Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Thule prepares for the long night

(Courtesy Photo)
(Courtesy Photo)

(Courtesy Photo)

By Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm

21st Space Wing Public Affairs

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland  —  Approximately 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle, ships brave icy waters to bring goods to Thule Air Base, Greenland. Every July, when the thick layer of ice that covers Baffin Bay nine months out of the year finally begins to thaw, ice breakers clear the base’s port and make way for ships bringing much-needed supplies.

The Military Sealift Command mission, named Operation Pacer Goose, is the annual summer resupply mission to Thule. With the base located in Pituffik, halfway between the North Pole and the Arctic Circle, this operation is the main supply line for the area. There are no resources available locally to sustain the residents of the base, so this mission supports military and civilians alike.

When weather permits, passengers, fresh produce and emergency spare parts are delivered to Thule through bi-weekly logistics flights, but the cargo capacity of these planes are constricted.

“Airlift in and out of Thule is severely limited,” said Senior Airman Kurt Lantz, 821st Air Base Group executive officer. “Our extreme remote location, aircraft availability, and the supply versus demand considerations are all factors. For this reason Thule relies on both the fuel tanker and cargo vessel because of the sheer volume of cargo and stores they are capable of transporting.”

The 440-foot ice-strengthened cargo ship MV SLNC Corsica delivered 3,025,024 pounds of bedding and supplies for Army and Air Force Exchange Service, and took away more than 534,000 pounds of damaged equipment no longer able to meet mission requirements.

The 591-foot ice-class tanker MT Maersk Peary off-loaded 6,858,222 gallons of JP-8 jet fuel over the course of three days. All of Thule’s operating systems rely on this fuel, every degree of heat and every bit of electricity, said Lantz. Even the vehicles run on the JP-8 unloaded.

The appearance of these massive ships on the horizon, coinciding with the changing of the seasons, signifies to the residents of Thule that winter is coming, but with the delivered supplies the base will make it through the fast approaching months of unrelenting darkness.

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