Polar Star departs for annual Antarctic resupply mission

(SEATTLE) — The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) and crew departed Seattle on Wednesday and are scheduled to transit to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze.

Deep Freeze is an annual joint military mission to resupply the United States Antarctic stations in support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the lead agency for the United States Antarctic Program (USAP). This marks the 27th year for Polar Star to render support.

Each year, Polar Star crew breaks a navigable channel through ice, allowing fuel and supply ships to reach McMurdo Station, which is the largest Antarctic station and the logistics hub of the USAP.

An electrical shore cable is disconnected from Polar Star as crewmembers make final preparations to get underway from Seattle on Wednesday. Polar Star is a 399-foot heavy icebreaker that was commissioned in 1976. U.S. Coast Guard photo

“Operation Deep Freeze is a unique and important mission that Coast Guard cutter Polar Star undertakes each year,” said Capt. Keith Ropella, Polar Star’s commanding officer. “This mission requires year-round effort from the crew to prepare this 47-year-old cutter for the 20,000-nautical-mile round trip and extreme environmental conditions we will face. We have an incredible and dedicated team; I couldn’t be more excited or more proud to make this journey with them.”

The Coast Guard is recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to the polar regions and to protect the country’s economic, environmental and national security interests. Each year, the crew is asked to put forth an immense amount of time and effort to prepare the cutter for their annual deployment in support of Deep Freeze. Polar Star has completed the third of five planned phases of the service life extension project (SLEP), costing $15.6 million over a 132-day maintenance period.

“The U.S. Coast Guard is pleased to continue partnering with the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Antarctic Program to enable a durable U.S. presence on Antarctica and across the Southern Ocean,” said Vice Adm. Andrew Tiongson, Pacific Area commander. “Our commitment to the Antarctic region is unwavering, and we have been pleased to increase our maritime cooperation with like-minded members of the Antarctic Treaty, as well as investing in new technologies and vessels to ensure our presence is enduring.”

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Professional Mariner Staff