posted 1/20/2006 10:28:00 PM UTC+12, McMurdo Local Time
I'm aiming for information overload here
So the deal is they’re having a hard time cutting the channel through the ice into the McMurdo pier, and its delaying the arrival of the container ship and the fuel tanker. The Russian icebreaker that’s cutting the channel broke down. One of the blades on one of its propellers broke off. They are sending down a dive team, and they plan on cutting off the blade opposite the blade that fell off so the breaker can operate at 75% of full power. McMurdo closes later than the pole, so its not such a big deal for McMurdo if the container ship doesn’t come in on time. But, they can’t fly pole supplies that come in on the container ship down here if it comes in late. So, they are unloading the pole supplies off the container ship in Christchurch, and then flying the stuff down to McMurdo, and then down to pole. Unfortunately the Pole supplies are in the bottom of the container ship, so they have to unload the whole thing, then reload it again.
And as the emails indicate, with the late arrival of the tanker they are running very low on AN8 fuel, which is what we need here at the Pole. AN8 has a low freezing point, whereas JP5 can be used in McMurdo because it doesn’t get as cold. So, they’re running as much as they can on JP5 in McMurdo in order to conserve AN8. We’re getting 7 flights a day down here, and often we get very late flights arriving at 2 or 3 in the morning. And the end of the season is rapidly approaching, so there are employee evaluations to do, end of season reports, fuel numbers to run, etc etc. Too much paperwork, not enough time outside. But, in 5 weeks I’ll be sitting on a warm sunny beach in New Zealand :)
And, the long, more detailed version of things by Jim Scott, McMurdo Area Director
From: Scott, Jim
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2006 11:54 AM
To: Yelvington, Tom; DeMaria, Louis; Grant, BK; Embree, Mike; Kottmeier,
Steve; Chuck, Kerry; Cook, Larry; Taube, Scott; Turnbull, William
Cc: Dormand, Lynn; Carroll, Valerie; Walker, Paula
Subject: Vessel & Ice Channel Update 1-20-06
The situation swings between optimistic to dismal on a 12- to 24-hour
scale. The escort of the GIANELLA to the 21-mile parking spot proceeded
without problems. The KRASIN's first cut through the re-frozen channel
was also encouraging, as the ice from mile 21 to mile 12 was quite easy
and there appeared to be none of the lateral pressure which caused
problems in channel maintenance last week. Now there are number of very
tough segments of the channel, as well as difficulties in the turning
The KRASIN does not seem to be significantly impeded by the lessened
function of the starboard prop however, the shear volume of the ice in
the channel is staggering. The KRASIN is effective at milling this ice
but the ice chunks, no matter their size, have no where to go and thus
have turned the channel into a thick porridge which the KRASIN continues
At 1700 yesterday, the KRASIN, had completed at least four round trips
in the lower channel. Even so, the Captain's are not optimistic about
getting the GIANELLA to the wharf under current conditions without
performing a close-tow (coupled escort). This method is of last resort.
They continue to brainstorm ideas for a workable solution as they
proceed with channel milling.
The Captains believe that an additional icebreaker, unless greater in
the beam than the GIANELLA, will not help much, if at all, in getting
the vessels down the channel and to the ice wharf.
That said, there was a moderate south wind yesterday morning and it
freshened as the day progressed. The outer channel and 5 to 9 miles of
the inner channel are ripe for blow out (or at least becoming pack ice
instead of fast ice).
Assuming the tanker will NOT make it to the pier prior to Feb 8-9 it
appears that there is sufficient quantities of AN-8 to provide Spole
with planned for amounts. As of today, they required 229,833 gallons.
Estimated usage to transport is 600K-650K. The total conservative
number of AN-8 needed is ~880K and McM currently has 1,024,469 gals of
At this point, it is thought that the tanker will get to the pier, but
maybe not in time to keep from running out of AN-8 in McM. The impacts
in McM are negligible at this time as there is sufficient inventories of
JP-5 and mogas for normal station ops...if the 109th will change over to
JP-5. NSF will be requesting the 109th to change over.
The NBP still requires a port call and it has not yet been figured into
the mix. Discussion today was to ask them to transit the channel to get
a better "feel" of impacts to ship movement. They may be requested to
assist in an escort if feasible.
The divers are due in either Sunday or Tuesday and if the Krasin agrees
to repairs onsite, they will be probably be performed early next week.
McM is lining up requested items and support as requested.
Due to ice edge on Tuesday, Jan 24th. McM will transition to vessel
shifts on Monday.
Arrived in McM yesterday, Thursday, Jan 19.
Next update-Jan 21, '06.
McMurdo Area Director
My take on the above things
Icebreaker broke, pole's behind on fuel, the channel's full of chunks of ice, and the tanker still isn't here. We're running really low on AN-8, and will probably be out in roughly two weeks unless the tanker can start offloading before then. The upside is that unless the tanker somehow manages to come in after some time in late March, I'll win the pool at work where we were guessing when the tanker would come in. It pays to be a pessimist sometimes! Not sure where Jim's numbers came from, but I think his outlook is a tad optimistic for two reasons.
First, I don't think we've got a million usable gallons of AN-8 on station unless there's a couple hundred thousand gallons of fuel hiding somewhere that I don't know about. Might be closer to a million gallons if you count the little bit left in the very bottom of our bulk tanks, but since there's no practical way to get it out, it might as well not be there.
Second, there are some practical difficulties in using every drop of AN8 that we have. If we pumped every drop of AN8 out of our bulk tanks to Willy, then pumped everything we could out of the tanks there into airplanes, we would still be approaching 100,000 gallons of AN8 sitting in the pipeline, Willy hose, and the bottom of the aviation tanks. To move that fuel out, we'd have to start pumping out JP5, but -unless I'm mistaken- we couldn't use any of that blend of JP5/AN8 for pole fuel flights anymore as it's gell point would be unknown (since it's a blend,) so it's essentially a loss as far as getting fuel to pole goes. All the pole that gets delivered to pole has to be straight AN8. So, aside from the infrasturcture holding fuel, there's the issue of how to send all the AN8 to pole without sending it other places. The LC130s fly not only from McMurdo to Pole, but also to the larger field camps and to Christchurch. If we wanted to only put JP5 on those flights, we don't have any practical way to do that without switching our infrastructure from AN8 to JP5, and therefore losing that nearly 100,000 gallons of AN8 as mentioned above. So, basically as long as we're sending AN8 to pole, we have to be sending AN8 to other places, and will therefore need to have significantly more AN8 on hand than it would take to send out the required tanker flights to Pole. Sticky situation for sure!
My take on things is basically that, unless the tanker gets in in roughly a week and a half to two weeks, we're going to run out of AN8 before the south pole gets as much fuel as they want. Things will get really interesting if that happens. Now, whether they actually need as much fuel as they want is another question alltogether, and one that I really don't know enough about to make any comments on it. At any rate, the tanker will get here when it gets here, and we'll do our best either way. Will keep this thing posted when I can.