The National Science Foundation (NSF) has resolved a problem that threatened research in the Antarctic this winter by hiring a Russian icebreaker to clear a path through McMurdo Sound.
NSF announced today that it has signed a 1-year contract with an option for additional years with the Murmansk Shipping Company for the Canadian-built icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk to escort resupply and refueling ships into McMurdo Station, the hub of U.S. activities and the biggest station on the continent. NSF-funded researchers rely heavily upon the 5 million gallons of diesel fuel delivered to the station each winter, and the lack of fuel promised to severely curtail research activities.
The problem was created this spring when the Swedish government cancelled an ongoing agreement allowing the United States to rent its Oden research icebreaker to break through the ice. The U.S. Coast Guard does not have icebreakers available to do the job.
We'll update this post as more details on the lease agreement become available.