Operation Deep Freeze (OpDFrz or ODF) is the codename for a series of United States
missions to Antarctica
, beginning with "Operation Deep Freeze I" in 1955–56, followed by "Operation Deep Freeze II", "Operation Deep Freeze III", and so on. Given the continuing and constant US presence in Antarctica since that date, "Operation Deep Freeze" has come to be used as a general term for US operations in that continent, and in particular for the regular missions to resupply US Antarctic bases, coordinated by the United States military
The impetus behind Operation Deep Freeze I was the International Geophysical Year 1957–58. IGY, as it was known, was a collaboration effort between forty nations to carry out earth science studies from the North Pole to the South Pole and at points in between. The United States, along with Great Britain, France,Japan, Norway, Chile, Argentina, and the U.S.S.R. agreed to go to the South Pole—the least explored area on Earth. Their goal was to advance world knowledge of Antarctic hydrography and weather systems, glacial movements, and marine life. The U.S. Navy was charged with supporting the U.S. scientists for their portion of the IGY studies.
The U.S. Navy already had a record of earlier exploration in Antarctica. As early as 1839, Captain Charles Wilkes led the first U.S. Naval expedition into Antarctic waters. In 1929, Admiral Richard E. Byrd established a naval base at Little America I, led an expedition to explore further inland, and conducted the first flight over the South Pole. From 1934–35, the second Byrd Expedition explored much further inland and also "wintered over". The third Byrd Expedition, in 1940, charted the Ross Sea.
After World War II, from 1946–47, Byrd was instrumental in the Navy's Operation Highjump that charted most of the Antarctic coastline. In 1948, Commander Finn Ronne led an expedition that photographed over 450,000 square miles (1.1 million km²) by air. Then, in 1954–55, the icebreaker USS Atka (AGB-3) made a scouting expedition for future landing sites and bays.
Operation Deep Freeze I prepared a permanent research station and paved the way for more exhaustive research in later Deep Freeze operations. The expedition transpired over the Antarctic summer of November 1955 to April 1956.