Seattle’s Polar Sea Returns From 18th Deep Freeze Mission Photos Available

SEATTLE – Coast Guard Cutter Polar Sea returned home today after traveling 22,500 nautical miles during the four month Antarctic deployment in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2007.

Polar Sea enabled the successful replenishment of the McMurdo Station, Antarctica’s largest scientific and support community, by breaking through 23 nautical miles of Antarctic ice. By clearing this passage, 7 million gallons of fuel and four thousand metric tons of cargo were delivered to McMurdo Station via the USNS Paul Buck and M/V American Tern.

This year’s Deep Freeze mission marked the first time U.S and Sweden have joined forces, as Polar Sea and Swedish icebreaker Oden teamed up to complete the mission. After replenishment of McMurdo Station, Polar Sea successfully towed both the Paul Buck and American Tern off the ice pier. The Polar Sea also groomed a runway near McMurdo Station to allow cargo planes to fly into the outpost.

In further support of the international science community in Antarctica, Polar Sea transported seven scientists over 50 miles from McMurdo Station to Beaufort Island, which is the home of an Adelie Penguin Rookery, for scientific study. Polar Sea dive teams also conducted eight successful surface-supplied and SCUBA dives in the ice to conduct bottom mapping, hull and propeller inspection, and pitch setting.

Before leaving the Antarctic Circle, Polar Sea Engineers and Dive team worked jointly for two days to plug and then patch a leaky flange pipe on the USNS Paul Buck, which would have otherwise required extensive repairs and possible drydock.

For over 50 years, Coast Guard icebreakers have deployed to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze, where ships have broken through as much as 84 nautical miles of ice to produce a navigable shipping channel into McMurdo Station. Polar Sea, which has made the trip 18 times, was specifically designed for solo icebreaking in remote Polar Regions.

As economic interest in the Polar Regions continues to grow, it will become increasingly important for the U.S. to conduct national security and search and rescue operations in this remote area. The overarching purpose of the Coast Guard polar icebreaking program is to not only provide support to the scientific community, but also to project capability, power and influence, giving the U.S. a sovereign presence in this unique area of the world.

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