Well, it's now officially boating season in the McMurdo sound area. The ice breaker "Oden", a Swedish vessel, arrived at the edge of the seasonal ice pack on 08 January. It has successfully broken a channel through the ice all the way to McMurdo as of this morning. The US Coast Guard has two ice breakers - the Polar Sea and the Polar Star. At the moment, only one is functional and it is tasked with missions in the north this year (I believe). The National Science Foundation has therefore contracted with the owners of the Oden to provide access to McMurdo station.
The 'dock' that we use here is just a thick ice pad that has soil spread across it. Below you can see the Oden backing into the docking area.
The channel through the pack ice is used later this month by two more ships (ships that cannot break ice) - one is a cargo/resupply ship and the other is a ship carrying fuel resupply. The cargo ship will bring building materials and other cargo to McMurdo station, and it will also haul out with it all of our waste and many scientific samples that will be kept frozen on their way to Port Hueneme, California.
Below is a picture of my box of frozen water samples to come back to Penn State. It is in one of 8 environmental rooms in which the temperature is carefully controlled (from -20 degrees C, to -4 degrees C to +4 degrees C). These samples will get put on the vessel and travel to the US on the cargo ship then they will be driven to Penn State by a shipping company that has freezer trucks.
Our waste is separated very carefully. We have something like 10 different waste streams and we must put each item we 'throw away' into the proper bin. Some waste streams are recycled, some are burned, and some are handled very carefully - like food waste, which is carefully sealed so that when the cargo ship crosses the equator, no one gets sick from the rotting food! Much of our waste is returned to the US by the cargo ship for final disposal.