Monday, June 24

Lost in the Antarctic

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By CW4 Michael W. Carr – They were lost. Lost in the open ocean off Antarctica. Two miles to their starboard should be the Ross Ice Shelf, a 200-foot high vertical wall of ice running for hundreds of miles along Antarctica. Instead, there was just open ocean. This situation was definitely not part of their DeepFreeze79 operation.

Ensign Bill Davis, the USCG Glacier’s (WAGB-4) Navigation Officer, had just come to the bridge to relieve the mid-watch and assume OOD for the 4-8 watch. Bill was looking forward to an easy and uneventful watch, as they steamed east along the edge of Ross Ice Shelf, having departed McMurdo Station a few days earlier.

Night Orders, signed by the USCGC Glacier’s Commanding Officer the previous evening, clearly stated to steam east at 12 knots, maintaining a distance of 2.0 miles off the Ross Ice Shelf. As Bill climbed the ladder to the Glacier’s bridge, there was no need for his eyes to adjust to a dark bridge. It was summer in the Antarctic, with the sun shining all day. But as he entered the bridge, he was immediately concerned. He peered at both the radar and sea horizon; there was no Ross Ice Shelf.

He increased the radar’s range, from six miles out to 12, 24, 48, 96 miles, but there was nothing, just a blank screen with the radar’s sweeping cursor.

“Where is the Ross Ice Shelf?” he asked the off-going OOD. “I can’t relieve you, or the watch, until we establish a fix, and I can’t determine where we are.”

A distraught look creeped over the off-going OOD’s face. He looked out the starboard bridge windows, then at the radar, then at the gyrocompass. Bill could tell there was a real problem; the present watch did not know they were lost.

“Captain, this is Ensign Davis on the bridge. We are lost.” Read more:



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