The MV American Tern makes one visit to Antarctica each year to carry freight from America and New Zealand to McMurdo Sound to supply the three bases at McMurdo, Scott and Amundsen (South Pole). The Tern is a commercial container ship chartered by the US Navy to make annual voyages to Greenland and Antarctica. During the summer the ship can get through the ice floes with the help of an icebreaker or two into McMurdo Sound. The present charter expires this year. The Tern is not any old ship, it was built in East Germany in the 1980s and is ice strengthened with other special features to help ensure it doesn’t get into trouble down there. The present charter runs out this year so there might be something else going down there next year. The Tern arrived in New Zealand waters a few days ago and will sail straight to Antarctica from here. Then it stops in again on its way back and then heads back home. Ships of the Tern’s size are not normally loaded at this wharf but having its own cranes to load makes the difference so it doesn’t need to take up space at the busy dedicated container terminal. Much smaller coastal roll on roll off ships are usually loaded at this wharf and coastal container ships load on the other side, also using their own cranes. The Tern is one of a few interesting visitors that come through on their way south from time to time. Others are the research ships like the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer, and the tourist icebreakers like the Kapitan Khlebnikov.
FOOTNOTE: The Tern was seen in Christchurch again on the 13th February – presumably heading north this time.