Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star on scene with fishing vessel that’s stuck in the ice

cg-D11ALAMEDA, Calif. – A U.S. Coast Guard crew is on scene with the 207-foot fishing vessel that is beset in ice approximately 900 miles northeast of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

After traveling more than 430 miles, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star has reached the crew of the Australian-flagged fishing vessel, Antarctic Chieftain, who contacted Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand Tuesday evening for assistance after becoming trapped in the Antarctic ice. The crew of the 40-year-old cutter has reported snowy conditions at times as well as large icebergs along their course to reach the vessel.

“The ice conditions were found to be much more formidable than expected. We are on scene and progressing well with the rescue,” said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer of the Polar Star. “It is with a great sense of pride that we are able to assist Antarctic Chieftain. Search and rescue has always been our core mission and Polar Star is demonstrating the Coast Guard’s commitment to saving lives in all the world’s oceans.”

The disabled fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain sits beset by ice near Cape Burks, Antarctica, Feb. 14, 2015. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is on scene with the vessel to provide assistance and support. Polar Star's crew has been underway in Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2015, part of the U.S. Antarctic Program, managed by the National Science Foundation. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

The disabled fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain sits beset by ice near Cape Burks, Antarctica, Feb. 14, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

 

Once they break the ice around the Antarctic Chieftain, the Polar Star’s crew will lower a remotely operated vehicle into the water for a better look at the Antarctic Chieftain’s damaged propeller blades. The fishing vessel suffered damage to three of its four propeller blades when it became stuck in the ice and has lost its ability to maneuver.

Once the overall damage of the Antarctic Chieftain is assessed, the Polar Star will then attempt to free the vessel from the ice. If the vessel’s propulsion is inoperable, the Polar Star may have to tow the vessel from the ice field.

Once the Antarctic Chieftain is freed from the ice, the New Zealand-flagged fishing vessel Janas is scheduled to escort or tow the vessel to the nearest safe harbor. Janas is now approximately 630 miles away from the Antarctic Chieftain’s position.

RCC New Zealand requested U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, homeported in Seattle, to respond to the Antarctic Chieftain’s request for assistance. The 150-person crew of Polar Star was deployed to McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as part of Operation Deep Freeze, which provides military logistical support to the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) The National Science Foundation manages the USAP.

The Polar Star is the nation’s only heavy icebreaker capable of operating in the thick Antarctic ice for a mission such as breaking out the Antarctic Chieftain or clearing McMurdo Sound for the annual resupply of McMurdo Station. The 399-foot cutter is one of the largest ships in the Coast Guard and one of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear icebreakers.

Maritime New Zealand manages RCC New Zealand, which is responsible for all major maritime and aviation search and rescue missions within New Zealand’s search and rescue region. Maritime New Zealand is responsible for the coordination of search and rescue, maritime environmental protection, maritime transportation and numerous other maritime missions in New Zealand.

Pacific Area is the Coast Guard’s regional command element and force provider for maritime safety, security, and stewardship in the Pacific. The Coast Guard’s Pacific Area encompasses six of the seven continents, 71 countries, and more than 74 million square miles of ocean — from the U.S. Western States to Asia, and from the Arctic to Antarctica.

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