The sea ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica, is extensively utilized for runways, travel, freight hauling and docking facilities. The safety and efficiency of these operations depend upon a better understanding of the sea-ice bearing strength.
Variations in shear and tensile strength, decreased thickness, salinity changes, internal deterioration and changes of the temperature gradient are all related to and dependent upon snow cover, ambient temperatures and solar radiation. During the austral summer of 1964–65, shear strength decreased from 9.8 kg./cm.2 in October to 6.3 kg./cm.2 in late January and then increased to 8.0 kg./cm2. by 10 February. The salinity of collected brine decreased from 125 p.p.t. in November to 43 p.p.t. in January. Thickness increased until mid-December, then decreased rapidly by bottom melting until break-out in February. In the Cape Armitage shoal area, thickness decreased from 2.5 m. in mid-December to 36 cm. in late January. Snow cover significantly affects the degree of internal deterioration and the amount of strength loss during the summer. Sea ice with more than 6 cm. snow cover is consistently stronger than unprotected ice and deterioration is less. Bearing strength of the sea ice is sufficient for most ordinary loads throughout the period of most extensive use.