Operation Highjump (1946)

In 1946, the US Navy Antarctic Developments Project, or `Operation Highjump', was launched and it was perhaps the biggest single event that the continent had ever seen. It was the beginning of the Cold War and the exercise was designed to give US troops experience in polar conditions - 4700 men, 33 aircraft, 13 ships and 10 caterpillar tractors were deployed, and helicopters and icebreakers were used for the first time in Antarctica.

The expedition observed more than 1.5 million square miles of Antarctica, half of it previously unexplored, and took 15,000 aerial photographs.

The following season the U.S. Navy Second Antarctic Developments Project (Operation Windmill) used ship-based helicopters to get geodetic ground control for the aerial photographs. The expedition contributed to production of the first medium-scale maps of the region and influenced decisions regarding locations of stations for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) that occurred 12 years later.

At a time when other nations had embarked on programs of permanent bases, the U.S. Navy Second Antarctic Developments Project also was a vehicle for continuing the U.S. presence in Antarctica.

Courtesy of: NSF