Summer’s Done, Gone the Sun

The last Air Force C-17 departed the ice at McMurdo Station, bringing an end to Operation Deep Freeze 2011-12 as summer drew to a close on Antarctica earlier this month. Several days later, on March 6, a Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 was the last aircraft to leave, officially closing out the mission supporting US National Science Foundation research on the frozen continent during the summer field season. Shuttering the far South Pole station, a staff of 153 researchers and technicians at McMurdo—the main logistics hub—are bedding down for six months of winter darkness until resupply flights resume in August. During the summer months, ski-equipped LC-130 “Skibirds” of the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing deploy to McMurdo. This season, LC-130s, backed up by a C-17 deployed from JB Lewis-McChord, Wash., evacuated several sailors to New Zealand for treatment who were gravely injured in a fire off Antarctica. (McMurdo report)