South Pole Timeline 1965-1974

Summer 1964-65

First year of Pole-Plateau traverse sets out from Pole on a zigzag track to the "Pole of Inaccessibility" (POI)(826'S-55E).

the Pole of Inaccessibility in November or December 1965


The expedition would leave their vehicles and equipment at the POI for the winter and return the following season to continue their journey to Plateau Station. At left is a 1965-66 photo of the scene by Edgar Picciotto before the team set out on the second leg (Antarctic Journal, January-February 1966). More information about the Pole of Inaccessibility and the South Pole-Queen Maud Land Traverse, as well as photos, is here.

Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorders put in operation (16 November).

Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder
This 1/96 photo is from Pat Mock. Perhaps these are the same ones from 1965 (or today). Old and reliable technology--sunlight is focused by the glass sphere and chars a line on a calibrated cardboard strip. In most latitudes without 24 hour daylight, only one instrument is needed...

Replacement D-8 shipped in and assembled.

assembling the black D-8
The winter 1964 garage fire destroyed three tractors including one D-8, so this 78,000-pound replacement was shipped in (in sections) and reassembled by a 3-man team, working outside, in 3 weeks. On 8 January the assembled D-8 was used to start construction of the replacement garage, built at the end of fuel cache #1 (official U. S. Navy photo, from the Operation Deep Freeze '65 cruisebook Ten Years of Progress).

Balloon inflation and hydrogen generator buildings replaced.

the first Balloon Inflation Tower The original inflation shelter was at grade level with the rest of the station, with hatch doors in the roof. This eventually got buried. The new H2 generator hut was built on the same grade level, while the inflation tower (which would be destroyed by explosion a year later) was built above the snow with telescoping support columns, with the launch doors on the south (downwind) side. This photo (by Steve Kauffman) was taken from the forward scatter antenna looking northeast; the aurora tower is at left, cosray is at far left, and the Dobson hut is at right.

"Ceremonial flagpole" established.

Welcome to the Ceremonial Pole

The orange and black striped flagpole had, of course, been erected on the roof of the original garage when the station was being constructed in 1956-57. And it was an important stop for visitors...not that there were very many visitors until the ski-equipped LC-130's showed up during the 1960-61 season. But...by 1964, the station was starting to get seriously buried, and folks were warned not to approach the flagpole because of the potential danger of collapsing the station roofs. So the flagpole was moved to the snow surface, where it would become the "ceremonial flagpole" photo op site. When the domed station was completed, the bamboo pole was shortened to near its present length, although the top still had the pulley attached when I showed up in October 1976. At some point after the 1980 winter and before the 1984-85 summer, the pole was further shortened, painted red and white, and the square wooden top with the flagpole pulley attached was replaced with a thicker blue round piece.

This photo is also by Steve Kauffman.


Original field telephone system replaced.

GCA equipment installed; first GCA landing 1/31 with 2 miles visibility

Three icebreakers work into Winter Quarters Bay for the first time.

ships in Winter Quarters Bay Until this season, the cargo ships and tankers ships had tied up at an ice edge some distance away from McMurdo. This year, the USS Glacier, assisted by the USCGC Eastwind and the USS Staten Island created a turning basin and a natural ice wharf, with assistance from Seabees onshore. This was named Elliott Quay after CAPT J. B. Elliott, Jr., the commander of Antarctic support Activities. At left on 18 December, a rare sight...four ships! Clockwise from bottom...the NZ tanker HMNZS Endeavour, the Glacier, cargo ship USNS Pvt. J. R. Towle, and Eastwind. In addition to these four vessels and the Staten Island, the tanker Chatahoochee, cargo ship USNS PVT J. F. Merrell, and cargo vessel USNS Wyandot (which arrived directly from Palmer Station) also called. Tanker Chatahoochie made a total of 3 trips from NZ, and Endeavour made two. A busy season!

Much of the above shipping information is from the Bulletin of the U. S. Antarctic Projects Officer, Volume VI, the January through March issues. The photo above is from the February issue. Other information on the construction of Elliott Quay is from the 1975 Navy Civil Engineering Laboratory report "The man-made McMurdo ice wharf-- history, construction, and performance" which primarily discusses the construction of the first artificial ice pier during the 1973 winter (the breakout of the ice in WQB resulted in subsequent erosion and destruction of the natural Elliott Quay ice edge and its subsequent reinforcement). The report is available here, it includes additional photos (of poor quality as this is a reproduced document).

21-mile VLF antenna near Byrd constructed.

Little Rockford summer weather station closed for the last time.

Palmer Station (Old Palmer) constructed and occupied.

McMurdo dispensary (the present one) construction started.

Winter 1965

OIC: LT R.M. Beasley, population 21 (list and photo).

New record low temperature (7/22), -113.2F/-80.7C.

Room-sized steam bath constructed in the shop building (original garage).

Cosray lab covered with the copper screening to reduce interference.

First w/o at (old) Palmer Station.

U. S. Weather Bureau, Coast and Geodetic Survey, and other agencies consolidated into ESSA (Environmental Science Services Administration) (5/13); ESSA would include the "ESSA Research Laboratories" (ERL), with Pole research based in Boulder.

Byrd USARP guy Carl Disch gets lost between "radio noise" building and main station tunnel during windstorm; he was never found despite extensive winter and summer searches (photos and official Navy reports).

Brockton, a weather station on the Ross Ice Shelf (7845'S-17440W) established in October to replace Little Rockford (7914'S-14729'W near the former LA5-Byrd tractor trail).

North Star Research and Development Institute of Minneapolis assumes contract for operation of McMurdo biolab (and presumably Hallett's as well), October.

Summer 1965-66

The station opening flight was 23 October, the earliest to date.

Bust of Admiral Byrd dedicated at McM (23 October).

the original arrangement of the Byrd bust statue a later arrangement of the statue
At first the memorial was located next to the original chapel; it would be moved and rearranged (!) as seen here, until it ended up in front of the Chalet where it is today (more photos and the rest of the story).

Rob Flint and others pass through on their way to the site of Plateau Station (13 December); that station was constructed (4 modules) and occupied permanently for the next three years at 79S-4030'E.

Second deck added in supply tunnel.

New heating system installed in balloon inflation shelter...

Fire suppression system installed in power plant.

First commercial aircraft flight over Pole (17 November) in a chartered 707.

Flying Tigers 707 that flew over Pole The flight holds several records including the first transpolar round-the-world flight. It was organized and piloted by Fred Austin, who then was a chief pilot for TWA. The aircraft was the Boeing 707-349C #N322F with 35 on board including 5 pilots, scientists studying the atmosphere, and the first test prototype of Litton's inertial navigation system (which worked perfectly). One of the pilots was Bernt Balchen, who had piloted Byrd's flight over Pole in 1929. Balchen was at the controls when this flight passed over Pole (it was plainly visible). He looped around the station several times. The aircraft carried 2 2000-gallon bladders in the main fuselage for extra fuel storage; these sloshed around alarmingly during takeoffs. The flight route was Honolulu/Lon- don/Lisbon/BA/ChC/Honolulu, 15-17 November (photos and stats from Wingnet).

Large iceberg(!) causes problems with the shipping channel.

moving an iceberg
In December this guy floated into the channel... 800 feet long by 200'...and 80' above the waterline. Here the three Navy icebreakers nuzzle it out of the way (31 December 1965)--Burton Island, Atka, and Glacier. About a year later these icebreakers were transferred to the Coast Guard (U.S. Navy photo by A. W. Thomas, Antarctic Journal, March 1966)

This image is from the USAP Antarctic Photo Library. Here is another version.

First year of New Zealand Air Force C-130-H support flights to McM...and US Air Force C-130E aircraft also provide ChCh-McM airlift support.

Three 25,000 gallon DFA bladders added for additional bulk fuel storage.

Two Argentine military teams show up.

flight map


The first was an Air Force venture (a souped-up C-47 and two Beavers) that arrived on 3 November. Later in the season a 10-man Army scientific traverse arrived from Belgrano (more information).

Other summer visitors included Peter Scott (Robert's son) who arrived on an LC-130 flight from McM as part of a BBC film crew.

Balloon explodes while being filled, most of the balloon inflation shelter is destroyed (31 January).

the BIT after a hydrogen explosion Here's what the shelter looked like after the explosion; it had been constructed only a year earlier. The exact cause was undetermined, but hydrogen was routinely used by met for the weather balloons (photo from Henry Storm). Fortunately, the hydrogen generator room below grade was not damaged. An emergency replacement was erected on the original foundation by a 10-man Seabee team from NMCB 6 in less than 2 weeks, it was much smaller, and its doors were oriented more directly downwind than those of the destroyed shelter.; here is a look at the replacement shelter in use (US Navy photo, Antarctic Journal, May 1971).

The first fatality at Pole occurs (14 February), Navy ASA supply w/o SK2 Andrew Burl Moulder is crushed between a cargo sled and the LC-130 during aircraft unloading operations. Visibility was poor, and the tractor driver who was maneuvering the sled could not see that Andrew was between the sled and the LC-130 ramp.

Andrew Burl Moulder

Here is Andrew Burl Moulder at Pole. Please visit my memorial page with photos and tributes from friends and family.

Eights Station (Siple Station predecessor) closed (15 November), its generators and equipment were later shipped to Plateau.

Byrd Longwire, next predecessor to Siple and of similar design and purpose, construction started (10 December) 15 miles from Byrd to use the 21-mile antenna (plus a new 10-mile dipole) for U. of Washington VLF research.

Pole-Plateau Traverse zigzags on to Plateau Station.

McMurdo construction: the original desal plant constructed next to the nuclear plant, along with first water distribution piping and first flush toilets...which were in the new/present dispensary. Desal plant, piping, toilets, and dispensary were tested and shut down until the following season. Also, demo and site prep started for Building 155, and the Earth Sciences Lab (TESL) was completed.

the Thiel Earth Sciences Laboratory
The Thiel Earth Sciences Laboratory, building 138, which was later named for geologist Edward Thiel in 1973-74. Thiel was killed in the 1961 P2V crash at Wilkes. After the geology program was moved to the Crary Lab in the early 1990s, this building became known as F-STOP, home of the "Field Safety Training Program." It was demolished in February 2007 to make way for the new MOGAS tank constructed the following February. (US Navy photo).

Little Jeana weather station closed for the last time.

Winter l966

OIC: LT William R. Griffin, population 18 (list and photos)

After several power failures, PP mechanic installs automatic low frequency alarms (to wake him up if there is a problem).

Plateau evacuated to emergency camp (7/6-15) due to generator problems; pp mechanic fabricates homemade replacement gaskets based on radio advice from Caterpillar.

Winter medevac from McMurdo (7 June, PF1 Robert Mayfield, who'd suffered a ruptured bladder or spleen from a fall)...

and another medevac from Byrd 13 September, aurora physicist Lawrence Spitz with acute peritonitis or appendicitis--LC-130 #319 flew directly back to CHCH from Byrd...no surgery until 3 months later (!).

Brockton weather station moved to 8001'S-17802W (October).

Summer 1966-67

Opening flight 10/19, even earlier than the previous year's record, not beaten until the 10/16/99 flight.

UCLA "Earth Tides" gravity meters installed.

First Navy parachute jump (12/23) at Pole, by Jim Thomann.

Jim Thomann after his historic jump Aviation Electrician's Mate (AE2) Jim Thomann, a member of the VX-6 pararescue team, made the jump from an LC- 130 at an altitude of 16,000' (about 6,000' above the surface). He breathed pure oxygen before jumping from the cargo ramp. This was also the first free fall jump at Pole--Jim delayed deploying his parachute for 10 seconds, by which time he'd fallen 3,500 feet. Earlier in the season, Jim (along with PR2 John Cadwallader) set the Antarctic free fall jump record of 7,000 feet, from an altitude of 9,700 feet above the Ross Ice Shelf (this record probably still stands). The surface temperature at Pole was -40F, with winds of 17 mph. Despite the shifting winds, Jim landed within 600 feet of the Pole. This was Jim's 500th jump. And his photo...thanks!

The pararescue team did later jumps at Pole, including this one when I was there. The first parachute jump was by USAF TSGT Richard Patton back in November 1956!

Generator tunnel end wall rebuilt.

looking down the main tunnel
One of the timber-reinforced tunnels as it appeared when Bob Nyden took this picture in 1971...according to Jim Wallace we're looking past the door into fuel cache #2, with a fuel hose by the door.

McMurdo construction: Building 155 erection begins, desal and fresh water piping systems placed in operation, dispensary occupied.

artist's conception of Building 155

Construction of this massively complex building would take awhile...6 seasons from the beginning of site prep in 1964-65 to final occupancy in 1969-70, although the galley portion of the building was in service a year earlier. This artist's conception of Building 155 appeared in the July 1966 Antarctic Journal, a shadow of the dispensary appears in front of it.

First test landing of C-141 aircraft at the McMurdo ice runway (16 November).

first C-141 at McMurdo

Looks like everyone has his camera out! This would be a common way to get to the ice when there was a good runway available... and after the mid 1990s these aircraft could land at the Pegasus runway in late summer. I rode the last C-141 to fly to McMurdo in January 2005 a week before it made the final such trip (U. S. Navy photo courtesy Mike Davis).

Deep icecap coring project at Byrd begins.

102' met tower constructed at Plateau (similar to the one built at Pole 15 years later).

First ascent of Vinson Massif (12/17), at 16,860' the tallest Antarctic peak, in a USARP-supported venture led by Nicholas Clinch. They collected rock samples and did several other first ascents in the Ellsworth Range.

Palmer pier, fuel tanks constructed, Biolab pad and subfloor completed.

Winter 1967

OIC: LT R. C. Sullivan, population 21 (list and photo)... including the first Soviet exchange scientist Peter Astakhov.

First of 2 winters of major sleep project (EEG tests etc.).

Station evacuated to emergency camp for 24 hours (5/16) due to fumes from a broken 5-gallon can of carbon tetrachloride.

Electric heater falls out of a wall onto the wooden deck and starts smoking (7/4) threatening seismo equipment...no damage.

Trivia: average winter alcohol consumption was 54 cases of beer and 6 cases of liquor for each of the 20 men (some of whom were nondrinkers).

Fire destroys new Willy Field head modules.

First McM planned "winfly" held (actually 2, on 6/18 and 9/2)...here is the 11/67 Antarctic Journal article about it (Adobe PDF file).

Nodwell sinks into an ice crack The 18 June flight included a biology team from Old Dominion College in Norfolk, VA; they were looking at what algae did in the winter. The program involved extensive diving, unfortunately good fast sea ice didn't form until September, restricting access along the normal sea ice routes. On one trip to Cape Royds on 31 July this Nodwell found a crack and sank (Antarctic Journal, March/April 1968) (photo by Graeme Johnstone). Team leader Jacques Zanefeld injured his foot while escaping. Oops. The taillights of the Nodwell stayed on after it sank, casting eerie beams of red light into the night sky. Folks up at the nuclear power plant thought they might be UFO's (graphic from the McMurdo Sometimez). Turns out that one member of the diving team (and the driver of this vehicle) was Dave Bresnahan on his first trip to the ice. Here's a view of the group on another day, with Dave in the "water" (Antarctic Journal, July-August 1968, photo by Bill Boggs). The group left on the second winfly in September.

Summer 1967-68

Major excavation and rehab of power plant and adjacent tunnels.

one of the many Pole power plants This photo looks north along the builders' tunnel, which has been excavated to repair the collapsing power plant (structure at left). Straight ahead is the door of the BU/UT shop building which housed the steam bath and the water tanks. At right is the head. The power plant was moved one more time, to a structure closer to the surface and south of the power plant building shown here. Some of this structure was converted into a small gym in 1969-70 (NOAA photo by Fred Walton).

Long-distance medevac from Halley Bay staged through Pole (5 December).

Weather Bureau (ESSA soon to become NOAA) starts installing the GMCC stuff (geophysical/global monitoring for climatic change, later renamed CMDL).

Summer visitors include Werner Von Braun who joins the 200 club.

Memorial bust of Admiral Byrd (identical to the McM sculpture) dedicated (10/31) (story and photos).

First drill (mechanical) holes through Antarctic ice to rock at Byrd (7100') (1/29) with good 4-1/4" diameter cores (samples were recovered, but a drill became stuck at 6930' (2/1/69) and further recovery efforts during 69-70 were unsuccessful).

Major realignment of McM-Scott Base road completed.

Last of the original DC-3's (R4Ds or LC-47s or gooney birds, whatever) leave the ice.

First tourist vessel shows up at McM (Magga Dan, it runs aground!).

First fossil bone from a land vertebrate is discovered at Graphite Peak (Queen Maud Range)(12/28), it would help confirm what at this time was still the theory of continental drift.

Last leg of Pole-Plateau traverse, postponed for a year, zigzags from Plateau on into Queen Maud Land (7842'S-652'W).

New Palmer construction crew of 33 men completes Biolab which is occupied (3/17), pad for GWR worked on.

McM construction continues massively.

Building 155 under construction Here's an aerial view of the construction progress on Building 155 from the January 1968 Antarctic Journal. In addition to this project, the BFC (Field Party Processing Center) shell was erected along with the pad for building 165); a second desal unit was installed in the "old water plant." Flash desal units would continue to be replaced every few years with different metallurgy until RO units took their place.

First McM "long-duration" (24 hours) ballooning experiments launched from Windless Bight using 300,000 cf balloons, to look for extraterrestrial electrons and X-rays, conducted by PI Martin Pomerantz.

Winter 1968

OIC: LTJG John Hedley, population 21 (list)

Snow melter building destroyed by fire (11 August); no injuries.

Second year of "Sleep" studies.

Fred Walton undergoing the sleep study
Starting with the 1967 winter, the University of Oklahoma spent two years monitoring behavior and sleep patterns at Pole. Methods included questionnaires, interviews, studies of inter- action and leisure time, and electroencephalographic (EEG) tests, such as NOAA guy Fred Walton is undergoing here. The Oklahoma team continued various medical studies at Pole for many years including our 1977 winter...their research teams brought some of the first female USARPs to Pole (NOAA photo from Fred Walton).

First winter of long-running "all-sky camera" auroral photography by S. I. Akasofu (UA-Fairbanks).

Serious roof leaks cause water damage to books, data etc. in science building.

R/V Hero launched (in the US, 28 March) (the story, with photos).

Major generator problems at Plateau; fire destroys garage, temporary evacuations to summer camp required.

Record low temperature at Plateau (-121.3F/-86.2C on 7/20 (some say that if Plateau would have been occupied when Vostok had its low temps, Plateau would have been colder).

Holmes and Narver awarded NSF contract for science support at McM, taking over from North Star R&D.

Summer 1968-69

Significant safety repairs required to enable station operations to continue

Skua sighted (19 December).

Snow melter rebuilt; doubled capacity.

Power plant rehab completed (this wasn't the long term solution to the overheating/settlement problems; a new structure went up a year later).

Met GMD platform/radome structure raised 8' to clear drifting and planned power plant structure.

in the ozone again
One of three ozonesondes launched by the Weather Bureau in December--actually a combined radiosonde/radiometersonde/ozonesonde of the newly developed ECC (electrochemical concentration cell) type. These flights reached an average burst height of 24,457m (about 80,000 feet). Not the first year for ozone balloons--the first ones, several of the carbon- iodine type, were launched the previous summer. ESSA/ NOAA used ozonesondes sporadically between 1967 and 1971, and regularly since 1986 (NSF photo, Antarctic Journal, March/April 1969).

Met GMD platform/radome raised 8' to clear drifting and new power plant structure.

Model of the proposed domed station set out in the snow for a study of snow drifting patterns.

scale model of the proposed station

The one-tenth scale model stayed around for awhile...this U. S. Navy photo appeared in the March 1970 New Zealand journal Antarctic. Here's another photo from Bob Nyden that showed up in the DF-73 ASA/VXE-6 cruisebook.

Major Japanese traverse arrives (19 December).

rising sun
The 12-man glaciology traverse, led by Masayoshi Murayama, had departed on 28 September from the Japanese Showa Station (sometimes spelled Syowa, on East Ongul Island just off the coast, 69S-39.6E, roughly north of Plateau Station), with a refueling stop at Plateau; they stayed on station until after Christmas dinner before retracing their course, again via Plateau Station. They arrived back at Showa on 16 February (U. S. Navy photo; Antarctic Journal, March-April 1969).

Martin Pomerantz and Bartol team launch balloon-borne cosmic ray detectors from the ice near McM--the first year of a 2-season project. Some were tracked for more than 2 days--a precursor to today's long-duration missions.

Pomerantz also brings 2 small telescopes to Pole for summer solar observations and winter use by the cosray observer.

First regularly scheduled C-141 flights to McM (29 October).

VX-6 (Air Development Squadron Six) renamed VXE-6 (Antarctic Development Squadron Six) (1 January).

unicycle at Pole

In recent times some of the long-term station residents have brought mountain bikes to commute to the far reaches of the station. During the 1999-2000 season CARA sponsored a research project to design and test a new prototype bicycle. Here is one of the cycling pioneers--LT John Mander of VXE-6 was a pilot on 320 during 1968-69, and he took this unicycle almost everywhere he went (caption).

First year without picket ships (2 destroyers stationed on the ChCh-McMurdo flight path for weather forecasting). These were no longer needed because of weather satellites.

Inland stations (Pole/Byrd/Plateau) adopt McM/NZ time (+12) during summer

Third major airlift of penguins/skuas etc. from McM to American zoos.

McMurdo construction: shells of Building 165, Hotel California completed; pad for Chalet prepared;

BFC occupied; galley half of 155 completed--first meal served 30 January.

Plateau Station closed (29 January).

Private Convair 990A "Polar Byrd I" passes over Pole (11/22) on McM-Argentina leg of successful round-the-world flight organized by BAE II veteran Fred Dustin (Wingnet link). The flight refueled at McMurdo--never again permitted for a nongovernmental airliner. Here is an article on the venture from Antarctic (the NZ Antarctic Society journal).

NGA solo pilot Max Conrad shows up at Palmer Station (21 December) in his twin-engined Piper Aztec; after continuing south to Adelaide Island, he bags his round-the-world trip until the next season due to the lack of 100-octane fuel on the ice (photo and more information).

Hero shows up at Palmer for the first time (25 December).

Palmer construction/problems--fire destroys construction camp Jamesways (12/18) with no injuries but loss of all personal possessions/clothing; blasting accident in March sends a boulder through the air 100 yards to crash through another Jamesway roof--it hit the Seabee OIC LT Harry Anderson in the head while he was drinking coffee! A medevac was required. All this while the pads for GWR and the helo pad (constructed from runway matting) were being cleared. Later the GWR shell was completed and the small boat ramp was built.

Winter 1969

OIC: LT Bradley J. Bowman, population 20 (list and photos)

August medevac conducted from Byrd due to diabetes complications.

Summer 1969-70

This was the first year with female USARPs working out of McMurdo, 4 OSU geologists headed for a field camp in the Dry Valleys. They plus 1 NZARP and 1 reporter, Jean Pearson of the Detroit News, become the first 6 women at Pole, they all step off the LC-130 ramp at the same time so no one is "first."

the first six women to set foot at Pole
Here is one photo of the 6 women leaving the plane accompanied by RADM Kelly Welch...check out the caption (US Navy photo courtesy Billy-Ace Baker) as well as the rest of the photos courtesy of Kelly Welch.

the last new power plant at Old PoleNew power plant constructed.

The photo at right (from the 1972-73 summer; a US Navy cruisebook photo) looks north at the builders' tunnel; the power plant structure is to the west of the ramp. This was the last of at least 9 power generation buildings (prime and emergency) built at this station. Heat dissipation problems (and resulting settlement) of the buried New power plant in 1970generator plants at Pole was a never-ending problem--at least this structure wasn't buried; rather it was under a large integral arch. Left of the GMD dome is (I think) a garage. Strangely, I don't recall ever seeing this power plant structure from the surface (or from inside the station) when I was there in 1976-77. At left is a view (from 12/70) looking south with the power plant behind the GMD. I presume this plant used those ubiquitous CAT 342 generators. Caption: "Smoke billows from the stacks of the power plant at South Pole Station" (US Navy photo from Dan Bolton).

"Top hats" added to 2 other buildings.

more tophats being added to the buried buildings No, I don't know which building this is, but before it was over all of the older buried buildings ended up with these, 8' high false attics, covered with plywood and sealed with plastic or canvas. These reduced the roof snow load and served as insulation barriers to keep snow from melting and leaking in. U. S. Navy photo, Antarctic Journal, July/August 1970)

Dr. Laurence M. Gould visits to commemorate Admiral Byrd's flight.

Laurence M. Gould at Pole


The 40th anniversary of Byrd's flight from Little America over the South Pole was marked with a brief ceremony on 11/29. Participants included Byrd's pilot Bernt Balchen. Here Larry Gould is laying a plastic wreath at the base of the flagpole (Photo from the Carleton College archives).

Replacement OIC office/store/post office built

Max Conrad tries again from the other direction, arriving on 19 January.

Max Conrad after his aircraft crashed
Max crashed (1/23) while doing practice takeoffs. No injury, but the aircraft was unflyable and is still there, safely buried. Here is the full story, fully revealed here for the first time.

2 Norwegians, the "Flying Vikings," Thor Tjntveit and Einar Sverre Pedersen, show up in a twin-engine Cessna 421 12 hours after Max (20 January).

private Cessna on deck at Pole
They stay 5 hours before returning to MCM. NSF policy for NGA visits such as these: "Such private ventures are charged for fuel and services." More information and another photo...

Average summer population: 36 (this was the last season before new station construction started).

Station design completed; first vessel shipments of dome and arch structural material delivered to McMurdo.

conceptual station design
These early versions of the artist's conception are presumably the ones using a hydrogen generator, since the helium arch seems to be missing.

another conceptual view of the new station

The separate arch near the garage was to be the emergency camp structure, which was part of the final design but it never quite got built. For some reason the artist thought that the buildings inside the dome would have windows! (NSF images; the B&W drawing appeared in the Antarctic Journal, November/December 1971).

Geologist Thomas E. Berg killed (19 November).

Thomas E. Berg

He died in a in VXE-6 helicopter crash on the side of Mt. McLennan. The engine of the aircraft failed; the pilot brought it down using autorotation of the rotor blades, but it slid 700 feet down the slope. Six of the eight men on board survived, but Tom was killed along with NZ cameraman Jeremy Sykes. A memorial service was held in the theater at McMurdo Station on 22 November (obituary).

Siple Station first named and established (12/3) as a summer station for VLF balloon launches and a 1-1/2 mile long antenna.

First "UGO" (unmanned geophysical observatory) set up by Stanford at Byrd (instrument capsule with propane thermoelectric generator on a 20' tower).

McM construction: Barracks half of 155 completed...

CPO lounge in building 155

Here's the Chief Petty Officers' lounge in the new building. I dunno. When I first explored this facility a couple years later, it already was starting to get a bit dowdy, but the building has been massively upgraded since then. This and the next photo are U.S. Navy photos from the July/August 1970 Antarctic Journal.

...Hotel California completed...

The USARP hotel when new
Alas, it would be several years before the Eagles would transform the name of what was originally the USARP Hotel. The photo caption indicated this facility would house 65 people, seemingly about half of them in the bunkroom, AKA "mancamp" which I have experienced more than once, fortunately only one night at a time.

...and the Chalet is completed (in 1 season by H&N crews).

assembling prefab Chalet wall panels the Chalet mostly assembled
They must have had an early start to construction. The picture at left was taken on 9 November 1969. And at above right, the structure is nearly completed. H&N construction folks spent the next couple of summers coating those precast concrete foundation piers with polyurethane to seal out moisture that was causing freeze-thaw damage. (Left photo by RM3 Ken "Hogman" Trettin, WO McMurdo DF-70; right U. S. Navy photo from the Antarctic Journal, July/August 1970)

First year with only one tanker delivery to McM; until now lack of fuel storage had required multiple trips with smaller ships.

Palmer GWR completed.

Winter 1970

OIC: LT Dean E. Fadden, population 21 (list and photos)

Old Pole comm center


The comm center in 1970, a bit more brightly lit than it was when I visited it a few years later (caption/info) (courtesy Billy-Ace Baker).

First (and only) midwinter refueling of McM nuclear plant.

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) formed (3 October).

Taking a Dobson observation
The Federal reorganization of environmental and physical research agencies had been proposed to Congress in July. One concept had included the Coast Guard, but they were left out of the final plan. In any case, NOAA soon consolidated and expanded its research presence in and around Antarctica.

At left, an observer with ESSA (one of the major agencies consolidated into NOAA) is operating a Dobson spectrophotometer in the Dobson hut (undated NSF photo from around 1969-70). This device (which was invented by the British meteorologist G.M.B. Dobson in the 1920s) determines the amount of ozone in the atmosphere by measuring the absorption by ozone of UV light from the sun or moon.

Air Force C-133 CargoMaster, largest aircraft to land in Antarctica to date, makes first flight to McMurdo (10/21).

Summer 1970-71

Opening flight (31 October) is also a medevac for ill Navy w/o.

First of many visits by Dr. Harold Muchmore and team to take nose samples etc.

New station construction started (barely) with preliminary site prep and surveys.

Peter Snow Miller preparing the dome foundation

Here's one of those famous or infamous Peter Snow Millers hard at work during the 1970-71 summer...this one seems to be doing well here, but they really couldn't handle the Pole altitude and snow conditions (photo from Gary Brougham).

Top hats (high roofs to replace crushing snow load) installed on two buildings; old power plant turned into rec building/gym, tunnel shoring added.

tophat construction
Construction of a top hat is underway, this is the USARP barracks, we are looking southeast, the balloon inflation shelter is in the back- ground behind the construction, and the aurora tower is at left. This photograph illustrates that the station is not THAT deeply buried, note the snow levels behind the construction area (US Navy photo from the Antarctic Journal, May 1971).

Pegasus (C-121J) crashes at McM (8 October) with only minor injuries.

crashed C-121 Constellation

This was last season of these Super Constellation aircraft on the ice (photos and crash story by Noel Gillespie on Dave Riley's web site) (Photo from Larry Lister).

Siple antenna extension to 13 miles partially completed.

McM construction: Building 165 (Admin) and 175 (originally Public Works, just below heavy shop) occupied; incinerator pad prepared; first copper-nickel flash evaporator installed to supplant corroding carbon-steel desal units; Elliot Quay facing completed.

Elliott Quay at McMurdo The multiyear project was extended because the first cargo ship Towle ran into it earlier in the season, and the second cargo ship Wyandot ran into it after this work was completed. And of course we know this massive bit of construction didn't last very long (Antarctic Journal, May 1971). The icebreaker in this February photo is the Staten Island; the Burton Island was also present this season, not to mention the cruise ship Lindblad Explorer which made two trips.

Coast Guard HH-52A helicopter crashes at 12,000 feet on the northwest side of Mt. Erebus (9 January).

helicopter crash on Mt. Erebus
There were 4 souls on board, two crew and two pax including writer Charles Neider, who documented the events (sort of) in his book Edge of the World, Ross Island, Antarctica. The destination was Cape Bird, but they never made it. There were no serious injuries despite a reported lack of ECW gear. This photo is from, well, let's just say a Polie friend who happened to be there. Here's the story and more photos.

The "Pederson South Pole Expedition" shows up in ChCh in mid-January with a Connie loaded with snowmobiles for a planned McM-Pole trek. to recover Max Conrad's aircraft. They don't get clearance, and it doesn't happen, but they did have plans to try again, but did not (the full story).

Byrd Longwire closed (12/29) after a month of VLF studies by Irene Peden, the first USARP female to spend time at an inland station; modules and antenna are shipped to McM for rehab for Siple.

BFC dedicated for Tom Berg (geologist killed in a field helo accident 11/69).

First LC-130 accident (2/15), 318 is destroyed by fire on takeoff from Williams Field.

crashed plane at Williams Field "The third plane lost during Deep Freeze 71 was an LC-130F, BUNO 148318 on February 15,1971. The Hercules was taxiing on the skiway at Williams Field for a flight to Christchurch. It taxied around the GCA...in poor visibility, and the left main ski went up over a 5 1/2 foot snow bank. The right wing hit the ground and broke between the two engines. A fire, feed by fuel and fanned by high winds destroyed the aircraft (VXE-6, 1971)" (from "United States Aircraft Losses in Antarctica," Antarctic Journal, January 1974). The photo is by Don Leger.

Winter 1971

OIC: LTJG Kevin Gallen, population 21 (list and photo).

USARP barracks rehabbed.

Former power plant converted to gym/recreation area.

W/O science (typical for this era): gravity/seismo (UCLA); met (NOAA), geomag/ seismo (NOAA), ionospheric studies (NOAA), cosray (Bartol).

CBU-201 (the Navy Seabee unit responsible for major Antarctic construction tasks) disestablished (5/7); to be replaced by units of NMCB-71.

"Holy Stairs" vestibule, the final/present main entrance, constructed, with a balcony, the marble plaque and Scott's and Amundsen's portraits.

Holy Stairs station entrance

The main entrance to South Pole Station as it appeared during the 1971-72 season. It was nicknamed the "Holy Stairs" perhaps because of all of the signs and flags mounted on it... but I've never learned the real reason for the name. (Bob Nyden's photo)

Summer 1971-72

John Rand shows up with CRREL team for major drilling project, failure at 10'.

South Pole 1971-72 scene

This was John Rand's first of what would be many trips to Pole--he spent much of the summer on station. Here's his photo of the place, looking in roughly the same direction as the above photo. The Holy Stairs main entrance is at left.

Site prep for the dome completed; utilidor 80% done; dome foundation blocks and base ring constructed.

First round-the-world via the poles solo flight by Elgen Long passes over Pole (11/21) enroute from PA to McM in a twin-engine Piper Navajo. This flight was officially sanctioned; a LC-130 aircraft had been positioned at Pole for potential escort or search duty if the weather turned bad. Here's a quote from Elgen about his Antarctic flight, with a link to additional info...

T-5 dismantled at McM, shipped to Pole and erected for construction camp garage.

Finn Ronne and wife show up briefly to mark 60th anniversary of Amundsen's and Scott's arrival (7 December).

the Ronnes at Pole

Finn and Edith "Jackie" Ronne were the first married couple to visit Pole together, and Jackie was probably the eighth woman to stand at the Pole. This photo shows them presenting two commemorative color prints to the station... (more details and credit)

First female to stay overnight--Chicago Tribune reporter Louise Hutchinson (12/7), who was covering the 60th anniversary commemoration, was stranded due to flight and weather delays.

LC-130 getting ready to take off
Some things seem to look the same, but the original runway seen here was on the far side of the old IGY station. Here we are looking northwest, Old Pole is behind us, and further behind us is the site of the new/current skiway and the domed station construction. An LC-130 can be seen taking off; at right is one corner of the GCA radome (photo by GCA guy Ron May who slept in that radome...)

LC-130 #321 crashes at D59 (12/4), another JATO problem (Antarctic Journal article) (full story).

Original Stanford UGO shipped from Byrd, set up at McM.

Little Jeana vans moved to Brockton.

Buried Byrd Station (the second one) closed (19 February); future support operations to be from "Byrd Surface Camp." Among many artifacts left behind is a black D-8 that came from LAV in 1957.

Siple construction: arch completed and enclosed; 13-mile antenna completed.

McMurdo incinerator completed.

new incinerator building

The incinerator in this building was successfully tested, but it was never used for various reasons... (more information and photos).

Other McM construction: fire station/phone exchange building occupied; transmitter building shell erected; new Williams Field berthing modules assembled, pad for sewage treatment plant prepared; (the sewage plant never was built).

McM biolab dedicated the Eklund Biological Center (EBC) (27 February) for Carl R. Eklund.

Dedication of the Eklund Biological Center at McMurdoThe first part of the laboratory had been built in 1959, and it had been expanded many times since then (floor plan). The main portion of the dedication was held in the Chalet; then the party moved outdoors (photo), where NSF rep George Llano unveiled the the dedication plaque. From left: Sayed El-Sayed (Texas A&M), Llano, Mary Alice McWhinnie (DePaul), and Betty Landrum (Smithsonian; photo source and more information). Eklund spent 2 years at East Base with the USAS, and was the science leader at Wilkes for the 1956- 57 summer/winter. He died in 1962 (biography from the USAS East Base site). The biolab was demolished in the early 1990s after the replacement Crary Lab was opened.

Brockton closed for the last time (February).

Winter 1972

OIC: William R. Talutis, population 22 (list and photo).

Top hat over the galley collapses requiring major winter excavation effort.

March McM storm destroys 3 years of Elliott Quay pier facing.

McM nuclear plant shut down 9/18 for leaks, would never be restarted.

Summer 1972-73

 

Construction camp for 130 men (the one that would burn in 10/76) built near new station.

construction camp for the domed station

Here's the then-new construction camp--the Last Chance Saloon porch is on the right, Straight ahead in the distance is the rising skeleton of the Dome (photo from Bob Nyden) (here is the rest of the story about the construction camp). The Navy construction crew on site for new station was 102 men.

Snow miller problems continue to slow new station foundation construction.

Wheeled aircraft tests conducted on taxiway surface prepared with the Peter snow miller (I guess the tests didn't work).

USGS sets up first Doppler satellite tracking geoceiver system; schedules first w/o's.

50x12 foot structure for helium bottles constructed south of balloon inflation building; helium was being used for met balloons and Gill hydrogen generator was partially dismantled.

917 crash-lands on new skiway in front of dome (1/28), no injuries and most cargo is salvaged, aircraft a total loss.

917 just after it crashed at Pole

This view of the crash scene was taken the day afterward by Ralph Lewis, who was on the first flight into Pole after the accident. Here are more pictures including another view of the wreckage a year later with more info. For many more photos and the crash story, jump directly to Joe Hawkins' 917 page...

Experimental Rodriguez well constructed under NCEL direction; placed in service after successful production of 1000 gallons per day (the concept had been developed by Army engineer Raul Rodriguez at Camp Century, Greenland in 1960-61).

Utilidor finished; dome erection completed (1/4) after assistance from Huck fastener tech rep; half of arches erected; building erection deferred.

Byrd Surface Camp erected.

Glomar Challenger discovers traces of hydrocarbons beneath the Ross Sea, stirring interest in mineral development.

"International Square" (area with flags and Byrd bust) erected at McMurdo.

Other McM construction: B-75 (rehab for gym) completed.

DVDP (Dry Valley Drilling Project) does first drilling, test holes near McM.

Hallett Station closed. It had been used for summer penguin studies for many years.

Siple Station (I) permanent structures completed and turned over (1/25), occupied.

Winter 1973

OIC: LT Fred Walcott, population 22 (list and photos)

Rodriguez well freezes up after DFA in boiler fuel line (no heat tape) congeals.

Doctor Ron Swarsen conducts w/o study of fingernail ridge growth.

First Siple winter (4 men); new transmitter sends first VLF signals from Siple to Roberval, Quebec (12 May).

First McM midwinter airdrop, done by RNZAF P-3 Orion aircraft.

First McM ice wharf constructed after major difficulties with previous "Elliott Quay".

Summer 1973-74

Removal of PM3A nuclear plant in McMurdo begins (9 October).

Bernt Balchen, Byrd's pilot on the 1929 Pole flight, dies at age 73.

Major power problems at old station, 2 generators hard down for awhile.

Navy (mostly) construction crew is on site at Pole for new station: 146 men; H&N crew works on utilities in utilidor, fuel piping, and other utility systems.

Zoller's air sampling hut arrives, is deployed upwind of the station (not far enough the first time, too much contamination from LC-130's).

Franz Lazi atthe Holy Stairs entrance The holy stairs in 73-74...this hero shot of the European photographer Franz Lazi shows the best detail I've seen of the memorabilia on the west side (those photos of Scott and Amundsen were moved to the library/pool room in the dome; they are now in the elevated station). Notice the door on the left side, there is a small arrow pointing to the "entrance." Unfortunately that arrow wasn't there in 1976, and we wasted a lot of time digging looking for the door. This photo is from Lazi's 1980 book "Antarktis, Antarctica, Antarctique." He made several trips to the ice in the 70's and at least 2 visits to Pole.

Parachute jump at Pole, on Christmas Eve by 4 members of VXE-6 pararescue team, from a true altitude of 12,800'. This wasn't the first such evolution.

Speaking of Christmas, here's a look at the ceremonial Pole in December 1973.

Christmas tree at Pole, December 1973

Complete with a (small) Christmas tree, not to mention the traditional signpost, one of many things that disappeared when the Navy left. This photo is courtesy of Charlie Richardson.

NOAA/GMCC "clean air" project expanded, moved to top floors of aurora tower.

NASA installs tracking equipment for proposed winter "Project Hawkeye" satellite launch.

First significant female science contingent, 2 biomed techs--Donna Muchmore (Dr. Harold's wife) and Nan Scott from U of OK spend 2 weeks on station.

the supply tunnel entrance

Looking north at the supply tunnel in about 1974. Behind the tractors you can catch a glimpse of the RAWIN dome atop the galley building, as well as the surface power plant. (Antarctic Journal, March/April 1975, with help from Jeff Kietzmann).

First documented bicycle ride at Pole (January).

Frank Brier on a bicycle This is Frank Brier, then a research structural engineer with the Civil Engineering Laboratory (later the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory, NCEL) at Port Hueneme. The particulars--Frank and fellow engineer Joe Barthelemy smuggled a disassembled bicycle to the ice in their ECW gear, and put it together at Pole. Their trip around the world took about 10 seconds, the weather was sunny and -25F with a 10 knot wind. The Pole was marked with a 4x4 post. I first met Frank in 1976 in Anaheim when he was reviewing the Clean Air Facility drawings; he later was the NSF facilities director for most of the elevated station construction. At the time Frank said he'd submit the feat to the Guinness Book of World Records (US Navy photo). Here's a larger photo which includes the caption, and here is another photo (of either Frank or Joe) from epicrides.com.

Oh, this may have been the first two-wheeled cycle ridden at Pole, but this unicycle made its appearance in 1968-69.

Navy/civilian construction crew peaks at 146; utilidor and arch construction completed, last module delivered 12/15, most buildings shelled out. NMCB-71 turns over station construction to NSF/H&N at the end of summer (7 February).

UC Davis group shows up for preliminary micrometeorology study--to provide design data for the future project at the domed station.

H&N awarded support contract for Hero/Palmer operations.

Penguin Power and Light (McM power plant) gets 2 more 500kw White diesels making 6 total (needed now that nuclear plant is dead).

Siple dipole antenna raised for the first time.

DVDP does its first holes in the Dry Valleys.

First AFRTS TV broadcast at McM (9 November).

McM snowcraft survival (Happy Camper) school gets first NZARP instructor, mountaineer Colin Monteath.

Thiel Earth Sciences Lab (TESL) at McMurdo named for Edward Thiel, who had been killed in 1961 plane crash at Wilkes. The building, uphill from the BFC, was later the location of "F-stop"; it was demolished in 2006-07 to make way for new fuel tanks.

Winter 1974

OIC: LT Bob Braddock, population 21 (list and photo)...

...as the venerable IGY station enters its last year of life.

the Holy Stairs, main station entrance, in 1974
It turns out that the last winter in this drafty drippy place was surprisingly well documented by unknown photographer(s). A few years ago a winterover discovered a large collection of negatives in the old station... including this photo of the main entrance...and many others of life, times, smiles and glum faces. This is really a unique bit of history, and if anyone recognizes any of the folks depicted, please let me know. Check out the lot!

Stanford AWS tested; powered by 10-watt radioisotope generator after the TEG fails.

Scott's memorial cross on Ob Hill blown over by major July/August storms.

the cross on Observation Hill

The storms did minor damage to several McMurdo buildings; more significantly they drove out much of the annual ice at the end of the winter, blocking access to Marble Point. A team from Scott Base uprighted the cross in its original foundation on 24 September, presumably the first repairs since its 1913 erection by members of the British Antarctic Expedition. In 1913 it took seven men two days to haul the cross, made of Australian jarrah wood, to the top of the hill. "It was well secured, and will remain in position for an indefinite period," wrote an expedition member. The 1913 photo at left is by Frank Debenham (Antarctic Journal, November/December 1974). As a comparison, here's my January 1977 hero shot at the cross.

First female w/o's at McM; SSL Mary Alice McWhinnie and Mary Odile Cahoon.

PICO established for future RISP and other ice drilling projects.

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