McMurdo Ice Pier - Atlas Obscura

McMurdo Ice Pier

This pier made of ice and constructed over the Antarctic winter is used when the resupply cargo ships arrive in summer. 


Located in Winter Quarters Bay, the southernmost harbor in the world, the ice pier is built by winterover staff for use the following summer. It is constructed by strategically pouring seawater over the existing sea ice, allowing it to freeze. The process is then repeated again and again. 

Dozens of these “pours” and “lifts” are required to make the ice thick enough to support heavy machinery and shipping containers months later. Steel cables and wooden posts are also used to strengthen the pier.

Resupply boats can dock at McMurdo when the sea ice surrounding Ross Island breaks up over summer. The boats’ materials can be staged onto the ice pier, which is connected to land by a Bailey bridge, and cargo trucks can pick up the materials and deliver them to the station. Dirt is spread on the top of the pier to make it easier for vehicles to drive on it and to minimize warming effects from the sun.

As temperatures rise and storms cause cracks and other damage to the ice pier, a new one is usually built every winter. The old pier is set adrift into McMurdo Sound when it is no longer usable.

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March 20, 2024

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