Tuesday, February 20, 2018

US Icebreaker Crew Complete Mission

By Karen Robes Meeks

The crew of US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star recently completed its mission to support of National Science Foundation.

The Polar Star left its Seattle, Washington homeport in November 2017 to help the foundation deliver operating supplies and fuel to research stations in Antarctica during Operation Deep Freeze. The mission involved carving through 15 miles of Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea to create a path for supply ships.

“Although we had less ice this year than last year, we had several engineering challenges to overcome to get to the point where we could position ourselves to moor in McMurdo,” said Capt. Michael Davanzo, the commanding officer of the Polar Star. “Our arrival was delayed due to these challenges, but the crew and I are certainly excited to be here. It’s a unique opportunity for our crewmembers to visit the most remote continent in the world, and in many respects, it makes the hard work worth it.”

During the mission, the Polar Star’s shaft seal failed causing flooding at a rate of approximately 20-gallons per minute. The crew was able to fix the problem and remove the freezing water from the area. Furthermore, after one of the cutter’s three main gas turbines failed, thee crew had to use the cutter’s main gas turbine power to break up the ice using its propellers.

“If the Polar Star were to suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure, the Nation would not be able to support heavy icebreaker missions like Operation Deep Freeze, and our Nation has no vessel capable of rescuing the crew if the icebreakers were to fail in the ice,” said Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander, US Coast Guard Pacific Area in Alameda, California. “The crewmembers aboard Polar Star not only accomplished their mission, but they did so despite extreme weather and numerous engineering challenges. This is a testament to their dedication and devotion to duty.”