McMurdo station

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Coordinates: 77 ° 50 ′ 46.8 ″  S , 166 ° 40 ′ 5.6 ″  E

Location of the station on Ross Island (small picture) in Antarctica
Ross Island with the station on the Hut Point Peninsula (below)

The McMurdo Station is the largest research and logistics station in Antarctica and is operated by the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) of the US government. The year-round facility was built in 1955/56 on Ross Island on the coast of McMurdo Sound for the International Geophysical Year and today consists of more than 85 buildings. The residents of the station with the nickname MacTown call themselves "McMurdoites", "McMurdites" or "Mactownites".


The on Hut Point Peninsula ( English Hut Point Peninsula ) on the southern tip of Ross Island ( Cape Armitage ), this station operates research in McMurdo Sound (with the McMurdo Ice Shelf ) and the volcano Mount Erebus .

US Secretary of State John Kerry (center) examines marine life in an aquarium in the 'Crary Lab' (2016)

McMurdo is the starting point for field research in the Transantarctic Mountains , for example the dry valleys and the Ross Ice Shelf .

In November 1991 the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center (Crary Lab) was inaugurated. In the premises (approx. 4,320 m²) there are analysis devices available for research into Antarctic biology, the polar atmosphere and for deepening geosciences. It includes the Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement Laboratory (EMEL), the Snow and Ice Mechanics Laboratory (SIML) and the Antarctic Meteorological Research Center, as well as an aquarium.

In December 2004, the “ BESS-Polar ” experiment (Balloon-borne Experiment with Superconducting Spectrometer), a project by US and Japanese scientists to measure cosmic rays , in particular to detect antiprotons, started.

In summer, McMurdo is usually snow-free and the usual winter occupation of 250 people increases to up to 1100 people.


McMurdo Station has workshops, shops, its own newspaper ( Antarctic Sun ), a television station, a fire station ( Antarctic Fire Department ) and the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering Center ('Crary Lab') for geoscientific and biological research, the older laboratory building replaced the z. Some of them were built in 1959.

There is a greenhouse where fresh vegetables are grown. The Chapel of the Snows is a non - denominational chapel used by various Christian denominations .

A reverse osmosis system with three-stage particle filtering and chlorination for disinfection is available for the drinking water supply from ocean water, which manages a storage volume of up to 750 m³ (200,000 gallons) for the crew. A sewage treatment plant cleans up to 200 m³ per day, with the need for clarification dropping to a fifth in winter. The sewage sludge is dewatered and disposed of by supply ship, the clarified water flows back into McMurdo Sound.

The energy supply is ensured with 6 CHP modules (7800 kW) and 3 wind turbines (Enercon E-33, 330 kW each). The peak load is 2 MW, the base load at night is 1.2 MW. McMurdo is electrically connected to the neighboring Scott Base . The waste heat from the diesel engines is distributed to the McMurdo buildings via a frost-proof heating network (glycol, approx. 1 m³ / min).

In McMurdo, the only nuclear reactor in the Antarctic was operated from 1962 to 1972 ( Nukey Poo ) as part of the Army Nuclear Power Program . The reactor was returned to the USA after the shutdown, along with around 11,000 cubic meters of contaminated subsoil.


McMurdo is the logistical starting point for the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station at the South Pole, but also for the Russian Vostok Station . McMurdo has the southernmost port on earth, only the natural ice port of the Bay of Whales , which existed until 1987, was further south.

The McMurdo station has on the sea ice over a airfield ( Airstrip ) for large transport aircraft with regular flights in the summer after Christchurch in New Zealand.

A three kilometer long road connects McMurdo with New Zealand's Scott Base . From McMurdo there is an approximately 1500 km long road connection, the South Pole Traverse , to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station at the South Pole . There are several ground or off-road means of transport for cargo or people, including the Terra Bus 'Ivan'.

McMurdo is served by three airports, depending on the season:

  • Phoenix Airfield ( ICAO : NZFX). Since January 2017, this airfield has replaced the three miles away Pegasus Field (ICAO: NZPG), an ice runway on the Ross Ice Shelf near Black Island, with a runway made of compacted snow . This change was necessary because in previous years the ice quality at the end of the summer season was no longer sufficient for normal flight operations .
  • Sea Ice Runway (ICAO: NZIR)
  • William's Field (ICAO: NZWD), a snow slope


Climate diagram by McMurdo

The annual mean temperature of McMurdo is minus 17 degrees Celsius and the amount of precipitation is 212 millimeters. The station is 24 meters above sea level .

Literature and film

  • The station is mentioned in Matthew Reilly's novel Ice Station . It should serve as a retreat point for American troops.
  • In the novel The Last Ship , the crew of a ship uses the station's supplies after a nuclear war in order to then go in search of other survivors.
  • The action of the science fiction novel Antarctica from 1997 takes place in the McMurdo station.
  • The McMurdo station plays an important role several times in the Stargate - Command SG-1 series . In the first season of the series, the second "Stargate" on earth is found 80 km away from this station. Later, in Season 7, an ancient outpost is discovered not far from it. In addition, the fighter squadron of the fictional F-302 fighter planes was stationed there at that time. In the pilot film for the Stargate Atlantis series , McMurdo is the logistical hub for the search for the "Lost City of Atlantis ". In the alternative timeline of the film Stargate: Continuum , the Stargate Center is being built near McMurdo, instead of in Cheyenne Mountain , as the first Stargate from Egypt was lost in the Atlantic while it was being transported to America. However, the commissioning of the second Stargate is prevented by a Goauld attack, which completely destroys the McMurdo station.
  • The station is mentioned several times in the film The Thing by John Carpenter when the radio operator Windows tries in vain to report an incident. For reasons unknown, he cannot reach anyone.
  • The station is also mentioned several times in the film Dark Star (1974) by John Carpenter . It serves as flight control on Earth for the scout ship Dark Star.

Web links

Commons : McMurdo Station  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. McMurdo Station Web Cams of the USAP
  2. ^ Bernadette Hince: The Antarctic dictionary: a complete guide to Antarctic English . Csiro Publishing, 2000, ISBN 095774711X , p. 227
  3. ^ Antarctic Sun
  4. ^ Antarctic Fire Department
  5. Betty Trummel: Power Up: What Keeps McMurdo Going? In: Science Roadshow. January 26, 2013, accessed August 22, 2019 .
  6. McMurdo climate diagram
  7. LD Meagher: Like the continent, 'Antarctica' is not for the faint hearted. In: CNN . TBS , July 2, 1998, accessed August 8, 2016 .