Operation Deep Freeze Expedition and Ray-Ban Deep Freeze Sunglasses

Operation Deep Freeze is the codename for a series of United States missions to Antarctica, beginning with "Operation Deep Freeze I" in 1955–56, followed by "Operation Deep Freeze II", "Operation Deep Freeze III", and so on. Given the continuing and constant US presence in Antarctica since that date, Operation Deep Freeze has come to be used as a general term for US operations on that continent including the regular missions to resupply US Antarctic bases coordinated by the United States military. The U.S. Navy already had a record of earlier exploration in Antarctica. As early as 1839, Captain Charles Wilkes led the first U.S. Naval expedition into Antarctic waters. In 1929, Admiral Richard E. Byrd established a naval base at Little America I, led an expedition to explore further inland, and conducted the first flight over the South Pole. From 1934–35, the second Byrd Expedition explored much further inland and also "wintered over". The third Byrd Expedition, in 1940, charted the Ross Sea. After World War II, from 1946–47, Byrd was instrumental in the Navy's Operation Highjump that charted most of the Antarctic coastline. In 1948, Commander Finn Ronne led an expedition that photographed over 450,000 square miles by air, and in 1954–55 the icebreaker USS Atka made a scouting expedition to identify future landing sites and bays.


The impetus behind Operation Deep Freeze I was the International Geophysical Year 1957–58. IGY, as it was known, was a collaboration effort between 40 nations to carry out earth science studies from the North Pole to the South Pole and at points in between. The United States, along with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Norway, Chile, Argentina, and the USSR, agreed to go to the South Pole—the least explored area on Earth. Their goal was to advance world knowledge of Antarctic hydrography and weather systems, glacial movements, and marine life. The U.S. Navy was charged with supporting the U.S. scientists for their portion of the IGY studies.


In 1955, Task Force 43 was formed to carry out this work. Operation Deep Freeze I prepared a permanent research station and paved the way for more exhaustive research in later Deep Freeze operations. The expedition transpired over the Antarctic summer of November 1955 to April 1956. On October 31 1956 US Navy Rear Admiral George J. Dufek and others successfully landed a R4D Skytrain (Douglas DC-3) aircraft at the South Pole as part of the expeditions mounted for the IGY. In 1956, a U. S. Navy expedition set up the first permanent base at the South Pole by airlift, Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, to support the International Geophysical Year. The Operation Deep Freeze activities were succeeded by Operation Deep Freeze II and so on, continuing a constant US presence in Antarctica since that date.


Bausch & Lomb through their Ray-Ban subsidiary outfitted members of the Operation Deep Freeze expedition teams with Ray-Ban Deep Freeze sunglasses since the inception of Operation Deep Freeze I in 1957-1958. One of the rarest of all sunglasses, Ray-Ban Deep Freeze sunglasses were never sold to the general public and were only made available to expedition members and the pilots who flew them in and out of Antarctica. While classically styled as Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses, Ray-Ban Deep Freeze sunglasses and their lenses had ultra high performance double gradient mirror exterior filters to deal with the extreme glare of the Arctic environment. They also had rubber sleeves on the ear stems to prevent the metal from sticking to expedition member's faces during periods of extreme cold.


Click to see original period photos and notes of the US Deep Freeze Expedition in McMurdo Sound c 1961!


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