Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star frees vessel from Antarctic ice, tows it to open water

cg-D11ALAMEDA, Calif. – The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star freed the fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain Friday night that was beset in ice approximately 900 miles northwest of McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

After meeting with the 207-foot fishing vessel, the crew of Polar Star took the Antarctic Chieftain in a stern tow. The vessels are surrounded by 12 to 15 feet thick ice covered with two feet of snow. Towing in ice is much more hazardous than towing in open water and is a slow process. The crew of Polar Star and Antarctic Chieftain must remain vigilant and ready to respond to changing ice conditions. Upon reaching a small area of open water, also known as a polynya, the Antarctic Chieftain will commence testing the vessel’s ability to steam under its own power. Once testing is complete, Polar Star and the Antarctic Chieftain will proceed north through another 60 miles of ice.

Seaman Nicholas Libbing, a member of deck force aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, uses a bolo to send a messenger line to the crew of the disabled fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain, Feb. 14, 2015. Antarctic Chieftain became disabled and beset by ice near Cape Burks, Antarctica. 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)

Seaman Nicholas Libbing, a member of deck force aboard Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, uses a bolo to send a messenger line to the crew of the disabled fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain, Feb. 14, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

 

Rescue Coordination Centre 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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One Comment

  1. BMC G.F,PICKETT, USCGRET says:

    The Polar Star made me proud to have served. now if the COAST GUARD would get the act to gather
    and put the Polar SEA back in use????????