Image: Polar ships
Brian Barnett  /  NSF
The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, left, and the Navy tanker USNS Paul Buck are docked at the ice pier at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. In the background are the Russian icebreaker Krasin, at center, and the NSF research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer.
updated 2/3/2005 5:43:35 PM ET 2005-02-03T22:43:35

U.S. ships have delivered food, fuel and equipment to Antarctic science bases, despite fears they would not be able to pass through the ice pack formed behind the world’s largest iceberg, officials said Thursday.

A fuel tanker and cargo ship, following a 94-mile (150-kilometer) path cut by icebreakers through ice up to 10 feet (3 meters) thick, has reached a pier in McMurdo Sound, U.S. National Science Foundation spokesman Arthur Brown said.

The ice pack was nearly double its normal 48-mile (77-kilometer) width after building up behind the world’s biggest iceberg, known as B15A, which has blocked wind and water currents that usually break up ice floes in the sound.

Brown said the American icebreaker Polar Star and Russian icebreaker Krasin encountered ice between 5 and 10 feet (1.5 and 3 meters) thick as they cut the channel.

The icebreakers “had a bit of maneuvering to do to get round B15A and its remnant pieces. But once that was done they had a pretty straight shot to open a channel up into McMurdo Station,” Brown said.

Three weeks ago scientists said B15A, a 100-mile-long (160-kilometer-long) iceberg, had run aground within 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of slamming into a huge glacier known as the Drygalski Ice Tongue. It blocked paths to the sea for thousands of penguins, leaving up to 50,000 penguin chicks to starve to death in the area this season.

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