Aging Icebreaker Sets Polar Record
The country’s only heavy icebreaker, U.S Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star (WAGB-10), on Christmas Day reached a record-breaking winter Arctic latitude while in the course of a grueling 30-day winter deployment to wave the flag in the increasingly crowded northern seas.
As noted by the USCG:
Polar Star‘s crew navigated beyond 72 degrees latitude shortly before noon Friday before changing course and heading south to continue their Arctic deployment.
“The crew achieved a notable milestone Christmas Day by traversing farther into the harsh, dark winter Arctic environment than any cutter crew in our service’s history,” said Capt. Bill Woitrya, the cutter’s commanding officer.
“Our ice pilots expertly navigated the Polar Star through sea ice up to four-feet thick and, in doing so, serve as pioneers to the country’s future of Arctic explorations.”
With frigid Arctic winds and air temperatures regularly well below zero, Polar Star‘s engineers work around-the-clock to keep frozen machinery equipment running and the ship’s interior spaces warm enough for the crew.
The 44-year-old icebreaker is underway to project power and support national security objectives throughout Alaskan waters and into the Arctic, including along the Maritime Boundary Line between the United States and Russia.
The Polar Star crew is also working to detect and deter illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and conduct Arctic training essential for developing future icebreaker operators.
The Polar Star’s record-breaking winter Arctic latitude is 72° 11′ N.
It should be noted that Polar Star, while on her regular McMurdo resupply to the Antarctic last year– a mission suspended in 2020 due to the coof– suffered a serious electrical/engineering casualty underway, so it is nice to see that she is doing better this year and is headed back home.
Of course, her crew is having to battle that age-old boogeyman of the Arctic– knocking ice off the ship that accumulated from sea spray to keep topside weight to a manageable level.
Those who have done the task know first hand it is one of those jobs that looks fun until you do it for about two minutes.