U.S. Icebreaker Returns After 107-Day Antarctic Mission

Polar Star, the only U.S. heavy icebreaker, in Antarctica during Operation Deep Freeze in 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star returned to its home port in Seattle, Washington this week after supporting the annual delivery of operating supplies and fuel for National Science Foundation (NSF) research stations in Antarctica. The crew supported the NSF by cutting a resupply channel through 17 miles of Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea to escort a supply vessel to the continent.

The Polar Star crew departed Seattle Nov. 27 to assist in the annual delivery known as Operation Deep Freeze, the logistical support provided by the U.S. Armed Forces to the U.S. Antarctic Program.

Polar Star carries approximately 150 crew members, 1.5 million gallons of fuel and enough food stores to last one year in the ice should it be necessary. Polar Star is 399 feet long, 84-feet wide, weighs 13,500 tons, has a 34-foot draft (same as an aircraft carrier), 75,000 horse power and nine engines (six diesels and three jet-turbines). The ship can break continuously through six feet of ice and up to 21 feet of ice by backing and ramming. Commissioned in 1976, the cutter is 43 years old.

The Polar Star crew overcame flooding, an electrical outage, electrical switchboard issues and an incinerator fire to accomplish their mission supporting Operation Deep Freeze. —U.S. Coast Guard

Read more about Polar Star’s challenges in the Antarctic: Despite Flooding, Engine Failure U.S. Icebreaker Completes Antarctic Mission.

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