The Seattle-based Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB 10) sits at anchor in Taylor Bay, Alaska, Feb. 10, 2020, ahead of their scheduled logistics stop in Juneau, Alaska, near the end of their months-long Arctic deployment. U.S. Coast Guard Photo
USCGC Polar Star Returns from Arctic Deployment -Photos
The USCGC Polar Star, the nation’s only heavy icebreaker, returned to its homeport in Seattle on Saturday after a months-long deployment to the Arctic.
The season’s deployment marked a departure from the Polar Star’s usual participation in Operation Deep Freeze, the annual resupply mission to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. This year’s mission was cancelled due to COVID safety precautions.
Rather than sit and collect dust, the 45-year-old Polar Star headed north to defend the United States’ maritime sovereignty and security throughout the region and gather high-latitude scientific data.
The heavy icebreaker’s crew spent a majority of the patrol operating in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. On Christmas Day, the crew navigated through dense sea ice to patrol beyond 72 degrees latitude, further north than any U.S. surface asset ever traversed in the winter.
Additionally, in mid-January, the Polar Star crew and a Russian Border Guard aircraft crew patrolled a portion of the 1,700-mile international maritime boundary line. The joint effort supported mutual agreements to prepare for and reduce the impact of a potential natural or manmade maritime disaster.
“Spending a majority of the patrol navigating dense, constantly shifting sea ice, consistently below-zero temperatures and day-long darkness, the crew’s resilience was unyielding,” said Capt. Bill Woityra, the Polar Star’s commanding officer. “With their tremendous effort and positive attitudes, we accomplished everything we set out to do, and more.”
The Arctic patrol comes as the U.S. Coast Guard is in the process of increasing its icebreaking fleet with up to six new polar security cutters (PSC) to ensure continued national presence and access to the Polar Regions. The Coast Guard awarded VT Halter Marine Inc. with a contract for the design and construction of the Coast Guard’s lead polar security cutter, which will also be homeported in Seattle. The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional PSCs.
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