-zero temperatures to insure the strongest possible security for the floating tank farm.
With the YOG's safe, the GLACIER was free to devote the onus of her time to EASTWIND should the latter require it. Early March 9, EASTWIND made a successful run and dropped her port propeller and shaft. She sailed for Wellington, N. Z., with an SOA of 11 knots.
After a brief ceremony at AirOpFac, during which RADM Dufek bade farewell to officers, men and civilians, the GLACIER sailed on the final phase of DEEP FREEZE I. This would take her first to Little America, then counter clockwise around the continental periphery to South America.
EASTERN ROSS SEA
To the eastern Ross Sea are ascribed those operations necessary to the construction of Little America V and Byrd Station.
The immediate task confronting the Task Force Commander was the location of a suitable "seaport" along the eastern part of the Ross ice shelf. This haven must have two prerequisites--a working platform of bay ice and a suitable ramp for access to the top of the barrier. The ATKA, in January 1954 had reported the apparent usability of Kainan Bay, 30 miles east of Little America IV. There was no way of knowing what the situation of 11 months later would be.
The GLACIER made a reconnaissance of the ice shelf from Cape Crozier to King Edward VII Land. The vestigial Bay of Whales was unusable. It now amounted to a notch in the barrier and lacked the all-important ramp.
After confirming the usability of Kainan Bay the GLACIER continued to stand along the barrier to eastward in order to eliminate any doubt as to the most suitable base site. Hall Foote Bay and Okuma Bay were investigated. The latter was fronted by sheer ice cliffs without means of access to the top of the barrier. Hall Foote Bay appeared geologically unstable.
The GLACIER rendezvoused with ARNEB and GREENVILLE VICTORY off Kainan Bay then broke out a staging basin. In the meantime, a reconnaissance party led by Dr. Paul Siple located a site for Little America about 3 miles inland on the south bank of Kainan Bay.
On December 30, the ARNEB and GREENVILLE VICTORY moored to the ice and the former began to off-load cargo.
The same day a supply dump was established and CDR H. W. Whitney, C. O. MCB(S) began the construction of a highway (referred to hereafter as Whitney Highway) from the off loading area to Little, America. Before heavy equipment could pass over the highway, two crevassed areas had to be bridged. One of these was appropriately named "The Valley of Crevasses." Here, deep crevasses were filled. The other area lay near the barrier and included a deep crevasse and a yawning tidal crack about 200 yards out on the bay ice. The crevasse was filled and the tide crack bridged.
In order to lose no time the supply dump was established on the seaward side of the tide crack, about 3 miles from the edge of the ice and four miles from Little America. When Whitney Highway was finished a temporary camp was pitched at Little America and a procession of D-8 drawn sleds moved materials from GREENVILLE VICTORY to supply dump and from supply dump to Little America.
In the meantime the GLACIER was dispatched on an oceanographic mission from which she returned January 4th. On this date, Little America V was placed in commission by Rear Admiral R. E. Byrd, USN (Ret.). Immediately after the ceremony the GLACIER, with RADM Byrd and staff embarked, sailed for McMurdo Sound where her icebreaking services were sorely needed.
Plans had called for a reconnaissance party to mark a trail to 80º S 120º W--the proposed site of Byrd Station--immediately upon arrival at Little America. As it turned out, more ground work was required than had been anticipated. First, an aero-reconnaissance of the Little America Marie Byrd Land region must be made to determine the location of crevassed areas. Second, a crevasse detection outfit must be assembled, mounted on a weasel and tested before it would be ready for use on the trail. This device had be prepared by O.M. Perry, ETC (staff) and while crude, like most prototype equipment, it checked out very nicely in locating crevasses which probing had failed to detect.
On 9 January, P2V 124466 (Hawkes & Torbert) landed at Little America and flew with CDR Whitney and LCDR Jack Bursey to Marie Byrd Land and returned. The direct route was found to be heavily crevassed about one third of the way.
Following return of the P2V to Little America, RADM Dufek, on January 11, passed command of Task Unit 43.1.2 to Captain C. W. Thomas, USCG and flew with Hawkes and Torbert to McMurdo Sound where his flag was broken in GLACIER. Prior to his departure he had given orders to move the supply dump from bay ice to Little America. As it turned out, the loss of time incident to the shift was well justified.
After the supply dump had been moved, off loading of the GREENVILLE VICTORY proceeded smoothly and buildings began to take shape at Little America V. The trail reconnaissance party (LCDR. J. Bursey, USCGR, 2 SnoCats and Weasel with detector) finally got underway January 14th and on the following day GREENVILLE VICTORY finished off loading Little America Byrd Station cargo and sailed for McMurdo Sound. Off loading was now concentrated on ARNEB.
On January 16 the exceptionally good fortune we had been enjoying at Little America took a turn. The trail party encountered a heavily crevassed area 110 miles east of Little America. The Otter aircraft was dispatched from Little America for close support until a route could be found.
On the Kainan Bay front a heavy swell rolled in from the north scoring the outer bay ice with cracks. It was clear that the Ross Sea pack, if extant, was well to the north and swells such as were now entering Kainan Bay might well plague off-loading operations for the remainder of the season. The risk of off-loading over cracked ice had to be accepted if Little America were to be built. A close patrol was maintained for signs of local deterioration near the ship. At 2000 the ice platform next to ARNEB which had been working for some time, threatened to break into smaller floes. Off loading operations were discontinued. At 2015 the outer periphery of the ice broke off into many dancing floes and almost simultaneously a dense fog enshrouded the bay. The ARNEB fought her way offshore.
On January 18, the fog lifted and ARNEB renewed off loading - 2 miles closer to Little America. The northerly swell which persisted was worsened during the night as the northerly breeze freshened to strong. The ARNEB bumped heavily against the ice and the Task Unit Commander was obliged once more to accept the risk of moving heavy equipment over working ice. Localized cracks appeared at 1530 and equipment was ordered off the ice. At 1545 the ice broke up and the ARNEB, hemmed in by floes and hampered by a dense fog (which again settled incongruity with break-up) skillfully freed herself and maneuvered to open water.
For two days the wind blew a howling northeasterly gale, veiling Kainan Bay in heavy snowfall. 22 January the wind shifted to SE clearing the weather and revealing a radically changed Kainan Bay. Only a stub of bay ice remained along the barrier face. The entire cornice (ramp) was working and groaning to the rhythm of incoming swells. This was the last opportunity to complete off-loading. D-8 tractors were brought onto working ice--close to the ARNEB to expedite traffic. All hands worked 'round the clock. All passengers cheerfully took over safety patrol and voice communications watches. Activity did not relax until midnight 23 January with ARNEB empty.
On 24 January the last vestige of bay ice broke up and drifted to sea.
By January 25th 13 buildings had been constructed at Little America. Work lagged on the 100,000 gal Avgas tank as a result of one of two welding outfits breaking down. This was unfortunate because the NESPELEN was already enroute Little America to fill it. The trail party had now crossed the crevassed area and reported making fair progress.
The NESPELEN arrived Kainan Bay on 26 January under escort of EDISTO with RADM Dufek as ComNavSupFor, Antarctica embarked. It was decided to off-load the 150,000 gal assault tank farm carried in EDISTO, fill it with MoGas, flush fueling hoses and transportation tanks with Avgas. This procedure saved several days precious time.
Since no bay ice remained in Kainan Bay, the NESPELEN was obliged to off-load at the barrier face. Supra-surface calving of the barrier had fashioned a jagged underwater ledge alongside which the NESPELEN could not have lain had not the EDISTO acted as a mighty "camel" to protect the AOG's thin skin. ComNavSupFor shifted his flag to ARNEB and CTU 43.1.2 shifted to EDISTO. ARNEB's LCM's were used to fend ice from NESPELEN's ruptured side.
After the assault tanks were filled the ships stood clear of the barrier whilst awaiting completion of the AvGas tank. The EDISTO occupied the ensuing two days on oceanographic stations.
On January 30, the steel tank at Little America was complete. EDISTO and NESPELEN returned to the barrier and completed discharge of Avgas the following day.
Little America was considered to be self-sustaining on January 30. A watch was established on Task Force Common communication channels and on 2716 kcs voice. CTG 43.3 published an operation order in which he established Task Units 43.3.1 at Little America and 43.3.2 at AirOpFac.
Task Unit 43.1.2, EDISTO, NESPELEN and ARNEB with ComNavSupFor departed Kainan Bay for McMurdo Sound at 0600 January 31.
On February 1 the trail party reported it had encountered a heavily crevassed area 420 miles east of Little America and that it had reached the limit of its endurance. According to plan, the Otter was dispatched from Little America to evacuate the trail party and landed at Cache 6 where the reconnaissance had broken off. Adverse weather prevented take off.
February 3rd the Otter took off at 0408M from Cache 6 with 4 evacuees in addition to the three crew members, leaving LCDR Bursey and two others at Marie Byrd Land. The airplane communicated with Little America at 0515 local. No further report was made but because of a skip-wave null zone no alarm was felt until 0745 when the plane was due and not yet in sight.
At 0845 no word had been received from the Otter, which was now one hour overdue. The task force was alerted and a trail party of one officer and 6 men was hastily dispatched in two weasels. CTU 43.3.1 ordered Bursey to backtrack toward Little America. Three attempts were made to get an Otter from McMurdo Sound into the air for Search and Rescue out of Little America but each attempt was thwarted by unfavorable weather.
At this point CTF 43 alerted two RSD's at Wigram for flight to Antarctica and approved the proposal of AirDevRon VX-6 that a P2V proceed from Patuxent River to Little America via South America for search and rescue. In the meantime RADM Dufek, in EASTWIND took control as CTF-43 and ordered EASTWIND to proceed Little America with an Otter from AirOpFac plus helicopter crews. CTU 43.1.2 in EDISTO was ordered to search for a support airstrip on ice in East Victoria Land.
On February 6th CTU 43.1.1 in GLACIER reported the ice in McMurdo Sound deteriorating rapidly and unreliable for wheeled aircraft. In the meantime EASTWIND arrived Kainan Bay, off loaded her Otter and helicopter crews. Captain Douglas Cordiner was sent to Little America and designated Officer-in-Charge of Search and Rescue Operations. He immediately organized his search and rescue team consisting of Otter, two helicopters, trail parties and began preparations for sending a tractor train to support air operations.
Bursey with his party met Young and party at Cache 4, 200 miles east of Little America and established an advance base camp.
On February 7th P2V 124466 LCDR J. Torbert, departed Patuxent River for Little America via Manus, Brazil; Ascuncion, Paraguay; and Rio Callegos, Argentina. A message from ComCaribSeaFron (081127Z) reported Torbert's P2V had been forced down in a clearing at Venezuela; Lat. 09º-18'N, Long. 62º-05'W. He added that 3 UF-1 aircraft where enroute Piasco and Army and Air Force helicopters had been directed to stage out of Maturia airport for search and rescue. The Commander U. S. Naval Station Trinidad was placed in charge of operations and R4D 17274 had been dispatched to the scene.
The GLACIER arrived Little America on 8 February with a second Otter from AirOpFac. While off-loading on the barrier, the Otter was unhappily dropped and thereby rendered inoperative. Thereafter, the GLACIER continued on her way to New Zealand.
February 9th will be long remembered in Task Force 43 annals as a lucky day. First, the P2V was located and its crew, uninjured, rescued by helicopter. On the heels of this welcome news came information that LT D. M. Sullivan in the search and rescue Otter had located the missing Otter at 77º-32'S, 154º -10'W. A helicopter, dispatched from the advanced base at Cache 4 had found the plane abandoned. Following sledge marks it had overtaken the victims of the crash who were walking out in the direction of Ross Sea. The survivors were found none the worse for their grueling experience and evacuated to Little America.
The EDISTO with CCTU 43.1.2 and WYANDOT arrived Kainan Bay February 16th and back loaded cargo onto the barrier. The barrier face, at the highway had retreated another 50 feet or so. It now towered about 5 feet above the EDISTO's flight deck. After off loading cargo and passing the search and rescue party and other personnel to the WYANDOT's boats, the EDISTO removed the wrecked Otter from the barrier and transported it to the highway where it was sledged to Little America. Thereafter the WYANDOT departed for Aukland, N. Z. and the EDISTO for McMurdo Sound.
On February 27th tractor train operations in support of the construction of Byrd Station were commenced with CWO Victor Young, USN in charge. It had been planned to establish caches of fuel between Little America and the proposed site of the station in Marie Byrd Land in order to provide for full pay loads during the construction phase in October or November 1956.
Because of bad weather the progress of the train was painfully slow. A week after starting it ran into a heavily crevassed area 110 miles east of Little America. This area had been crossed and recrossed by lighter vehicles without the least suspicion of crevasses. It was only by dint of the movement of snow under a heavy D-8 tractor and careful investigation the nature of glaciation was discerned. Four crevasses were found to stretch directly across the trail.
Mr. Young decided to fill these crevasses and any others encountered in order to make a safe trail. Before filling commenced he carefully probed and blasted any snow suspected of spanning a crevasse. Two D-8's were engaged in filling a crevasse operating on an area on the trail that had been crossed and recrossed after probing and blasting. One of these, a D-8 driven by Max R. Kiel, CD1, USN, was backing preparatory to dozing ahead when the snow beneath his tractor gave way. The tractor plunged backward and was swallowed by a 100 foot-deep "V" shaped crevasse. The cab of the tractor was smashed by impact with the narrowing ice walls and Kiel instantly crushed.
It was impossible to recover Kiel's body. Services were later held beside the grave by Chaplain Peter Bol, USN.
It was clear to CDR Whitney that further operations were futile. The season was far advanced. Crevasses seemed to be everywhere. They could not be detected by ordinary means. The unhappy death of Kiel had cast a demoralizing gloom over the tractor train crew.
The tractor train was ordered to off-load at Cache 2 100 miles east of Little America and return to base. It arrived March 10.
Almost simultaneously with the arrival of the tractor train at Little America, the GLACIER moored to the barrier ice in Kainan Bay. Nature had wrought material changes in the periphery of the bay since February 18, when Task Unit 43.1.2 had departed. Barrier walls had further retreated several hundred feet. The sea now threatened to invade the "Valley of Crevasses", crevassed area which lies between the staging point and Little America.
RADM Dufek made a final inspection of Little America and found it in fine shape with excellent communications. He addressed the personnel of the base, complimenting them upon their achievement and, at their behest naming the airstrip at Little America, Kiel Airfield. The GLACIER then got underway for the Knox Coast and Weddell Sea, severing the remaining physical link of 166 wintering Americans at Little America and Williams AirOpFac with the outside world.
OPERATIONS ANTARCTICA OUTSIDE ROSS SEA
Returning vessels of Task Force 43 were given diplomatic clearance for schedules as follows:
ARNEB: Norfolk, Va., via Wellington, Melbourne, Naples and Barcelona.
WYANDOT: Norfolk, Va., via Auckland, Montevideo, and Rio de Janiero.
GREENVILLE VICTORY: New York City via Auckland and Panama.
NESPELEN: Norfolk, Va., via Dunedin, Papeete and Panama.
EDISTO: Boston, Mass., via Wellington, Valpariso and Callao
EASTWIND: Boston, Mass., via Wellington and Panama.
GLACIER: Boston, Mass., via Montevideo, Rio de Janiero, Barbados and Norfolk.
After departure of EASTWIND, March 9, only the GLACIER remained in the Antarctic. The Task Force Commander, in GLACIER assigned himself the following tasks:
(5) Take oceanographic stations as opportunity permits .
By proceeding with GLACIER counterclockwise around the Antarctic continental periphery while enroute Montevideo, in order to carry out the national program in Antarctica.
The GLACIER made a landfall at Cape Adare and followed the coast to westward, south of Balleny Islands. Off Oates Land she ran into close packed broken floes of winter ice and began working her way in a generally northerly direction to reach open water. About 24 hours later she cleared the pack and took a westerly course. Apparently the vessel has followed a shore lead which petered out when the west flowing current dipped beneath the ice shelf. The easterly flowing Antarctic current had stacked the pack against the Balleny Islands.
On 16 March the icebreaker worked through close packed tongues of conglomerate ice and entered Porpoise Bay. A few helicopter flights convinced us the barrier fronting the bay was too heavily crevassed to be considered as a base site. Working Offshore the GLACIER again stood westward.
A dispatch received from the New York Times disclosed the following information about Russian activity in the Antarctic:
|Soviet advance party lands.
|Russians select base site at Mirny (where they announced they would)
|Russian dispute U. S. theory on Oasis (Bunger Lake). Soviet ship LENA has trouble unloading.
|Soviets and Australians establish contact and begin exchange of information.
|LENA explores Antarctic oasis on Queen Mary Coast
|LENA ties up to mainland. Formally raises flag at Mirny
|RADM Bird in Miami says Russians made no claims to land they planned to explore.
|Moscow radio says Soviet plane made 1625 mile flight and established that it is possible to set up bases in the heart of continent.
|Moscow radio reports discovery of three islands off Knox Coast.
It is uncertain to us as to what theory is meant regarding Bunger Lake. The "Driftless Area" concept held by U.S. geologists appears to be sound.
Nearly coincident with the foregoing intelligence was a dispatch from the Soviet Icebreaker OB requesting ice information along the Banzare and King George V Coasts.
A message of greeting from Dr. Kort, Expenditionary leader, and Capt. of OB concluded the transmission. With the compliments of ADM. Dufek and Cdr. Maher of GLACIER the ice information from Banzare Coast to and including Ross Sea was sent to the OB.
At midnight 17 March the GLACIER hove to in the pack off Cape Poinsett. Since we now have 9 hours of darkness, it was prudent to await daybreak before attempting to work through the pack.
At 0530 daybreak the vessel began pushing her way through conglomerate pack (Ice masses of heterogeneous definition; i.e., pack composed of floes, floebergs, brash, bergs, bergy bits, growlers, glacions and slush) 90% coverage. After maneuvering five hours she entered a shore lead along the barrier face west of Cape Poinsett.
At 1330 GLACIER hove to off the Balaena Islets. There are for the most part, rocks which rise steeply from the sea. Only two of them were sufficiently large to merit the definition of "islets". On each islet a cairn had been erected. Admiral Dufek instructed Captain Thomas to take a party of scientists and investigate the northernmost of these with particular emphasis on the cairn. It was felt they might be the islands the Russians had recently announced discovering.
Two hours later the party returned with a transcript of notes found in the cairn. The Australians had been there in KISTA DAN on January 19, the Russians under Dr. Kort in OB on March 9. Our visitation note, which Captain Thomas left, was dated 18 March.
In the meantime Admiral Dufek made a reconnaissance of Windmill Islands which, from the air, seemed well worth surveying as a future IGY base site. Leaving intact a portion of North Balaena Island (not removed by geologists) the GLACIER stood to Windmill Islands.
Reconnaissance of Windmill Islands was aborted on March 19 by a storm which swept with sudden fury across the GLACIER blanketing everything with stinging pellets of wind-driven neve. Fortunately, the LCVP and Greenland Cruiser which were standing toward shore, saw it coming and came about immediately. But a squad from Detachment Golf (CB Survey Team) had just reached the island via the barrier. With much difficulty, they made their way back in four hours.
The GLACIER got underway at 1300 and stood through conglomerate pack to the open sea.
An attempt to close the continent was made on March 14 in an effort to work into the Prince Harald Coast where the Japanese IGY station is projected. GLACIER skirted to southwestward, about 35 miles off the Kron Prins Olav Coast. We had planned to penetrate the ice until dark, heave to and push through in the morning. Before nightfall, however, the wind increased to gale force and snowfall reduced visibility to zero. The weather forecast indicated no change on the morrow. Time, moreover, was becoming precious, so the GLACIER was directed to proceed to 70º-30' S., 15º-00' E to investigate the gap station.
Pactolus Bank, off the southern tip of Chile, has intrigued historians for years. It is thought by some authorities to be a vestigial island - one upon which Sir Francis Drake is presumed to have landed. Several requests had been received urging the Task Force to investigate Pactolus Bank, if opportune. The Hydrographer, U.S. Navy, was interested in ascertaining the configuration of the bottom and as much oceanographic information as could be obtained. The WYANDOT was constructed to investigate enroute Montevideo from Auckland.
The WYANDOT's report was received on March 21. She had sounded the plotted position of Pactolus Bank as well as the adjacent sea area. The minimum depth obtained was 2040 fathoms, 7 miles southwest of the charted position. "If it exists at all," the WYANDOT added, "it is not at or adjacent to it's reported position."
Pactolus Bank is charted as a well defined sea mount which rises to an elevation of about 14,000 feet above the floor of the sea. The minimum sounding recorded is 67 fathoms.
On March 26th the GLACIER pushed through a moderate pack to open water adjacent to the barrier at the 19th (E) meridian, proposed location of the gap station. Cruising east along the ice shelf an embayment was discovered (in Lat. 69º-55'S., 19º-12' E.) having a length of 4500 yards by a breadth of 7700 yards. A cornice at the distal end permitted access to the barrier and the vessel was soon nosed in with scientific parties scrambling over the bows.
An official visitation note was deposited on the barrier at the head of the Bay and marked with a U.S. Ensign. The cermony was performed by Cdr. Maher. The Task Force Commander named the embayment General Erskine Bay in honor of Lt. General Graves Blanchard Erskine, USMC (Ret), Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Special Projects. As an ardent exponent of Antarctic operations on behalf of the U.S., General Erskine and his staff have astutely fostered the expedition since its inception. They provided indispensable assistance to the Task Force in planning and procurement for DEEP FREEZE.
After leaving Erskine Bay, the GLACIER pushed through ice to eastward for 35 miles and discovered a second bay - this one, approximately 1 mile long by 3/4 mile wide. It was dark when the vessel nosed into a rather gentle cornice and planted a second visitation note of the day. This party was led by Cdr. Frazier who performed the simple ceremony of reading the note, in the glaring light of the vessel's powerful searchlight.
This easterly bay was named Godel Bay, in honor of Mr. William Godel, Assistant to General Erskine, under whose immediate focus the Antarctic project has been centered.
The GLACIER made a reconnaissance of the coast to the westward of Erskine Bay until the shore lead petered out then shaped course for Byrd Bay.
Helicopter observations of the Princess Astrid Coast showed heavy crevassing both laterally and longitudinally. The gap location proposed for IGY activity is considered too unstable for a permanent base.
The EASTWIND, in dry dock at Wellington, reported that repairs to her starboard shaft could not be undertaken within suitable time limits in New Zealand and that escort to Boston and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was highly desirable. The Commander Service Force, Pacific Fleet assigned the COCOPOA to rendezvous with the EASTWIND at Pago Pago and provide escort or towage until relief could be effected by PAIUTE intercepting out of Balboa.
After leaving the Princess Astrid Coast the GLACIER, on March 28th, attempted to work through the pack into Byrd Bay. The ice off the ice tongue in which Byrd Bay is situated was old and solidly packed. Commander Task Force FORTY-THREE decided to work through the pack further westward and change her immediate destination to Atka Bay, as the ice to westward was calculated to be looser.
There was no difficulty in pushing through the pack along the 8th westerly meridian and at 1730, March 29 the flag was raised and a visitation note deposited on the Barrier shore of Atka Bay..by LCDR John A. Mirabito, Staff Aerologist.
While oceanographic and other scientific data were collected an engineering survey established the suitability of the ice shelf for use as a station. No bay ice remained in the embayment but nature will likely provide enough of sufficient thickness by December, 1956. From an IGY standpoint Atka Bay is rather close to Maudheim, the proposed Norwegian base, but will be suitable if a better location is not found in December, 1956.
From Atka Bay the GLACIER cruised along the barrier to the vicinity of Maudheim, conducting radar mapping of the periphery of the ice shelf. From this point she departed the continent along the 11th meridian for Montevideo and encountered very little ice on the way out.
With the departure of the GLACIER from the Antarctic the operational phase of DEEP FREEZE I was concluded. It is noteworthy that all the objectives of the U. S. 1955-56 program were carried through to completion. These included:
Scientific investigation such as oceanography, geology, seismology, glaciology, geodesy, physiology, ornithology, polar communications and terrestrial magnetism were carried out as primary operations permitted. It was made clear to participating agencies these must necessarily be subordinated to material objectives during a construction year. The meteorological program however, was complete and the other sciences consonant with expectations.
In conclusion, it is emphasized that the completion of assigned DEEP FREEZE I tasks demanded the acceptance of risks inherent to operations in the Antarctic. While the death of two men is indeed regrettable, their courage and willingness to subrogate personal safety to the attainment of United States objectives in Antarctica typifies the spirit which pervaded all units of Task Force 43. It is hoped that scientific solution of many Antarctic problems will minimize risks to personnel of future expeditions.
last updated 30 July 2003