“Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star Bound for the Arctic in December” –USNI

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships, January 16, 2017. The resupply channel is an essential part of the yearly delivery of essential supplies to the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station.US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley

US Naval Institute News Service reports Polar Star will deploy to the Arctic in December. We knew this was coming, but we have been short of details of when and for how long. This at least indicates it will begin in December. (I will speculate, she will be gone about three months, returning in March to provide a little inport time before going into the yard.)

There seem to be a couple of errors in the story.

“For the first time in almost five decades, the Coast Guard’s heavy icebreaker won’t be supporting Antarctic scientific missions in coming months…”

Coast Guard heavy icebreaker support has not been continuous over that period, at least once, and I believe more than once, the McMurdo break-in was done by non-Coast Guard icebreakers, either contracted foreign icebreakers or the National Science Foundation’s own smaller icebreaker.

“This would be the first Coast Guard operation in the Arctic Ocean since August 1994 when a now-deactivated heavy icebreaker with a Canadian Coast Guard heavy icebreaker reached the North Pole.”

This seems to be missing a qualifier. The Coast Guard has certainly operated in the Arctic since August 1994. There is better information on Polar class operations in the Arctic here, in a Military.com report.

“It will be the first deployment of a U.S. Polar-class icebreaker to the Arctic on a non-science mission (emphasis applied–Chuck) since August 1994, when the heavy icebreaker Polar Sea, now inactive, became one of the first two American surface ships to reach the North Pole.

“In 1998, Polar Star spent three months in the region on a science mission. And in 2009, the Polar Sea conducted a three-month Arctic deployment, also dedicated solely to science.”

3 thoughts on ““Coast Guard Icebreaker Polar Star Bound for the Arctic in December” –USNI

  1. I tried to compile a list of Operation Deep Freezes where foreign icebreakers have been involved using Google. I have also included some additional trivia as well.

    – 2002-2003 (ODF 2003) was the only time USCGC Healy was deployed to Antarctica (together with USCGC Polar Sea)
    – 2003-2004 (ODF 2004) was the last Operation Deep Freeze where both Polar-class icebreakers were deployed to Antarctica
    – in 2004-2005 (ODF 2005), the Russian icebreaker Krasin was assisting USCGC Polar Star while USCGC Polar Sea had to remain at the dry dock
    – in 2005-2006 (ODF 2006), Krasin attempted break-in alone but threw a blade which couldn’t be replaced; USCGC Polar Star was hastily deployed from Seattle (and afterwards placed in caretaker status)
    – in 2006-2007 (ODF 2007), the Swedish icebreaker Oden was chartered to the operation to support USCGC Polar Sea
    – in 2007-2008 (ODF 2008), Oden took the primary role while USCGC Polar Sea was on standby in Seattle
    – in 2008-2009 (ODF 2009) as above
    – in 2009-2010 (ODF 2010) as above
    – in 2010-2011 (ODF 2011) as above (USCGC Polar Sea was inoperable due to engine casualty)
    – in 2011-2012 (ODF 2012), Oden was replaced by the Russian icebreaker Vladimir Ignatyuk (former Canadian offshore icebreaker Arctic Kalvik) after the Swedish government decided to keep Oden in the Baltic Sea
    – in 2012-2013 (ODF 2013), as above (together with RV Nathaniel B. Palmer)
    – in 2013-2014 (ODF 2014), USCGC Polar Star returned to service and no foreign icebreakers were chartered to support it
    – in 2014-2015 (ODF 2015), as above
    – in 2015-2016 (ODF 2016), as above
    – in 2016-2017 (ODF 2017), as above
    – in 2017-2018 (ODF 2018), as above
    – in 2018-2019 (ODF 2019), as above
    – in 2019-2020 (ODF 2020), as above
    – in 2020-2021 (ODF 2021), resupply by sea cancelled due to COVID-19 and USCGC Polar Star is deployed to the Arctic

    In 2015, I sailed past Vladimir Ignatyuk in Murmansk on another icebreaker and one of the officers mentioned that he had been in Antarctica with the vessel. The vessel has seen very little, if any, service since ODF 2013.

  2. There is a lot of talk about the Nome Deep Water port project lately. Even so far as the politicians looking at homeporting a PSC there. The port plans, as laid out by the Corps of Engineers is not sufficient in any way to allow extended porting of an icebreaker at Nome. It looks a lot more like a very small container port and port of refuge. Link to everything you ever wanted to know about a port for Western Alaska. This link goes into detail of every port, not just Nome. https://www.poa.usace.army.mil/Portals/34/docs/civilworks/arcticdeepdraft/ADDMainReportwithoutappendixes.pdf

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