The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star returned home to Elliott Bay
a day ahead of schedule Tuesday afternoon after a successful voyage to Antarctica to help break a supply channel for U.S. science stations.
The 399-ft. long, Seattle-based cutter and its 134-member crew, commanded by Capt. Bruce Toney
who usually commands its twin, Polar Sea
, scrambled on less than 48-hours notice to leave on Jan. 20 from Pier 36, home of the nation's polar icebreaking fleet.
A Russian icebreaker, the Krasin, that the National Science Foundation this
year chose to open a channel to supply science stations was confronted by more difficult conditions than expected and slowed by propeller damage. While traditional ice channels have been 12 to 14 miles long, ice this year extended more than 70 miles from McMurdo Station
, but less than the record 84 miles last year.
As the austral summer window to deliver supplies waned, thePolar Star, veteran of 15 such missions in its 30 year life, sped to backup the Krasin, entering Antarctica
's iceberg-choked waters Feb. 13.