Some innovative thinking was required to re-supply the Argentine Antarctica station Belgrano II, after their research ship and ice-breaker was damaged by fire.
Belgrano II is located at the southern end of the Weddell Sea, thousands of miles from the nearest port and inaccessible by sea for all but a few weeks of the year. With the research ship undergoing a major refit, people on the ground in Antarctica needed food and other suppliers for the entire winter months.
A plan to re-supply the station was required quickly. After analysing the rising costs for chartering a suitable ice-breaker and the risk of heavy sea ice in the Weddell Sea it was decided that supply by airdrop would be a more secure and economical method.
NAS Corporation stepped in to offer their logistical expertise and, following a highly competitive tender, their client won the contract to undertake a major airdrop.
During two weeks in February over 9 flights we air dropped 166 tonnes of food, fuel and equipment by IL-76, sufficient to resupply the station for another year. NAS worked with an expert crew from the Russian Rescue Centre in Moscow to carry out the contract with the IL-76 used in Antarctic operations. They have safely delivered many similar loads to the North Pole.
The air drop cargo is made up into one tonne loads, each on a platform with three parachutes attached. The platforms are made up of with a 9.5 inch (240mm) thick protective layer of corrugated cardboard to absorb impact. All the platform materials are certified for Antarctic use.
The aircraft made a total of nine, 3700 mile (6000 km) round-trip flights, each delivering 17 tonnes of cargo.
The project couldn't have gone more smoothly, a testament to the hard work and capability of all the operations, flight and ground crews. Congratulations and a big thanks to all who were involved.