Speaking of the Antarctic, it appears that there could be some roadblocks ahead for those living and working at McMurdo Station, the U.S. research base on the world’s southernmost continent. According to this memo, sent out by the U.S. Office of Polar Programs, the Swedish government has chosen to not provide it’s icebreaker ship Oden for joint operations in and around Antarctica this year. The ship was to be used to help keep an open channel to McMurdo which would aid in the delivery of supplies, but now officials are scrambling to find a replacement, or risk cutting back operations in the Antarctic this season.
The OPP has set a deadline of “mid-August” for finding another icebreaker to assume the Oden’s role this year, but if they don’t, they’ll be forced to reduce their operations this season at both McMurdo and the South Pole station. That would mean limiting the number of crew at the bases, delaying several infrastructure upgrades, and canceling some scientific operations for the year.
The memo goes on to say that shuttering the two bases would have long term effects on operations in the Antarctica, and that that contingency would be avoided at all costs. But if a January 2012 resupply isn’t possible, the bases would need to stretch their available fuel and other supplies until January 2013. That would require the bases to go into total conservation mode to remain open.
All is not lost however, as the letter also says that they have some promising leads on replacement icebreakers that may be able to pick up the slack. They seem confident that they can find another ship and have it operational in time so that the season can progress as expected. If they don’t however, it seems that it’ll be a rather long, lonely, and lean year in both McMurdo and the South Pole bases.
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