Ship Offload

The supply ship arrives once a year, and is a very major event for the station. The ship costs about $35,000 per day, so there is a lot of presure to get it unloaded and reloaded as quickly as possible. You also have to add the need to sort and move all the material that cannot be frozen into warehouses before they freeze in the 20 degree temperatures.

They had about 400 'milvans' to unload and about 600 other 'picks' of loose equipment (vehicles, Construction material, etc.). Each of those was a crane operation to get it out/off the ship, onto a truck, and then offloaded from the truck in a sorting yard. The NSF brings in about 60 Navy personnel to do the rigging and offloading. The majority of the rest of the station is involved in the offload in one form or another.

They had about 11,000,000 pounds of materials to get off the ship. After they finish the off load, there is about 4,000,000 pounds of waste and retrograde that has to go back on, to go to the US.

There had been a lot of problems with the ship this year. They were unable to get all of the cargo onto the ship before it left California. Several new vehicles were left off. They departed a couple of days late, but thought they would make that up on the way.

The station starts to move most of the people back to New Zealand about the 1st of February. The Air Force C-141s start flying again to allow them to start to move the larger numbers of people. A lot of the beekers leave first, but then the NAVCHAPs (Navy Cargo Handlers) replace them, but a lot of the rest of the field support personnel leave. The schedule is set up for the people involved in the Ship off load to leave as soon as the ship is done.

The supply ship is the M.V. Greenwave. They stop in New Zealand to pick up freshies, and a few other important items. They were a day or so late leaving New Zealand, but then ran into bad weather on the trip south, and then had a problem with the engine, and were only making about 12knots. The Coast Guard left to go meet the Greenwave and assist them in getting the last 900 miles into McMurdo. Two years ago the Greenwave broke down on the way back and the Coast Guard had to tow them most of the trip to New Zealand.

The ship arrived several days late, and the shuffle started. They had to move many people that were scheduled to leave later to earlier flights so that they could keep the ones working with the ship off load.

The Greenwave finally pulled into town about 3am one morning.

M.V. Greenwave This shot was about Noon on February 10th (about 10 hours after it arrived).

M.V. Greenwave The NAVCHAP crews preparing a milvan.

M.V. Greenwave This shot was late afternoon on February 11th (note how far out of the water it is sitting). They have already started unloading the holds.

M.V. Greenwave By the 13th, the offloading was just about complete, and they were starting to reload the retro. The N.B. Palmer is in the background.

During the ship offload it almost started to look like a port. We had four ships in the sound at one point. The R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer is one of the U.S. Research Ships. Since the Greenwave was still at the Ice Pier, they had to do the resupply by helicopter. They moved almost 10,000 pounds of equipment, and traded out several people while the Palmer was sitting on the Ice about a mile from town. The Coast Guard was also still working the channel. R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer

We also had a visit from the Marco Polo. The largest of the Cruise Ships that passed through, it had almost 500 tourists on board. They moved them by boat between the bay and town.   Marco Polo

Then of course there is all that cargo. A large part of the area between the galley and the Dorm are blocked off to allow them to sort the supplies and organize them as they place them into the warehouses.


The other downside to offload is the fact that it is a 24 hour a day operation. The beep of the back up alarms on every loader and forklift on station runs all the time except meal breaks. The window for my room is just to the left of the photo in the brown building, and of course they stacked all this in the alley one night, and moved it out the following night. Oh well...


They did an excellent job, and got the ship offloaded very quickly. The weather was uncooperative, with it being cold and winding during the entire operation. But, the offload was complete, and they started working on getting folks off the ice, and ready for the station closing.

The Greenwave and the Coast Guard Ice Breaker departed McMurdo very early one morning, and that was the last of the ship operations for the season.

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