National Geographic : 1967 Nov
News of home's hot summer warms snowbound men who can now look forward to twice-a -winter delivery of letters and packages from their families. Just-arrived oceanographer Dr. Jacques S. Zaneveld briefs Leonard Nero, right, on sea weed that the civilian scuba diver will seek in the Stygian depths under the ice. Fifty miles out we made contact with the Williams Field radar controller. Although we probably were the only airborne plane with in 2,000 miles, he elaborately cleared us for a Ground Controlled Approach to "McMurdo International Airport." A nearly full moon had risen, and we were treated, as we descended, to a spectacle not many men have seen-the whole mountain and ice panorama of the McMurdo Sound area bathed in brilliant moonlight. The view of our piece of Antarctica, lying there under a crystal-clear sky, was an experience beyond description, bringing home to us the stark beauty, unremitting cold, grim desolation, and solitude of the Antarctic Continent. Then we sighted McMurdo, bright with street lights-thanks to Antarctica's first and only nuclear power plant.* Electric lights and gasoline lanterns framed the snow-covered skiway of Williams Field for 8,000 feet. Commander Schneider's approach was smooth and precise. Gently the plane's big skis met the freshly leveled airstrip, and we were down. It was 2:27 p.m. The C-130 made a stately swing toward huddled welcomers, the crew door dropped open, and we all tum *See "New Era in the Loneliest Continent," by Rear Adm. David M. Tyree, USN, GEOGRAPHIC, February, 1963, and "First Flight Across the Bottom of the World," by Rear Adm. James R. Reedy, USN, March, 1964. 738 bled out to handshakes and shouted hellos. Hooded figures converged to unload the airplane. Fresh fruit and vegetables were rushed to the galley before they could freeze in the -390 F. air. The five thousand pounds of mail got even faster handling. Six hours had been allowed for the turn around, and they were busy ones. Whisked to the station by helicopter, I conferred with commanders, addressed the men, inspected buildings, and went through the abundant chow line. Plainly, morale-already high had been boosted by contact with the world of light and warmth. I wished it had been possible to bring the same boost to the other Americans wintering in Antarctica. Back at the airstrip, we loaded return mail and took aboard two convalescing patients from the dispensary. With a roaring boost from eight JATO bottles, we lifted from the skiway. The first scheduled winter fly-in to Antarctica had been completed without cas ualties. The fly-out was equally smooth. Looking back, I think we instilled in the people at McMurdo a certain comfortable feeling that they will never again be totally isolated. Last September 3 another C-130 made an equally successful scheduled flight to McMurdo and return. So far as I'm con cerned, winter fly-ins are now a regular part of the Antarctic Support Force repertoire.