MCMURDO STATION, Antarctica (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command (MSC) dry cargo ship MV American Tern (T-AK 4729) left the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station in Antarctica Feb. 12, after delivering a year's worth of equipment and stores as part of Operation Deep Freeze.
MSC ice-strengthened tanker USNS Lawrence H. Gianella (T-AOT 1125) also participated in the operation. This is the research station's annual replenishment of supplies.
Gianella arrived at McMurdo's ice pier Jan. 28 and delivered nearly 6 million gallons of fuel to power the station's generators, vehicles, helicopters and research boats before departing Feb. 3.
American Tern arrived Feb. 8 and, as soon as its brow dropped, 59 Sailors from a Navy cargo handling battalion began working around the clock to offload 12 million pounds of equipment and supplies for the 1,500 researchers and support personnel who work on the continent each year.
"Without the cargo delivered by our ships each year, McMurdo would not be able to function," said Rick Appling of MSC's Sealift Logistics Command Pacific.
MSC delivers more than 70 percent of the dry cargo and 100 percent of fuel that is taken to the continent each year.
Equally important, however, is the cargo that MSC takes off of the continent. This year nearly 5 million pounds of items ranging from precious ice core samples to all the waste that McMurdo Station has accumulated over the past year were loaded onto American Tern before it departed.
On its last day in port, American Tern successfully transferred fuel to the Swedish icebreaker Oden, which arrived in the area in advance of the two MSC ships and broke a channel through about 18 miles of ice that blocked the ships' access to McMurdo.
MSC operates approximately 110 noncombatant, merchant mariner-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea, around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.
For more news from Military Sealift Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MSC/.