America’s Only Heavy Icebreaker Departs Seattle, Bound for Antarctica

The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) and its crew left Seattle on Wednesday and are scheduled to cross to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze.

Operation Deep Freeze is an annual joint military resupply mission to United States Antarctic stations in support of the National Science Foundation, the lead agency of the United States Antarctic program. This is the 26th year that the Polar Star has provided assistance.

Each year, the Polar Star crew breaks a navigable channel through ice, sometimes as thick as 21 feet, to allow fuel and supply ships to reach McMurdo Station, which is the largest Antarctic station and logistics center for the US Antarctic program.

“This is a unique and important mission that the Coast Guard conducts each year,” said Captain Keith Ropella, commanding officer of Polar Star. “It takes a dedicated crew to make the 20,000 nautical mile round trip through some of the most remote locations and most challenging conditions on the planet to get the job done, and perhaps more importantly, to set this 46-year-old cutter up to the challenge to prepare . I am overwhelmed and very proud of the tireless work this crew and our shore support partners have done since they returned from last Operation Deep Freeze to get us up and running in April and am incredibly excited to do so once in a lifetime trip with them.”

The US Coast Guard is recapitalizing its polar icebreaker fleet to ensure continued access to the polar regions, project US sovereignty, and protect the country’s economic, environmental, and national security interests.

“As the nation’s most active and visible maritime presence in the high latitudes, the Coast Guard provides important leadership in Antarctica and values ​​their relationship as a trusted partner of the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Antarctic program,” said Vice Adm. Andrew J. Tiongson, commander the Coast Guard in the Pacific Rim. “Polar Star’s continued support of Operation Deep Freeze is an example of the Coast Guard’s unique blend of operational capabilities, regulatory authority and strategic leadership in the polar regions. We are honored to ensure unhindered access to the region and to join forces with our international allies and sister Department of Defense services to support fundamental scientific research and the maintenance of a safe and cooperative environment on the Antarctic continent.”

Through Operation Deep Freeze, the US Coast Guard provides direct logistical support to the National Science Foundation and maintains a regional presence that preserves Antarctica as a scientific sanctuary.

Read more at USCG

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