An LC-130 Hercules “Ski Bird” belonging to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing evacuated seven badly burned crew members of a South Korean ship from the United States McMurdo Station in Antarctica to Christchurch, New Zealand, on Jan. 13.
The seven crew members–four Vietnamese and three Indonesians–were injured when the crew compartment of the 167–foot long fishing vessel Jeong Woo 2 caught fire in the Ross Sea, 372 miles from McMurdo Station and 2,301 miles from New Zealand on Jan. 11.
“Most days we transport cargo and passengers to a variety of outposts. On this day, we were the ambulance driver,” said Major Josh Neilson, the plane’s pilot.
Neilson and Tech Sgt. Randy Powell, the loadmaster on the flight, spoke to Albany, N.Y.-area reporters about the incident during a press conference on Jan. 20. They outlined the wing’s role in the rescue.
The wing provides logistic support to National Science Foundation research efforts in Antarctica and Greenland.
Nearby vessels rescued 37 of the 40 crew members from South Korea, Vietnam, Russia and Indonesia. Three crew members died.
Responding to a request by the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center, the National Science Foundation research vessel, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, transported the injured crewmen from the Jeong Woo 2, to McMurdo Station, the United States Antarctic Program’s main research and logistical hub. Medical personnel at McMurdo then prepared the individuals for transport to Christchurch.
“When we loaded the patients, you could see the apprehension on their faces, knowing they had been rescued from a burning ship, flown by helicopter to the ice cap and loaded onto a C-130 with skis was way out of their routine,” Tech Sgt. Randy Powell, the crew’s loadmaster said.
“They didn’t speak English so our only way to communicate was with hand signals. The thumbs up and smiles we received after the 2,300 mile, eight and a half hour flight was a clear sign they were grateful and relieved to be rescued,” Powell said.
The New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, based here, flies the only ski-equipped aircraft in the United States military.
This is not the first time the 109th Airlift Wing has been involved in rescue missions.
In November 2008 a crew from the 109th Airlift Wing transported an Australian Antarctic Division employee from Antarctica to Hobart, Australia after the Australian researcher suffered multiple fractures to his leg.
And in 1999 a crew from the 109th landed an LC-130 at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to pick up Dr. Jerri Nielsen who was treating herself for breast cancer. The crew landed earlier in the Arctic spring than had ever been done in the past.
Posts Tagged ‘Antarctica’
I saw some of these guys at work in the wreckage of Christchurch on New Zealand TV a couple of days ago.
All 26 members of the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, currently deployed in support of Operation Deep Freeze, are safe and unharmed after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the New Zealand capitol of Christchurch today.
The Air Guard wing will remain in Christchurch and are scheduled to begin returning home this week on two of the unit’s three LC-130 Hercules cargo planes, which are a ski-equipped version of the C-130 Hercules used in the Arctic and Antarctic, Air Force Col. Timothy LaBarge said today.
“We’re making very good progress to have everybody depart New Zealand per schedule,” he said.
Another LC-130 will remain in New Zealand for planned maintenance.
The Guardmembers were in Christchurch as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which runs from mid-October to mid-February, assisting the National Science Foundation in Antarctica with climate change research.
Christchurch is a maintenance and re-fueling location for Operation Deep Freeze.
The Guard’s mission had completed Feb. 13, and the Guardmembers were already scheduled to return back to New York, regardless of the earthquake, LaBarge said.
At the time of the earthquake, most of the 109th Airlift Wing was either at the airport, which is located about eight miles from the center of Christchurch, or in one of two nearby hotels, he said.
The extent of damage to the hotels is currently unknown, but the airport had water, electricity and food, he said.
LaBarge added that, if called upon, the Guard will provide any assistance to the earthquake victims if possible.
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
National Guard Bureau
While the U.S. East Coast feels the closest it has come in many years to “extreme” weather, some service members are facing real cold as they support the National Science Foundation’s efforts in Antarctica.
Air Force Col. Paul Sheppard, commander of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group and deputy commander of Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica, provided details of the mission from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, on the Pentagon Channel podcast, “Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military.”
Sheppard discussed Operation Deep Freeze and the major contributions by service members in support of the National Science Foundation, including coordinating strategic and tactical airlift, sealift, emergency response and aeromedical evacuation.
“Operation Deep Freeze started with the Navy in the mid-’50s and is a military-centric operation on the continent of Antarctica,” Sheppard said. “Then, under international treaty, the world community started moving toward declaring the Antarctic an open continent for science research only, and no development. So … science started to take the lead for all U.S. interests in Antarctica.”
The Defense Department provides logistics support, especially heavy airlift and sea power, that can’t be contracted elsewhere, Sheppard explained. The military component in Antarctica makes up only about 10 percent of the manpower there, he said.
The extreme climate in Antarctica give Sheppard and his troops some unique challenges.
“Almost everything we work with is a piece of metal equipment. … We have to worry about metal fatigue and brittleness of metal — we’re talking about ships and airplanes and all the support equipment that goes along with that. And our big problem environmentally is temperature,” Sheppard said.
He said the limited weather forecasting available on Antarctica creates a problem or two, both in temperature management and in planning and carrying out operations.
“That’s what gives us our biggest problem operationally and safety-wise — not knowing for certain what the weather trends are going to be over the course of the day or week,” he said. “So blizzards — we call them ‘Herbies’ down here, the massive blizzards that have hurricane-force winds — those type of events create a danger for us, for aviation and every aspect of life on the continent.”
Newcomers to the camp, military and civilians, undergo a few nights of on-site survival training, a course known at McMurdo as “happy camper school.” Program participants camp in the snow, build snowcaves and learn how to protect themselves from extreme conditions. The military crew also goes through barren-land training in Greenland, learning to survive in a number of simulated scenarios.
“If you’re going into the field, you get training,” Sheppard said. “But if you’re staying here in at McMurdo and you’re working within the infrastructure of this town, then you don’t need the extreme weather survival training.”
Sheppard himself has had to use his survival training. During one mission to place a fuel cache in an open-snow area, an axle on his plane shattered.
“Cold weather makes metal brittle, and this axle had been manufactured incorrectly, and it broke,” he said. “And the nose wheels went up into the wheel well of the airplane, and the plane fell down on top of the nose ski, luckily.
“I no longer had an airplane,” Sheppard said. “I just had a huge snowmobile, and there was no place to go. So, we parked the airplane next to the fuel drums and shut down.
“We set up our camp, not knowing how long we’d stay there,” he continued. “And then we started to set up to stay for a long time before someone could come and get us. It was dead silence, and you realized you were someplace in the middle of nowhere and [had] no idea how you were going to get out of there or when you were going to get out of there.”
Sheppard’s story ends well. A rescue crew arrived 20 hours later and brought everyone to McMurdo safe and sound.
Another danger in Antarctica is crevasses, deep niches in the ice that can be fatal for a person on foot or a ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft in take-off. But the Defense Department and National Science Foundation have been working together for the past eight years on a crevasse detection radar.
They’ve also been developing equipment for their LC-130s that will allow for easier snow take-offs. By adding high-tech eight-bladed propellers with electronic propeller controls, Sheppard said, they’ll be able to actually create some lift on the plane while it’s stationary. This will allow a heavily laden plane to take off on snow easier, as the propellers are picking up some of the weight before takeoff.
Advances like these not only help to move cargo and save money on fuel, but also improve safety for the crews in Antarctica, Sheppard said.
“People don’t realize that the continent itself has a land mass of the continental U.S., plus Mexico,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling how large it is.” In his survival story, Sheppard recalled that he was relatively close to McMurdo, about 400 miles into the barren snow fields. But without the kinds of advances being made there, he said, “[everyone there is] at the mercy of the continent.”
Much of the mystery of Antarctica comes from a broad lack of awareness, Sheppard said. For example, he said, most people don’t know that most of the continent is covered with an ice cap that’s up to two miles thick.
“The continent is at high altitudes, around 10,000 feet or higher, and that it is the coldest, windiest, driest, cleanest place on Earth,” Sheppard said. “And the geography of the continent is truly spectacular, with the ice caps and then the mountain ranges. And that’s what the international community wants to do, is keep it that way — the cleanest place — and do science.
“And it has every natural resource that you can imagine down here â€“ but no one can have it,” he added with a laugh.
Story by Ian Graham
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii, Nov. 6, 2008 â€“ A combined U.S. and Australian team evacuated an Australian civilian in Antarctica to a hospital in Hobart, Australia, yesterday [November 5 2008].
The seriously injured patient was part of an Australian Antarctic Division contingent conducting scientific research at Davis Station, Antarctica. He was reported to be in stable condition while receiving medical care in Hobart for multiple fractures caused by an all-terrain vehicle accident.
A medical team flew 1,500 miles from McMurdo Station in Antarctica to Davis Station Nov. 3 aboard an LC-130 Hercules from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, based out of Stratton Air National Guard Base, N.Y. The ski-equipped aircraft landed on an improvised runway prepared by Davis Station personnel earlier in the week.
The medical team, along with aircrew members and an aircraft maintenance team, spent the night at Davis Station to rest, refuel the aircraft and prepare the patient before beginning the 10-hour flight to Hobart on Nov. 4.
The mission was flown as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which is commanded by U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica. With headquarters here and led by 13th Air Force, JTF SFA’s mission is to provide airlift and sealift support to the National Science Foundation and U.S. Antarctic Program.
The medical team consisted of an Australian doctor and nurse, a joint medical attendant transport team composed of three Army medical personnel from Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii, and three Air Force medical personnel forward-deployed to McMurdo.
Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Greg Richert, the onboard flight surgeon, said the successful medical movement symbolized two things for him.
“One is the very effective medical movement capability we have here in the Pacific region, and the other is the strong partnership between the National Science Foundation, the Australian Antarctic Division and Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica,” Richert said.
The captain, who is forward-deployed from 13th Air Force to McMurdo Station as the JTF SFA flight surgeon, said it was especially gratifying to use the team’s medical movement capability to help the Australians in Antarctica.
“The United States and Australia have long enjoyed a strong bond, and it was really evident in how our combined team was able to help this patient in his time of need,” Richert said.
Tony Press, director of the Australian Antarctic Division, said he was grateful for the support the United States provided.
“It’s a tribute to our excellent relationship with the U.S. Antarctic Program and a fantastic example of the collaboration that typifies Antarctic operations,” Press said.
The movement was the first major mission for the LC-130 in the current Operation Deep Freeze season. The New York unit is the only unit in the Air Force that operates the LC-130 Hercules, which can land on snow or ice surfaces throughout Antarctica thanks to its ski-equipped landing gear. The plane also has wheels for landing on prepared hard surfaces.
By Air Force Maj. Sam Highley
Special to American Forces Press Service
It’s almost summer at the South Pole. That means the annual rush of tourists and scientists to the ice cap is about to begin. The BBC reports on an interesting project to be conducted this summer.
The AGAP project is a flagship endeavour of International Polar Year – the global science community’s concerted push to try to answer the big questions about the Earth’s northern and southern extremes.
The challenging nature of the expedition has required that expertise be drawn from across the polar community. Supplying such remote camps is a major logistical exercise; working in them – at temperatures 30-40 degrees below zero Celsius – is bound to be physically demanding.
Two survey aircraft will sweep back and forth across the ice to map the shape of the mountains. The planes will be equipped with ice-penetrating radar and instruments to measure the local gravitational and magnetic fields.
Information on the deeper structure of the Gamburtsevs will come from a network of seismometers that will listen to earthquake signals passing through the rock from the other side of the globe.
“We’ll map everything from the detailed ripples on the surface of the ice sheet down to the temperature structure hundreds of kilometres in the Earth, so we’ll have everything from the layering in the ice to what the nature of the rocks are,” said Dr Bell.
Another important aim of the project is to find a place to drill for ancient ices. By examining bubbles of air trapped in compacted snow, it is possible for researchers to glean details about past environmental conditions.
Not only can they see concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane – the two principal human-produced gases now blamed for global warming – but they can also gauge past temperatures from the samples.
Somewhere in the Gamburtsev region there could be a location were it is possible to drill down to ices that are more than a million years old. This is at least 200,000 years older than the most ancient ices currently in the possession of scientists.
The expedition gets under way in the next few weeks and will take some two-and-a-half months to complete.