Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea departs the Arctic Ocean

JUNEAU, Alaska – The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea, home ported in Seattle, concluded operations in the Arctic Ocean this week and was awarded the Arctic Service Medal for operating north of 60 degrees north latitude for 21 consecutive days.

This is the first time the ship has received this award in ten years. Returning to Seattle on December 5th, the six week patrol in the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean showcased the icebreaker’s multi-mission capabilities and the breadth of maritime responsibility assigned to the Coast Guard.

The Polar Sea sailed into the Arctic Ocean to conduct ice trials on the improved engine power plant. These ice operations also supported the Coast Guard’s Arctic Domain Awareness mission. The ship patrolled to 77 degrees 55 minutes north latitude, only 725 miles shy of the North Pole. While north of the Arctic Circle, the icebreaker experienced five days of darkness when the sun did not rise and temperatures plunged to minus 7.

In support of the Coast Guard’s Marine Environment Protection mission, the ship crew tested a DIP-600 oil skimmer system off the coast of Nome, Alaska. The crew of the Polar Sea also hosted a U.S. Fish and Wildlife ornithologist conducting a bird population study.

On the return trip south, the Polar Sea crew patrolled the Maritime Boundary Line between Russia and the United States to enforce treaties protecting American fisheries. The cutter also enforced federal law by conducting an at-sea boarding of a U.S. flagged fishing vessel in the Bering Sea.

The 399-foot Coast Guard icebreaker is capable of conducting a variety of missions and is designed to operate in both Polar Regions. The Polar Sea is capable of breaking up to 20 feet of ice. The Polar Sea was commissioned in 1978 and is a conventionally-powered heavy icebreaker with a crew of 143

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