The U.S. Coast Guard’s polar icebreaker Cutter Polar Star has made a brief stop in a warmer climate, mooring in San Diego before returning to Seattle after a four and a half month-long deployment to the Antarctic in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2016.
The Polar Star, a 399-foot cutter commissioned in 1976, is the nation’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and the most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker in the world.
Operation Deep Freeze is the U.S. military’s logistical support to the National Science Foundation-managed U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP). The mission includes strategic inter-theater airlift, aeromedical evacuation support, emergency response, sealift, seaport access, bulk fuel supply, port cargo handling and transportation requirements.
Polar Star’s crew left their homeport of Seattle Nov. 18, 2015, and arrived in McMurdo Sound Jan. 7, to break a channel for supply ships to reach the NSF’s McMurdo Station. The cutter worked to form navigable shipping lane through 13 miles of ice in the Sound, encountering ice up to eight feet in thickness. The shipping channel was used by the motor vessel Ocean Giant to deliver 7.85 million pounds of cargo to supply the station for the year, and the tanker Maersk Perry
to deliver 4.8 million gallons of fuel.