National Geographic : 1957 Sep
Year of Discovery Opens in Antarctica 339 Daring Scientists of a Dozen Nations, Pooling Knowledge and Resources, Launch Man's Most Ambitious Assault on the White Continent BY DAVID S. BOYER Foreign Editorial Staff, National Geographic Magazine With Photographs by the Author EIGHT thousand feet below us the world's most powerful icebreaker, U.S.S. Glacier, battered and twisted her way across the Ross Sea, a dark beetle struggling through endless chunks of drifting ice. Within minutes our Air Force C-124 Globe master had passed her. Compared with Glacier's jarring, bucking journey, our way of reaching Antarctica was smooth and effort less. But it had its own chilling aspects. Air-sea Invasion of Antarctica Off our starboard wing rose the Prince Albert Mountains, stark and jagged, ribbed with glaciers flowing down to the icy sea. Somewhere ahead, in a thickening white haze, lay the only airstrip for big planes within 2,000 miles. We had passed the point of no return; there was no longer enough gasoline to get us back to New Zealand. Lashed to the floor of the plane's cavernous belly were 27 tons of priority equipment to help build an outpost for science at the South Pole.* Aboard the Glacier rode more sup plies and men for the second year of Opera tion Deep Freeze, the United States' part of a giant international assault on the cold, silently resisting emptiness of Antarctica. In the southern summer to come, 46 scien tific stations would dot the continent at the bottom of the world, all part of the 1957-58 International Geophysical Year for the study of the earth and its environment.t Other stations on outlying islands and neighboring continents bring to more than 60 the total of points from which scientists will probe the secrets of Antarctica. (See the supplement map, "Antarctica," mailed to members with this issue of their Magazine.) The United States already had built two bases, one in McMurdo Sound at the edge of the Ross Sea, the other 450 miles eastward at Little America V on Kainan Bay.$ United States scientists and servicemen of Deep Freeze II had orders to install and man six new outposts, sending 12 ships and 44 planes south for the job. The Glacier, 8,625 armor-plated tons and 21,000 horsepower, was smashing her way through the Ross Sea ice pack in October, earlier in the antarctic year than any other ship in history. Overhead, Navy and Air Force planes were already proving that a 6,000-foot landing strip carved on McMurdo ice had brought the formidable Antarctic Continent into commuting distance of sunny New Zealand, 2,400 miles away. I flew into Antarctica on one of these first aerial "milk runs." It was beginning to look like a flight through milk itself. To starboard the frozen mountains had begun to blur into whiteness. Beneath us veined pat terns of dark-green open water, twisting and writhing among the floes, faded and became white too. Below, above, on all sides, milky whiteness closed us in. Flight into Unknown Weather The forecast for our flight had been based on meager information. McMurdo weather was good when we took off. Now, even should conditions there have changed, it was too late for us to turn back. There was no direction to go but onward. Then a static-broken voice crackled into our radioman's earphones. Radar landing equipment at McMurdo, he deciphered grimly, was not operating. Maj. Jesse T. Jumper checked his fuel supply. We could circle for three hours if necessary. After that... Skittering back to mind came the words of a radio dispatch sent from McMurdo a week earlier: "The first Navy plane crashed Thursday * See "We Are Living at the South Pole," by Paul A. Siple, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1957. t See "The International Geophysical Year," by Hugh L. Dryden, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1956. t See "All-out Assault on Antarctica," by Rear Ad miral Richard E. Byrd, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, August, 1956.