On April 10, the Coast Guard cutter Polar Star and its crew returned to Seattle following a 144-day deployment to Antarctica in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2023.
This was the Polar Star’s 26th voyage to Antarctica for Operation Deep Freeze, which is an annual joint military service mission to resupply the U.S. Antarctic stations, in support of the National Science Foundation, the lead agency for the U.S. Antarctic Program.
This year marks the 63rd iteration of the annual operation.
The Polar Star is a 399-foot heavy polar icebreaker commissioned in 1976. It weighs 13,500 tons and is 84-feet wide with a 34-foot draft. The vessel has six diesel and three gas turbine engines able to produce up to 75,000 horsepower.
The cutter left Seattle for Antarctica on Nov. 12, a journey of over 25,000 miles through the North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, Southern and South Atlantic oceans, with stops on four continents.
Once in Antarctica, the cutter broke a 15.3-mile channel through fast ice and conducted more than 1,600 hours of ice-breaking operations to create a navigable route for cargo vessels to reach McMurdo Station.
The Polar Star and crew performed over 60 hours of ice escorts for cargo vessels through difficult pack ice conditions, then departed the region on March 2, after 67 days of operations in support of Operation Deep Freeze.
The cutter now proceeds to Vallejo, Calif. in May for Phase III of its five-year Service Live Extension Project (SLEP). That project has been awarded to Mare Island Dry Dock LLC for recapitalizing targeted systems including propulsion, communication- and machinery-control systems and to conduct major maintenance to extend the life of the cutter by four years.
The Polar Star is the nation’s only asset capable of providing access to both polar regions of the world.