2008 Blog Archive

Check Back Daily December 3, 2009, South Pole Station –
Terry Hannaford

Terry Hannaford is IceCube's Logistics Manager. He is employed by the University of Wisconsin.

How does IceCube cargo get to the South Pole?

The present-day process for moving IceCube, IceTop, and related equipment from the U.S. to the South Pole Station in Antarctica utilizes a variety of transport methods. The LC-130 is a cargo aircraft operated by the New York Air National Guard, which provides the final mode of delivery for people, equipment, food, and fuel, from the coastal base of McMurdo to the South Pole Station in Antarctica.

Initial logistics planning began prior to 2003 with understanding the payload limits of the LC-130, which shaped the package limits of the equipment we shipped. With an average weight of approximately 23,000 lbs and a volume of 2,176 cubic feet, our largest components were the MDS (Mobile Drill Structure), which nearly occupied the entire cargo bay of the LC-130.

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Track vehicle pulls sled loaded with DCC (Drill Control Center-MDS) from cargo bay of the LC-130 on 11/18/04.


To date, the total amount of cargo and fuel shipped to the South Pole Station for IceCube and IceTop is approximately 7.5 million pounds! At an average of 26,000 lbs of cargo per flight, it has taken the LC-130 over 290 round trips to deliver our equipment to 90º South!

One hundred sixty IceTop Tanks have been delivered to the South Pole Station since 2004. Each tank weighs approximately 1,100 lbs. If you are doing the math to calculate how many flights it would take to fly the tanks to Pole, you would first have to consider the volume we are talking about. Each tank has a crated volume of almost 300 cubic feet! So, using the total weight of the tanks would give us about 7 LC-130 flights to deliver the tanks. But, if you consider the cubic feet of each tank, it really took closer to 22 flights of the LC-130!

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Uncrated IceTop Tanks with Sunshade frames in queue at South Pole.

I mentioned the LC-130 many times in this note. Although it is the prevalent delivery aircraft here at the South Pole Station many other services and modes of transport also deserve credit. There are local delivery trucks, over-the-road trucks, trains, ocean vessels, container ships, and the U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft that also contribute to the multi-modal transport system that brings us, our equipment, food, and fuel from many global shipping locations to the South Pole Station.

The majority or the IceCube equipment has been manufactured and shipped from the U.S. We have purchased our cables both surface and surface to DOM (the cables that go down the hole) from a supplier in Sweden, which are imported to the U.S. for modification and then exported to the Pole. The DOMs (Digital Optical Modules) are assembled in Wisconsin, Germany, and Sweden, from a moderate number of global suppliers. Shipments from other collaborators are somewhat less in volume, but they eventually move to Christchurch, New Zealand, as the final queue for palletizing to board the C-17 to McMurdo station.

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Supplies and equipment for the South Pole travel halfway around the Earth by ship and aircraft. Courtesy of National Science Foundation.

Of course, there is another component of shipping which takes place out of Port Hueneme and that is a once-per-season vessel shipment. This is known as the Re-Supply Vessel, and it departs Port Hueneme the first part of December and stops at various ports on its way to McMurdo Station arriving in early February when the McMurdo Sound has an open channel in the ice for its arrival. In McMurdo the Re-Supply Vessel delivers equipment, food (lots of food), and fuel (lots of fuel), to support McMurdo, the South Pole Station, and other locations, through the winter season and the following summer.

I should also mention the paperwork! There are many documents that precede and follow each piece of equipment as it moves from point of origin to destination. The list of forms include Requests to Ship, Insurance Notification, Packing Lists, Bills of Lading for Trucking-Air Transport-Ocean Transport, Hazardous Materials Notification Forms, Pro Forma Invoices for U.S. and New Zealand Customs, Certificate of Origin, Proof of Delivery, Cargo Tracking System Forms, and spreadsheets, lots of spreadsheets.


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