Polar Star sets cutter record for winter Arctic latitude

(CHUKCHI SEA, Alaska) — The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10), the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker, traversed a historic winter latitude Friday during a months-long Arctic deployment to protect the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the remote polar region.

Polar Star’s crew navigated beyond 72 degrees latitude shortly before noon Friday before changing course and heading south to continue their Arctic deployment. The Coast Guard said it was a record for a U.S. surface ship.

“The crew achieved a notable milestone Christmas Day by traversing farther into the harsh, dark winter Arctic environment than any cutter crew in our service’s history,” said Capt. Bill Woitrya, the cutter’s commanding officer. “Our ice pilots expertly navigated the Polar Star through sea ice up to 4 feet thick and, in doing so, serve as pioneers to the country’s future of Arctic explorations.”

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With Mount Baker in the background, Polar Star transits Puget Sound north of Seattle on Dec. 4. U.S. Coast Guard photo

With frigid Arctic winds and air temperatures regularly well below zero, Polar Star’s engineers work around-the-clock to keep frozen machinery equipment running and the ship’s interior spaces warm enough for the crew.

The 44-year-old icebreaker is underway to project power and support national security objectives throughout Alaskan waters and into the Arctic, including along the maritime boundary line between the United States and Russia.

The Polar Star crew is also working to detect and deter illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and conduct Arctic training essential for developing future icebreaker operators.

Polar Star’s record-breaking winter Arctic latitude is 72° 11′ N.

– U.S. Coast Guard

By Professional Mariner Staff