Polar Star, the USA’ sole heavy icebreaker just lately returned house after a 147-day Antarctic deployment making a number of milestones in her lengthy profession. Commissioned in 1976, Polar Star is enjoying a important position with the U.S. Coast Guard additionally endeavor important steps to take care of and modernize the vessel till the primary of three new heavy icebreakers is due for supply seemingly in mid-2025.
The just lately accomplished voyage marked the cutter’s twenty fifth Operation Deep Freeze deployment touring 24,300 nautical miles to Antarctica and again. Polar Star spent a complete of 65 days in Antarctica, additionally making it the longest Operation Deep Freeze deployment accomplished by a Coast Guard polar icebreaker in 18 years.
“I’m so pleased with this crew and their accomplishments,” stated Captain William Woityra, commanding officer of the Polar Star. “They overcame fixed challenges to finish the mission and set information alongside the best way. They epitomize the values on the Antarctica Service Medal: braveness, sacrifice, and devotion. I can consider no higher group to steer future expeditions and new icebreakers because the Coast Guard invests in Polar Safety Cutters.”
The 140-member crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star departed their Seattle homeport on November 13, 2021. Whereas in Antarctica, Polar Star transited by means of greater than 450 miles of pack ice and broke a 37-mile channel by means of seven-foot thick quick ice to McMurdo Station to permit the protected transit and offload of provide vessels Ocean Large and Maersk Peary. Polar Star additionally partnered with the Royal New Zealand Navy to escort the ice-capable logistics ship HMNZS Aotearoa for its first journey to McMurdo Station.
In the course of the deployment, she additionally set a brand new report for the furthest south any vessel has navigated. Transiting to the Bay of Whales on February 17, Polar Star set the report, reaching 78 levels 44 minutes 1.32 seconds south latitude, protecting about 500 yards from the ever-shifting Ross Ice Shelf. The cutter additionally surveyed 396 nautical miles of the ice shelf for future navigational use.
After finishing operations in Antarctica, Polar Star moored in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia to host a reception earlier than the voyage again to the USA. The cutter additionally made a number of worldwide port calls together with stops in Wellington and Lyttelton, New Zealand, throughout her deployment.
This 12 months marks the 66th iteration of Operation Deep Freeze, an annual joint army service mission in assist of the Nationwide Science Basis, the lead company for the USA Antarctic Program. The U.S. Division of Protection and the Coast Guard have offered since 1955 air and maritime assist throughout and across the Antarctic continent. Since 1965, the Coast Guard has been the only real supplier of the nation’s polar-icebreaking functionality.
Polar Star, nonetheless, didn’t return to its homeport of Seattle, on the completion of this deployment, as an alternative proceeded on to dry dock in Vallejo, California, to instantly begin work on the second part of a five-year, $75 million Service Life Extension Program. The Coast Guard will substitute antiquated expertise to make sure the longevity of the nation’s solely operational heavy icebreaker whereas in dry dock this 12 months.
The Coast Guard is rising its icebreaker fleet with the development of three new Polar Safety Cutters, however in February, Admiral Karl L. Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard, reported that the primary of the brand new vessels, which might be named Polar Sentinel, remained in design part delayed partially by the pandemic. He stated that he was nonetheless hopeful that the primary new icebreaker may very well be delivered by Might 2025. Till then, Polar Star is the USA’ solely operational heavy icebreaker to make sure a persistent nationwide presence and dependable entry to the Polar Areas.