SEEN OFF WEST SEATTLE: USCGC Polar Star, with unusual mission soon

Thanks to Monica Cavagnaro for the photo. That’s the icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10), in Elliott Bay today. It’s based in Seattle so it’s not an unusual sighting, but soon it will be off on an unusual deployment – headed to the Arctic, the first Polar-class icebreaker to go there in 26 years, reports The Coast Guard‘s announcement says the 399-foot Polar Star will head to the Arctic this winter “to help protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security in the region.” It usually goes to the Antarctic, but that’s not happening this year, as explained by the announcement:

Typically, the Polar Star travels to Antarctica each year in support of Operation Deep Freeze, the annual military mission to resupply the United States’ Antarctic stations, in support of the National Science Foundation.

This year’s maritime resupply at McMurdo Station was cancelled due to COVID safety precautions, and a limited resupply will be conducted via aircraft. However, Operation Deep Freeze is an enduring mission that requires a heavy icebreaker for a full resupply, and the Coast Guard anticipates resuming this critical deployment next year.

The 44-year-old Polar Star is currently the U.S.’s only heavy icebreaker. A new one is in design and due for completion in 2024.

2 Replies to "SEEN OFF WEST SEATTLE: USCGC Polar Star, with unusual mission soon"

  • T November 1, 2020 (6:46 am)

    This article referenced for this story is not correct. I have been involved with USCG icebreaker Healy and Polar Star missions to the Arctic recently. Here is just one recent example. 

  • Mark47n November 3, 2020 (5:02 am)

    This could cause other issues for the other Antarctic stations, in particular the polar station , Amundsen-Scott Station at the geographic South Pole, since this the channel through the ice also brings in the ship that brings fuel and fuel for this station is brought in by pumping the fuel out of the LC-130’s wing tanks. This may cause the station to operate on a skeleton crew and cause certain other parts of the station to be closed until next November. This was an issue what I was at the polar station 18 years ago when the Healy damaged is prop shaft and the fuel ship could only get 5 miles away requiring 5 miles of fuel hose to be spooled out across the ice for fuel unload. Skeleton crews were discussed as well as what would be needed to winterize other buildings, etc. Fortunately, Austral winter doesn’t begin until March so they have a few months to maybe figure something out but McMurdo is the primary logistics hub for the continent so this has some pretty serious ramifications for other nations programs.

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