Friday, January 23, 2015

Oceanography Major Visits the Southernmost Part of Planet Earth

By CDR William Swick

This year’s Oceanography Department Antarctica Internship, funded by the Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC), afforded Midshipman 2/C Alyson Eng the opportunity to observe cutting edge research at one of the most remote environments on earth.

MIDN Eng, joined by Cadet Peter Vonich (USAFA) and Cadet Tanner Ellison (USMA), spent eight days at McMurdo Station, one of three permanent U.S. Antarctic bases. Located on Ross Island in the Ross Sea, McMurdo is home to more than 1,000 personnel during the Antarctic Austral Summer Season (September through March).


Although military activity is prohibited in the Antarctic (Antarctic Treaty of 1959), an exception to the rule allows military ships and aircraft to support scientific research efforts. The 13th Air Force-led Joint Task Force-Support Forces Antarctica, Operation Deep Freeze (ODF), is the U.S. military's support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Antarctic Program.

Operation Deep Freeze is the name given to operational and logistic support conducted by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard since 1955.

While deployed to Antarctica MIDN Eng was able to experience the following:

  • Orca tracking, population and eating behaviors
  • Seal tagging and seal navigation in regards to geomagnetic flux
  • Crevasse detection using synthetic aperture radar, radar pulses and corresponding signal return anomalies
  • Seismic Mapping and Ice Shift analysis
  • Automated weather stations and their relation to climatological data on the continent and forecasting applications
  • Long Duration Balloon (LDB)and its applications to include payloads, cosmic background phenomena, radio telescopes, universe origins, upper atmosphere circulation and super pressure balloons that can suspend payloads indefinitely
  • South Pole Neutrino detection and related astrophysics applications
  • Laser Measurements (LIDAR) analysis of upper atmosphere temperatures, wind and composition
  • Iron-rich water analysis and relation to metabolization of non-organic matter conversion into energy
  • Marine life study of species living in and around McMurdo and Palmer stations

With an annual budget of $6 billion, the NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally-supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. This internship exposes the Service Academy’s future leaders to a intellectually engaging experience, and each student gained significant exposure to a wide field of academic disciplines, further broadening their operational experience.

If you see MIDN Eng around the Yard to sure to ask her to share her unforgettable sea stories from the land down under.

See more photos from MIDN Eng's trip at the USNA Facebook page.

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