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 Military.com. 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.