History:

Opened 16th February 1956.  The Station is in use year round. McMurdo was originally called, Naval Air Facility McMurdo.

Location:

Ross Island, McMurdo Sound – (77°51′S 166°40′E)

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McMurdo Station

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McMurdo Station -77.850000, 166.666667 McMurdo Station

Notes:

Between February and October, residents of McMurdo do not have any contact with the outside world except via the Navy shortwave radio and teletype system, the military MARS radio system, and ham radio. In addition to the Mars radio system operated by the US Navy, a major communication system for the wintering over personnel are ham radio connections to stateside ham radio operators running phone patches. A phone patch is the connection of a telephone line to the ham radio so that a person at McMurdo can talk to family back in the US one way at a time with frequent use of ‘over’ to tell the radio operators at both ends to switch from transmitting to receiving. McMurdo has a telephone system known as Penguin Bell (need to only dial 3 digits). The radio amateur in the US typically made collect telephone calls to the destination party. Connections are made when the amateur bands are available (from a quality point of view), typically in the late afternoon McMurdo time and late evening and night the previous day in the US. Some US amateurs specialized in assisting these phone patches and spent countless hours running the phone patches.

McMurdo Station receives both Internet and voice communications by satellite communications with NASA’s NPOESS Satellite. A satellite dish at Black Island provides 20Mbit/s Internet connectivity and voice communications. Voice communications are tied into the Raytheon Polar Services Company’s headquarters in Centennial, Colorado providing inbound and outbound calls to McMurdo from the US.

The residents at McMurdo are truly on their own for seven months. One has to be prepared for all contingencies. A doctor and two corpsmen provide the medical care. McMurdo has 24 hour darkness for 4 months and the last sunset in April is worthy of note. Midwinter’s day in June is a major celebration and seeing the sun peak above the horizon for the first time in late August brings joy to the residents. The long dark period, the cold temperatures, the violent storms, and beauty of the auroras all bring home that the human individual is so insignificant relative to the beautiful but very hostile environment.

An annual sealift by cargo ships as part of Operation Deep Freeze delivers 8 million US gallons (6.6 million imperial gallons/42 million L) of fuel and 11 million pounds (5 million kg) of supplies and equipment for McMurdo residents. Cargo may range from mail, construction materials, trucks, tractors, dry and frozen food, to scientific instruments. Additional supplies and personnel are flown in to nearby Williams Field from Christchurch, New Zealand. A variety of fruits and vegetables are grown in a hydroponic green house at the station.

McMurdo has attempted to improve environmental management and waste removal over the past decade in order to adhere to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed October 4, 1991 and entered into force January 14, 1998. This agreement prevents development and provides for the protection of the Antarctic environment through five specific annexes on marine pollution, fauna, and flora, environmental impact assessments, waste management, and protected areas. It prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources except scientific. A new waste treatment facility was built at McMurdo in 2003 that greatly exceeds the requirements of the treaty. McMurdo (nicknamed “Mac-Town” by its residents) continues to operate as the hub for American activities on the Antarctic continent.

Science programmes:

The primary focus of the work done at McMurdo Station is science, but most of the residents (approximately 1,000 in the summer and fewer than 200 in the winter) are not scientists, but station personnel who are there to provide support for operations, logistics, information technology, construction, and maintenance.

Area and buildings:

On 3rd March 1962, operators activated a prefabricated nuclear power plant at the Station. Reportedly, the reactor replaced the need for 1,500 US gallons (5,700 L) of oil daily. Engineers applied the reactor’s power, for instance, in producing steam for the salt water distillation plant. In 1972, the U.S. Army Nuclear Power Program decommissioned the plant.

Today, McMurdo Station is Antarctica’s largest community and a functional, modern day science station, which includes a harbour, 3 airfields (2 seasonal), a heliport and over 100 buildings.

Interesting Trivia:

  • McMurdo the largest Antarctic station
  • The Base was named for Lieutenant Archibald McMurdo of HMS Terror, which first charted the area in 1841 under the command of British explorer James Clark Ross.
  • British explorer Robert Falcon Scott first established a base close to this spot in 1902 and built Discovery Hut, still standing adjacent to the harbour at Hut Point.
  • The station is also home to the continent’s only ATM, provided by Wells Fargo Bank.
  • There is an Admiral Byrd Memorial at the Station.
  • Vince’s Cross:  British Able Seaman George Vince, a member of Scott’s Discovery expedition, died March 11, 1902, the first recorded death in McMurdo Sound.

 

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