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C-17 dropping cargo.
Photo Credit: Forest Banks/Antarctic Photo Library
A C-17 Globemaster III drops cargo over the South Pole in December 2007. The plane has been used this year to drop fuel and cargo to an East Antarctic field camp, expediting the delivery of necessary supplies for a project studying a subglacial mountain range.

Dropping off supplies

C-17 Globemaster III delivers fuel and cargo to deep-field science camp

Team McChord Airmen External U.S. government site assigned to the Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (EAS) in support of Operation Deep Freeze (ODF) has completed four operational C-17 Globemaster III airdrops to the Antarctic Gamburtsev Mountain Province since last month.

Thirty bundles of fuel and other supplies were first delivered to a scientific camp Nov. 26 in the province, one of the most remote locations on Earth.

Capt. Joe O’Rourke, a 7th Airlift Squadron pilot deployed to ODF, helped develop the AGAP missions. He said the airdrop was a quick and efficient way to deliver resources to the camp, better than any other platform available.

More information
Original Air Force press release External U.S. government site includes three videos of the airdrop. Scroll to the bottom of the article.

“Without our delivery of that fuel, these scientists who are trekking out to the AGAP campsite from the South Pole would have had to carry that fuel with them, or a second trip would have been necessary from McMurdo Station over land carrying literally thousands of gallons of fuel,” he said.

In just three hours, the captain said, Airmen delivered what would take days or weeks to accomplish through any other means.

“The C-17 has revolutionized Antarctic logistics and this is another example of how we’ve leveraged our strategic airlift capability to support the National Science Foundation’s tactical requirement,” said Lt. Col. Jim McGann, EAS commander.

“Airdropping the fuel enables critical global climate research to continue in remote locations. … And support like this, even in the most hostile environment on the planet, is what Team McChord does best.”

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. Headquartered at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, and led by 13th Air Force, JTF SFA’s mission is to provide air and sealift support to the National Science Foundation’s U.S. Antarctic Program External U.S. government site.

A total of four airdrops have now delivered supplies to the scientific campsite on the north side of the Gamburtsev province, a chain of mountains the size of the European Alps buried under five kilometers of ice. Scientists believe that the Gamburtsev Mountains are the point of origin of the East Antarctic ice sheet and may be home to some of the oldest ice on the continent. [See story: Mountainous mystery.]

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Curator: Peter Rejcek, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Winifred Reuning, Division of Polar Programs