Back to the Polar Region

     Fifty five years ago this summer I embarked (or should I say WAS embarked) on my first Polar adventure.  I was stationed onboard the USS MT Olympus (AGC-8) as an RMSN (Seaman Radioman) in the operations department. I was transferred to this ship in the fall of 1954 where she was stationed out of Norfolk, Virginia.  On the 1st of January 1955 the ship was reassigned to a homeport on the west coast in San Diego.  It was a good ship, and her primary responsibilities were to serve as a Flag Ship for the Task Force Commander and to provide communications support for amphibious landing forces. We were a part of what was jokingly called the “Gator Navy”.

     Sailing through the warm Caribbean waters on our way to Panama was quite an adventure for this Colorado farm boy hardly dry behind the ears. By now I had been thoroughly “schooled” by my shipmates in the “art” of  searching for non-existent items and locations onboard the ship.   Things like “buckets of steam”, “Charlie Nobel”  and at sea “Mail Buoy Watches” to name a few. Little did I suspect that my next transit through this marvel of engineering would be enroute to another Polar Adventure almost ten years in the future. Upon our arrival at our berth in San Diego we all felt that our new homeport in southern California definitely had quite a few advantages of our old one in Norfolk,Virginia – warm weather, beautiful beaches and CALIFORNIA girls!  

     In retrospect it has now become obvious to me as to the Navy’s reason for the homeport change; They wanted to give the old gal (Mt Olympus) one last assignment before putting her in mothballs. 

     In the summer of 1955 our task force was assigned to resupply the Dew Line  Early Warning Radar sites in the vicinity of Point Barrow, Alaska, under Project 572.  After sailing through the Bearing Straights, and crossing into the Polar Regions on the 28th day of July 1955 at Latitude 66 deg 33 minutes North, and 167 deg 56 minutes West, our crew was awarded Certificates inducting us into the “Grand Order of Arctic Adventures”. That summer I experienced my first taste of Polar Region operations, and the dangers of sailing through the Arctic Icepack, as our ship was “holed” by pack ice as we lagged behind our escort Icebreaker.  Thanks to the heroic work of our Damage Control Department, a whole lot of mattresses and 2 X 4’s we were able to make it back to the “lower 48”.

     In the fall of that year the Mt “O” was transferred to Mare Naval Island Shipyard in San Francisco, where she was un-ceremoniously “put to sleep”.

     In the Summer of 2010, my/our next adventure into the Polar Regions will be onboard the “Elegant Explorer”. Holland America’s ms Prinsendam as we sail from London to “The top of the World”, on the following route:

Prinsendam TOTW 2010

Come with us as we sail to the Polar Icecap.

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