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“Old Shaky” Landed on 23 Feet Thick Antartic Ice And Proved Airborne Support Was Feasible

C-124 Cargomasters Made Quick Work of Things During Operation Deep Freeze

Official US Air Force Photograph

C-124 Cargomasters Made Quick Work of Things During Operation Deep Freeze

The color film “MATS Deep Freeze Airlift” was made by the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1961. It chronicles the efforts by Military Air Transport Service (MATS) to support the Navy’s “Deep Freeze” Antarctic scientific expeditions undertaken by Task Force 43. MATS flew the Douglas C-124 Globemaster into Antarctica in those days, and watching those huge boxy propeller-driven airlifters operate off the ice runway at McMurdo is remarkable- especially with the short-coupled landing gear on the Globemaster. Missions from Auckland in New Zealand to Williams Field near McMurdo Station and from Williams Field to Byrd Station and South Pole Station are all shown.

The missions to Byrd Station and the South Pole were air-drops. The C-124 did not have a rear loading ramp like the C-133 Cargomaster. Air-drops were done using a large hatch in the cargo hold floor. In between the two air-drop missions the MATS crews were grounded by weather for three weeks. Being grounded by weather in Antarctica is definitely not the same kind of experience as being grounded by weather in say Dover, Delaware. Even so, the Globemasters delivered in a few weeks what would have taken ground transportation several months or more to deliver. During Deep Freeze 62, three C-124s made a 3,100 mile round trip to air-drop supplies- the longest flight in Antarctic history.

Official US Air Force Photograph

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.