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McMurdo Docks - Ice Pier / Wharf
McMurdo Station - Antarctica

The dock or Ice-Pier is the large brown rectangular area (with two vertical poles) near the centre of the picture. The pier is about 800 feet (244 m) long, 300 feet (90 m) wide and 22 feet (6.7 m) thick, they are used for ships to pull up next to where trucks can take cargo as it is unloaded.

Ice piers last for 3-5 years, the first prototype pier being built in 1973 after a steel built dock was destroyed in a storm.

The construction process starts off on sea-ice with a snow bank about 5 feet high being built around what will be the area of the pier. Sea-water is pumped onto this and allowed to freeze, this is repeated daily during the winter which results in the thickness building up at the rate of about 10cm (4") per day. Steel re-enforcing cable is then laid on the ice and the process repeated with ice and steel cables until the pier is of the required thickness. In the latter stages, bollards and posts are incorporated into the pier to be used when the pier is complete. Before use the pier is covered with a layer of local volcanic gravel and small pieces of rock to make the surface more durable.

The piers are repaired after the main shipping calls of the season, but eventually they succumb to storm damage, damage through use and melting both above and below the water line. At the end of their lives they are towed out to sea and set adrift to melt. The steel cable (about 6.3km of 2.5cm (21,000 ft of 1") thick) and wood that was incorporated into the pier then sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

Environmental evaluation from 1992

Hut Point and Royal Society Range in the background.

28th October 2007

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This picture published courtesy of Alan Light - This picture is in the public domain.
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