After 147 days traveling in Antarctica and the Southern Hemisphere for Operation Deep Freeze, the 140 crew members of the Seattle-based U.S. Coast Guard cutter Polar Star returned to the U.S., dry docking in Vallejo, Calif., for upgrades.
Operation Deep Freeze is an annual mission supporting the National Science Foundation. During its most recent deployment, Polar Star made stops in Wellington and Lyttelton, New Zealand, and Hobart, Tasmania, Australia and hosted the U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Navy.
In Antarctica, the cutter moved through over 450 miles of pack ice and carved out a 37-mile channel to McMurdo Station, breaking ice as thick as 7 feet to make a safe path for supply vessels, according to the Coast Guard.
The cutter also teamed up with the Royal New Zealand Navy to help guide the ice-capable logistics ship HMNZS Aotearoa to McMurdo Station for the first time, and headed to the Bay of Whales, the farthest south any vessel has ever headed, according to the USCG.
Now the Polar Star is in California for the second phase of a five-year, $75 million Service Life Extension Program. The USCG plans to upgrade the cutter with newer technology to support future missions.