Like the smoke grenade posted yesterday, this one was retrieved from Antarctica’s
Dry Valleys where it was probably used for signaling purposes. Unlike the burning-type
grenade however, this bursting-type model used white phosphorus (WP) filler, spread
by explosive action. WP is a highly efficient smoke-producing agent, burning quickly
at 5000°F upon exposure to air, producing an instant bank of dense white smoke.
The intense heat generated by this process causes the smoke to rise rapidly in cold environments, ideal for ground-to-air signaling in Antarctica.
Big thanks to Chris Gardner who found and donated both grenades to the Long View Project in the course of his McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER field work. His Antarctic photos are great favorites of mine; I particularly like this Abstract McMurdo set.
This used colored-smoke grenade was originally housed in the type of container posted yesterday. Indeed, the two may have been a couple as both were found in the Dry Valleys, albeit by different individuals at different times. Ironically, the paper container’s label survived to tell us of its contents while the steel grenade relinquished all its identifying marks to the elements, including the top surface hue that originally indicated its smoke color.
The Army/Navy Model 18 Colored Smoke Grenade, as the M18 is officially known, has various uses both in training and combat. In pacific settings such as Antarctica, it can function to signal aircraft and/or to mark a target landing zone. Having experienced the Dry Valleys fog, I’ll guess that this device dutifully served to guide a helicopter safely to base back in the relatively nascent days of GPS technology.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Some technical details for the curious: The M18 is a burning-type grenade which burns oxygen. A pull-ring igniter activates the fuze which detonates the filler, creating pressure
to force the smoke out through the emission hole at the bottom. Weighing 19 ounces, the device can typically be thrown 115 feet (35 meters) and its 11.5 ounces of filler generates
a cloud of colored smoke for a duration of 50 to 90 seconds.
Some history on its early manufacture from the Redstone Arsenal Chronology:
16 November 1943: The first M-18 colored smoke grenade (violet) was produced at Huntsville Arsenal on this date. Production continued until 8 May 1945. Persons working in colored smoke were paid one grade higher to offset the danger involved in the manufacture of these munitions; to compensate for the dusty conditions under which they worked; and to make up for the staining of the employees’ skin. The higher wage scale applied to all of the different colored smoke operations.
This week I’m cataloging three more discards that I retrieved from Antarctica to include
in my artwork. All three items are of a military nature, which may seem odd in light of
the Antarctic Treaty‘s banning of military activity on land or ice shelves below 60°S.
But while the Treaty prohibits military bases, maneuvers, and weapons-testing on
the continent, it does permit the use of military personnel and equipment for scientific research and other peaceful purposes. It’s an essential arrangement for the National Science Foundation which relies greatly on the military’s ability to provide logistical
support in extremely harsh environments.
I first clued into this in Christchurch where the New York Air National Guard’s 109th
Airlift Wing is tasked with flying to Antarctica under tricky and unpredictable conditions.
(And recently, earthquakes. Word is that the Christchurch-based airmen are all safe.)
Over at McMurdo Station, the U.S. military coordinates strategic and tactical airlift, emergency response, aeromedical evacuation, deep-field support, sealift duties, and
the handling of seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo and a host of other trans-portation needs.
This ongoing support mission, called Operation Deep Freeze, began as a Navy-led undertaking in the mid-1950s which eventually aligned with scientific objectives intro-
duced under the Antarctic Treaty. Today ODF is carried out through the Joint Task Force – Support Forces Antarctica by the 13th Air Force and the U.S. Pacific Command.
Military personnel currently comprise about 10 percent of the 1,200 people working
out of McMurdo Station.
The cylindrical paperboard container above was found in the Dry Valleys by Marble Point camp manager Randall “Crunch” Noring. The container was empty but its label tells us
that it once held an M18 colored smoke grenade. Oddly enough, I acquired just such
a grenade elsewhere in the Dry Valleys to create a snug match. I’ll post the second half of the happy union tomorrow along with thoughts on what it might have been used for.
The figures in this piece represent Ernest Shackleton and his Antarctic crew from the 1907-09 ‘Nimrod’ Expedition who produced the letterpress-printed Aurora Australis
book, fashioning its wooden covers from recycled provision cases.
Each page of the triptych is 11.75″ high x 10.25″ wide, created in graphite and cut
paper. The set is currently on exhibit in Cutters/Cork, the latest in the Cutters series of international contemporary collage exhibitions curated by James Gallagher. The show is
up through March 12 at West Cork Arts Centre in County Cork, Ireland.