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The Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star is off on another mission after coming out of dry dock and running sea trials in the Arctic this summer. This time the ice breaker heads to the other end of the planet.
The Polar Star is now headed to Antarctica, the 399-foot vessel left its homeport of Seattle on Tuesday in support of Operation Deep Freeze. Its task on this mission is to resupply the National Science Foundation Scientific Research Station in McMurdo.
The Coast Guard’s only heavy ice breaker spent three years in dry dock where it underwent a $90 million makeover. After being re-launched, the Polar Star, and its 150-man crew travelled to the Beaufort Sea with a stop in Juneau. Besides testing the newly rebuilt ship’s engines, propeller and navigation system, the Arctic sea trials also tested the crew, some of which are fresh out of basic training. While north of Barrow, the ship conducted emergency drills and qualified crew in individual watchstations.
After returning to its homeport in August, the ship prepared for its next voyage and has now began sailing to Antarctica and its next mission. During their voyage to the waters off of the south pole, the Polar Star will assist Operation Deep Freeze by creating a navigable shipping lane through the ice in McMurdo Sound. It is through that shipping lane that eight million gallons of fuel will be transported to Winter Quarters Bay where that fuel will enable the station to remain open and manned through the winter months.
This is the first time since 2006 that the ship will be in Antarctica supporting Operation Deep Freeze.