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From 1955 until 1999, the Navy (Antarctic Development Squadron Six, VXE-6) flew various aircraft in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program (when the plates pictured here were used - author).
In 1998 at the Navy's request, the Air Force/Air National Guard took over command of the Department of Defense's support to the USAP (Operation Deep Freeze) from the Navy. VXE-6 continued to augment the Air National Guard with LC-130 flights until it was disestablished in March 1999.
The New York Air National Guard's 109th Airlift Wing, which had augmented VXE-6 since 1988, became the sole USAP provider of LC-130 aircraft support, beginning with the 1999/2000 field season.
License Plate and Story
In 1963 a ruby-red Beetle spent 12 months at the Mawson base in Antarctica which is part of the Australian Government's commitment in the Antarctic through the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition (known as ANARE).
The Beetle, model 1962, was built in Australia by the Volkswagen Australasia Pty Ltd. Bodywork. Engine, glass, electrical system, paint and tires of the Beetle "Down Under" built in the Sixties were in fact produced in Australia without using parts from Germany.
It was the first production model in Antarctica which explains the name "Antarctica 1" assigned by Volkswagen. Scientists nicknamed the Beetle "Red Terror" because of the colour of the body which stood out against the white landscape.
During that year in Antarctica, the Beetle was used as means of transport for people and equipment. The car had to endure heavy snowfalls, violent winds and it travelled on snow and ice for a long distance.
There is no requirement to have cars registered in the Antarctic. However, a set of number plates had been made up with "Antarctica 1" painted on them. These plates have since become collectors' items and replicas have been made and sold to VW enthusiasts worldwide.
Exploits of "Antarctica 1" were very well documented and publicized as early as May 1963. Volkswagen Australia used the pictures and stories in much of their advertising at the time. This continued in 1964 when Antarctica 2 completed a similar tour of duty.
Source: The Volkswagen Classic and Vintage Club of Australia, "The Beetle".
The SP-90 plates were designed by Lt. Jaminet of the U.S. Navy in 1963. The plates were sold as souvenirs at McMurdo Station on Antarctica and aboard support vessels during "Operation Deep Freeze".
Task Force 43 was a joint effort of the Seabees and the VX-6 Air Squadron 6 from Quonset Naval Air Station both in Rhode Island. Their mission was to supply, operate and maintain all U.S. scientific stations on Antarctica.
The plates carry "SP" (South Pole) and "90°" (90 degrees South latitude) separated by a penguin. The small square below the degree symbol has been changed several times to various emblems or no design at all.
Source: ALPCA Newsletter 2/2000
Antarctica has no permanent population and no vehicles are permanently registered.
(1) Jim Fox/Picture by Greg Gibson