Icebreaking: The Way Through the Bay

Upon arriving at Antarctica on 27 December, the icebreakers, U.S.S. Glacier (AGB-4) and U.S.S. Edisto (AGB-2) led U.S.S. Wyandot (AKA-92) and U.S.S. Nespelen (A0G-55) to a mooring point in McMurdo Sound. Then U.S.S. Glacier directed the flagship, U.S.S. Arneb (AKA-56) and U.S.N.S. Greenville Victory (TAK-239) to Kainan Bay and Little America. Radio towers, supplies and old structures, remnants from earlier expeditions, now half-buried in snow and ice, were discernible as Task Force 43 approached Little America.

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Ghost of Little America III
Standish Backus #45
Watercolor on paper, 1956

"The site of the Bay of Whales, formerly a deep indentation in the face of the Ross Ice barrier, presented a weird display of ice formations resembling fortifications with towers and battlements. Completing this impression of the ruins of another civilization was the discovery of man-made objects such as fuel drums and strips of canvas exposed or hanging from the face of the ice shelf and marking the settlement known as Little America III dating from 1939. Once some miles from the open water, this part of the past, perfectly preserved, has moved seaward with time and next year will join the fleet of great tabular icebergs that drift always eastward around the continent. Annual visitors to the ice face from the north are the dazzling snow petrels." --Commander Standish Backus


The Antarctic Shrine
Standish Backus #58
Oil on canvas, 1957

"Sir Ernest Shackleton's historic British Antarctic Expedition of 1907 chose Cape Royds on Ross Island as the site of their headquarters. Today, fifty years later, it remains in much the same state as when they left it in 1909, even to their last meal still ready on the table. So free from deterioration and corrosion is this relic that much of the foodstuffs is yet edible, the magazines of the day quite unyellowed, and seemingly the only disarrangement has resulted from the screaming 100 mile per hour winds. In the painting, units of Task Force 43 may be seen several miles off Cape Royds fighting their way through frozen McMurdo Sound behind an icebreaker toward the base at Hut Point, thirty miles to the south. In the background the great mountains fifty miles away in Victoria Land peer under the overcast. The campsites of such early, heroic explorers as Scott and Shackleton have since been declared shrines by Admiral Dufek and are not to be molested in any way." --Commander Standish Backus


U.S.S. Glacier Prodding
Kainan Bay

Robert Charles Haun #26
Oil on canvas paper,
29 December 1956

The Bay of Whales was the landing site for previous Little America expeditions, but as U.S.S. Atka had reported in its earlier scouting mission, great ice barrier break-offs had rendered it unusable. Kainan Bay was chosen instead. From onboard the U.S.S. Arneb, Haun captures the U.S.S. Glacier exploring the coastline to be sure that Kainan Bay was the best site.


Kainan Bay Antarctica
Robert Charles Haun #25
Oil on canvas paper, 29 December 1955



CAPT Smythe on Deck
U.S.S. Arneb with CDR Frazer

Robert Charles Haun # 37
Watercolor, 31 December 1955

Watching U.S.S. Glacier break ice in Kainan Bay.


Ice Breaker Penetrating the Ice Pack
Standish Backus #47
Watercolor on paper, 1956

"Pack ice is composed of massed fragments of sea ice drifting with wind and current. Modern Icebreakers such as Glacier, Edisto and Eastwind normally transit such ice fields without difficulty or loss of speed. However, thinned skinned vessels must be protected from ice pressures against their hulls. This may be accomplished by leading the escorted vessel through the dangerous areas with its bow lashed firmly into the notched stern of the icebreaker. Here Eastwind is represented towing YOG-34 through the Ross Sea pack, while overhead one of the helicopters scouts the ice conditions." --Commander Standish Backus


The Great Ross Ice Barrier
Standish Backus #39
Watercolor on paper, 1956

"The U.S. Bases at Kainan Bay [Little America V] and at McMurdo Sound [Hut Point] are separated by the width of the Ross Ice Shelf, a distance of about 500 miles. In making the passage between the bases along the face of the ice barrier, a sheer jagged wall of ice usually from 50 feet to 200 feet high, ships could expect to encounter not only a vast variety of sea ice, bergs in diverse stages of decay, strange meteorological phenomena where the comparatively warm sea air temperatures rubbed against the frigidity of the air from the ice cap, but could also observe the whole menagerie of wild life; whales, such as fin back, baleens, blues, bottle noses and killers; seals, birds, especially the snow petrels, sea gulls and especially the penguins. Here are shown the snow petrels, baleen whales, icebergs, ice floes, the barrier face in the background disappearing over the horizon at each end, the light sky over the barrier called 'ice blink' and the dark water 'water sky.' Navy icebreaker Glacier leads the cargo transport Arneb safely through the ice fields." --Commander Standish Backus


U.S.S. Glacier Breaking Ice
Robert Charles Haun #7
Oil on canvas, 1956



U.S.S. Glacier Breaking Ice
Robert Charles Haun #27
Pencil study with color wash,
29 December 1955



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