U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star to assist vessels in Antarctica

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits near the beginning of the ice edge in the Chukchi Sea north of Wainwright, Alaska, July 16, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Mooers.

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits near the beginning of the ice edge in the Chukchi Sea north of Wainwright, Alaska, July 16, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Mooers.

Written by Coast Guard Pacific Area.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is responding to a Jan. 3rd request from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, AMSA, to assist the Russian-Flagged Akademik Shokalskiy and Chinese-Flagged Xue Long that are reportedly ice-bound in the Antarctic. The Russian and Chinese governments have also requested assistance from the United States.

Coast Guard Pacific Area Command Center received the request Thursday evening from AMSA after they evaluated the situation and determined there is sufficient concern that the vessels may not be able to free themselves from the ice. AMSA has been coordinating rescue operations since the Akademik Shokalskiy became beset with ice on Dec. 24. The Polar Star will cut short its planned stop in Sydney to support the AMSA’s request for assistance.

“The U.S. Coast Guard stands ready to respond to Australia’s request,” said Vice Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, commander of Coast Guard Pacific Area. “Our highest priority is safety of life at sea, which is why we are assisting in breaking a navigational path for both of these vessels. We are pleased to learn the passengers of the Akademik Shokalskiy have been transported safely off the vessel. We are always ready and duty bound to render assistance in one of the most remote and harsh environments on the face of the globe.”

The Polar Star is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only active heavy polar icebreaker. The ship is 399 feet in length, its maximum speed is 18 knots and it is able to continuously break six feet of ice at three knots and 21 feet of ice backing and ramming. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Polar Star is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only active heavy polar icebreaker. The ship is 399 feet in length, its maximum speed is 18 knots and it is able to continuously break six feet of ice at three knots and 21 feet of ice backing and ramming. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Polar Star left its homeport of Seattle in early December on one of its primary missions, Operation Deep Freeze. The ship’s mission is to break a channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to resupply and refuel the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station on Ross Island.

The National Science Foundation manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which coordinates all science research and related logistics in Antarctica and on the Southern Ocean; McMurdo Station is the logistics hub for The National Science Foundation’s research. The Polar Star will continue on this mission after conclusion of the vessel assistance mission.

This is the first time since 2006 that the Polar Star has made this journey. It has recently completed a three-year, $90 million overhaul, which will allow it to continue these important missions into the foreseeable future. For more than 50 years, Coast Guard icebreaker crews have deployed to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze. They will again assist by creating a navigable shipping lane through the layers of sea ice in McMurdo Sound permitting delivery of critical fuel and supplies needed to operate the U.S. McMurdo and South Pole stations throughout the coming year.

The Polar Star is the U.S. Coast Guard’s only active heavy polar ice breaker. The ship is 399 feet in length, its maximum speed is 18 knots, it is able to continuously break six feet of ice at three knots, and able to break 21 feet of ice backing and ramming. The Polar Star is specifically designed for open-water icebreaking with a reinforced hull and special icebreaking bow.

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  • Tom Wright

    When will Polar Star arrive on scene?

  • J Smith

    if the Polar Star gets stuck or has massive ice … I wonder if a “M58 Mine-Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC)” could be mounted on it’s bow to cut through the ice?

  • Michael Walker

    I was the last Deep Freeze in 2006. The prior year we also made a similar trip to assist a Russian Icebreaker you could not finish the ice breaking mission because the damage a prop. Long story short it took us approximately 1 month to sail straight to Antarctica and with some 14 miles of ice to get through there is no telling how long it will take to get to the stranded ship. It really all depends on the seas in transit and the ice thickness and distance when they get there. Man I wish I was with them. Smooth sailings and calm seas my friends.

  • Darrell Parks

    Studies done on my ship, the Staten Island, WAGB 278, were used to design and improve icebreakers. After using WWII technology, can’t imagine what an almost up-to-date breaker would be like. GO POLAR STAR!

  • Dave

    I read it will take 7 days before it arrives

  • Guest

    You really expect them to tell you that here?

  • Donald Bellefeuille

    In 1972 the USCG icebreaker Edisto was stuck in ice in the artic assisting the USN research vessel Mizar. Edisto took Mizar under stern tow and the Mizar slipped the notch, broke several flight deck stanchions on the Edisto and broke her rudder. After reducing to skeleton crew the Edisto attempted to break out of the ice pack and sheered off a prop. Eventually she followed leads in the ice and made her way to the open sea and was towed across North Atlantic by USCG Southwind to base Baltimore.

  • Joseph Muniz

    Approx 11 JAN 14

  • BanditZeroThree

    Make us proud Polar Star…
    Semper Paratus!

  • Joe

    I’m starting a pool on how soon it’ll break down…

  • Randy

    Stop me when I’m wrong: Why don’t we send in one or more of our nuclear subs? They allegedly can break through any ice. We are supposed to have hundreds under the ice.
    I know this is a movie reference, but in “Stargate Continuum”, it was a real submarine that went through the ice.
    I don’t think the Russians are watching us anymore

  • Lori Cheney

    That would be a violation of OPSEC to disclose that info. Aint gonna happen, sorry.

  • Barry Lease

    After loading up it will depart Sydney and then 7days to get to the other ships.

  • Realist in DC

    Takes about 7 days from Sydney, it is not built for speed.

  • Rob

    Hope they video this, not often you get to see something positive.

  • Gwen Bonds

    Thanks for getting back with me.. I will send on the information..I and my husband was very lucky to see the Ice breaker Healy that came to Seward Alaska.. We were going fishing.. and it was coming in…Was some thing to see.. My husband Jason got to go on it.. Love your new building in seward.

  • Shawn

    Only ‘active heavy icebreaker’? What happened to the Healey? I was on the Star back in 93-95 and the Healywas ssupposed to replace the Star and the Sea.
    It’s cool to hear she’s back in action underway. Heard the NSF no longer is supporting though ;-(