“Coast Guard Cutter Cypress arrives in Kodiak, replaces SPAR”

Progress on the WLB In Service Vessel Sustainment Program.

united states coast guard

News Release  U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska

 

Coast Guard Cutter Cypress arrives in Kodiak, replaces SPAR

A view of the Coast Guard Cutter Cypress is pictured as the vessel's crew transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship's new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Nov. 12, 2021. The Cypress crew transited over 7,600 nautical miles south along the east coast of the United States through the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and North along the west coast of the United States through the Alaskan Inside Passage and to the vessel's new homeport. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.
A view of the Coast Guard Cutter Cypress is pictured as the vessel’s crew transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship’s new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Nov. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.
The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress deck department stands on the buoy deck while the vessel transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship's new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Oct. 19, 2021. The Cypress will be filling the role of the “Aleutian Keeper,” replacing the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR as the 225-foot Juniper Class Buoy Tender and will be responsible for servicing aids throughout Kodiak Island and the Aleutian chain. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.
The Coast Guard Cutter Cypress deck department stands on the buoy deck while the vessel transits from Los Angeles, California, to the ship’s new homeport in Kodiak, Alaska, Oct. 19, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Harris.

KODIAK, Alaska — The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cypress crew arrived in Kodiak, Sunday, after transiting from the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore, Maryland, upon completion of the ship’s Major Maintenance Availability (MMA).

The Cypress crew transited over 7,600 nautical miles south along the east coast of the United States through the Caribbean and Panama Canal, and North along the west coast of the United States through the Alaskan Inside Passage to their new homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak.

The crew began preparing the Cypress for her maiden voyage to Alaska in August and will be returning to Kodiak after four months away from home.

The Cypress will be filling the role of the “Aleutian Keeper,” replacing the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR as the 225-foot Juniper Class Buoy Tender, and will be responsible for servicing aids throughout Kodiak Island and the Aleutian chain. SPAR departed Kodiak in January 2021, entered MMA in February 2021, and will be re-homeported in Duluth, Minnesota at the completion of the MMA.

Commissioned in 2001, the Cypress was stationed in Mobile, Alabama, and subsequently re-homeported to Pensacola, Florida, as the “Strong Arm of the Gulf,” servicing aids to navigation along 900 miles of coastline, stretching from Apalachicola, Florida, to the border of Mexico. The Cypress crew aided in hurricane recovery operations after Ivan, Katrina, and Rita, recovering and re-establishing buoys that hurricanes had moved up to 24 miles off station.

In 2004, the Cypress crew successfully recovered a sunken 38,000 lb. “Blue Angels” F/A-18A Hornet from 40 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico after a training accident. The Cypress crew had served thereafter as the center point for the annual Blue Angels’ air show at Pensacola Beach until her arrival at the Coast Guard Yard for MMA in August of 2020. In 2010, the Cypress crew responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacting the Gulf of Mexico, conducting oil recovery operations with specialized oil recovery equipment alongside sister ships Juniper, Walnut, Sycamore, Aspen, Oak and Elm, together recovering over 500,000 gallons of spilled oil and coordinating environmental cleanup activities between numerous federal, state, local, and private entities.

During her 34-day-long transit, the Cypress crew made port calls in Mayport, Florida, Key West, Florida, Long Beach, California, and Ketchikan, Alaska. The Cypress crew took full advantage of the long transit time to conduct damage control training, small boat training, engineering and navigation drills, and worked to build watch proficiency leading to 63 individual qualifications.

The Cypress crew looks forward to returning home to their families, serving their local Alaska community, and returning to the important work of servicing aids to navigation that support the Maritime Transportation System vital to Alaska’s robust maritime economy.

“Coast Guard Cutter Kimball returns to homeport after patrol in Bering Sea and Arctic” –D14

The crews of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756) and the USS Tulsa (LCS 16) conduct a passing exercise in the Pacific, April 3, 2021. The Kimball was underway conducting an expeditionary patrol which covered approximately 20,000 nautical miles. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Cutter Kimball)

USCGC Kimball seems to have had an unusual ALPAT (Alaska Patrol). They got up into the Chukchi Sea North of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russian Siberia, interacted with vessels of our Canadian and Japanese allies, and shadowed Chinese warships transiting in the US EEZ off the Aleutians.

It may seem odd sending a Hawaii based cutter to Alaska, but Oahu is almost exactly due South of Kodiak. It is only about 520 nautical miles further away than Alameda, the only other Pacific base for Bertholf class cutters.

united states coast guard

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 14th District Hawaii and the Pacific
Contact: 14th District Public Affairs
Office: (808) 535-3230

Coast Guard Cutter Kimball returns to homeport after patrol in Bering Sea and Arctic

Kimball

Editors’ Note: Click on stock image to download a high-resolution version.

JUNEAU, Alaska – The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Kimball returned to homeport in Honolulu, Hawaii Thursday following a 66-day patrol in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

The crew traveled nearly 13,000 nautical miles since departing Honolulu Aug. 21, including through the Bering Strait and into the Arctic Ocean. With Arctic sea ice melting, these distant travels are important in helping the U.S. Coast Guard conduct a range of operations in the high latitudes as fish stocks and maritime traffic moves north.

The Kimball crew conducted 18 targeted living marine resources boardings; the most a national security cutter has completed during a single patrol in the 17th District area of responsibility.

“These law enforcement boardings maximized our presence in the Bering Sea,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Samuel Cintron, Kimball lead law enforcement petty officer. “Each boarding team member was instrumental to the success of the operation and reinforced the Coast Guard’s position on protecting national security and domestic fisheries.”

More than 65 percent of fish caught in the United States is harvested from Alaskan waters, generating more than $13.9 billion annually.

The Kimball crew conducted at-sea drills with key maritime partners including the Royal Canadian Naval Ship Harry DeWolf and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force training vessel Kashima. In each instance, the ships operated alongside one another and exchanged visual communications, followed by honors. This display of maritime cooperation and mutual respect emphasizes the United States’, Canada’s, and Japan’s continued commitment to one another and to partnership at sea.

During the deployment, Kimball crew observed four ships from the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) operating as close as 46 miles off the Aleutian Island coast. While the PLAN ships were within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, they followed international laws and norms and at no point entered U.S. territorial waters. All interactions between the Kimball and PLAN were in accordance with international standards set forth in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium’s Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

The Kimball crew conducted astern refueling at sea with Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Berry, a fast response cutter also homeported in Honolulu. This capability significantly extends the operational range of FRCs.

Commissioned in 2019, Kimball is the Coast Guard’s seventh national security cutter.  These assets are 418-feet-long, 54-feet-wide and have a displacement of 4,600 long-tons. With a range of 13,000 nautical miles, the advanced technologies of this class are designed to support the national objective to maintain the security of America’s maritime boundaries and provide long range search and rescue capabilities.

For breaking news follow us on twitter @USCGHawaiiPac

“GA-ASI Flies MQ-9 in the Canadian Arctic” –Seapower

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9A “Big Wing” UAS flew in the hostile climate of the Canadian Arctic. GA-ASI

The Navy League’s Seapower website reports,

 In a flight that originated from its Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) near Grand Forks, North Dakota, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) flew a company-owned MQ-9A “Big Wing” configured unmanned aircraft system north through Canadian airspace past the 78th parallel, the company said in a Sept. 10 release.

A traditional limitation of long-endurance UAS has been their inability to operate at extreme northern (and southern) latitudes, as many legacy SATCOM datalinks can become less reliable above the Arctic (or below the Antarctic) Circle – approximately 66 degrees north. At those latitudes, the low-look angle to geostationary Ku-band satellites begins to compromise the link. GA-ASI has demonstrated a new capability for effective ISR operations by performing a loiter at 78.31° North, using Inmarsat’s L-band Airborne ISR Service (LAISR).

The 78th parallel lies more than 1200 nautical miles North of Kodiak. Getting any kind of air recon that far north, other than perhaps icebreaker based helicopters, has always been difficult.

Even our icebreakers have difficulty communicating. Satellite coverage at these high latitudes is spotty at best.

The ability to operate UAS in this environment could substantially improve our Polar Domain Awareness and serve as a communications relay for multiunit operations in the Arctic or Antarctic.

The high altitude capability of these aircraft also provides a far larger view than would be possible from a helicopters. The horizon distance from 45,000 feet is about 250 nautical miles.

“U.S. Coast Guard, Marine Rescue Service Russian Federation meet in Anchorage” –D17

Just passing this along.

united states coast guard

 

 

Photo Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska

U.S. Coast Guard, Marine Rescue Service Russian Federation meet in Anchorage

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard host members of the Marine Rescue Service Russian Federation for the 43rd Joint Planning Group meeting and exercise, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, in Anchorage, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard representatives worked with their Russian counterparts during the event, held under the 2020 Joint Contingency Plan between the U.S. and Russia, for pollution preparedness and response cooperation in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn)

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Marine Rescue Service Russian Federation held their 43rd joint planning group meeting and exercise Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in Anchorage under the 2020 Joint Contingency Plan of the United States of America and the Russian Federation in Combating Pollution on the Bering Sea and Chukchi Seas.

U.S. Coast Guard representatives from Headquarters, Pacific Area, the 17th District and Sector Anchorage worked with their Russian Marine Rescue Service counterparts to review the Joint Contingency Plan and update a 2021-2023 joint work plan for improving preparedness and cooperation between the U.S. Coast Guard and Marine Rescue Service Russian Federation in spill response in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

The purpose of this joint work plan is to:

  • Implement the Joint Contingency Plan (JCP) of the United States and the Russian Federation on combating pollution in the Bering and Chukchi Seas in Emergency Situations.
  • Develop sustainable infrastructures for marine environmental protection and response to oil and hazardous substance incidents.
  • Develop greater cooperation and understanding between the United States and the Russian Federation; specifically, between the responsible government agencies and private sector entities that take part in response to oil and hazardous substance incidents.
  • Develop methods and techniques for preparedness and response to oil and hazardous substance incidents.
  • Encourage compatibility of response systems in terms of command-and-control techniques, equipment, training, exercises and related preparedness and response issues.
  • Maintain a two-year work plan cycle to permit efficient planning for budget and personnel scheduling. Identify and address risks associated with the shipment of hydrocarbons across or near the shared maritime boundaries.
  • Maintain an up-to-date training and exercise schedule.
  • Identify topics and initiatives for discussion during joint planning group meetings and teleconferences.

The group toured the Alaska Wildlife Response/International Bird Rescue Center and observed an equipment demonstration at Alaska Chadux Network to learn more about response systems and capabilities.

“Meeting our Russian counterparts face-to-face and exchanging information strengthens our shared commitment to environmental protection,” said Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore, commander 17th District. “The U.S.-Russia maritime boundary is adjacent to heavily-traveled routes for ships carrying hydrocarbons. I rest a bit easier at night knowing that we have developed working relationships with our neighbors and are preparing ahead of time for a pollution incident that we hope does not occur.”

Rear Adm. Nathan A. Moore, commander, Seventeenth Coast Guard District, welcomes Mr. Petr Gerasun, deputy director, Russian Federation Marine Rescue Service, to the 43rd Joint Planning Group meeting at Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, August 31, 2021. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Russian Federation delegation participated in the 43rd Joint Planning Group meeting for pollution preparedness and response cooperation in the Bering Sea and Chukchi Seas. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nate Littlejohn)

Barbara Callahan, senior director of response services with International Bird Rescue, gives a tour and discusses the wildlife response and rehabilitation process to the 43rd Joint Planning Group at the Alaska Wildlife Response Center in Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 1, 2021. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Russian Federation participated in the 43rd Joint Planning Group meeting for pollution preparedness and response cooperation in spill response in the Bering Sea and Chukchi Seas. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa E. McKenzie)

“Taming Atalanta” –US Naval Institute, Naval History Magazine

Rum Runner Atalanta and Coast Guard Destroyer Ericsson (CG-5)

The US Naval Institute has a nice piece of Coast Guard history available from the latest Naval History magazine. It concerns a very fast, armored rum runner, and how it was ultimately brought to heal.

There is also a story in the same issue of Naval History about Alaska Patrol fisheries enforcement by USCGC Confidence in the 1970s, probably 1975-77. I had left Confidence in 1974.

USCGC Confidence (WMEC619) on Alaska Patrol. Photo by Commander Tom Martin, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)

Two stories from the “Old Days.”

“Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region” –D17

JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel en route Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Woods.

Below is a District 17 News release regarding USCGC Polar Star’s unusual Winter Arctic deployment. (I did do some editing to remove repetition in the photo captions.)

united states coast guard

 

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: 17th District Public Affairs
Office: (907) 463-2065
After Hours: (907) 463-2065
17th District online newsroom

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star conducts research, collects valuable high-latitude data to expand knowledge of remote Arctic region

JUNEAU, Alaska - U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor up in Juneau, Alaska, on Feb. 12, 2021, as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment.  In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.  U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.
JUNEAU, Alaska – U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star transits the Gastineau Channel to moor Juneau, Alaska, Feb. 12, 2021. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Trevor Bannerman.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) arrived in Juneau, Friday, for a logistics stop as the crew nears the end of their months-long Arctic deployment conducting scientific research and protecting the nation’s maritime sovereignty and security throughout the polar region.

In addition to Polar Star’s strategic national security objectives, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker sailed north with scientists and researchers aboard to work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to gather data and lessen the void of information from the region and better understand how to operate year-round in Arctic waters.

“The Arctic is cold, dark, and difficult to navigate in the winter,” said Capt. Bill Woityra, the Polar Star’s commanding officer. “Deploying with researchers and scientists aboard has aided in the development, understanding and pursuit of technologies that will mitigate risks and enable future mission performance so that looking forward, the Coast Guard can safely operate continually and effectively in this remote environment.”

Working aboard Polar Star, Shalane Regan, a member of the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC), teamed up with Lt. Lydia Ames, a NOAA Corps officer to assist CRREL researchers by deploying buoys onto the ice where they will, over time, collect and transmit information about ice flow to help fill in data gaps for higher latitude oceans.

The Polar Star crew also aided in a research project concerning water flow regimes in the Arctic, specifically the Chukchi Sea, a study developed by Dr. Robert Pickart of WHOI. The data collected during Polar Star’s patrol will be used to develop a more complete understanding of the hydrology of the dynamic region.

To support Dr. Pickart’s research, WHOI provided 120 Expendable Conductivity-Temperature- Depth (XCTD) instruments to measure temperature and salinity. These profiles of the water column will give a better picture of what water and nutrient flow look like in the Arctic winter. Polar Star crew members deployed the probes every 12 hours when above 65 degrees north.

Additionally, Regan, who is a mechanical engineer and researcher with the RDC Surface Branch, worked with other scientists and researchers on board to find ways to operate most effectively in the frigid Arctic environment.

For technology, Regan brought a 3D printer and Remotely Operated Vehicle aboard Polar Star to evaluate how the systems would react to the Arctic climate and ship life.

“I used the 3D printer to complete many small projects that resulted in large lifestyle improvements for the crew,” said Regan. “Most importantly, the knowledge I was able to gather about larger issues the crew faces, for example, visibility issues due to frost accumulation on the bridge windows, I can take home for my team to develop solutions that will create a better-equipped, mission-ready fleet.”

Another big item the RDC team is focusing on is underway connectivity, specifically in the Arctic region.

To better understand high latitude communications, The Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) was installed on Polar Star to test its abilities at high latitudes in the harsh Arctic winter conditions. Developed for the U.S. Navy by Lockheed Martin, the MUOS is an ultra-high frequency satellite communications system that provides secure connections for mobile forces.

“Looking towards the future, all signs point toward the Coast Guard deploying more platforms to the Arctic, more often and during different seasons of the year,” said Woityra. “The Coast Guard is robustly proficient at summer-time Arctic operations, while winter presents an entirely new set of challenges. Polar Star’s winter Arctic deployment has served to better understand and prepare for the challenges of operating in such a harsh and unforgiving environment.”

The cutter will be visiting Juneau to close out its operational patrol and will be moored downtown through the weekend. Due to COVID-19, the cutter will not be open to the public for tours. 

“United States and Russia sign Joint Contingency Plan for pollution response in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.” –D17 News Release

Northeast Russia and Alaska are in close proximity. Photo: Shutterstock

Below is a Coast Guard District 17 news release.


United States and Russia sign Joint Contingency Plan for pollution response in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

 

 

News Release

U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Alaska
Contact: Coast Guard Headquarters Media Relations
Email: mediarelations@uscg.mil
17th District online newsroom

United States and Russia sign Joint Contingency Plan for pollution response in the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard and the Russian Federation’s Marine Rescue Service recently signed the 2020 Joint Contingency Plan of the United States of America & the Russian Federation in Combating Pollution on the Bering & Chukchi Seas.

On Feb. 1, 2021, the Acting Director Andrey Khaustov of the Russian Federation’s Marine Rescue Service (MRS) and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Deputy Commandant for Operations, Vice Adm. Scott Buschman signed the 2020 update to the Joint Contingency Plan (JCP), which is a bilateral agreement focused on preparing for and responding to transboundary maritime pollution incidents. The updated JCP promotes a coordinated system for planning, preparing and responding to pollutant substance incidents in the waters between the U.S. and Russia. The U.S. and Russian Federation have shared a cooperative bilateral agreement on trans-boundary marine pollution preparedness and response in this area since 1989. The newest JCP revision requires joint planning and trans-boundary exercise efforts to be coordinated by a Joint Planning Group led by Coast Guard District Seventeen and is guided by a non-binding two-year work plan. In addition, the updated JCP creates the new International Coordinating Officer role to help facilitate the critical sharing of information during coordinated response efforts.

“This is an important agreement between the U.S and the Russian Federation that ensures coordination between respective authorities and actively promotes the protection of our shared interests in these environmentally and culturally significant trans-boundary waters,” said Vice Adm. Scott Buschman, U.S. Coast Guard Deputy Commandant for Operations. “We look forward to continuing our necessary and productive relationship with the Marine Rescue Service and the opportunity to conduct joint training and exercises in the near future in order to ensure the protection of our nations’ critical natural resources.”

The shared maritime boundary between the U.S. and Russia in the Bering and Chukchi seas has notoriously poor weather conditions and limited resources to respond to pollution incidents. This plan primarily addresses international collaboration matters and as such is meant to augment each Country’s national response system as well as state, regional, and sub-regional (local) plans. In the United States, the operational aspects of the plan fall under the responsibility of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seventeenth District Commander and Sector Anchorage.

“A Break in the Silence: Anecdote from a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker’s winter Arctic patrol” –News Release

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

A PACAREA news release. Apparently operating in the Arctic in the Winter still holds some surprises. Nice photos too.

united states coast guard

Feature Release

Jan. 29, 2021
U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area
Contact: Coast Guard Pacific Area Public Affairs
Office: (510) 437-3375
After Hours: (510) 816-1700
D11-DG-M-PACAREA-PA@uscg.mil
Pacific Area online newsroom

A Break in the Silence: Anecdote from a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker’s winter Arctic patrol

Co-written by Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham & Petty Officer 2nd Class Tedd Meinersmann

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021 Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021
Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic West Winter 2021 Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021 Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic West Winter 2021

Editors’ Note: Click on images to download high resolution version.

On a months-long winter mission to project U.S. presence and sovereignty into the Arctic, and to conduct scientific research in the remote area, the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, the nation’s sole heavy icebreaker, is using its one-of-a-kind capability to navigate the dark polar wilderness.

After departing Seattle, crossing the Gulf of Alaska and transiting the Bering Sea’s treacherous waters, where 20-foot swells mercilessly tossed the mighty Coast Guard ship, the resilient crew traversed the Arctic Circle into equally windy, but far calmer, ice-bound waters.

After a few dark days and nights of the Polar Star methodically backing and ramming northbound through the Chukchi Sea’s heavy blanket of sea ice, crewmembers started to chatter about something keeping them up at night.

The polar sailors, many who sleep in staterooms on a lower deck of the ship, were taking collective notice of a persistently clamorous sound.

Though the crew who serves aboard Polar Star are not strangers to ice-serenaded work and slumber, this Arctic patrol was audibly different than prior, more routine icebreaking deployments to the opposite end of the world.  

Polar Star annually travels to world’s southernmost continent in support of Operation Deep Freeze where skilled ice pilots drive the powerful ship through ice up to 21-feet thick. The icebreaking mission opens critical navigation channels for other ships allowing for essential supplies to be delivered to scientists conducting research at McMurdo Station in Antarctica.

When, earlier in 2020, Operation Deep Freeze was cancelled due to COVID-19 safety concerns at the station, the Polar Star crew instead headed north on the Chukchi Sea – farther north than any U.S. surface ship ever travelled in the winter – in support of the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy.

Navigating one of the world’s most northern frozen oceans presented the Polar Star crew an auditory experience far different than its southern sister ice. No two crewmembers describe the omnipresent sound of patrolling the Chukchi Sea similarly and creative metaphors for labeling the noise quickly became an amusing way for the crew to make light of the often palpable noise.

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic West Winter 2021

Like screeches and bangs from a perpetual car crash, a blaring elephant, freight train, or driving through concrete, freshly broken Arctic sea ice, scraping alongside the Polar Star’s hull, holds the likeness of screaming. It was a mysterious conundrum leaving many of the crew wide-eyed and wondering “why is this Arctic ice so loud?”

Fortunately, the Polar Star deployed north with a handful of scientists and researchers to advise the command and collect Arctic data in an effort to lessen the void of information available from the region. Evan Neuwirth, an ice analyst from the U.S. National Ice Center in Washington, D.C., is aboard Polar Star and proposed a theory about why navigating through Arctic ice is so noisy.

Neuwirth said temperature may be the greatest factor contributing to the sound heard while icebreaking. Sea ice in the winter is generally more dense, cold and brittle than in the summer. When winter Arctic ice strikes or rubs alongside the Polar Star’s exterior, more of the impact energy is transferred to the hull which results in a louder noise. Ice the crew experiences on their southern summer patrols is warmer and softer, making it more likely to compress and crush on impact with Polar Star – resulting in the absorption of energy that would otherwise result in a lot of noise.  

To best understand his theory, Neuwirth said to think of what it would sound like to throw a snowball at the ship’s hull versus a solid chunk of ice.

Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star Arctic Winter West 2021

The winter Arctic air and ice is so cold, often well below zero with the wind temperature factored in, that even after being broken into pieces, the ice chunks remain rock-hard creating the notorious noise made in the process that has, for the most part, been accepted by the crew as part of their unique, historic polar experience.

By experiencing and operating in one of the world’s most remote and harsh environments, the Polar Star crew is gaining critical familiarity of the Arctic necessary to develop and train future polar sailors and advance U.S. interests and power in the region.

As the Polar Star’s understanding of the Arctic grows by the day, one thing the crew knows for sure is that patrolling the frozen winter world above the Arctic Circle is desolate, dark and serene, but from aboard the Coast Guard Polar Star – it’s far from silent.

“Is the US Losing the Fight for Arctic Dominance?” –Military.com

Military.Com’s  4 Jan., 2021 podcast, “Left of Boom,” has an interview with RAdm. Matthew Bell, Commander District 17, Is the US Losing the Fight for Arctic Dominance? | Military.com

It is a little over a half hour. If you don’t want to listen to the podcast, an edited transcript is provided. Just continue to scroll down below the audio (an unusual and appreciated addition).

Don’t think there are any real surprises here, but the discussion does remind us of how large the area is, how little infrastructure there is, and how few Coast Guard units are in the area.

When I was assigned to Midgett, we medivaced a South Korean fishermen. A purse seine wire had parted and, whipping across the deck. It took off a leg. We sailed to meet them well out the Bering Sea. Used our helicopter to bring him to the ship and then turned toward Dutch Harbor trying to get close enough to transport by helo to a hospital there. We lost him during the night still many hours from the launch point. 

The other things that stands out for me, are the importance of subsistence hunting and fishing and the cooperative relationship with the Russian Border Guard.

Thanks to the reader who brought this to my attention. Sorry I lost track of who it was.