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USNS Pvt. John R. Towle
Victory Freighter


The USNS Towle, an 8500 hp Victory shown here tied up to the shore on an "ice-hinge" at McMurdo, Antarctica. I made two trips there, two years in a row. On the second trip, '64-65, I caught a flight in a C-130 to the South Pole Station.
This page addresses only two voyages of the many I made on the Towle as Chief Mate. The Towle was a freighter, the first voyage starting in Brooklyn Army Terminal fall of '63, to Davisville, R.I. to pick up everything from D-8 tractors, generators, and containers of frozen food, stopping off in Mayport, Fl. to pick up a small plane in a crate. Then through the Panama Canal to Lyttleton, New Zealand...the jumping off place for McMurdo, Antarctica.
I had earlier in '63 acquired my General Amateur Radio Operators License...a handy thing on such a long voyage.
The photos below are scanned slides just recently recovered...long forgotten for almost forty-years. All the photos were taken by me, or of me with my camera - a Ziess Icon Super Contaflex SLR.
Select Shots
Logo Ice

Patch for Operation Deep Freeze. Note Navy Penguin.


Into "Close Pack" by ourselves. Orders were to do so until stuck.

More Ice Ice Breaker

We steamed at 60 RPM - Full Speed when on Manuevering Speed. Ordinarily we'd get twelve this "Close" pack, we averaged two. Reported at eight-feet thick, the ice gave us no problems, the Towle, which was Class "C" ice strengthened, pushed her way through nicely. When we met open water, we'd take off the revs, until up against the next batch.


The USS Glacier approaching to take up the lead into the "Fast" ice. We never did get breaker support in the Close pack, and never did get stuck...the expected Breaker, which was fueling Hallett Station arriving as we arrived at the "Fast" ice.
With Glacier leading, it was Southwind, Editso, or Burton Island, forget which, and's been many years now.

Following Stadimeter

Starting up in broken pack ice...we were in a large clear area before getting to the "Fast" ice...the ice that had yet to be broken.


Second Mate checking distance with Stadimeter. Notice how the ice has filled back in before us...but we had no problems.

This Is It No Further

In December of '63 we got no closer than fifteen miles to McMurdo.


The fast, and hummocked ice was too heavy for the breakers. The dark blobs are sleeping seals.

Tractor D-8 Tractor With Sleds

This is how everything got to McMurdo from the ship.


No worry about the ice...the breaker couldn't break it.

Penguins Baby

Saying hello to the natives.


"Don't bother me" it's saying.

Whale WB2LTL

Taken from the edge of the ice, this whale could be sizing me up for a meal...they will try to knock seals off the ice edge if they can.


Ship's gear: The GPT 750-D2, and 90RX, transmitter, and receiver. Used both Christmas' to patch most of the crew home.

Ice Hinge VIPs

In December of 64 - summertime down there, we made it all the way to McMurdo. The CBs pushed volcanic ash over the ice that remained attached to the shore, and we tied up to it like a dock. It was just a walk to "town".


Clockwise from top left: Scott Base leader; McMurdo base Commander; Bondeson - Captain of Towle; Towle Engineer - Johnson, and me.
Scott Base, much smaller than McMurdo, but cozy, was popular with many.

Mess C-130

Supposedly, when the ice thaws, and floats away, all the garbage should leave. Possibly it didn't happen yet here.
All the bases have this problem with waste.


The plane of choice in the Antarctic. I flew to the South Pole Station in Dec of '64 in this one...just me, and barrels of diesel other passengers. William's Field is the air-strip.

Nose Wheel Ski Stbd Landing-gear Ski

Husky - "Lucky" inspecting C-130's nose wheel, and ski. Orders came down to shoot all the huskies at the Pole Station...they ran out of bullets when it came to Lucky. He followed me all around the station.


Breaking the suction on take-off could be a problem if a good bump couldn't be found. I personally, as a passenger, couldn't notice any difference between wheel, and ski operations

Plane - Port Side South Pole...then

Only stayed on the "ground" for two hours...enough time to discharge, pick up mail, and leave.


It was 15F below, sunny, and calm. Could have taken off the parker, but left it on for effect.

Front Door Surface Buildings

Silver-colored corrugated tube leads to the Station below. Entrance door was like that for refrigerators, but reversed...the cold stayed out. As everyone arriving, I was treated to a steak sandwich right off. Afterwards I meandered top-sides, and spotted the mail clerk at the far end of this cavernous Butler Building, still busily sorting mail. "Bob, KC4USN ( his ham station call )?" I called voice bouncing off the walls in an eerie fashion. Startled, he turned, saw me, but continued to scan around me, especially above I dropped from the sky. I announced myself: "Carl - WB2LTL - KC4UST ( the Towel's call letters ) are you?" "Where the hell did you come from? How'd you get here?" he enquired most startled.


It was in one of these buildings I surprised the mail orderly. Imagine, turning around as he did, and seeing me standing there, this after about an hour after the plane's arrival. In many QSOs after, when I returned to sea on the Towle, Bob would bring up our encounter, telling everyone about me probably being the only ham ever to travel to the South Pole just for an "eyeball".
It certainly was unique. However, many of us involved in Operation Deep Freeze were hams, and met on the air before on the ice. See my story here.
The Pacific may appear deserted, and lonely, but when I was "on the air" I was in the finest company anyone could want, and seldom was there ever anyone interferring, nor static - QRM, QRN.

The C-130's Flight Deck Lyttleton

I was invited on our return trip to visit the Flight Deck. Still the only passenger, the cargo bay now empty, this was possible. Got a great view of the Beardmore Mountains, and glacier. The flight took several hours, and went as usual without incident...the weather clear, and as sunny as could be.


A little town on the side of a hill. The port serving Christ Church, a lovely, modern city...the people of New Zealand marvelous. Visited a few ham friends while there, in turn, inviting them to the ship. The harbor water is, because of certain mineral deposits, the color of Robin's Egg Blue.

Third Mate Second Mate

With a different view of the town behind, here is Mr. Johnson - one of our two Third Officers...Gary Tober, not shown, the other.


Mr. Joe Morrissey - Second Officer. An academy graduate, like the two "Thirds", Joe was a good shipmate, and officer.


Another Mr. Johnson - First Assistant Engineer...forget both of their first names, and yours truly on deck. The beer stein some kind of joke, or from the Beer Party On The Ice.

One More
Man's Best Friend

Posed with this husky puppy while visiting Scott Base. At that time, scientists used the dogs to pull sleds while on exploration. I do believe the dogs were treated well.

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