The 2022-23 McMurdo Shipping Season

Arrival of the Polar Star
Polar Star shows up offshore of McMurdo Station on 3 January, as seen here
in a photo from Peter Neff who was on the ice as part of the COLDEX project.

Ocean Giant loading at Port HuenemeOf course, the shipping season actually began much earlier up north...including plans to bring down the modular causeway, as the ice pier wasn't capable of handling the ship offload. Polar Star had left Seattle on 16 November. It next spent almost 6 days at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam between 24 and 30 November where Thanksgiving was celebrated. It then continued on to a Royal Australian Navy fuel pier at Chowder Bay (near downtown Sydney) where it received fuel and supplies on 14 December (15 December Coast Guard News article). Next stop: Hobart, where it spent nearly 4 days between 17-21 December (23 December Coast Guard news release) and (27 December gCaptain article). Despite the fact that there wasn't any ice around a few months ago, there was some at the beginning of January. As for the cargo vessels...there are 3 of them this season. The first of these, Ocean Giant is seen at left loading at Port was bringing the pontoon causeway. It left Port Hueneme on 15 December and spent time in Lyttelton beginning on 10 January before heading south. The second vessel, Happy Delta in LytteltonOcean Gladiator, was carrying mostly materials and equipment for the McMurdo redevelopment initially left Port Hueneme on 6 January but had to return due to cargo damage caused by the heavy seas and storms that hit the California coast. It eventually left Port Hueneme again on the 18th and is scheduled to arrive Lyttelton on 4 February. But there's more...Antarctica New Zealand is using a third ship, Happy Delta, to bring cargo and materials for the redevelopment of Scott Base. It left Lyttelton on 27 January and was originally scheduled to reach Winter Quarters Bay on 4 February (later updated to the 16th). At right, Happy Delta as seen from the Lyttelton port webcam.

NB Palmer approaching the ice pier
Next up at McMurdo, the Nathaniel B. Palmer shows up briefly (15-18 January) (left) in the midst of a science cruise (Peter Neff photo). And there's the ice pier. It sustained a serious crack and was not strong enough to support ship offload (hence the modular causeway). Original plans were to move it out of the way and use it as the base for next season's ship offload, but that apparently is under review. Meanwhile, here is a 27 January gCaptain article (thanks Chris Rock) describing the arrival of the USCGC Polar Star at McMurdo...with photos of the Ocean Giant and the beginning of the deployment of the modular causeway by the Navy's NCHB-1 along with soldiers from the U.S. Army 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary). Note that I've adjusted the lighting on some of these photos. update with a bit of controversy...on 12 February The Marine Executive published this detailed article describing the causeway installation (thanks again Chris Rock). Of particular interest in this article...some conflicting info. Per the U.S. Army's 7th Transportation Brigade, the weights of the cargo deliveries were too heavy for the Bailey bridge which connects the ice pier to the offload area. But according to the Military Sealift Command the ice pier was "damaged and unusable this year." ???

moving the ice pier
After the Nathaniel B. Palmer departed, Polar Star moved the ice pier out of the way so that the pontoon causeway system could be constructed.
Ocean Giant at the ice pier
Ocean Giant arrived on 25 January and docked at the ice pier.
causeway assembly begun
About 1300 on 26 January...causeway assembly has begun in the foreground.
causeway construction
Things continue at 1520 27 January. The causeway system includes two small pontoon-constructed barges that move the pieces around.
causeway assembly
Just after midnight on the 28th...
causeway extensions
Later that of the ramp extensions is visible, and there's another piece of the pier ready but as yet unattached.
Let's jump back and zoom in on things...thanks to a few photos shared on the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Facebook page on 28 January.
pontoon sections aboard the Ocean Giant
A closeup of rigging operations aboard Ocean Giant Note that some of the causeway sections have been shipped preassembled.
moving pontoon sections
Moving some of the causeway sections toward the assembly site.
lowering a causeway section
Lowering a causeway section, with a barge waiting to move it into position.

Back to saved webcam photos...continued on the next page.