We left Campbell Island and headed south for the ice. By this time I was up and about, but only to go to the mess deck to eat, and then back to Sickbay.
These dates might not be accurate, but I‘ll use them as if they were. On Thanksgiving Day we sighted the first of the thin ice, and also met up with the USCGC Burton Island, another icebreaker from Long Beach. She had been in Auckland, New Zealand for liberty, and the USCGC Glacier, the largest of all the icebreakers, was in Christchurch, New Zealand.
We proceeded behind the Burton Island, and also had our Thanksgiving Day dinner. I was homesick all day, and on top of that, the meal stunk!
By the time we reached McMurdo Sound the Glacier had joined us, and we all split up to start breaking.
A little comparison of the Glacier and regular icebreakers is necessary. Glacier is 310 feet long, has 10 main engines, 12 cylinders each. The rest of the breakers are 269 feet long, have 6 main engines, 10 cylinders apiece. From the work I‘ve seen the Glacier perform this year and last, I‘ll stick to the 269-footer
30 November to 19 December1968 McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
We made pretty good progress for the next few days, then we hit the thick ice (Fast Ice, 42 miles from McMurdo Station, 3 to 10 feet thick), and it was a slow go. Wes stopped once and everyone went over the side and walked around on the ice. You know, like you see in the books. I‘d been on here for two cruises, and this was my third, and this was the first time I‘ve done it.
When we really started hitting the thick ice the best we could do was 5 miles in 24 hours. The thicker it got, the less we would go.
The Burton Island and Southwind broke in pairs, with Glacier bringing up the rear. And most of the time she was doing good to keep from getting stuck.
We spaced ourselves 100 yards apart, Burton Island making a charge, while we waited behind, then she would back down and we made our charge, backed down, and the process repeats itself. We‘d make about 200 yards to start with, then 100, then 50. It got so bad we couldn‘t get over a mile some days - 8 to 10 feet, 1 to 2 miles per day.
We kept this pace up and on the 18th we were only about 5 miles from McMurdo Station. Then Main Engine #6 gave up. Up until now we had no trouble with #5 or #6. The last two cruises pulling the upper crank and changing cracked liners was almost a weekly routine, or rebuilding the front end flexible drive assembly.
Well, since Main Engine #5 was completely rebuilt in the yards, including the front end, I had no worries about that. Main Engine #6 had all new liners and an overhaul last cruise after we threw a piston out the side. But the front end on Main Engine #6 hadn‘t been touched since it collapsed on the northern cruise.