U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) moors up to the ice pier at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, Feb. 7, 2022. Polar Star arrived to McMurdo after an 86-day transit from the United States and broke a 37-mile-long channel from the ice's edge. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diolanda Caballero)

USCGC Polar Star Heads to Antarctica on Icebreaking Mission

Mike Schuler
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December 27, 2022

The U.S. Coast Guard’s heavy icebreaker USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 10) has begun its journey across the Southern Ocean to Antarctica for its annual resupply mission.

The icebreaker departed Hobart, Australia on December 21 in support of Operation Deep Freeze 2023, a joint military service mission to resupply U.S. National Science Foundation research stations in Antarctica.

This year’s mission marks Polar Star’s 26th voyage to the frozen continent. Each year, Polar Star’s crew pilots the 399-foot, 13,500-ton icebreaker to break a navigable channel through miles of ice to allow fuel and supply ships to reach the ice pier McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic Program’s logistics hub and largest station.

The Polar Star departed its homeport in Seattle on Nov. 16 and has already traveled approximately 7,675 miles with stops in Honolulu, Sydney, and Hobart.

Coast Guardsmen on Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) enjoy a swim call near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 8, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Aidan Cooney

During the cutter’s first stop in Honolulu, the crew celebrated Thanksgiving while moored alongside the U.S. Navy fleet at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu. During the transit across the Pacific, the crew sailed through the position 0 degrees latitude and 180 degrees longitude, marking the intersection of the equator and international date line, which would traditionally earn the crew Golden Shellback status.

On Dec. 14, the Polar Star moored at a Royal Australian Navy fuel pier in Chowder Bay close to the center of Sydney during a logistics stop for fuel and supplies. The Polar Star’s four-day port call in Hobart was their final stop before reaching Antarctica.

At 46-years-old, UCGC Polar Star is the United States’ only operational heavy icebreaker. This year marks the Polar Star’s second year returning to Antarctica after the 2021 operation was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020-2021 season, Polar Star instead conducted a winter Arctic deployment, during which the cutter trekked to the Arctic Circle—setting a record for the furthest north any American surface vessel has been in the winter months.

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