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Aerialview of field camp in Antarctica.
Photo Courtesy: Richard and Charlotte Koch/Antarctic Photo Library

Camped out

Historic photo shows aerial view of little-known IGY field camp

The International Geophysical Year External Non-U.S. government site, 1957-58, was a period of unprecedented scientific discovery and innovation, with particular emphasis on research in the polar regions. In Antarctica, the United States eventually established seven research bases during IGY, including the first station at the South Pole External U.S. government site, as well as what later became known at McMurdo Station External U.S. government site, which is still the largest facility on the continent. Other well-known stations during that time included Little America V and Byrd Camp.

Ship in ice with penguin in foreground.
Photo Courtesy: Richard and Charlotte Koch/Antarctic Photo Library
U.S. Navy icebreaker U.S.S. STATEN ISLAND breaks a channel in McMurdo Sound in February 1959.

Lesser known are the small field camps and weather stations used by the U.S. Navy that were located along tractor traverse routes between the main facilities, such as Little Rockford, which is pictured above. The field camp (79°35'S-156°46'W) was established along the Little America V-Byrd tractor trail near the western edge of the Ross Ice Shelf during the 1958-59 summer. The following year it was relocated to the east edge of Marie Byrd Land (79°30'S-147°19'W), and its use was discontinued after the 1964-65 summer. It was named after Rockford, Ill., the hometown of Adm. George Dufek, who was in charge of Operation Deep Freeze, the military mission to support research in Antarctica.

The photo, shot on Feb. 6, 1959, was provided by Charlotte Koch, wife of P2V Navy pilot Richard Koch, who served in Antarctica on two separate tours during the late 1950s. It and a number of other historic Antarctic photos External U.S. government site, such as the one at right from the same time period, can be found in the U.S. Antarctic Program's Photo Library External U.S. government site.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Bill Spindler (www.southpolestation.com External Non-U.S. government site) and Billy-Ace Penguin Baker (www.oaea.net External Non-U.S. government site) for the historic information.