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Polar Research Support Section

Besides funding research, NSF provides scientists with logistics, operational, and laboratory support in Antarctica. This includes a year-round inland research station at the South Pole (90° south latitude); two year-round coastal research stations (McMurdo at 78°S and Palmer at 64°S) with extensive laboratory and computing capabilities; summer camps (as required for research); ice-strengthened research ship, R/V Laurence M. Gould, (76 meters in length) which replaced the R/V Polar Duke (67 meters in length) in late 1997; the icebreaking research ship R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer (94 meters); a fleet of ski-equipped LC-130 airplanes; Twin Otter airplanes (when required); helicopters; a United States Coast Guard icebreaker for channel breaking at McMurdo, treaty inspection missions and occasionally as needed for research support; a variety of oversnow vehicles; and automated, unmanned weather and geophysical observatories. Ships of the U.S. academic fleet and the ocean-drilling program on occasions also support research in Antarctica.

Air transport between New Zealand and McMurdo Station is provided several times per week in the austral summer from early October to the end of February. From McMurdo, the logistics hub, parties can access other sites, including the station at the South Pole. Several flights are made in August between New Zealand and McMurdo, providing an opportunity for winter access. Other winter flights to McMurdo are feasible if required. Between February and October the summer camps are closed and winter research is limited to the immediate environs of South Pole and McMurdo, where station residents are isolated as long as eight months.

Palmer Station, on Anvers Island in the Antarctic Peninsula region, is logistically isolated from the rest of the United States Antarctic Program and relies mainly on theR/V Laurence M. Gould (during or between research cruises) for transport of passengers and resupply to a port at the southern tip of South America. The ship makes several trips throughout the year. The R/V Laurence M. Gould provides onboard research support in marine biology, oceanography, and geophysics and can support science in other areas of the southern oceans. U.S. Antarctic stations and ships provide both voice and data communications (including Internet) with locations outside Antarctica.

Through a contract with NSF, Raytheon Polar Services Company provides a wide range of logistical and science support operations to the United States Antarctic Program.

Contact information:
Polar Research Support Section
Room 755
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230
(703) 292-8032
(703) 292-9080 Fax

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1997 Office of Polar Programs