Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star returning home following Antarctic rescue

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, a high-endurance icebreaker home-ported in Seattle, sits on the ice in the Ross Sea near Antarctica while underway in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2015, Jan. 9, 2015. Deep Freeze is a multi-agency operation, the military component of the U.S. Antarctic program, which is managed by the National Science Foundation. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star sits on the ice in the Ross Sea near Antarctica while underway in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2015, Jan. 9, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

ALAMEDA, Calif. – The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the nation’s only operational heavy icebreaker, is scheduled to return Seattle after a 101-day Antarctic deployment Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Polar Star’s crew departed Seattle for Operation Deep Freeze 2015, the military resupply and logistical support mission for the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station. Coast Guardsmen aboard Polar Star escorted the cargo vessel Ocean Giant and fuel tanker Maersk Peary to McMurdo Station through ice ranging in thickness from 5 to 10 feet. These logistics allow scientific research to continue in the Antarctic.

Upon completion of Deep Freeze, Polar Star’s crew rescued 26 fishermen aboard the 207-foot F/V Antarctic Chieftain. The mariners were trapped in a heavy pack ice near Cape Burks, Antarctica, for almost two weeks. The crew diverted to provide assistance to the fishermen. After navigating across 753 miles with 89 miles of treacherous ice conditions, Polar Star’s crew located the Antarctic Chieftain and towed the fishing vessel through 49 miles of pack ice with before transferring the Antarctic Chieftain to the New Zealand fishing vessel Janas.

For more than 50 years, Coast Guard icebreakers have deployed to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze. Polar Star is the nation’s only heavy icebreaker capable of operating in the thick Antarctic ice and completing this unique mission. Polar Star will spend the summer months in dry dock preparing for next year’s resupply mission of McMurdo.

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