Feb 1

February 1, 1955: Task Force 43 Commissioned to Plan and Execute Operation Deepfreeze

Friday, February 1, 2013 1:00 AM
A Dog Team Trail Party leaves the unloading area at McMurdo Sound for a reconnaissance trip.

A Dog Team Trail Party leaves the unloading area at McMurdo Sound for a reconnaissance trip.

 

This article was written by Rear Admiral George J. Dufek, USN (retired) with Joseph E. Oglesby, JOC, USN. It was originally published as “Operation Deepfreeze Fits Out” in the March 1956 issue of Proceedings magazine.

When President Eisenhower an­nounced a renewal of American in­terest in the Antarctic early last year, he gave the Department of Defense the responsibility for supporting American sci­entists in the greatest American undertaking in the barren history of the Antarctic.

Considering the complexities involved, it immediately became apparent that the Navy would draw the bid as the Defense agency best qualified to undertake the four-year task. At a point some eleven thousand miles south of Boston, the Navy had to build three permanent bases (one of them by air­drop at the South Pole) and an air operating facility big enough to handle four-engine planes. It had to ferry thousands of tons of scientific supplies, countless gallons of gaso­line and other fuels, plus construction equip­ment including thirty-ton tractors, and a bewildering variety of equipment and pro­visions to aid the scientists during the Inter­national Geophysical Year (IGY) from July, 1957, through December, 1958.

The Navy had to begin moving early in 1955 to be prepared for the great scientific venture. Task Force 43 was formed under the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, as the support force for American participation in the year of science.

THE MISSION AND THE GOALS

The Chief Executive’s original statement outlined the scope of Antarctic activity dur­ing the IGY. American scientists would work in the Antarctic with scientists from almost a dozen nations, studying meteorology, cos­mic rays, solar activity, ionospheric physics, geomagnetism, oceanography, and glaciology.

Other nations that would build one or more bases in the Antarctic in support of the IGY included England, France, Belgium, Norway, South Africa, Australia, New Zea­land, Argentina, Chile, Japan, and Russia.

A reporter looked at an early chart show­ing the base camp activity markers and im­mediately asked: “Who’s going to erect the traffic lights to control all this activity?”

Our role in the International Geophysical Year was limited to the Antarctic region. Our studies would be tied in with the world­wide study of the earth sciences to be con­ducted by some forty nations ranging from the North Pole to the South Pole, including all the major land and sea masses in between. Observations would be taken from the bot­tom of the oceans to a hundred and more miles into the atmosphere. All scientific ob­servations would be correlated during and after the studies.

These scientific studies will benefit the nation and the world in many ways. For ex­ample, a thorough knowledge of the weather originating over the Antarctic ice mass will greatly aid world meteorologists in deter­mining basic air-mass circulation patterns which are so essential for long-range fore­casting. The biggest chance factor of flying will be overcome if, through this study, we can observe and record the behavior of weather and later can take steps to predict it more accurately.

Geologists will round out their knowledge of minerals in the Antarctic. We know that many millions of years ago the Antarctic continent was tropical. We know that other similarly-formed pressure masses now pro­duce valuable minerals and petroleums. Our mission is not a “treasure hunt,” but if such minerals as uranium or gold, or even iron ore are found in abundance, it will be good in­formation for the future when peacetime nuclear development and improved air and surface transportation might make Ant­arctic mining feasible and economical. What with progress made in atomic reactors, that day might be just around the corner.

Admiral Byrd’s previous expeditions have discovered coal and copper in the Antarctic. It is true that the minerals found were not of sufficient value for commercial purposes. However, we have merely scratched the sur­face of this vast continent. Besides, there is still a virgin area in the Antarctic as large as the United States that has never been seen by man. This area may abound in rich resources.

One of the principal reasons for choosing the period from 1957 to the end of 1958 for the IGY was that during this period there will occur maximum sun-spot activity.

Most readers are aware of the radio “black-outs” caused by sunspots, or by other irregularities in the earth’s ionosphere. We have studied the ionosphere of the Ant­arctic and the aurora australis on previous expeditions, but each time these studies have been independent ventures from one location. This time simultaneous studies will be made from various points on the con­tinent and revolutionary new devices and techniques will be used that didn’t exist when the earlier studies were made.

So far as dollars-and-cents justification for the expedition is concerned, a leading American scientist has estimated that the IGY studies will be worth a billion dollars in the development of the U. S. rocket pro­gram. (No rockets will be launched during Operation Deepfreeze I, but the scientific data obtained could be applied to the rocket program elsewhere.)

Science-wise, these factors merely scratch the surface of why we are going to explore the Antarctic, but there are other con­siderations.
By operating large and small aircraft in the Antarctic during a series of expeditions we can amass knowledge on improvements that must be built into planes of the future for cold weather operations. We can deter­mine the best methods of runway construc­tion, both on frozen ground and snow com­pacted airstrips. There is a practical limit to the size of aircraft skis; therefore, if we wish to use large aircraft on wheels in the Polar regions, we must develop the runways to accommodate them. It is reasonable to expect that within the near future we will be flying aircraft to and from the Antarctic continent with ease.

Militarily, over 1800 men will be trained in cold-weather operations and environ­mental living during the first of the four years the task force will be there in support of the scientists. Nobody can guess when or where the next war will be fought, but we can ill afford not to be as aware of cold weather survival as we are aware of the latest de­velopments in other military matters. Nor can we afford to miss an opportunity to evaluate the Antarctic continent as a stra­tegic outpost in time of war. From the southern tip of South America to the north­ern tip of the Antarctic continent, the 600­mile distance is less than an hour’s flight for a modern jet bomber.

It is practicable to operate seaplanes and land planes from bases in the Antarctic. The availability of weather information from the Antarctic and the denial of it to the enemy would be a tremendous advantage in predicting weather conditions throughout the world for military operations.

Finally, there is the mystery of riches which the Antarctic continent may conceal be­neath her veil of snow and ice. Geologists have made but very meager investigations and only in the more accessible places, yet their reports, sketchy as they are, point strongly to a wealth of economic potential. Today’s desert wastes are tomorrow’s oases. In 1803 men prominent in public life branded the Louisiana Purchase as a waste of public funds. Again in 1867 Alaska was referred to as “Seward’s icebox.” In 1913, the United States relinquished her claim to the north coast of Greenland as part of the purchase price of the Virgin Islands.

America’s ramparts of hemisphere de­fense, her store-house of resources in the world of tomorrow, may lie at the ends of the earth. Science is certain to find the key by which to unlock a wealthy Antarctic econ­omy as it did in Louisiana, California, Ore­gon, and Alaska. Surely the price we pay for scientific enterprise in a land now trackless and remote will be an investment in the fu­ture of our country and that of the free world.

THE STAFF

Task Force 43 was commissioned on Feb­ruary 1, 1955, and assigned the responsibil­ity for planning and executing Operation Deepfreeze. Early staff work centered around these problems: We learned the requirements of the scientists and started to place orders for the supplies and equipment they would need. Many of the items were of such unusual construction and had to be made to such rigid specifications that they required an extremely long “lead time” for procure­ment. Among these items were the perma­nent houses that would be required by the construction crews and by the scientists. Materials had to be strong enough to with­stand minus 100-degree temperatures and plus 100-knot winds. They had to be pre­fabricated into sections small enough to fit the cargo hatch of a ship after crating, and, in the case of materials for the base at the South Pole, they had to be crated into sec­tions small enough to fit the cargo hatch of an airplane.

It was established early in the planning that the faithful Eskimo Husky, work horse of earlier expeditions, could not keep pace in this expedition. As a matter of fact, the only reason for taking them along would be to have teams ready at the air base to fly out and be parachuted to a party in dis­tress in an area inaccessible by tractor train or unsuitable for landing aircraft or heli­copters. Instead of huskies to haul the freight, we planned to use tractors. Just plain tractors were impractical because they sank into the snow. What we needed for the heavy work was a thirty-ton tractor that could pull a payload of 100 tons over the snow, yet it had to have less ground pres­sure per square inch than a man on skis.

To carry out the full scientific mission it was felt that three bases would be needed. The first one was to be established at the site of Admiral Byrd’s former base camp at Little America on the Bay of Whales. The second one would be in Marie Byrd Land, some 600 miles away at Latitude 80 degrees South, Longitude 120 degrees West. The third station would be established at the South Pole itself. Since the latter would be built 10,000 feet above sea level and since the distance factor for overland transpor­tation of materials seemed prohibitive, it was considered necessary to air-drop the 500 tons of materials required to build and furnish the South Pole station. To support these bases and to perform the South Pole air drop an air field would be required. It was decided to establish an Air Operating Facility at McMurdo Sound.

THE UNITS

With the staff shaping up and with the needs of the scientists being provided, the first estimate for the surface units required was five ships: two cargo ships, two ice­breakers, and a tanker. These units were re­quested and made available by CinCLant­FIt. The cargo ships would be the USS Arneb (flagship), and the USS Wyandot. The tanker USS Nespelem, bumper of many ice floes in the past, was assigned to the paper task force. A smaller tanker, YOG-70, was as­signed when it became apparent that it would be desirable to freeze such a portable fuel farm into the ice for use during the operation.

Icebreakers named to clear the way and to carry the overflow of men and supplies were the USS Edisto, a veteran at this unique occupation, and the USS Glacier, barely off the building ways in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Everyone wanted to sail in the Glacier. She was the most powerful ice­breaker ever constructed and the largest one outside the Iron Curtain. She had a modern hospital, an insulated hull, and ultra-modern living accommodations. In addition, she was a floating laboratory. With these ships ear­marked, the next consideration was for con­struction experts to build Little America Station and the Air Operating Facility at McMurdo Sound during the first Antarctic summer (American winter), and the remain­ing bases a year later. Mobile Construction Battalion (Special) was authorized and be­gan to form at Davisville, Rhode Island. This SeaBee outfit was an all-volunteer unit under command of Commander Herbert W. Whitney (CEC), USN.

Since extensive aerial photography was contemplated during the various phases of the opera tion and since planes would be used in support of the building program, an aircraft squadron was requested and as­signed. Air Development Squadron SIX (VX-6) went into commission at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland. Com­mander G. K. Ebbe, USN, took command of the squadron which was originally com­posed of two ski-rigged R4Ds, two R5Ds, two ski-rigged P2Vs, and two ski-rigged UF-1s. Three HO4S-3 helicopters and four ski-rigged UC-1s rounded out the squadron. Freight planes were to be provided and flown by the U. S. Air Force for the South Pole air lift.

Commander William M. Hawkes, USN, staff adviser to VX-6, was of tremendous help with his wealth of past experience in fly­ing over the Antarctic. It was he who led the flight of R4Ds off the aircraft carrier Philip­pine Sea and landed at Little America during Operation Highjump in 1946-47.

OPERATIONS TIMETABLE

So with the staff shaping up, with long lead-time items ordered, and with the sur­face, construction, and air units in the mak­ing, an operations schedule was next on the agenda. When formulated it was divided into four basic phases as follows:

Phase One (1955-56): The task force ships would put to sea in November, 1955, with an icebreaker towing the YOG, about two weeks in the van of the cargo ships and tanker. All ships would steam from East Coast ports via Panama and New Zealand to the Antarctic. When the icebreakers reached New Zealand about December 1, they would drop off the YOG and head into the pack ice. Once there they would dis­charge site survey parties at the proposed sites of Little America Station and the Mc­Murdo Sound Air Operating Facility. The icebreaker assigned to scout the Little America site would also put Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander J. Jack Bursey ashore with a nine-man tractor party which would set out on the 600-mile overland jaunt to the site of Marie Byrd Station. Their job was reconnaissance, and they would mark a safe trail, using orange flags moored in the ice by bamboo sticks at 1/3 mile intervals on straightaways and at closer intervals in treacherous areas where the trail changed swiftly to a void dangers. They would bury fuel and provision caches at 50-mile inter­vals to be used later, then head back for Little America.

Meantime the remainder of the task force ships would sail from America to reach New Zealand about December 10. The cargo ships and tanker would take the YOG in tow and leave New Zealand about Decem­ber 13 to take ocean stations at 250-mile intervals from New Zealand. Simultaneous­ly the icebreakers would be taking stations in the pack ice from Little America in the direction of New Zealand. Thus a stationary radio “picket line” of ships would be on sta­tion from New Zealand to Antarctica by mid-December so a flight of ski-rigged Navy planes could depart New Zealand and fly non-stop to Antarctica, adding another page to the annals of naval aviation. The site sur­vey party would have ascertained earlier that a safe landing site existed in the Antarctic.

Once this pioneer flight was completed, the ships would rendezvous at Scott Island on Christmas, the traditional “jumping-off” date for expeditions to buck the pack-ice which can be penetrated by surface ships during only about two or three months of the year. After the rendezvous, where infor­mation gained from the icebreakers could be pooled and passed along to ship commanders, the task force would sail into the Antarctic with icebreakers out front to clear the way.

On arrival the force would again split, with half the ships going to Little America and half going to McMurdo Sound to dis­charge cargo. The YOG would be frozen in on arrival at McMurdo Sound. Even as the cargo was unloaded the SeaBees would be working around the clock to erect the two bases. In that season there is no darkness in the Antarctic, just as later there is no day­light between April 21 and August 21, when the Antarctic winter sets in.

In the two months the task force ships could spend in the Antarctic before becom­ing frozen in at the end of February, the men had to build permanent bases, install complete radio facilities, lay in supplies for two years, compact airstrips for non-ski landings by planes, and have all construc­tion completed so sixty men could winter over at Little America and sixty at Mc­Murdo Sound when the surface ships left.

While construction was in progress at Little America and McMurdo Sound, a small Otter airplane would make a test land­ing on the 10,000-foot-high plateau at the South Pole. If this test was successful, a ski­rigged R4D would land a force of fifteen men to build a skeleton camp at the South Pole in preparation for the construction of that base in Phase Two. These men would winter over at McMurdo Sound between phases and be ready to build the base when daylight returned in October and materials were air-dropped during the second phase. When the ships pulled out in February, the wintering-over parties were slated to work as long as possible before the April 21 dead­line when complete darkness and severe temperatures would prevent any further effort until October, 1956.

All the while, during the Antarctic sum­mer construction effort, planes would be flying aerial photo reconnaissance at every opportunity. While the initial flight of air­craft from New Zealand had made ski­-landings, a construction crew would work diligently to compact runways hard enough to accommodate R5Ds on wheels. Aircraft crews would also be left behind when the surface ships weighed anchor in February to return to America in April, 1956.

At this point an incident typical of Ant­arctic planning occurred. USS Atka returned from the Antarctic in April, 1955, to report that ice conditions in the Bay of Whales had changed radically. Part of Admiral Byrd’s Little America IV camp site on the Bay of Whales had broken off and been car­ried away to sea as an iceberg. The staff had planned to build the main base in this vicinity, but the break-off left sheer ice cliffs, too high to moor a ship alongside. Fortunately the Atka had surveyed Kainan Bay thirty miles to the eastward and re­ported it suitable for the main base. A pre­liminary reconnaissance by icebreakers in December, 1955, would be required to locate the best site.
The planning continued in spite of this in­telligence, the first of many similar findings anticipated as the plan unfolded under prac­tice.

Phase Two (1956-57): In October, 1956, the start of the Antarctic spring, the win­tering-over crews would come out of their long night’s rest geared for more heavy work. Before the surface ships would even leave the United States, plans called for an overland tractor team to put out from Little America, follow the trail laid down by Bur­sey’s reconnaissance party in Phase One and proceed to the site of Byrd Station to begin construction.

Concurrently, a flight of Air Force cargo planes would depart McMurdo Sound and drop the 500 tons of equipment required for the construction of South Pole Station. The small band of men who had wintered over would then erect South Pole Station during the Antarctic summer. Meanwhile, a smail auxiliary air station would be built in the Beardmore Glacier area to support flights in the South Pole area.

Back in the States the same timetable would be followed by the surface ships as in Phase One, i.e., the ships would leave Amer­ica in November to arrive in Antarctica in late December. On arrival, the wintering-­over construction crews would be resupplied and again a heavy construction schedule would prevail. This was necessary because all construction had to be completed and all stations manned by scientists before the task force was forced to pullout in February.

Thus, when the ships left Antarctica in February, 1957, the construction crews who had wintered over between Phases One and Two would be returned to the United States and the stations would be manned by sci­entists who would begin making obser­vations. The task force would return to the United States in April as before.

Phase Three (1957-58): Ships would leave America in November as before; resupply the bases, relieve the scientists who had win­tered-over, and return to America in April.

Phase Four (1958-59): The last phase was simply a matter of picking up the scientists and returning them with their findings to the United States where their studies would be evaluated. Thus the curtain would come down on Operation Deepfreeze.

LOGISTICS

The operations schedule spelled out, the staff concentrated on the unique problems of Antarctic Logistics. Ships were to be com­pletely self-sustaining from the time of de­parture until their return to the United States. The Air and Construction units were to be completely supplied until next year’s re-supply trip by ships. The only anticipated replenishments would be provisions, fuel, and emergency supplies at ports outside the United States. Ship units would be to provide logistic support to the air and con­struction units at Antarctica where no supermarkets or Navy warehouses existed.

The Air unit, which would fly via New Zealand, was authorized to replenish from established supply activities en route wher­ever possible. On arrival in New Zealand they would be able to draw from Task Force after supply ships arrived. The first flight of aircraft would be self-sustaining until the ships arrived. An extra year’s supply of provisions was to be cached for the wintering-over parties of about 135 men in the Antarctic in the event ships were unable to penetrate the ice for next year. Past had taught that in the Ant­arctic a man eats twice as much as normal, bu t can be counted on for three times his normal work output.

All supplies, materials, and equipment for building the bases and the Air Facility in the Antarctic, even to fitting out the dog teams with special parachutes, were to be delivered to Davisville where they would be inspected, and stacked prior to September 30, 1955 for loading aboard ship during October.

RESPONSIBILITIES

The Task Force Commander had been authorized to deal directly with the various Navy bureaus in procuring all necessary supplies and equipment. The Bureau of Yards and Docks was to provide technical assistance for planning the building and maintenance of bases, for preparing base layout plans, for designing, testing, and procuring all structures required.

Bids were extended and contracts were let for the strange assortment of equipment needed. Heavy tractors would come from Illinois, cargo sleds and toboggans from Wisconsin and Canada, bamboo from Pana­ma, ice augers from California, small trac­tors from California and Oregon, building panels from Connecticut, welded steel tanks from Chicago, skis from Michigan, stoves from Washington, D. C., Weasel engines from Indiana, trail food from Baltimore, clothing from Brooklyn, and dog teams from New Hampshire.

Task Force and Bureau of Yards and Docks engineering experts relied on every principle they knew and on every report available from past Arctic and Antarctic expeditions for guidance in drawing plans for the camp buildings, storage facilities, and fuel dumps. Drivers and mechanics from the SeaBee battalion took extensive lessons in the operation and upkeep of the radical new equipment, like the D-8 Cater­pillar tractor which weighed thirty tons yet stood lighter on its 54-inch treads than an average man on skis.

A team of SeaBees was ordered to Camp Lejeune, N. C., to learn the Marine Corps method of running cold weather fuel farms, and a six-man team of Marine Corps en­listed fuel experts received orders to the task force.

A group of staff officers flew to Greenland to observe at first hand the Air Force’s snow-compaction technique on airstrips. Another team went to Rhode Island to ob­serve an actual air-drop of materials, pack­aged, as similar materials would be pack­aged for air-drop at the South Pole. The role of the Bureau of Aeronautics was to provide winterized aircraft for the air unit; to pro­vide photographic and aerological equip­ment for task force operations; to provide navigational aids, ground support, and ground handling equipment for the opera­tion of aircraft in the Antarctic. The Jack­sonville newspapers had a field day one week in the spring. Here were airplanes in this balmy southern city being equipped with skis for landings on snow, being insulated for 75-below-zero weather, having their bot­toms literally removed to accommodate bulky trimetrigon mapping cameras which would be used to make third-dimensional photographs of areas never before mapped. Besides providing the planes and configur­ing them for cold weather and photo mis­sions, BuAer provided mountainous stocks of photographic materials-enough to photo­graph the entire expedition for use by later planners. The staff aerological officer had considerable traffic with BuAer, lining up myriad supplies and equipment that would be needed to cope with a major weather problem during the expedition.

The Naval Research Laboratory came to the aid of the task force by providing auto­matic weather stations aptly named “Grass­hoppers.” These unusual automatons were so named because of their characteristIcs. On the wing of an airplane one looks like a bomb. When parachuted to earth from the plane it begins to grunt, extend its legs, stand upright like a grasshopper, then chirp away until its antenna (resembling a pro­boscis) extends into the air. In this position the device records its own readings of wind force, wind direction, barometric pressure, and temperature, then transmits this in­formation automatically for distances of 800 miles. It runs six weeks without servicing.

The Chief of Naval Operations directed the Bureau of Ships to collaborate with the Task Force staff to determine requirements for and provide the communications equip­ment required to establish military com­munications facilities in the Antarctic. This meant extra circuits on ships, equipping radio stations and aircraft beacon stations in the Antarctic, establishing a weather net­work of communications complete enough to share weather information with every nation which had a representative in the Antarctic, and even providing gear for two-way com­munications between the bases and the trail parties, as well as air-to-air, air-to-base, and air-to-ship channels.

The Bureau of Supplies and Accounts pro­vided everything required from standard stock plus many items of special order, rang­ing from fuels to clothing and from lensless goggles to knitting needles.

CLOTHING

Unit commanding officers were directed to determine clothing needs for their men. These recommendations were turned over to the Task Force staff, who obtained CNO authorization to make purchases. There was the standard shipboard allowance for men who wouldn’t leave the ships. There was extra clothing required for the Air Unit. The construction crews had special clothing needs. The wintering-over parties had dif­
ferent requirements, and the trail parties had even further needs.

In general, the theory on clothing was this: Use basic clothing for a start (red flan­nels recommended); put on extra layers as required. By the time the process had evolved, the man on a trail, party had on as many as six layers of clothing. His outer parka and trouser combination ranged from brilliant scarlet to solid black. There were two basic schools of thought on the colors that could be seen best on the snow—orange or black. We provided both, and added red, blue, and green. The idea was to a void the drab monotony and add color, lifting morale. They would look good in colored photogra­phy, but more important, the men could be spotted more easily from the air.

The staff logistics officer, Commander Donald F. Kent (SC), USN, had processed some strange requirements in his time, but never any like the ones which came from staff department heads now. There were gas-­pressure trail stoves that would turn out thousands of BTU’s in thirty seconds, yet use a minimum of fuel. There was pemmican, the old staple food for trail parties, made from meats, fats, berries, cereal, fruits, and added vitamins, all concentrated into de­hydrated miniature packages that could be eaten as is or brewed into broth over a trail fire. There was lumber required to construct “dead men” for mooring ships to ice. These instruments are so named because a coffin-­appearing box is buried in a hole dug into the ice with a strap leading outward from it. The ice hole is flooded and frozen, making a permanent ice-anchor for ships to secure their hawsers to. There were telegraph poles for use as fenders. Experience had proven that a hemp fender is useless in ice mooring. There were two teams of trail dogs to order. These animals had to be of good tempera­ment and hardy muscle. They had to be matched for size and free of the blood strains of the wolf, lest one of them go berserk.

Throughout the siege of ordering, the staff was amazed by the extreme eagerness of both military and civilian agencies to co­operate. Perhaps a Philadelphia publisher best displayed the attitude of cooperation. When it came time to place an order for a cruise book which the men of the Task Force would purchase as a memento of the expe­dition, the publisher was so carried away by our mission that he wanted to make the best cruise book on record—the fanciest cover, the best enameled paper stock, the most four-color pictures ever used in a cruise book—all at a loss to his firm, if necessary. He said it would serve as a prototype for other cruise books and would enhance his prestige. Similar cooperation brought results in opera­tional equipment as well.

By late April the materials ordered were balanced against the shipping space that had been allocated. Earlier estimates had been in the right direction, but the scien­tists’ requirements at each of the stations had grown by leaps and bounds. Our inven­tory showed we had more freight than we had ships’ bottoms to handle it with. We asked for another AKA and got the MSTS cargo ship USNS Greenville Victory. Later the Coast Guard icebreaker East Wind joined the task force, and still later we had to ask for an additional YOG to accommo­date additional fuel needs.

It was necessary at that time to order a paring down of expenses and tonnage, which the staff took in stride. The aviators, or­dered to prepare for two years sustained operations in the Antarctic, could have or­dered practically everything in the stock catalog, but they didn’t. Instead they took a realistic view of the problem, then some cal­culated risks, and pared their requisitions down to a fraction of what they could have stockpiled. Their interest in flight safety was real, but their decision to pare down was commendable.

As supplies had exceeded early expec­tations, so had costs approached the point where they were about to exceed our funds in June. So a half-dozen department heads sat with me around a conference table, and we collectively tightened our already tight operational belts by several notches. After a few hours, more than a half-million dollars had been cut from our expected expenditures. Some entire buildings were eliminated from the plans. Others were seriously modified. Every plush aspect was lopped from every item on the blueprints. Our decision to do with less fancy equipment wherever possible meant modifying some contracts already in the mill, and it meant “roughing it” to a greater degree by our wintering-over parties, but no objections were raised at the follow­ing weekly staff conference. At that staff conference, Lieutenant Commander Jack Bursey, who remembered hunger and pri­vation from an 83-day trail trip on an earlier expedition, summarized the feelings of the staff when he said, “Take away everything else, Admiral, but don’t forget our pemmi­can!”

Now that the whole staff appreciated how we had trimmed our budget, more evi­dence of ingenuity came to light. A Chief Pay Clerk located canvas needed for pro­tecting the roofs of the houses. This canvas had been declared surplus by another gov­ernment agency, and we could buy it at a saving of a dollar per yard. A Chief Photog­rapher checked the revised building blue­prints and reported: “The building re­designated as photo lab at McMurdo Sound has windows in it. How about just plain bulkheads? We’d have to cover up the win­dows anyway.” This meant more money left in the till. A chief in PIO reported he had arranged with BuShips for the Task Force to borrow four new tape recorders that were needed for hometown radio interviews. The recorders would normally cost around $300 each. The cost to us was simply an eval­uation report on how they worked under cold weather conditions.

CARGO CHECKS

By late May many supplies were ready, and others were shaping up. The staff Cargo officer was at Davisville, and he had set up a schedule for inspecting material as it ar­rived and for marking it for loading. His help came from VX-6 and the SeaBee staff. As materials started to roll in, he and his men worked well into the night to keep up with it.

Materials were segregated and checked. Colors, employing separate and distinctive patterns for specific destinations, were to be applied to the outer boxes or containers of all materials: Blue indicated all cargo to be used at Little America Station; Yellow for Air Operating Facility; Brown for Byrd Station; Orange for South Pole Station; Green for Beardmore Glacier auxiliary base; Red for tractor-route and reconnaissance party use in December, 1955; and Black for all cargo to be used by the Construction Battalion Survey party and by a via tion personnel arriving at the site for the air base in December, 1955.

In addition to the destination code, there was a priority code marking to be applied. Thus, the materials which would be needed first would be loaded last. Priorities were as­signed, and materials would be loaded so they would come off the ships in this order:

Materials for unloading ships first; fuels and lubricants required to place materials­handling and transportation in operation second. Third was equipment and materials required to transport cargo from the un­loading area to the site for each base. Next came equipment and materials required to construct bridges or other crossings over crevasses in the ice.

These were followed by base construction equipment. Building materials required in the construction of bases came next and were followed by communication equipment re­quired to establish radio stations or com­munications facilities.

Next came auxiliary equipment required for the establishment and operation of each base; then equipment required for the con­struction of aircraft runways. Aircraft ground control and ground handling equip­ment was next, followed by fuels and lubri­cants in drums for operation of ground equipment. Heating fuels in drums followed.

Next in priorities were provisions, trail ra­tions, ship’s store stock, clothing and small stores, and general stores for shore-based parties.
While normal supplies arrived at Davis­ville and were marked and stacked for load­ing, a progress check was continued for those materials which required longer lead times. There were trips to Wisconsin to in­spect sledge construction and trips to Peoria to check tractor treads, among others. Air and construction personnel took advantage of every opportunity to observe air-drops of equipment, ice reconnaissance, and other re­lated problems which might arise in the Ant­arctic. The staff tried to profit from the mistakes of others. Training had progressed smoothly with the SeaBees and aviators. The trail reconnaissance party had practical and classroom training at Davisville. MCB Special, active these many months, officially went into commission in August. Dogs were trained to work with sailors (or vice versa, if you wish) in New Hampshire. The pieces were fit snugly in to the overall plan.

MORALE

Despite the fact that the expedition was comprised largely of volunteers, every ef­fort was made to maintain morale. We checked for ample food-ships were author­ized to stock up to capacity on dry, frozen, and fresh provisions. Records and extra movies were ordered. Commanding officers of various surface, air, and construction units were encouraged to use all facilities avail­able, including press schedules, to publish unit newspapers and keep their men abreast of events in the world. Extra supplies of ship’s store items were authorized, especially photographic materials, because we had learned earlier that the Antarctic offers the amateur photographer a bonanza rarely found in a lifetime of shutter clicking.

Chaplains, Protestant and Catholic, re­quested and got heavy supplies of craft ma­terials for the wintering-over parties who would spend four long months in complete darkness at Little America and McMurdo Sound and six months of darkness at the South Pole. Earlier, grown men had taken up knitting to pass the long night hours. The chaplains outlined other monotony­-relieving plans. They would have book clubs, discussion groups, card game tournaments, do-it-yourself kits, and would even encour­age the men to keep diaries for the day they might want to publish their experiences.

The Federal Communications Commission was asked to authorize four amateur radio stations: one at Little America Station, one at Air Operating Facility, McMurdo Sound, one at Byrd Station, and one at South Pole Station. FCC came through with the four stations, plus authorization to establish twenty-two other stations if that became practicable.

Ample stocks of medical supplies were or­dered and the medics were set for any fore­seeable emergency. The staff supply officer assisted the men in getting squared away with their income taxes before departure. Liberty information for Panama and Port Lyttleton, New Zealand, was available, and the charts were corrected to date. Philatelic mail was arriving at Norfolk for mailing from the Antarctic, and news correspondents were accredited and billeted. Morale was tip­top, as evidenced by the many requests from staff members who wanted to winter-over but couldn’t. Supplies were stockpiling smoothly. The aviators and construction men were showing the results of a rigorous training schedule. About the only thing left before departure was to correct any earlier oversights.

We were ready for sea at last.

 
 
 
 
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