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News Release 98-012

U.S. Navy to Depart U.S. Antarctic Program after 42 Years

February 18, 1998

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

A ceremony in Christchurch, New Zealand on February 20, 1998 marks a significant milestone in the U.S. Navy's withdrawal from the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) after 42 years.

In 1993, the Navy announced its decision to withdraw, citing new global priorities related to the ending of the Cold War.

The Christchurch ceremony commemorates the shutdown--or "dis-establishment"--of the Naval Antarctic Support Unit, the Navy unit stationed in New Zealand. The Navy will continue to provide limited flight support to the USAP through the end of the next austral research season (1998-99).

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) will continue to oversee and support the U.S. Antarctic Program, as it has since 1972. "NSF's support for scientific research in Antarctica remains as strong as ever," said Neal Lane, NSF director. "We thank the Navy for decades of support, which has helped to advance research important to the future of our planet studies on the ozone hole, the stability of Antarctica's ice sheets and the dynamics of the Southern Ocean."

The moniker "Operation Deep Freeze," formerly referring to the Antarctic logistics support provided by the Navy, will now designate flight support to the Air National Guard of the U.S. Air Force. The 109th Air Wing of the New York Air National Guard, already with ten years of experience flying in the Antarctic and 23 years of flying in the Arctic, will assume the Navy's role of flying the ski-equipped LC-130 Hercules aircraft owned by NSF and the Air Guard. The ski planes are the backbone of the USAP's ability to support research across the breadth of the Antarctic continent, a capacity no other nation possesses.

The LC-130's ability to shuttle materials and people to the South Pole will enable replacement of major parts of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. This project, currently underway, paves the way for erection of a modern scientific observatory that will stand well into the 21st century. Many other functions performed by the Navy for the USAP have already been turned over to civilian contractors--particularly to Antarctic Support Associates, based in Denver, Colorado.


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Lynn T. Simarski, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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