NCHB-1 Departs for Peacetime Mission in Antarctica

The Military Sealift Command-chartered tanker ship MV Maersk Peary, provides fuel to the National Science Foundation-chartered scientific-research vessel R/V Nathanial B. Palmer at McMurdo Station ice pier. Maersk Peary is in Antarctica offloading fuel in support of the annual Operation Deep Freeze Antarctica resupply mission and will supply 100 percent of fuel needed for the upcoming year. (U.S. Navy photo by Larry Larsson/Released)


More than 48 Sailors from Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) active duty battalion Navy Cargo Handling Battalion (NCHB 1), left Williamsburg, Va., this past January for a peacetime mission in support of the National Science Foundation.

 NCHB 1, the only Navy detachment supporting the National Science Foundation research at the South Pole, arrived at Ross Island, Antarctica, in late January and made port at McMurdo Station, the southern-most navigable harbor in the world.

 Once there, Navy cargo handlers met Military Sealift Command-chartered tanker ship, MV Maersk Peary, to offload 20 million pounds of fresh supplies to support the scientists and researchers living year-round in the brutal environment.  Cargo handlers worked around the clock for seven to 10 days in the continuous sunlight of the Antarctic summer.

 “NCHB 1 has been a part of Operation Deep Freeze for more than 50 years,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Evans, executive officer for NCHB 1.  “Our Sailors who participate in this mission get the very unique experience of stepping on a continent that few have the opportunity to travel to.”

 Despite working 12-hour shifts in the harshest conditions, Sailors competed for the chance to go.  “It’s an experience that can be remembered forever,” said LSSN Cory Lord.  “Not many people get to go on an adventure like this.”

 The Navy has supported expeditions to Antarctica for more than a half century.  Their specialized training and equipment continue to make them well-suited for the job.

 “In a normal port entry operation, we would contract stevedores locally to offload,” said Benjamin Peabody deputy Operations from MSC’s Sealift Logistics Command Atlantic.  “However, McMurdo Station is a once a year visit and without those Sailors, we could not accomplish the total mission.”

 Once the fresh supplies were offloaded, the previous year’s trash was hauled aboard the ship.  By international agreement, researchers must save and export all waste to preserve the pristine polar environment.  The return shipment included ice core samples that provided scientists who studied global climate change with information about the composition of the atmosphere hundreds of thousands of years ago.

 By MCC(SW/AW) Edward Kessler

Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group Public Affairs Officer