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     Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 71

Home Building The Dome

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Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 71 (NMCB-71) was specially organized to work in Antarctica and build the domed station beginning in DF-72 (1971-72). Before then, the unit working at Pole was CBU-201.



During the 1971-72 season the men lived in emergency camp Jamesways at the old station, but in 1972-73 they built the 110-man construction camp "dry gulch."

They then proceeded to finish the dome, the arches, and all of the station's major structures including Skylab. When the unit departed Pole for the last time at the end of the 1973-74 season, the station was officially 85% complete according to NSF. The battalion left behind a 4x8 plywood commemorative sign (shown above) in 2002. It was mounted behind the door on the skyway side of the BioMed arch.


During the 2004-05 season the building will be removed so that the arch can be reworked as part of the storage area for the new elevated station. Accordingly, the sign was removed during the 2002 winter. In January 2003, Jerry Marty, the NSF construction manager, arranged for the board to be crated and shipped back to Port Hueneme for future display in the Seabee Museum.


Many MCB 71 Seabees deployed to the Antarctic will remember the building below….the "Dry Gulch" saloon. LCDR Bill Kay of MCB 71 writes, "As a diversion from their incredibly difficult workload, I let the men construct a recreation room from shipping crates. Their typical Seabee cleverness and talent eventually resulted in the Hollywood type fašade for the "Last Chance Saloon, complete with hitching post….honest. Another well-known trait of the Seabees is their absolutely uncanny ability to create things from thin air and the appearance of that shuffleboard, pool table and football game still bewilder me to this day!". LCDR Kay was the CO of MCB 71 then.

Navy Seabees began work in the 1970-1971 season as Construction Battalion Unit 201 (later renamed Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Unit 71), created specifically for work in Antarctica. The Seabees worked 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, in the short construction season, often taking advantage of the 24-hour sunlight through the use of multiple shifts.

The cold, thin air lowered production significantly. Also, machine to mill the snow and to prepare it as a foundation had mechanical difficulties that further reduced progress. By the end of the first season, only 10 percent of the foundation pad and the utility shell had been completed.

Despite repairs, the snow miller again had mechanical difficulties and broke down frequently in the following season. A wide-track tractor also failed. By the end of the 1971-1972 season, the dome base was finished and part of its framework was erected. Problems with structural fit of the base ring, combined with deteriorating weather, brought construction to a halt in late January 1972. The December 4, 1971, crash of an LC-130 hampered haulage of materials to the site; the completion date was postponed from January 1974 to January 1975.